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8 - Phantoms

In hopes of getting his father to quit drinking, a son will try to give his father a good fright. But the man will not forgive that. In the afterword we talk more about this unusual ghost that takes the shape of a dog. We finalize with another story about El Cadejo.


The second story is based on the book by Héctor Gaitán "La Calle Donde Tú Vives", published by Artemis y Edintes.

The Legend of El Cadejos

Based on the story found in the book by Edna Iturralde

"Los Pajaros no tienen Fronteras", published by Alfaguara Junvenil.

Adapted by Carolina Quiroga-Stultz

El Cadejos is a well-known belief across Central America. A dog that approaches travelers on the road, depending on who the person is (good or bad) the dog will help them or attack them. This version attempts to explain the origin of this frightful apparition.

Juan Arcadio, son of Don Eladio Perez Ojin had known his father to be a drunkard for a long time. In his town, the working men would meet up after sunset to drink. To Don Eladio's family, he had been drinking away los pesos of a day's work for a while. That is why Juan, his son, had to quit school, and go to work in the milpas, the fields, to compensate.

Juan remembered his father used to be cheerful, and hopeful. What happened then? Don Eladio had an accident. He said at work, but there were no witnesses. The rural doctor couldn't do much. Science did not reach those far away places. Don Eladio lost 3 fingers in his left hand. Yet, he still had a workable hand. As it somebody had planned it that way. Don Eladio did not lose his job, he was demoted to a lesser one. He did not lose his friends, they just looked at him differently. He did not lose his family, but he grew resentful towards them.

About five years had passed since the accident. Don Eladio's mood was sarcastic, darker, and more wicked. The wife was his punching bag, always excusing the old man. Es mi culpa mijo, lo siento. But Juan had grown to know better. He knew she was no dummie, they had been working together in the same milpa for a while. She was a resourceful, and clever woman. The problem at home was that she was scared or worse. The woman thought she couldn't live without a man ¿ Quién va a ayudar a una mujer sola? No mijo, aquí estoy bien. (Who is going to help a woman? No! my son, I am fine where I am)

Juan knew it was the alcohol that put his father in such a bitter, and destructive mood. Then, the solution should be simple. No alcohol, no violence. However, Juan couldn't close the taverns or start a riot against them. But he could give his father a good warning fright. Un buen susto.

Since his 14th birthday, Juan had begun telling his father: come back early papá! Regresa temprano (Father please come back early). Yet, years of following the same drinking routine, from Friday till Sunday, could not be changed. Por lo menos no de la noche a la mañana.

On Monday, Juan went to the butcher, and got the ugliest cow skin. It was black, hairy, and big enough to cover him while kneeling down in four legs. On Tuesday, the boy worked all day. On Wednesday, Juan got a pair of old dog's chains from the blacksmith. By Thursday, he went to the woods to rehearse a little. At sunset, Juan left the disguise, and props hidden in the woods, under some bushes, and went back home.

Friday, after supper, Juan excused himself, and went to bed early. Around midnight got up, and left the rancho. He walked to the place where he had left the horrifying disguise, put it on and waited. Soon, his father would be stumbling down the path.

When at last, Juan heard Don Eladio dragging his feet, the four legged monster came out. Growling, and rattling chains. The drunkard didn't have much time to think. Don Eladio ran back home, frantically screaming like a madman.

The four legged monster turned around, and watched his father running for his life. Feeling accomplished Juan took off the disguise, hid it, and ran back home taking a shortcut. Just in time to pretend to be asleep.

Soon after Don Eladio showed up banging on the door. Don Eladio went down on his knees, crying, and spitting out incoherent words. The poor wife had no clue what was going on. Don Eladio full of remorse kissed her hands. Lo siento mija, no lo vuelvo a hacer, se lo juró. (I swear my dear, I will never drink again)

Truth to be told, Don Eladio did not have a drop of alcohol for the next two weeks. Even his mood improved. Repentant, cordial, helpful. But it did not last. By the beginning of the third week, the sober man had begun to reflect on the event.

Perhaps, el susto, the fright had been a bad dream. Or he had had too much to drink. It was best to measure himself. By Friday, he promised to his family he would return home early. That he would not drink for 3 days straight. ¡Yo sé tomar mija! A man needs time for himself, with his buddies. ¡Además, yo no tengo porque aguantarle la cantaleta! No one could reason with him.

Don Eladio went back to drink. That weekend wasn't that bad. The man almost kept his word. He cut out three hours of drinking on Friday. Two on Saturday, and one on Sunday. The drinker was testing the odds. By Monday, the man was determined to be back to his old ways. By Thursday, Juan was ready to give his father another susto, a fright.

The disguise was in place. Friday midnight, the horrible apparition was waiting for the drunkard, behind the bushes. This time Don Eladio did not scream much. He simply ran. From time to time, tripping down. But el susto, the fright was bigger than the pain. Don Eladio did not cry to his wife. He did not even mention it. To his blurry mind, and aching bones, he had been attacked by a beast or a pack of lawless thieves.

