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Wailing woman



Homes in Zacatecas canyon circa 1908

The legend of a spectral woman wandering the hill sides of Zacatecas Canyon still endures today. This story is very similar to the Spanish tale La Llorona “the weeping woman”. Below is an excerpt from October 17, 1909, Bisbee Daily Review, Page 8, telling the story.

Ghostly Visitations are Disturbing Zacatecas



Bisbee has a ghost that is not satisfied to behave as do the ordinary well-bred kind. Huge boulders sent crashing down the hillsides by mysterious hands, a woman in white who appears nightly upon the hill top, long-drawn out wails as of a lost soul and stones thrown through windows of houses, coupled with many weird, uncanny noises and sights, are making life a terror for the settlement known as “Zacatecas”, composed of Mexican residents at the upper end of Brewery Gulch.

            Every night for a week at least three of the officers have been called up there to investigate. So far they have been unable to solve the mystery, which proceeds to thicken as each night passes. The rock-throwing and boulder rolling continues. The Mexicans say a “woman in white” makes a nightly appearance at any time between 10 o’clock and midnight on the crest of the hill, tarries a few moments, weeps and wails, then vanishes into the air followed by a shower of stones from a mysterious source somewhere above the settlement.

            These wild orgies on the part of the natives of spook and startle started last March. Constable Parley McRae in making a trip to the district found the body of a two-week’s old babe lying on the hillside a little above the collection of adobe huts. The body was wrapped in a sheet and was evidently of American parentage. Although, officers made diligent search at the time, no trace of the parents could be found.

            The night following the discovery of the babe’s body the mysterious boulder-rolling began, and like unto the weird tale of Henrick Hudson’s spirit, with those of his followers, playing at nine-pins in the foot-hills of the Catskills, the dwellings of the peons were selected as the targets in this little game of nine-pins being played by the unseen hand.

            The boulders were, some of them of huge size: large enough to crash in doors and sides of two or three of the houses which they struck and although both the Mexicans and the officers  scoured the hillsides there abouts time and time again no trace of human handiwork could be found.

            Rushing to the spot whence it seemed as though the rocks or boulders had emanated only the inky blackness of night greeted the searcher, while from some other portion of the hillside a volley of rocks would be poured upon the houses below, and the mystery-solvers, completely baffled could only stand and listen to the falling stones, unable from the darkness to get a line upon this past chancellor of spookdom because it shifted its position so frequently.

            About a week after the finding of the babe’s body the revels of the spirit or spirits suddenly ceased. For about two weeks after that, however the Mexicans say that after nightfall

An American woman would suddenly appear and sit down on the spot where the body was found, would weep for an hour, then suddenly steal away. Although the direction she would take over the hills and out into the country, was followed on several occasions, the sum and substance was that the quest always came to naught.

Then the visitations of the woman were broken and during the summer months comparative peace reigned in “Zacatecas”, save for the sudden death of a woman there a few weeks ago and the destruction of one of the huts by dynamite two weeks ago, caused a drunken woodcutter “shooting up” the place and accidently hitting a few sticks of dynamite with a stray bullet, the hut being razed to the ground.

            Monday night the terror returned. A volley of stones suddenly rained upon every house in the settlement followed by several huge boulders crashing down the hillside. One struck the door of a dwelling smashing it to bits. Then the attack of the unseen foe was directed continuously against this one dwelling and the inhabitants were force to seek shelter from the flying missiles in another house nearby. This kept up for several hours gradually ceasing as the small hours of morning approached.

            Then, Tuesday night appeared the “woman in white” who, according to the Mexicans, stands out boldly upon the top of the hill for a minute or two each night, surrounded by just enough radiance to make her figure distinguishable against the blackness of the night. She is said to appear each night, then suddenly vanish. She only appears, it seems when the officers are away. For a night or two one or more of them have gone up there when the spectre is supposed to make its visitations, but seemingly scenting danger, it keeps way.

            The peons are reduced to a state of terror bordering on madness by the recurrence of these spirit-gambols and it is as much as one’s life is worth to venture anywhere near the settlement after nightfall. Anyone inclined to do so is liable to receive a bullet between his ribs for every one of the Mexicans is armed with some sort of weapon.

Anyone going into the settlement would be reminded of the mountain retreat of the brigands of Europe. Standing about are Mexicans with terror upon their countances, waiting for some new spook development. One has a Winchester repeater, another a double-barreled shotgun, one of two others revolvers and the rest have knives of every description and dimension. Then bang! A shower of rocks strikes one of the houses. The Mexicans strain their eyes up the hillside, bring their guns to their shoulder and watch to see something move. Bang! Then it is the guns that speak, but the only satisfaction derived is the sound of bullet and birdshot thudding against the rocks above. Should a human being be within range there’s’ an extreme liability that his anatomy would be punctured.

            Therefore the question arises: Who throws the rocks. Who is the spectral woman in white who haunts the hill top? Who is it that rattles huge boulders down into Zacatecas?

            These questions the Mexicans have completely passed up, but not the officers. They are hanging on with dogged determination and hope to get at the root of the mystery within a day or two.

            “Ghosts? No!” emphatically declares Constable Parley McRae. “There’s a half-witted Mexican who lives up there that we all think is responsible for the whole business. He’s a pretty clever dodger, but we’ll get him one of these nights and sees that he gets a little trip to Phoenix where he belongs.”

            However it is stagger even to the officer that with all the shooting the Mexicans do to frighten the spook away the perpetrator escapes unscathed.

            It may be the Mexican Lunatic or yet it might be a number of Yaqui Indians. There are a number of these in town, employed as common laborers.

            As it is well-known fact there is no lost love between the Mexican and the Yaqui, it may be a little job the Indians are putting up to harass their Mexican neighbors, as some of the Indians live out that way. An Indians dodging propensities are well known and it is possible that two or three of them are causing mischief, gliding about from point to point just in time to dodge the bullets from the weapons of the peons below and then making a fresh attack while the latter are recovering from the feat occasioned by the first outburst.

             For the rocks, even the officers will vouch, but as for the “woman in white”—that is an unexplained mystery. Anyhow, none of the officers have yet seen this phenomena. But with the peons it is all due to “El Spiritu.”

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