Popular Mexican Urban Legends That Are Truly Terrifying

Updated July 13, 2021
Skulls on market table

Mexican urban legends are popular stories retold over the years and often believed to be true tales. A few of these stories have been proved to be false, that are little more than urban legends.

Mexican Dog of Unknown Breed

A husband and wife traveled to Mexico for their summer vacation. Mexico is known for an abundance of stray dogs, so when the wife notices a small stray dog outside the restaurant, she saves a little food and feeds the poor dog on their way back to the hotel.

The next day, when the woman is out shopping, she spots the stray dog once more and smiles, knowing the poor critter probably thinks she has more food. She stops by a food stand and buys a taco. She sits down at a nearby park and eventually coaxes the little dog to come over. The dog is rather hesitant, and she worries that it isn't well. It perks up when she places the taco on the ground in front of it.

On the last day of their vacation, the woman spots the stray dog standing near their car and convinces her husband she just has to rescue the dog. By now, she's fallen in love with the little guy.

She scoops up the dog in her scarf and it sleeps in her lap all the way home. Upon returning home, she decides to take the dog to the vet. As soon as she places the small dog in the carrier, it begins to run around inside as though terrified. She hurries to the veterinarian. The vet opens the carrier, then quickly closes it, staring at the woman with a surprised look.

"Is this some kind of joke?" the vet asked the woman.

"What do you mean?" The woman looked from the dog to the Vet.

"This isn't a dog. It's a very large sewer rat!"

Pagas Puerco (You Pay for Pig)

Spotted wild pig crossing road

A family traveling in Mexico left the main highway to journey along a scenic road. The car is moving at a moderate speed along the farm community when suddenly a pig darts out in front of the car. The father swerves to miss the pig, but the car runs over it.

Horrified, the family piles out of the car, encircling the squealing injured pig. Helpless, they watch it die. The father moves the pig out of the road and they start back to the car when three men run out of hiding, as though they are looking for the pig.

When they see their beloved pet dead on the side of the road, they turn on the family and demand the family pay for the dead pig.

The father refuses and they continue to shout, "Pagas puerco! Pagas puerco!" They demand the father pay for the pig and give him an outrageous amount of money. The men threaten to beat him if he doesn't pay.

By now the man's wife and children are crying and screaming for him to pay for the pig. Reluctantly, he forks over the money and the men pick up the dead pig and toss it into the back seat of the car and walk away.

Traumatized the family leaves, but not before placing the dead pig by the road. This urban legend was so popular that people tried to avoid lonely rural roads in fear of becoming victims of Pagas Puerco!

Hotel California

The Eagles released the song Hotel California in 1976. Journalists soon identified the hotel in the song was Todos Santos in Mexico. The hotel was constantly reported in newspapers and various publications as the fabled hotel. The story continued to be circulated over the years.

It swiftly became part of the legend of the song. In fact, the Todos Santos hotel in Mexico promoted itself as the fabled hotel of the song. It quickly became famous thanks to the song. The hotel sold souvenir t-shirts and various Hotel California memorabilia to their guests.

Twenty-one years after the song's release, travel writer Joe Cummings decided to go directly to the source to ferret out the truth about Todos Santos and the Hotel California song. In March 2000, in the issue of the Mexican magazine El Calendario de Todos Santos, his investigative report was featured.

Cummings wrote to songwriter Don Henley and asked him about the urban legend of Todos Santos being the inspiration for the song. Don Henley responded with a faxed letter that completely dispelled the old urban legend as nothing more than a false rumor.

Henley once gave an explanation in an interview about how the song represented going from innocence to experience, but the co-author of the song, the late Glenn Frey, had one time stated that the band had no idea what the song was about. He admitted they just wanted to create something strange and then everyone read more into the song.

In 2017, the band sued the Todos Santos for copyright infringement. In 2018, the lawsuit was mutually dismissed with the hotel agreeing to stop capitalizing on the song, cease selling its merchandise, and permanently drop its copyright application for the hotel song title.

Red Car

3 friends in red car

Late one night, a man is traveling down a desolate road on his way to Mexico City when his car engine light comes on and shortly afterwards, his car stalls. Unable to get the motor to turn over, he tries to call for assistance, but there is no cellphone service.

Frustrated, he gets out of his car and starts walking down the road, hoping to find a gas station. He'd been walking for some time when he sees car headlights up ahead. Excited, he begins to run toward the lights and when the car comes into view, he can't believe his luck.

Inside the red car are three beautiful women. The driver pulls up beside him and asks if he needs a ride. He comments that they're going in the wrong direction.

The women giggle and volunteer to turn around and head in the direction he's traveling. Excited by their generous offer, the man climbs into the passenger seat and the car speeds off. The man grins, enjoying looking at the beautiful women, but when he happens to glance in the mirror.

The frighteningly disfigured face of a witch is smiling back at him. Turning around to look at the two women in the back seat, he is terrified by the wrinkled faces and gapping mouths that greet him. Their cackles send shivers down his spine.

"Don't worry, it'll be over soon."

"You'll be our best sacrifice, this week!"

Trembling, the man jerks around to look at the driver and she, too, has transformed into a frightening creature. Yelling, the man throws open the car door and jumps out. He lands hard on the pavement and rolls into the bushes along the side of the road. Injured, he struggles to his feet and escapes among the boulders and the brush.

The red car screeches to a halt and the three witches emerge from the car, calling out to him. He rubs his eyes as the women appear in the moonlight to be beautiful, voluptuous mavens once more.

The man doesn't respond and eventually the women climb back into the car and speed away. The man stays tucked between the boulders until morning and limps to a gas station. When he spots the red car parked in the gas station and a hitchhiker getting into the car with the beautiful women, he begins yelling about the witches. The hitchhiker laughs, climbs into the car with the witches and the red car speeds away. The man knows it will be the last time anyone ever sees the hitchhiker.

The Mexican Bandit, Joaquin Murieta

In 1854, a California journalist from San Francisco wrote a sensationalized story about a man named Joaquin Murieta. In the dramatic account, Joaquin was a Mexican whose wife and brother were murdered by Americans. These murders drove him to a life of violent vengeance against "all Americans" until he was ultimately captured and killed by the famous California Rangers of Captain Harry Love.

This story was not only supported by the retelling of local folklore throughout California regarding the terror this alleged bandit caused, but it was also supported by a decapitated and preserved head that supposedly belonged to Murieta. The preserved head was displayed throughout the California sideshows of the late 1800s, although the head was never positively identified.

Unfortunately, the only evidence that historians had to support the legend was the fact that the California State legislature passed a "Five Joaquins" act in 1853, cautioning rangers that there were many citizens who had the same name. Eventually, the California governor paid Captain Love a bounty of $1,000. The California Legislature paid him an additional $5,000.

However, historians believe the high amount of the award signifies that more than one man was captured by Captain Love, and that the legend of a single violent bandit man named Joaquin Murieta is nothing more than an urban legend.

Mexican Urban Legends Live On

Even though a couple of the Mexican urban legends have been proven to be false, they still reign as true tales. The retelling of these tales solidified them as part of the Mexican culture and urban legend beliefs.

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Popular Mexican Urban Legends That Are Truly Terrifying