The bruised man rested on Saturday. Yet, by Sunday afternoon Don Eladio drank again. As if he was catching up on a missing day. That same midnight, the gruesome monster patiently awaited for his victim by the side of the road. This time, Don Eladio did not run to his house. He got lost in the woods. Since the dreadful animal did not follow. Don Eladio, slept where his body landed.

The next day, the was so bad, he did not show up to work. He almost got fired. But El Patron, the boss had been El Padrino of Don Eladio's only son in his baptism. They were like family. One last chance ¡Eladio! ¡Tenes que componerte! ¡Pensá en tu familia!

Who knows where the drunkard stayed from Monday to Wednesday. Don Eladio came back on Thursday night. Did not say word. On Friday, after work, the man stayed up all night, in some sort of delirious reflection. On Saturday, Don Eladio left towards the tavern around six in the afternoon.

One more susto, and his father could be freed from the chains of alcohol. At least, since the first susto, violence had decreased.

Juan knew his father would come back that night. ¡No me esperen despiertos! (Don't wait for me awake) Hidden by the shadows cast by the trees, Juan waited for about two hours. When he heard a heavy body dragging his feet, yelling: ¿Dónde estas? Where are you?

Juan wore the pelt on, tied up one chain to each ankle and began to walk towards the road. The four legged monster stood by the side of the road growling to the man. But this time, the drunkard did not run or scream. Don Eladio took a couple of steps back. Grabbed a big stick and charge against the ferocious apparition. ¡Maldito animal te voy a matar!

Juan was confused. His father was not scared. Instead he wanted to kill him. Quickly, Juan took off the disguise. But it was too dark to tell a difference. Juan yelled: Es mi papá! Juan! Es solo una broma! It's me! Juan!

Don Eladio stopped before the first blow. Dropped the stick. Yet, there was no mercy in his eyes, only hate.

The father did not say much. The progenitor only pronounced a curse. Por irrespetar a tu padre, en cuatro patas andarás, estos caminos en la noche, recorrerás. Juan had been condemned to wander the dusty roads as the four legged creature he had tried to impersonate.

Don Eladio kept walking home. He did not look back, not even when his son cried in pain. Or he would have seen the ugly cow's skin crawling over his son's back. Melting his clothes, and attaching itself to Juan's skin. Forcing him to bend down in four legs. Juan had become the dreadful phantom of a monstrous beast, today known as El Cadejo.

People say that Don Eladio went crazy. He left his wife, and was seen, and heard many times wandering in the woods calling his son. ¡Juan, mijo, perdoneme! (Son, please forgive me!)

As for Juan, people say that God took pity on the young man. And granted him to favor or punish as he wishes the travelers that walk the roads at night. Watching over the just, and punishing with death those with a crooked heart.


Very well friends watch your back when you are going home back at night, because you never know what kind of Cadejo could be following you. Now, when I say what type of Cadejo, it is because it is a common believe that there are at least two types of Cadejos. Some will tell you that there is one that is black, and another one that is white.

All stories agree that it is a spirit of takes the form on an animal, that kind of looks like a dog, large, hairy, and with bright red eyes. El Cadejo does not appear to everyone, and he doesn’t show himself in the same form every time.

Now, who are these people that need to be looked after? it could be just someone that stayed too late out, and is heading back home. It could be a drunk person, as it has been reported in some stories. It could be a child; it could be a woman.

Many of those versions will tell you that those people were most likely good, in the general sense of the idea but when El Cadejo senses that that person is not necessarily a good person then El Cadejo, if it is the black one, will definitely attack the person.

It is said that if El Cadejo licks a person on the lips, that person will be accompanied by el Cadejo for nine days. So, it tells us that if that person was an alcoholic, and they had intentions of quitting, after that most likely they will die of alcoholism.

Finally, this belief in El Cadejo or El Cadejos is shared by several Central American countries, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Guatemala. So my honest advice, if you ever go to visit any of these beautiful countries make sure you come with good intentions.

One More Story

To finalize our program, here is another story about El Cadejo, that dog that chooses to help those in need and attack those with bad intentions.

This cuento is based on the story published in the book The Street Where you live (La Calle donde tu vives) by Hector Gaitan. Published in Guatemala by Artemis y Edintes.

The loaded mules carrying wood were slowly arriving to Palencia. The intense sun was tanning the mule drivers’ skin. They were walking next to their mules, all sweaty, dirty, and in a bad mood; ready to unload the wood in whichever store they would find along the way.

The job was exhausting, and boring. Every day of the week they would prepare the wood, load it, carry it down from the hill to the city, and sell it to the best buyer, in some bakery or big store.

One of the mule drivers’ favorite places in Palencia was “La Trampa”, the tramp tavern near the Carmen Hill.

