Spooky Legends of the Caribbean
by Stephanie Koathes Oct 21, 2019
The Caribbean is a melting pot of cultures, histories, stories, and legends. It is fertile ground for the imagination.
We’re taking a look at some of the region’s most fascinating and spooky tales.
Tata Duende is a story that will keep you out of the Belizean forest. In English, Tata Duende means grandfather demon. He is a short creature, with a long bear, who wears a tall hat and has backwards feet. He is powerful spirit who protects animals and the jungle, but he’s certainly not someone you want to meet. If his whistle sounds close to you, it means he’s far away, if it seems far, that means he’s close to you. You don’t want him to be near! If he sees your hands, he will cut off your thumbs.
A Rolling Calf in Jamaican folklore is a large bull-like creature with bright red eyes, who drags a heavy chain. These creatures are always male and are thought to be the spirits of people (particularly butchers) who were wicked in life. Be wary when traversing the Jamaican countryside at night for the Rolling Calf might come out and chase you. However, if you have something the Rolling Calf can count, you’ll be able to escape. If you drop some items on the ground; the calf will be compelled to stop and count them. A Rolling Calf is also said to be deathly afraid of being beaten with a tarred whip held in the left hand. A similar creature in Barbados folk tales is the Steel Donkey.
In Cayman, you’ll find the Rolling Calf and the May Cow. The May Cow is a similar creature but found on Cayman Brac, and this spirit only torments travellers in May.
Soucouyant (Ol’ Higue/Hige/Hag)
The Soucouyant, as it’s known in Dominica, St Lucia, and Trinidad or Ole Higue/Hige in Guyana and Jamaica, and Hag in The Bahamas is the closest the Caribbean comes to a vampire. This creature is a witch who sheds her skin at night. She stores her skin in a calabash and then goes to suck on the blood (or breath) of her victim. The Soucouyant usually preys on children. If you drop rice in front of her, she will stop to count each grain. To kill her, you need to find her skin and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Her skin will burn when she goes to put it back on, and without her skin, she can be killed.
This is a dark Guyanese and Trinidadian legend. A Churile is the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth. Churiles have backwards feet and can change forms to look normal. They like to target pregnant women and newborns. You might meet a Churile in a field or at a crossroads.
You can think of this Guyanese creature as a sort of genie. Bacoo are intelligent and very mischievous. When caught and fed a steady diet of milk and bananas, a Bacoo will generally do its master’s bidding. They can cause all sorts of mayhem, like moving items, stoning houses, and injuring people.
Mama Glow/Mama D’Leau
In Trinidadian legend, this half-woman, half-snake lives at the edge of the water in the forest. Her lower body is in the form of an anaconda hidden beneath the water. To escape her, you must take off your left shoe and walk backwards.
La Diablesse/Lajabless/La Dame Blanche
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a long skirt to hide her cloven hoof, La Diablesse/Lajabless or La Dame Blanche in the French Antilles preys on unsuspecting men. According to legend, this malevolent lady appears on nights when the moon is full. She waits on out-of-the-way paths where a man might pass. Any man who runs afoul of Lajabless likely won’t live to tell the tale. Legend has it that you can protect yourself from this temptress by taking off all your clothes and putting them on backwards.
One of Jamaica’s oldest bridges, Flat Bridge, running through the Bog Walk Gorge over the treacherous Rio Cobre, has a dark history. When it was being built in the 1700s, many slaves died undertaking dangerous tasks for the bridge’s construction. Some believe the spirits of those slaves still haunt the bridge, causing accidents and pulling people into the Rio Cobre.
Another popular story is that a River Mumma lives under the bridge, pulling cars down into the depths below. Folks say that when the water turns lizard-green, the River Mumma is about to strike.
We hope you enjoyed these tales!