Urban Legend: The Ghosts of Slaughterhouse Canyon

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Urban Legend: The Ghosts of Slaughterhouse Canyon of Arizona
In 1882 the town of Kingman, Arizona was officially established; throughout its history it had served as both a military camp and a reservation for Native Americans. It eventually experienced growth when a section of railroad was routed through the area.

The Gold Rush

The Gold Rush started in Arizona around 1858 and just like elsewhere in the western United States, it was a rough experience for those who expected to strike it rich. Once prospectors realized their chance of finding gold in Arizona was rare, they instead sought out the more common copper and silver ores. At one point, the worth of gold sank below that of copper and silver, due to its lack of prevalence in the region.

The established families that were uprooted and relocated in the west in search of wealth and success ended up being the ones who sacrificed the most. After lengthy and often excruciatingly difficult searches, many ended up starving to death.

The Ghostly Legend of Slaughterhouse Canyon

Like any urban legend that has arisen from times of extreme hardship, this story reeks of trauma spurned by sickness, starvation, heartbreak, and madness. This particular ghost story is one that swiftly turned from being a simple tragedy to macabre madness, which is why this canyon was put on the map of paranormal destinations.

Luana’s Canyon

When the first white settlers found the area, the area was named Luana’s Canyon, after the matriarch of the impoverished family who lived in a small wooden shack near the dry wash in the heart of the canyon.

Dreams of Wealth

As one might expect, living in a small shack in the desert was no easy task. One miner, notably a dreamer, wanted to be able provide a better life for his wife Luana and their children. This miner would regularly venture off into the mountains to work in the gold mines and to search for food for his family. Their lack of a regular income made it difficult to keep food on the table, so the only food the family had available to them was what the miner was able to bring back from his regular expeditions.

The miner would set of to the Northwestern Mountains on his trusty mule, but different accounts of this story can’t agree on whether the miner left home every two weeks, or if he would be gone for two weeks at a time. What is known is that this was a pretty typical experience during the Gold Rush era. Regardless of how often he was away from home, his family’s only source of food, money, and supplies was what the miner was able to bring back with him. Luana and the children could consistently expect the miner to return with what they needed for their comfort and survival.

One fateful day, the miner kissed his wife, Luana, and children goodbye and was on his way—unfortunately, that would be the last time the family would see their father. Days turned to weeks and soon Luana began to worry that something had happened to her husband. As the supplies dwindled, her concerns that her husband had fallen ill, had an accident, or worse, had been killed by wild animals, or even the victim of robbery. The miner had seemingly become another tragic victim of the unforgiving Gold Rush.

Descent Into Madness

Luana’s reliance upon her husband’s consistency meant that she had not rationed any of the supplies that her husband had brought back on his last trip, so when food and supplies ran scarce the family began to starve. Living alone in the canyon meant that the family had no other possible means of support and soon the children wither and wept in pain. Despite being pale and weak with starvation, their screams and cries echoed throughout the canyon and even traveled on the nighttime breeze. The starving sobs of her children constantly begging Luana for food began to tear her down mentally.

Each day that went by pushed Luana closer toward the brink of insanity until one day, she just could no longer stand to see her children suffer and she snapped. Unable to cope with the reality of watching her children starve to death, Luana’s psychosis drove her to do the unthinkable. One night during a thunderstorm, tormented by her children’s screams and own agonizing hunger, she put on her wedding dress and slaughtered her own children to end their suffering.

Her mind lost, she chopped their dead bodies up into several pieces, splattering the walls of the small shack with blood, which earned it the name of the Slaughterhouse. After finishing her horrible deed, she carried the pieces of her children and tossed their remains into the river. At the river she collapsed into a heap, her wedding dress soaked in the blood of the children she had slain. Luana was overcome with sadness and guilt; she remained on the river bank, wailing and screaming over what she had done until she succumbed to starvation herself, the next morning.

Slaughterhouse Canyon

Slaughterhouse Canyon

Today, Slaughterhouse Canyon can be accessed by the public, it’s only a twelve minute drive from Kingman, AZ. It is said, that on quiet nights when the moon is full and the air is thick, that those brave enough to venture into the desert canyon after midnight are likely to have experiences. The dark oppressive nights allow the anguished screams of the mother and the bloody cries of her slaughtered children can still be heard throughout the canyon.

Similar Legends

The legend of Slaughterhouse Canyon bears striking similarities to other urban legends and ghost stories, such as the woman in white and the tragic Mexican legend of La Llorona, or the Weeping Woman. While it’s true that the stories are similar, make no mistake, they are separate legends.

What seems to be a common thread in all renditions of these stories is that the woman murders her children, but it’s the reason behind their vicious murder that varies from story to story. In La Llorona the most frequent rendition is that the mother kills her children after she finds that her husband has been unfaithful. However, every account of the Legend of the ghosts of Slaughterhouse Canyon alleges that the husband was not only a caring and loving partner, but a devoted father as well.

Personal Accounts & Experiences

Locals will tell you that it was popular when they were of high school age to load up a car with their peers and park down in the canyon by the remains of the old slaughterhouse shack. They would roll their windows down and sit in silence as they waited for Luana—inevitably, they would hear strange sounds that would prompt them to vacate the premises.

