10 Scary Stories in Spanish for Entertaining Reading Practice

Nothing beats the thrill of a good spooky story.

And when it comes to tales of things that go bump in the night, the Spanish language is a treasure trove of terror.

The following urban legends will have you looking over your shoulder and wanting to sleep with the lights on.

Because they have close ties to the places they’ve emerged from, these stories will also give you insight into various Spanish-speaking cultures. 

Get ready for a pleasantly stimulating lesson in fear!


1. La Llorona

Place of origin: All over Latin America

Similar to the “Lady in White” in English, the story “La Llorona” (the crying woman) has many different variations. However, the best-known Mexican version tells the tale of a beautiful woman named María who drowns her children in a river after her husband commits adultery. Afterwards, she kills herself in the same river.

Trapped between the living and the dead, La Llorona can be heard at night weeping for her losses and crying out for her children. Some say that if you hear her cries, it’s an omen that death is coming to your household, while others believe that La Llorona kidnaps children who resemble her own.

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2. El Silbón 

Place of origin: Venezuela

“El Silbón,” or “the whistling man,” tells the tale of a son who cuts out his father’s heart and liver and then feeds them to his mother. Upon realizing his hideous crime, the mother takes revenge by cursing her son into a ghost.

El Silbón now wanders the land carrying a sack of bones over his shoulder. Described as being terribly skinny and extremely tall, he’s known to whistle as he wanders. However, it’s said that when people hear his whistle close by, he’s further away, and when they hear him far away, he’s right next to them—though few have lived to tell the tale of their meetings with El Silbón.

3. El Cuco/Coco/Cucuy 

Place of origin: Throughout Latin America

There’s not a child in Latin America who hasn’t been warned about this Spanish equivalent of the Bogeyman or who didn’t pull the bed covers over their head when they felt a presence in the dark. A shadowed monster who hides in closets and under beds, the Cuco likes to feed on disobedient children, but he also walks the streets at night looking for children to kidnap.

Parents sing lullabies describing the threat of the Cuco:

Duérmete niño (Sleep my baby)
Duérmete ya (Sleep, baby, do!)
Que viene el cuco (The Bogeyman’s coming)
Y te llevará (and he’ll take you)
Duérmete niño (Sleep my baby)
Duérmete ya (Sleep, baby, do!)
Que viene el cuco (The Bogeyman’s coming)
Y te comerá (and he’ll eat you)

4. La Casa Matusita 

Place of origin: Peru

A bright yellow building in Lima called “La Casa Matusita” (The Matusita House) is known as one of the most haunted places in Peru—or even the world. It’s said to be built over the spot where a Persian woman was burned at the stake in the mid-18th century for allegedly practicing witchcraft. The legend says that she cursed the spot with her last dying breaths, explaining the horrors of the later happenings there.  

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One such story involves servants seeking revenge on their ill-tempered boss by lacing the food at a dinner party with hallucinogenic drugs. Their scheme took a dark turn when they found that the guests had all violently killed each other.

Check out this video to learn more about this infamous landmark: 

5. La Carreta Nagua 

Place of origin: Nicaragua

Legend has it in Nicaragua that if you hear the clatter of La Carreta Nagua (the Nagua cart) coming down your street in the middle of the night, you shouldn’t look out the window, or you’ll catch sight of the haunted carriage, driven by Death and being pulled by two skinny oxen—one black, one white. Its presence is said to be an omen of a looming death in the town. 

The legend’s roots can be traced back to the Nahuatl tribe’s fear of the Spanish colonizers infiltrating their villages at night to commit acts of violence and theft. This explains why it’s called “Nagua,” which is the way “Nahuatl” is pronounced in Spanish.

6. El Sisimite/Sisimito

Place of origin: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras

El Sisimite is a half-man, half-gorilla beast characterized as being very short but strong, with hair all over and feet that are backward. Therefore, when you see his footprints, it looks like he’s walking away from you when in reality, he’s coming for you.

Some legends say that if you look into his eyes, you’ll die within a month. Others say El Sisimite feasts on human meat. This legend can be compared to Bigfoot, or Boraro

7. La Luz Mala 

Place of origin: Argentina, Uruguay

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La Luz Mala is not a person, but an entity, or rather an evil light that’s seen in desolate, swampy areas. Resembling wisps of light that float inches above the water, it’s said to lure people from the safety of the shore to the dangers of the swamp.

Many locals believe that this light is the crying souls of those who died before their sins were forgiven and are now seeking retribution. The light is said to bring ill luck or death to those who cross its path, making it a captivating and spine-tingling element of regional lore.

