The Lechuza

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This massive bird has been called La Lechuza for its resemblance to an owl.  Is this creature real, or is it part of folklore and myth or maybe something else? Its sightings have happened all over northern Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas for centuries.

There are many descriptions and stories about the Lechuza and we will first describe the creature and relate the stories.  Depending on which telling you hear, the massive bird can range in stature from the size of a small human to 7 feet tall and can have a wingspan of 15 feet.  It is sometimes described as black in color and sometimes as white as snow.  In most cases it has been said to resemble an owl.  In other cases it is more like a huge raven.  Some accounts say that the Lechuza’s face is that of an old woman, or of something more otherworldly with large, dark, almond-shaped eyes.  In all cases the Lechuza flies and is seen at night.  It has been reported only in the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas and on the American side of the Rio Grande in Texas.

There are many different legends surrounding the sighting of this creature.  What could the large variety of explanations mean?  The fact that there are so many different legends may indicate that sightings have occurred over a large geographical area over the years among people who were isolated from one another.  One town may have made sense of their sighting one way, while another town a thousand miles away may have made sense in another, without ever communicating with each other about it.  I will explore a few of the main legends here.

One of the main themes running through stories regarding the Lechuza is that the creature was once a woman who was wronged and who is seeking revenge.  Some say the Lechuza is a woman by day and turns into a huge owl by night.  Some say that the Lechuza snatches kids because her own child was killed by angry villagers for a crime he did not commit.  In a variation of this, the child was killed by a drunk and so now the Lechuza exacts revenge by hanging around bars, waiting until closing time to attack bar patrons who stumble out into the street after hours not knowing the danger from the sky about to rain down on them.  In some of the legends, La Lechuza is not a shape-shifting person at all, but a witch’s familiar, much like a black cat, and does the bidding of the witch, attacking people and destroying property on her command.  Other stories say the bird is a minion of Satan himself.  Not only is the Lechuza said to take humans as prey, it also preys upon the negative emotions of humans, acting as a psychic vampire, drawing power from emotions surrounding human conflict and distress.  The Lechuza has been known to appear outside of houses during domestic quarrels, waiting for one of the people involved to storm out of the house to then be snatched and carried to the Lechuza’s lair.  The Lechuza has a special fondness for children, especially for those who wander away from home after dark.  If you feel secure in your home, the creature will make crying sounds like a baby to lure you out of your house.  It’s also been known to make a whistling sound, like a human whistling.  If you answer it back with a whistle of your own, the Lechuza will swoop down and carry you away.  If you wake up in the morning and see large scratches on your doors or windowsills it means that the Luchuza was there and is coming for you, so you must prepare yourself accordingly.

Can the Lechuza be killed?  How can you protect yourself?  Because the creature is magical, according to legend the Lechuza possesses supernatural powers and care must be taken to kill it or to ward it off.  If you shoot at it and it doesn’t die, you die instead.  If any part of the Lechuza touches you – even a feather from its wingtip – you will die.  If you dream about the creature, that means someone in your family will die.  In many stories, the Lechuza has been killed, but when the sun comes up the body of the bird transforms back into the body of a haggard witch.  There are several things one can do to ward off an attack by the creature.  Hanging a rope with 7 knots in it outside your front door or on your porch shows the creature that you acknowledge and respect it and it will leave you alone.  If you see the creature flying at you, an attack can be repelled with a combination of salt and chile powder thrown into the Lechuza’s face.  If salt and chile powder are not handy, you can always recite The Magnificat – in Spanish, La Magnifica – a Catholic prayer taken from the Gospel of Saint Luke where the Virgin Mary is praising the power of God.  It is also called the Canticle of Mary and celebrates the Visitation, the second Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary.  The prayer must be recited in the normal manner AND backwards.  I am not sure if this would work; how much time would there be to say this payer forwards and backwards if a massive bird came out of the sky and was swooping down on you?  In any event, it made the list of possible Lechuza repellants.