Don Ceferino Escobar arrived to the tavern with his men. They tied up the mules to the posts outside, and came inside. After the tiring morning it would be good to have a drink.

Don Ceferino: Come on you losers! Don’t stand on ceremony; have a drink with me!

Don Ceferino took a drink of aguardiente that made him cringe. He was followed by the other men, except for the shortest of them, who poured his drink under the table while the others weren’t looking.

Don Ceferino asked for another round.

The other men followed his lead, except for Tiburcio who pretended again to drink. But just as he was about to pour out his drink, he was discovered. Don Ceferino was not happy about that. This felt like an insult. Tiburcio attempted to explain:

Tiburcio: No, Don Ceferino, I mean no disrespect, I appreciate you buying us the drinks but what happens is that if I drink, then I see El Cadejo, and I don’t want that to happen again.

The other men in the tavern laughed when Tiburcio spoke.

Don Ceferino thought Tiburcio’s words were only excuses.

Don Ceferino: I didn’t know that people from Palencia were cowards.

Tiburcio didn’t like to be teased like that; he was no coward.

Tiburcio: Look Don Ceferino, I have always respected you, but if you want, we can drink like there is no tomorrow, and when we are completely drunk, will see who is the coward, because I assure you, patron, that when you see that dog, when you see El Cadejo, you are going to scream, and run.

So, they drank until they couldn’t hold more alcohol.

The other men left, while Don Ceferino, and Tiburcio took another route, towards the Corona pastures to take their nap. They didn’t make it that far though, because they were so drunk that they only made it to a hill. There they rested, unaware of the upcoming night, and its phantoms.

Soon, they were snoring, but not for long, Tiburcio woke up because of the gentle, and ticklish walk of an exploring insect on his face. He woke up enough to remember the bet both men had made earlier that afternoon. He needed to be on the watch.

Soon, he thought he heard the sound of a dog’s clawed feet stepping through pebbles. Then he saw two small lights coming closer, and closer like two balls of fire.

Tiburcio tried to wake up Don Ceferino, but he was like a dead body.

The sound of the claws against the rocks became louder. At last the animal was right in front of him. His eyes were on fire, el Cadejo was growling, and ready to attack.

Tiburcio was so scared that he fainted, his body falling next to Don Ceferino’s. He was awakened by Don Ceferino the next morning. They were in a very different place – the “Guard of the Golf,” also known as “the market.”

Don Ceferino was upset. He wanted to know how on earth they had ended up there, in a place where everybody knew them. He was sure they had stopped somewhere else.

Don Ceferino: Tiburcio don’t tell me it has to do with your Cadejo.

Tiburcio: I don't know Don Ceferino, but I swear to you by The Holy Cross, that I saw El Cadejo with these same eyes, but once I saw it, I was petrified, and passed out, and you know the rest.

Don Ceferino couldn’t understand why his clothes were all torn. According to the old belief, the ghostly dog, that Cadejo would not harm the drunk. But it looks like they had been attacked by it.

Don Ceferino: I don't get it Tiburcio. Why would El Cadejo attack us? Look at my clothes.

Tiburcio didn’t know what to say. There was no explanation.

Without confessing his next thought to Tiburcio, Don Ceferino remembered that once he had heard that you should never make fun of other people’s beliefs, especially the beliefs of those who are haunted because it can happen to you.

They didn’t talk any more about the lost night, and their torn clothing. Instead they went on counting the mules, and that is when he realized one was missing. They went back to the hill but found no trace of the animal. They asked around until a sheepherder told them where the animal had been seen last.

Pastor: You should thank me, because I found your little mule all scared by the Martinico. Yesterday a madman escaped from the sanatorium, and with machete in hand, was about to kill some people. I heard that that lunatic almost killed some mule drivers sleeping by the hill. They were saved by their dog who defended them.

After that, Don Ceferino never doubted the beliefs of his workers again, and from time to time left some leftovers on the road, and fresh water for that scrawny dog, El Cadejo, who he never saw again, perhaps because after Don Ceferino didn’t drink as often as he used to.


Very well friends this is all for now. Tres Cuentos warns you to moderate yourself when you go out to drink, not only you can get in trouble, but you can get a good fright that will stay with you for life.

Next time, we will meet our last phantom, and Argentinian Cowboy, known as Gaucho who will take an obsession to the afterlife, and until today he is looking for someone that is willing to wear his cursed poncho.



Ethnoamerica – - Serveng

Day of Recon – Max Surla, Media Right Productions

Aurora_Currents – Asher Fulero

The_Heartache -Ugonna Onyekwe_Persecution


Darkest Child – Kevin McLeod

Sharp_Senses - Ugonna Onyekwe

Spirit_of_the_Dead - Aakash Gandhi

Subtle_Betrayal – SYBS

Hidden Agenda by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (

Sneaky Snooper by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (

Pooka – Kevin MacLeod

TipToes- Myuu

Spying In The 60's - Sir Cubworth

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