8. El Chupacabra 

Place of origin: Throughout Latin America

El Chupacabra, a legendary creature that haunts the folklore of various Latin American countries, is a cryptid that has struck fear into the hearts of rural communities. Its name translates to “goat-sucker” in Spanish, reflecting its sinister reputation for attacking and draining the blood of livestock, particularly goats and sheep.

Descriptions of the Chupacabra vary, but it’s often portrayed as a reptilian creature with spikes or quills along its back, red eyes and sharp fangs. Its nocturnal attacks on rural farms have fueled countless tales of mystery and terror, making it a prominent figure in modern folklore and urban legends throughout the Americas.

If you like the sound of this legend, check out the animated film “La Leyenda Del Chupacabras.”

9. La Tunda

Place of origin: Colombia

La Tunda, a chilling figure in Colombian folklore, is a shape-shifting witch that has haunted the imaginations of locals for generations. This malicious entity disguises itself as a stunningly beautiful woman to lure unsuspecting victims into her trap. Once entrapped, she reveals her true horrifying form, a grotesque, hag-like creature with long, sharp claws and a gaping maw.

La Tunda is known for her cannibalistic tendencies, devouring those who fall under her spell. Stories of La Tunda serve as a cautionary tale, warning people to be cautious of those who appear too good to be true and to avoid wandering alone in the wilderness, where she’s said to roam.

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10. La Mano Peluda

Place of origin: Mexico

La Mano Peluda (The Hairy Hand), is a spine-tingling tale deeply embedded in Mexican folklore. This unsettling legend revolves around a disembodied, spectral hand that haunts individuals as they sleep. Victims often awaken to the chilling sensation of a furry, clawed hand stroking their body or face. 

Its origin remains shrouded in mystery, with interpretations ranging from a vengeful spirit seeking retribution to a manifestation of subconscious fears. Regardless of its origins, La Mano Peluda endures as a terrifying tale that continues to send shivers down the spines of those who encounter it.

How Scary Stories Can Improve Your Spanish

If you’re learning Spanish and are a fan of horror, reading scary stories is a great way to improve your language skills. Here’s why:

  • They’re super short and convenient: Stories developed through hearsay and rumors are concise by nature and great for those short periods of free time throughout your day. They don’t require long hours turning pages, so you can spend more time reading just one—or a whole collection!
  • They hold your interest: Scary stories have the capability to hold our attention, thereby making us forget we’re even studying. Each of these tales is creepy and intriguing enough to pique your interest and keep you reading. 
  • They contain interesting cultural references: Urban legends can teach us so much about the history, culture and beliefs of a certain region. They often contain local touches and details significant to the community where they’re told and can teach you more than just the language. 
  • There’s a wide variety available: As cultures evolve, so do their stories. Modern touches will be introduced and new aspects of the story will emerge. Thus, we can read many, many versions of one specific story, and also learn about the numerous experiences that people have had in relation to it.

Tips for Learning Spanish with Urban Legends and Ghost Stories

If you’re looking to add some of these spooky tales to your study time, here are some good ways to do so: 

  • Compare with English stories: Most urban legends, myths and folklore are cultural-specific. However, the premise for a story may be found all around the world. See if you can find a similar story to follow one from a Spanish-speaking culture, then make a list of their similarities and differences. 
  • Write your own: Do you know any local urban legends or scary stories in your area? If so, why not try writing them down in Spanish? This will improve your Spanish vocabulary and sentence structures.
  • Note descriptive language: Scary stories rely on detailed descriptions for added scare and effect. Before you begin reading, draw two columns titled “Where” and “Who.” As you read, pause whenever you come to a word related to the setting or the people and make a note of the description. This will help strengthen your comprehension and expand your vocabulary.
  • Make a list of ways to describe fear: When reading these stories, make a note of any words used to describe fear or being afraid, such as “Me llevé el susto de mi vida” (I got the fright of my life).  This will develop your use of slang and also teach you about localized sayings and language.
  • Draw the creatures: If the story involves a physical creature, monster or other terrifying being you can picture, try drawing it based on the description. Afterwards, you can Google the name to see what it looks like and how close you were to understanding all of the details.
  • Watch spooky videos: In addition to Spanish reading practice, you can get some good listening practice by watching videos like this one from the YouTube Channel “Relatos de la Noche”:

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So are the hairs on the back of your neck tingling yet?

Did you check the closet and under the bed for el Cuco?

Who knows…if you don’t buckle down and study your Spanish with one of these scary stories, he may just come to get you!

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