Another account recalls their experiences of hearing the stories of Slaughterhouse Canyon and their regular trips to the area with their brother. Their motives were simple curiosity and the desire to be teenagers away from prying eyes. They would have bonfires and act their age without consequence, until one night, after midnight they began to hear the wailing cries surrounding them. A quick search of the area revealed nothing, but frightened them enough to leave the canyon entirely.

Others still, primarily ghost hunters in search of the ghosts of Slaughterhouse Canyon, report that while driving down the road that leads into the canyon they would witness a mysterious woman wearing a black dress and dark veil while walking down the side of the road. Upon turning back to find her again she had mysteriously disappeared.

Sources

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Why Does the Weeping Woman Weep?

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Horror Mystery and Lore NA
La Llorona walking away
Photography by Caroline Hernandez

The Tale of the Weeping Woman is an ultimately tragic one, but because of this grim tale, her story has been told as a bedtime story and over a campfire as a means of entertainment for over a hundred years—this legend is known most often as La Llorona, the weeping woman, and the wailing woman.

This grieving woman’s story has changed from family to family, as well as with each generation of storytellers. In most of the popular versions of her story, she is portrayed in three main ways—the first, La Llorona appears as an indigenous woman whose husband has cheated on her, in an attempt to seek revenge for his infidelity, she drowned her children in a river but was immediately so remorseful as she looked upon her dead children that she committed suicide alongside them. The second version, La Llorona is the spirit of the Aztec Goddess Chihuacoatl, who as an omen that foretold the devastation of the Aztec society by the arrival of the Spaniards. In the third most popular variation, La Llorona is actually the spirit of Doña Marina, or La Malinche—in life she was the lover and interpreter for Hernan Cortés; in the Mexican community she was considered a traitor—it is believed that Cortés betrayed her with a Spanish woman and she subsequently drowned both of her children in her own despair.

No matter the rendition, she is as popular as ever having drifted into mainstream horror culture and broken the barrier between cultural significance and American entertainment when The Curse of La Llorona was released in 2019.

Ghost reaching up from the water
Photography by Ian Espinosa

True Encounters with La Llorona

Like any great legend, there are known encounters with the subject of the legend itself—in this case, La Llorona has been experienced all over Mexico and the adjoining United States. These particular cases seem to underline a different side of La Llorona though, a side which emphasized more of a maternal nature than that of a murderer.

Mexico City, Mexico

In Mexico City, a large family of nine was being haunted by a shadowy figure in the toddler’s bedroom—seeing this figure out of the corner of their eyes was just the first stage of this encounter with La Llorona. Soon whenever they would catch a glimpse of her figure, they began to hear the sound of sobbing in the distance.

The manifestations only got stronger and more rampant after a priest was brought in to cleanse and bless what was thought to be a malevolent entity from the home. Soon, the physical form of the apparition began to appear as a woman in white, who the family recognized as La Llorona; she began moving chairs as well as opening and closing doors. One night they captured movement on the baby monitor, which upon further inspection turned out to be the blanket being moved as if the child were being tucked in by an invisible force. After trying all other avenues, the parents took their toddler to the doctor, at which time they found the child was suffering from medical issues that would have turned fatal if left untreated. Once the child was being treated all manifestations of La Llorona ceased.

Guanajuato, Mexico

Another case of La Llorona appeared to a family of five, where the mother, father, and oldest son would see glimpses of this weeping apparition, who was always standing near the two youngest children. It was strange because the two children she would always hover around would never see her themselves, despite the natural ability of children to be more perceptive to paranormal phenomena that may occur around them. As the manifestations progressed, the sounds of wailing would sweep through their home in the middle of the night and randomly during the day—this would wake everyone in the house except for the children who would never hear her cries.

La Llorona walking in shallow water
Photography by Rafael Alcure

The manifestations of her spirit and her screams of grief frequented this family more and more often, even when the extended family came to help. The parents became thoroughly concerned for the two youngest children and sent them to stay with their extended family for a period of time and as soon as the children left, so did the regular hauntings of La Llorona. While the children were staying with their extended family, they had planned to have their cousin stay with them for several months and they immediately told him about their experiences with La Llorona. The weirdest part is that a day before the children were set to return, the cousin was arrested and charged with multiple counts of child abuse.

Jarácuaro, Mexico

A single mother and her two children took refuge with the mother’s sister, the plan was that they would stay with her for the foreseeable future, so they ended up moving into one of the rooms in the back of the sister’s aging home. As soon as the three moved in, the entire house began to hear bizarre noises at night, which were eerie footsteps along the floorboards, doors, and cabinets opening and closing at random, as well as the sound of stifled crying. Day and night, the crying began to be accompanied by an apparition of what the family believed to be La Llorona, who would only manifest very briefly.

Even after the home was blessed by a priest, the sightings wouldn’t cease. The mother awoke one night to an unnerving scene, one of her children was sitting on the foot of the bed, speaking to what looked like a shadowy figure near the bed where they all slept. The next day, her child told her that the apparition, who the child referred to as the “nice lady,” told them that they needed to stay in the front room instead. Heeding the ghost’s warning, the mother moved herself and her children out of the back bedroom and into the living room—and none too soon, as two nights later the entire room caved into a sinkhole that had formed below the back portion of the house.

So why does the weeping woman weep? What version of La Llorona did you hear as a child? Let us know in the comments below!

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