Corpus Christi, TX

I provide stories of South Texas folklore and of the Supernatural

San Antonio, TX

El Muerto: The Texas Headless Horseman of No Man’s Land or The Texas Joaquin Murrieta

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As Dia de Los Muertos nears we find that sometimes the truth is scarier than fiction. In the 1850s, two men both bandits, one in California and one in Texas were beheaded by state Rangers and both became legends. Now most folks know of Joaquin Murrieta, "The Robin Hood of the West" who infamously robbed and killed people. Now many do not know that Murrieta may have killed men because they were the men who killed his wife and brother and left him for dead. Murrieta also gave away the money he robbed to the poor of Mariposa and California. He was said to have been beheaded by a California Ranger named Harry Love and his head was then placed in a jar. Later the jar and the head in it would fetch a dollar if you wanted to take a gander at it. Murrieta's story would become a California legend. A novel was written about Murrieta by John Rollin Ridge in 1854. Later in the 20th century, in 1919 writer Johnston McCulley wrote 'Zorro' and based his main character, Don Diego de la Vega or 'Zorro' on Rollin Ridge's 1854 Joaquin Murrieta story and novel. Eerily similar and almost at the same time (1852) in South Texas before the Civil War, a man named Vuavis made a mistake that would not only cost him his life but make him a Texas legend. A few years before in early December 1835 Lieutenant Vidal Vuavis, under General Woll deserted his post, left the Mexican Army, and ended up on the Texan side of the war in San Antonio. He stayed in San Antonio during the Seige of the Alamo and years later worked as a cook with the famous Chili Queens of the San Antonio plazas. When that didn’t work, he and a couple of other men turned to cattle rustling and horse thieving in “No Man’s Land” which was the disputed area between the Nueces River and the Rio Bravo or what the Texans called, the Rio Grande. The Mexican government said the Nueces River was the border and the American government said the Rio Grande or the Rio Bravo was the border. This dispute should have ended when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed by Mexico and the United States giving human and American rights to the Tejanos as well as the Californios long before Americans began to move there. But it didn’t. When Tejanos didn’t receive respect and equal rights, some of them like Vuavis (Joaquin Murrieta) and his men reacted the way today’s looters and rioters react, by stealing. In late October 1850 outside San Antonio Vuavis and his men unknowingly rustled several horses from a former Texas Ranger named Creed Taylor. Taylor and former fellow ranger, William “Big Foot” Wallace along with a Tejano by the name of Flores, banded together acting as Texas Rangers (Murrieta’s chased by California Rangers), went after Vidal Vuavis and the other banditos even though the official end to the rangers was in 1848 (when the Mexican American War concluded). Remember this was the Wild West. Taylor, Wallace, and Flores tracked the bandits to a location where they would ambush the thieves in their sleep. After the ambush, the bandits were killed. Vidal Vuavis would be beheaded (Murrieta also was beheaded). His body would be placed on a black stallion and strapped down. His cutoff head was then tied to the saddle horn. The animal and headless horseman were sent off on a dark and supernatural journey. After scaring people throughout South Texas, the horse was corralled by some ranchers. Vuavis’s corpse was buried near the city of Alice Texas in a town called Ben Bolt. A few witnesses later stated Vuavis’s head was not buried with his corpse, it seems it was stolen at the burial. At that moment Vuavis became known forever as, El Muerto or The Dead One. Now the lack of a head has proven to be the principal reason headless horsemen terrorize the living after their demise. Several years after Vuavis’s burial, confederate soldiers at Fort Inge in Uvalde witnessed the ghost rider gallop through their encampment in 1861, scaring the hell and the fight out of them enough to depart from the Fort. In the early 20th century (1917) another sighting occurred in San Diego, Texas, and maybe not so coincidently near Vuavis’s grave site. A couple traveling on a road, heading South, reported seeing the headless rider on a black horse. They said the rider never looked their way as he rode by only to remarkably vanish before their eyes. And most recently in 1969 a sighting in Freer, Texas of the rider as the sun went down. It was said the rider had no head. This Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos if you're brave enough to look for El Muerto the Headless Horseman, you may be in for the ride of your life, but be careful you don’t lose your cabeza or head in the process.

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