Ghostly encounters take all shapes and sizes, yet are always very frightening for those who witness them. While these phenomena can most usually be quite terrifying, some of the spookiest are those that involve entities known to scream or wail, perpetually caught up in some unspecified anguish. Legends of such ghosts can be found all over the world, most notably with the Banshees of Ireland, but these are not the only such apparitions said to lurk in the periphery. So here we take a dive into the world of very bizarre shrieking spirits and reports that are enough to induce nightmares.
Probably the most well-known tale of wailing ghosts featured in folklore outside of the Banshees originates in Latin America, and concerns the sinister entity called La Llorona, or “The Weeping Woman.” The dark tale of this tragic figure has many variations and permutations depending on the geographical region, but they generally begin with a village woman who was renowned for her stunning beauty. The woman, in many tales referred to as Maria, fell in love with a handsome visiting gentleman who had been entranced by her comeliness, and the two married to go on and have two children. However, the marriage devolved rather quickly due to the fact that the husband was an unrepentant womanizer, and also tended to ignore her when they were at home in favor of playing with their children. Things came to a head when in later years her husband found a younger mistress, and by all accounts, Maria did not take this well. According to the tale, she became insanely jealous, and went about viciously drowning her two young children in a river, before finding some lucidity and regretting her actions. Depending on the version of the story, she then either chases them along the river and drowns trying to retrieve them, or commits suicide by joining them in their watery grave. The lore has it that she was then doomed to wander the earth eternally looking for and crying out for her children, and that she could not rest until they were found.
La Llorona is usually described as an apparition of a woman dressed in white, most often seen prowling the shores of rivers or lakes and shouting out for her children, screaming, and sobbing uncontrollably. Many versions of the tale state that to hear her cry is a portent of incoming death or tragedy, which is very similar to the stories of the Banshee, and she is also said to kidnap children and drown them in a pantomime of her murder of her own children. The story has become one of the most popular spooky tales of Latin America, and has been made into countless books, art, poetry, theatre, and in literature films, and TV shows. While it seems to be mostly pure legend and myth, the tale is a pervasive one, and there are many people in Latin America who have claimed to have encountered the spirit, and it is undeniably one of the more famous tales of a wailing spirit.
While the tales of the Banshee and La Llorona might be mere folklore, there have been many reports of something very similar, in that witnesses have explained encountering a spirit that screams, shrieks, or wails. One such account comes from Your Ghost Stories, with a witness who says this happened to her in the Philippines. She claims that her and her husband had just had the master bedroom painted, and due to the fumes were sleeping in the guest room next to the dining area. It was sometime in the middle of the night when something very strange indeed would happen, of which the witness says:
Around half past two, I felt aware of my surroundings and I started hearing a woman’s voice. I then opened my eyes and listened in, trying to make out what she was saying. I can’t say exactly if she was singing a melancholy tune or if she was crying. Worse of all, her voice sounded ethereal that I immediately knew she wasn’t of this world anymore. One minute she’d sound nearby and another minute, her voice would suddenly sound distant. It even came to a point that she sounded like she was right outside my bedroom window. The thing is we live on the 4th floor! I decided not to tell my husband about it because I knew he’d probably think I was nuts.
The woman tried to rationalize it as all in her imagination, thinking she must have imagined or dreamt it all, but it would turn out that this was not to be her only encounter with the wailing woman, and she explains:
I was having lunch with my hubby and dad-in-law when I suddenly heard the same ethereal wail-singing. I was creeped out but I chose to keep quiet about it. After lunch, I couldn’t take it anymore! I went straight to the kitchen to ask our maid if she was hearing what I was hearing. To my surprise she said: “Alin po? Yung babaeng kumakanta na parang umiiyak? Opo ate, naririnig ko sya gabi gabi.” (Do you mean the woman who sounds like she’s singing or crying? Yes mam, I hear her every night.) My jaws almost dropped. At the same time, I was also happy to realize that what I was hearing was real! (Considering the fact that I only asked her if she was hearing anything strange yet she described what I was hearing accurately!) She then went on to tell me how the woman’s voice would sometimes sound like its right outside her bedroom door! She even told me how she’d deliberately play praise songs on her CD player in an attempt to keep herself safe and at around 2 or 3 in the morning, she’d find the CD player unplugged!
We have no idea who she could be or what she needs, but I think she needs help. I’ve also tried burning incense in every room of the house but it only seemed to keep her away for a few days. One other strange fact about the whole experience is that I never hear her when I’m at the master’s bedroom, which is only a few feet away!
Could this spirit be something very much like La Llorona, looking for something that she cannot find? Another account comes from the country of Chile, where the witness says she lived with her father and his family, her stepmother and her children, and her two younger sisters in a poor area of the city of Viña del Mar. She says that at the time they lived in a cramped, tiny house near a rugged road and with no running water, and that she slept in a room with four other children. She says:
One night I was woken up by a sound which at first I didn’t recognize. Suddenly I was completely awake and could hear clearly a woman crying in the saddest way one could imagine. At first I thought “Sure it must be a poor woman married to a drunken husband and probably being beaten up by him” (there were such families around with alcoholic men who could make exhibition of themselves from time to time). The woman cried a short minute and suddenly her cry started to get very strange, the vocals started to become too long! It didn’t sound like anything I’d heard until now in my life. First a normal crying that continue like: ooooAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaooooooooooooo Oh my God! I promise you people that all the hair of my body was standing up. It was the most horrifying wail I have ever heard and I don’t think I will never hear again, it was clearly not from this world anyway. I was petrified and didn’t dare to go and take a look. So I didn’t move an inch and I was cold and sweating completely frightened. I never told anybody of this night.
