Helena Rodriguez: PNT staff writer
During the long hot summers of my childhood in Portales, we not only hung out at the city pool and spent cool evenings playing Kick the Can, we’d spread a blanket under the tall trees at Lindsey Park and give each other goosebumps.
There was a city summer recreation program for youth in the 1970s at the now-demolished community center at Lindsey Park where me and my sisters, Becky and Julie, spent our summer days while mom and dad worked.
I remember one summer in particular, where we got into this thing of telling ghost stories and getting spooked out of our minds, yes, even in broad daylight.
I heard many frightening tales that gave me nightmares, but the favorite and most believable stories were always the ones about La Llorona, the legendary weeping woman who was said to have drowned her three children in a river and was then sentenced to a lifetime of purgatory until she could find them. She is said to wander at night, taking any innocent children she finds.
One of the most far-fetched stories about La Llorona which really frightened me that summer was told by one of the adult female worker at the summer recreation program. She told us that one of La Llorona’s babies was buried under the pitcher’s mound in the baseball diamond right there at Lindsey Park. She said the baby could be heard crying at night. I didn’t go near that baseball diamond for a long time.
A more believable story of La Llorona was told by one of our friends who said her uncle had an encounter with her on a remote road after a night of excessive drinking. La Llorona is also said to haunt the mischievous.
During my recent trip to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, I learned there’s also a Mayan version of La Llorona called La Xtabay. Mayan legend states that Xtabay is a women hidden in the form of a sharp and rigid cactus flower who comes to life when she sees a man pass by. She waits for him under jungle trees, brushing her long, flowering hair with cactus spines until he is unable to resist her attraction. Xtabay then seduces him and destroys him in a frenzy of infernal love.
Then there’s the story of Los Aluxes (pronounces Alushes) that we also read about in Mexico. These are little creatures that roam the milpas or cornfields at night doing mischief.
However, if you get on their good side and leave them cigarettes, they will bring you an abundant crop. There were many restaurants in Mexico called Los Aluxes and one of our van drivers told us on the way to an excursion that a friend of his took a photo. When it was developed, there were the images of little creatures that they never saw in the background. “Los Aluxes!” he claimed.
Our summer ghost stories at Lindsey Park were just as chilling. There was Rosemary’s baby who they say can be seen in the mirror if you turn around fast enough and then there’s Mary Martha, who can be summoned by running around the house three times or calling out her name three times in the bathroom. The list went on and on. The stories kept us occupied, but they really started to unnerve me. In time, I started avoiding them and then I finally stopped believing them. It was all silliness.
Of course, not everyone is a good ghost storyteller. My ex-brother-in-law told us a haunting, and he says true story of a house he was in where the dishes started to rattle and fly out of the cupboards. But I remember one poor girl, who, wanting to put her two cents in that summer, said she had a good scary story for us.
It went like this, “The other night, I went to sleep on my bed … and then … (pause for dramatic effects) when I woke up the next morning … I was on the other side of the bed.”
We all looked at each other and laughed.