10 Mythical American Monsters

La Llorona
A actress in Mexico performs 'La llorona,' based upon the legend, as part of the Day of the Dead celebrations. Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/LatinContent/Getty Images

Oh, La Llorona! This tragic figure dressed in white wails along riverbanks, mainly in the Southwest U.S., mourning her two young sons – who she killed. Yikes. According to this popular Hispanic tale, a woman named Maria is La Llorona, which means "the weeping woman" in Spanish. She was a beautiful girl who would only deign to marry the most handsome man. She found and snagged him, and they had two wonderful sons. The couple was very happy. But then Maria's husband began staying away from home for extended periods, drinking excessively and seeing other woman. When he did come home, he only wanted to visit his sons. Enraged and jealous, Maria threw the boys into the river and they drowned.

Another version of the story says Maria was the wild one, going out at night to entertain men and often leaving her young boys home alone. One night, by themselves once again, they wandered down to the river and drowned. Both versions say that Maria became consumed with guilt and sorrow after the boys' deaths, and began walking alongside the river crying out for them. After she died (either by drowning herself in the same river or wasting away), her ghost continued the ritual, with one ugly twist. Besides mourning her sons along the riverbank, La Llorona would murder whoever crossed her path. The tale is often used by parents to scare their young kids away from dangerous rivers [sources: Hayes, Weiser].