This month’s urban legend is one of those amorphous things in folklore – it might be a spirit, or a force of nature, or a curse. It all depends on who is telling the story, and where they grew up. La Mala Hora literally translates to The Bad Hour. Exactly what is this shrouded entity that lurks in the shadows at crossroads? Let’s explore.
La Mala Hora goes by a few names – La Malora, La Malorga, the Evil-Doer, the Evil One – which seem to vary regionally. The entity appears in one of two ways. First, it may appear as a beautiful woman with long, dark hair in either a white or black dress. This female spirit form glides along the side of the road, her feet not touching the ground. Its other form is essentially a shadow or a black mass, which constantly roils and changes shape. This second form can surround a person in a dark mist, disorienting them.
Legend says that La Mala Hora is an evil spirit entity or a demon. It is allegedly feared throughout New Mexico and Mexico on par with the Devil himself. It appears along the sides of rural roads, typically before lone travelers, and typically at or near crossroads. It is considered a bad omen at best – the female spirit dressed in black is specifically thought to be a harbinger of death – and a vengeful demon at worst. Most variations of this urban legend state that those who lay eyes on La Mala Hora are either driven insane by the entity or suffocated by its mist – though how this is known is unclear, as it only attacks lone travelers and they’re found dead the next morning. Those that escape encounters with the entity claim that it paralyzed them with fear or hypnotized them into complacency.
There are really only two stories of encounters with La Mala Hora while conducting research for this post. The first is the most well known, and has dozens (if not hundreds) of slight variations. In the tale of this encounter, a woman calls her friend, distraught over her impending divorce. The friend jumps in their car and rushes right over. While driving, they come to a fork in the road – at which they see La Mala Hora. When they arrive at their friend’s home, they tell her about the strange woman at the crossroads. The friend then explains the legend of La Mala Hora, in the vein of it being a harbinger of death. The friend tries to laugh it off, but is met by police when they arrive home – their husband, who was away in Chicago on business, was mugged and murdered at the moment they saw La Mala Hora.
Another supposed encounter – which, in some tellings, is a variation of the encounter described in the previous paragraph – involved a woman meeting La Mala Hora while driving. According to this story (or variation) La Mala Hora stepped out in front of the woman’s car, causing her to slam on the brakes. Once the car was stopped, La Mala Hora vanished from in front of the car and appeared at the passenger-side window, though its face had transformed form that of a woman into something more demon-like, with red glowing eyes. The woman drove away, and La Mala Hora ran alongside the car for a few moments before she stopped. As the woman watched in her rearview mirror, La Mala Hora grew in size, until she was the size of a tree – perhaps a sort of camouflage to take travelers by surprise.
Typical of an Urban Legend, there is no concrete evidence of the encounters, and information regarding them is disseminated by word of mouth (either physically or digitally). No one who relates the tale seems to have any personal relation to the survivor or witness. It all reads like a spooky campfire tale, usually starting with “there once was…” or “I heard…” There is also nothing to document these events or connect real people to the tales. The stories also seem to be intentionally vague, especially the tale involving the two friends – the husband was killed in a city known for its violence, no identifying details of the timeframe or people are given, etc.
This also seems to be a typical Cautionary Urban Legend. The fact that La Mala Hora tends to target people a) traveling alone b) at night makes me believe that it originated as a way to keep people from, well, traveling alone at night. This would prevent travelers from traveling over unfamiliar terrain in dangerous conditions, which would in turn prevent injuries and deaths from misadventure.