During the late 1990’s a rural Venezuelan family endured a months long reign of terror at the hands of a vengeful witch who assumed the form of a diabolical winged chimera in order to torment not only the man who betrayed her, but his family as well.
Established in 1794 and located in the Andes Mountains, just east of the Colombian border, is the Venezuelan town of Rubio.
Widely considered to be an isolated backwater by the rest of the nation, this City of Bridges still had substantial swathes of its original 18th Century architecture standing and locals insisted that strange things were prone to happen in the old part of town.
It would be in this timeworn section of the city that a terrifying series of events would take place that would force a frightened family to seek help first from the Roman Catholic Church, then — when that proved to be ineffectual — from the very same source of insidious power that had bedeviled them to begin with; black magic.
The Mendoza family lived together as an extended family unit encompassing three generations from grandparents to grandchildren and various aunts and uncles. Their home was designed in the regional Colonial style, which consisted of a tall set of double doors that opened into a narrow corridor, which led to an open air rectangular courtyard, then to the rest of the house.
This exposed space in the center of the home contained a garden and a patio and was designed to with the intention of keeping the rest of the rooms cool in the blistering heat. No one could have suspected that it would also provide access to an unthinkable horror hell-bent on terrorizing everyone who lived within.
In 1997, one of the uncles who lived in the house was a bachelor in his late 20s named Juan. Juan was the youngest of his siblings and was known as a man about town. At the time he was wooing a pious and unnamed young lady who was in her early 20s.
Family legend has it that he seduced this young woman and convinced her to abandon her vow of pre-marital chastity with the promise that they would soon be wed. The devoutly religious woman was reluctant, but she was also smitten with the strapping Juan.
Predictably, the love struck woman fell for Juan’s charms and just as predictably this rustic lothario did not make good on his promise to wed her. In fact, not long after their physical consummation, he ended their relationship and continued to indulge his tomcat ways.
Needless to say, the woman was completely devastated by Juan’s betrayal. Not only had he taken advantage of her naïve affection and left her to suffer the heartbreak of the loss of the man whom she had considered to be her one true love, but he had also caused her to break her oath to God in forsaking her virginity before her wedding day.
In a culture as deeply steeped in Catholicism as Venezuela that branded her an unchaste woman, and, in a community as small as Rubio, that meant that everyone would know about it. She was no longer fit for marriage in the eyes of every available suitor and, in the eyes of her beloved church; she had committed a dreadful sin.
Her long cherished dreams of a husband and a family and a respected role in the community and the church she loved now lay dashed at her feet. With everything that she treasured most ripped from her in just a matter of moments; the spurned, furious and heartsick woman decided that Juan Mendoza had to pay for everything he had so cruelly stolen from her.
After years of devotion to the teachings of Christ she would now go down a path that once must have seemed unthinkable to her. She would embrace the dark arts and twist the rituals she had held so dearly to new and nefarious purposes.
In so doing this broken shell of a woman would sacrifice the most precious parts left to her; her health, her psyche and perhaps her very soul, for one, single all-encompassing purpose… revenge.
Unlike many traditions, such as Santeria, which holds that magic can be used for positive or negative purposes, all magic in Venezuela is considered black magic. That having been said many otherwise devout Catholics will employ use the skills of a witch, or bruja, in order to improve their lives or relationships in various small ways.
Venezuelan magical customs are a synthesis of indigenous occult practices, European influences and the perversion of Roman Catholic ritual and the scorned woman knew that her grandmother was skilled in their use. She also knew that such abilities had a tendency to run in the family.
We cannot know whether this anguished woman’s abuela encouraged her to abandon the tenets of her faith and take up the practice of witchcraft or if she tried to talk her out of it, but we do know that whatever her opinion was she introduced her granddaughter to the world of dark magic. We also know that the rejected woman proved to be a quick study.
The first inkling the Mendoza family had that something was amiss would occur on nights when Juan would come home after an evening of flirtatious revelry. Various family members would attest to being woken by the thuds of something heavy being dragged across the terracotta tile and tin roof.
These noises were accompanied by the eerie sounds of scraping claws and the distinct scents of rotting flesh and something the witnesses described as being vaguely metallic.
It was after one such evening Juan’s sister, Rita, her husband George and two of her sisters cautiously made their way toward the courtyard in order to catch a glimpse of what it was making that infernal rooftop racket. The onlookers half expected to see a sloth or possum scuttling about, but were utterly unprepared for the sight which befell them.
Perched on the roof above the courtyard was the plumage covered form of a gigantic vulture, but this was no ordinary scavenger of the skies. This carrion feeder had huge talons not only on its feet, but also, inexplicably, on the ends of its wings and, most disturbingly, where its small, beaked head ought to have been were the now filthy features of Juan’s former lover.
The family stared in horror as the bird bodied witch leered down at them; her red eyes glowing like diabolical embers. One must envision their retreat as swift; with doors and windows being sealed against the supernatural onslaught and many prayers being issued forth, pleading for an early dawn. When they awoke the witch was gone, but their nightmare was far from over.