Some stories of Lechuza encounters have happened well into the 21st Century and continue to this day.  In one recent story, near the town of El Tigre, Chihuahua, a man was driving on a dirt road outside of town when the creature began swooping down on his truck.  At one point, it hit the truck’s windshield and bounced on to the road in front of the vehicle.  The driver gunned the engine, ran over the Lechuza, backed up over it and ran over it again to be satisfied that he killed the creature.  Unfortunately, from the rear-view mirror of the truck the man saw the Lechuza rise again and instantly had a heart attack and died at the wheel.  This according to the passenger in the truck.

In another story, the Lechuza was hanging around a small town near Nuevo Laredo sometime in the 1950s.  The townsfolk gathered together to come up with a plan to kill it.  One person lured it out of the trees using his young child as bait.  When the Lechuza swooped down to take the child, several men shot at the bird, but only hit it in the claw before it flew off.  The next morning, members of the town went to the house of a supposed witch and she answered the door with a crutch and a bandaged leg.  The story ends there and we don’t know what happened.

In the United States, in the town of Santa Rosa, Texas, near the border with Mexico there was a mass sighting of La Lechuza in 1977.  The bird was spotted on a tree and then flew to the front door of a woman, scratching the door as if it wanted to get in.  By then the neighborhood dogs arrived, barking, and the Lechuza flew away.  The dogs ran after the bird as far as they could, but gave up when the Lechuza flew too high.  The next morning, all of the neighborhood dogs were dead.  Several people saw the massive bird and all were mystified by the nighttime death of the dogs.

Could the legends of the Lechuza exist because they are describing an actual animal?  If so, is there physical evidence of the animal’s existence?   Among the many reports on the internet about this creature – most of which is written in Spanish – there exists only one photo of a supposed Lechuza killed in northern Mexico.  I have a copy of that photo on the podcast website Mexico Unexplained dot com.  The bird appears to be a huge white barn owl with a 15-foot wingspan.  Some dismiss this as a hoax or a fake, something cropped and photoshopped.  This, however, is the only piece of photographic proof of the creature’s existence.  No gigantic feathers, bones or massive nests have been discovered or uncovered thus far.

On the American side of the border there are many native groups who have similar legends of gigantic birds collectively classified as “Thunderbirds.”  These huge nocturnal birds are in the oral histories of the peoples of the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest and can be found among the Algonquin, the Ojibwe and Winnebago of the northern US and Canada.  The Thunderbird has garnered serious interest from cryptozoologists – those who study fabled or yet-unknown animals – as sightings of these massive birds have also continued through to the 21st Century.

The Lechuza might turn out not be the stuff of legend or a mysterious animal yet undiscovered.  It could have a more otherworldly origin.  Many people connected with the alien abduction phenomenon have reported the sighting of owls before and during their supposed abduction experiences.  Many alleged abductees, or “experiencers,” claim that the owl is used as a “screen memory” to take the place of the aliens themselves so as to cause the human less trauma in dealing with the abduction experience.  Owls are often associated with arrival of The Greys, the short, menacing, spindly, hairless creatures with big black eyes who carry off humans for experimentation and tests in UFO lore.  The topic of screen memories and the alien use of owls is discussed at length in a nearly 400-page book by Mike Clelland titled The Messengers:  Owls, Synchronicity and the UFO Abductee.  Whitley Strieber, the author of the famous book about the alien abduction phenomenon, Communion, also links owls to the arrival of The Greys. Could the Lechuza be used to manipulate people during an alien abduction?  The possibility that the Lechuza is being used by The Greys in their nefarious doings is not off the table here.

So, is this massive bird a figure of the collective imagination?  Is it a genuine cryptid?  Is it part of something not of this earth?  There has been very little serious investigation into the Lechuza and for now the creature remains mostly the stuff of legend and a way to keep children inside and safe.  It’s an interesting phenomenon, but it is waiting for some serious examination.