This might have been the end of it, if the incident didn’t come up in a conversation with her sister years later. The sister had come over for dinner, and during the conversation that house they had once lived in came up, along with a very odd tale of her own. The sister claimed that she had also had a similarly strange experience there, and the witness says:
One day in 2001 (I was 34 then) my youngest sister came to my house for supper and she told me something that proved that I heard indeed a ghost that night. She told me that one night in the same house (she was then 7 years old) she awoke in the middle of the night because she heard a woman crying. She felt curious and looked through the window and saw a woman in our backyard. From the distance she seemed to be walking fast but when my sister looked at her feet, she was floating like 50 cm above the ground. She never saw her face but the woman had black long hair and floating gown. While my sister was looking at her, she could hear swings moving; suddenly she forgot about the woman and became very happy and wanted to go out to see the swings. She was half way out of the house in the middle of the night when she remembered that there were no swings where we lived. She stopped and turned inside the house and the sound of swings stopped at once too.
I don’t know what it was, who was that woman? I just remember that one day before this happened to me I was walking with some friends up in a hill above the one we lived on and I saw a white cross, the kind of cross that Chileans put on haunted places to keep the spirits and the devil away from the place. Perhaps people, who lived there before, knew about the haunting and tried to warn others by leaving the cross there or perhaps they tried to make a spiritual barricade to keep the spirits away, who knows.
From India there was a fairly frightening account reported in The Times of India, originating from a woman’s jail in the town of Tihar, where in 2019 the inmates began to complain of being terrorized by the spirit of a woman who wanders about screaming and wailing in great apparent anguish. The terrified inmates claimed that every morning at 2 AM Barrack Number 6 would reverberate with the screams and howls of a crying woman, with the apparition itself often seen as well, often described as seeming to be looking for something. The unearthly shrieking is so startling and intense that it is supposedly impossible to sleep, and the rumors told by inmates say that it is the spirit of a woman who was unjustly imprisoned and committed suicide there. Is there anything to this story and if so what is going on here?
Also from India is an extremely creepy account given on Your Ghost Stories, from a witness who says that at the time he had been staying in a rural flat along with some others on a business trip to Jamshedpur. One evening he had some friends over and stepped out on the balcony to have a cigarette, where his friend joined him and they would both have an unsettling experience. The witness explains:
My friend Deb had joined me and as we were smoking, we heard the cry of a baby. It was wailing. The sound appeared as if the baby was moving towards the building from the right. I was wondering who would be having a baby awake at such a time in the night. The sound approached the building and we could hear the wail at full. But, we couldn’t see anyone – neither a baby nor anyone carrying a baby. It appeared as if the sound “halted” in front of the building and was not moving away. There was no baby crawling, there were no person or persons walking or even no persons carrying a baby. Human audio sensory capabilities are such that we can roughly sense from the direction from which a sound comes. Since there is nothing wrong with my hearing, I could very well sense the sound of the wailing baby coming from the front of the gate. Plus, the landlord’s family didn’t have any babies, all their children being grownups and not yet married and no relatives had come to visit them (surely none with babies in tow), I am dead sure.
The two were scared by this point, and moved inside, where they apparently told the others. No one seemed to really believe them at first, but then as they were discussing it the lights apparently went out for no discernible reason. This is where the account gets pretty dramatic indeed, and the witness says of what happened next thusly:
My friend Hussain went to check the Electrical Distribution board to see if any circuit breakers had tripped. He came back in a few moments and said that the power failure could be external since all the breakers seemed normal. India’s electricity distribution network is so much wanting. Power failures are a daily feature of our life. So, we settled down again, with a single candle as the light. As we were just settling down, still discussing about ghosts, there was a big gust of wind (with all windows closed) and the candle went out. We were disturbed by the candle going out and suddenly, we could hear the wail of the baby, from the very living room we were in. It should be noted that once my friends had entered my flat, I had locked the door from the inside!
Nothing else to do, Deb and I ran for our lives. We opened the door, leaped down the external stairs and out on to the road. Not knowing what was happening, but still sensing that something was wrong, Hussain and Maneesh also followed us. We wouldn’t go inside the flat. We were too scared. We told Hussain and Maneesh about the sound of the baby and they were spooked too. We heard the local Gurkha Guard/Night Watchman making his round and ran to him. We told him about the baby’s wail. He looked at us, troubled, and told us that evil spirits would take all shapes and produce all sounds. He informed us that there has been many similar incidents in other areas close by. He informed that it would be best that we don’t go back inside the flat.
We inquired locally about the incident the next few days. We heard about that there are certain spirits which take the shape and imitate the sounds of many familiar objects, persons and animals, to attract people towards them. I got my company to shift me to a flat in the city itself and vacated the flat the very next day!
It seems that tales of wailing, screaming ghosts seem to be very prevalent throughout the world, both in legends and in individual accounts. Is there any possibility that such reports could be indicative of something that perhaps fueled the lore of the Banshee and other entities like it such as La Llorona? Are these lost souls caught up in such anguish that they are doomed to wander the land piercing the night with their wails? Or is it all tall tales and legend? Whatever the answers to such questions might be, there can be no doubt that some of the scariest supposed ghosts are of the wailing, screaming kind.