The Mendozas understood that physical transformation took very advanced dark magic and that those who utilize it do so at tremendous cost and grave personal risk from even more nefarious forces. They knew that what their brother had done to this woman had left her in a place where she no longer cared about her own physical or spiritual well-being… and that made her a very dangerous creature.
As terrifying as the ordeal had been for his family, the stubborn Juan was not to be deterred from his nocturnal carousing and each time he stepped out with another young lady the enraged witch would return to torment both him and his loved ones.
Family members would claim to hear an almost cacophonous din of flapping whenever they left the house after dark to run errands and would return home as quickly as possible, looking over their shoulders the whole way. And that would not be the worst of it.
Night after night this nightmarish apparition would return, sometimes in the hybrid form of the human headed vulture, other times floating in front of the house in a tattered death shroud of rags, with her eyes glowing and long, black, rooster-like talons in place of her fingernails.
All of the members of the family from the eldest to George and Rita’s children would take turns peeking out from inside the towering, 100 year-old, thickset wooden doors that separated them from this unholy terror.
If the witch caught sight of them she’d soar at the door with unbelievable speed, smashing into it, her black talons penetrating the heavy wood and petrifying those inside. When she retracted her talons for the last time before the dawn one of the hooked claws remained wedged in the door, leaving the Mendozas with a gruesome souvenir of that night’s ordeal.
The Mendozas lived in a state of near constant dread. They knew that Juan had done this woman a terrible wrong, but they also knew that they could no longer pay for his sins and that something would have to be done to end this witch’s reign of terror. Even the once carefree Juan began to fear for his safety, but even when he stopped going out the supernatural talking continued.
It was then that the devout family went to their church,
, and took a meeting with their parish priest. Unlike the dedicated protectors of their flock found in so many post-Exorcist cinematic endeavors, this particular priest was reticent to get involved in the affair, claiming that Juan deserved his lot for what he had done to the woman.
The priest also confided that even if he wanted to help he was not sure if he was strong enough to go up against a black witch harboring so much rage. The Mendozas implored the rector. There were, after all, small children living in the house.
The priest finally relented and blessed a rosary and some holy water for them. He instructed the Mendozas to hang the rosary on the inside of the front door and to rub the holy water on the beams of the house that held the roof up.
The family returned home immediately, did as they were instructed and settled in for another endless night of torment. The witch returned as she did almost every night, but now she was unable to land on the roof.
Frustrated she charged the front door, but before she could connect she would slam into an unseen wall. Enraged, the bruja soared around the house, unable to touch it, but still refusing to leave.
This continued for weeks. As relieved as the Mendozas were that the witch could no longer make physical contact with their home, they were still prisoners from dusk ‘til dawn and they knew that if they were ever forced to leave in the cover of darkness that this evil apparition would be waiting for them. It was then that they decided that drastic measures were in order.
The Mendozas began to ask their friends and family what they should do and they began to hear rumors of an immensely powerful old black witch who lived a Spartan existence alone in the mountains outside of Rubio. She was not only highly regarded for her occult skill set, but maintained a nearly legendary status as the “ultimate anti-witch, witch”.
The Mendozas knew that their chosen path was both dangerous and expensive, but they had finally had enough and they sent Juan into the desolate mountain pass in order to secure her assistance in banishing this incessant, flapping horror from their lives.
Whether it was Juan’s impassioned pleas or merely the size of his purse that got the job done, the old bruja agreed to help. She told him to return the following night with the witch’s talon, a bottle of the most expensive red wine he could find and a personal offering, which was not revealed.
Juan returned with the request materials (surely wary of an attack from above the entire journey) and the crone began the cleansing ritual. The ceremony was essentially an anti-mass with prayers being offered to saints not recognized by the Catholic Church.
She dipped the talon into the red wine (serving as transubstantiation for the blood of Christ) then they said the prayers backwards. Juan then made his personal offering and drank from the goblet of wine. The old bruja then cursed the tormenting witch with her own claw, putting a hex on her.
The bruja wrapped the talon in a leather band and told Juan to hang the newly minted talisman on the front door. Juan thanked the elder occultist and quickly made his way home where he hung the talon on the same nail as the blessed rosary. He and the rest of his family prayed that all of their effort (and money) had not been spent in vain.
A few nights later would be the first test of the veteran bruja’s magical skills. The jilted witch descended from the darkened sky as she had so many times before, but this time something different happened.
The terrible, red-eyed phantasm that had loomed above them suddenly collapsed in a heap on the ground beyond the front door. She was no longer the picture of unrelenting horror, but a pale and broken husk of a woman running naked in front of their home trying desperately to take flight.
Although her powers ceased to work whenever she approached the Mendoza home her thirst for revenge remained unquenched. Again and again she would return, no longer frightening, merely pitiful, until, eventually, much to the relief of the family inside, she lost the will to even try.
There are those in the Mendoza family who believe that she never wanted to actually hurt anyone in the house, with the possible exception of Juan, but that she was just venting her uncontrollable rage on all of the blood relatives of the man who betrayed her. Unleashing her vast reservoir of anguish on the family that was very nearly her own.
Rob Morphy is an artist / journalist / filmmaker / graphic designer / crypto historian / podcaster / co-founder of American Monsters, Cryptopia and Cryptonaut Podcast