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The Spanish bogeyman was real

Some superstitions hurt… a lot. One of them was the origin of the children’s horror story that was used in Spain to control the behaviour of the children and which, most likely, has caused too many nightmares in several people. Under the succinct threat of “I’ll call the bogeyman!”, children had no choice but to return to their homes and go to bed at the time stipulated by their parents…

In the Alpujarra of Almería, in Southeastern Spain, we find a small village that back on June 28, 1910 had no more than 800 souls: Gádor. The tranquility of its inhabitants would be disturbed by a terrifying and unforgettable event. That hot night, the corpse of 7-year-old Bernardo González Parra was hidden in a concavity of the El Pilar ravine, 5 km from Gádor, deliberately hidden under stones and brooms. Battered as it was, the corpse looked like anything but a child’s body: the head shattered by the hits with stones it had received, a stab wound in the armpit made while the child was still alive and through which abundant blood was extracted, and a horrifying incision in the belly through which the fat was removed.

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The faces of evil: Francisco Leona (1), Francisco Ortega el Moruno (2), Julio Hernández Rodríguez (3), José, Julio’s brother (4), the parents of both, Pedro (5) and Agustina the Witch (6) and the wives of José (7) and el Moruno (8). ABC

The unspeakable sacrifice responded to a crude belief of a barber who believed himself to be a healer, Francisco Leona. The family of Francisco Ortega el Moruno went to him to find a remedy for his tuberculosis, a remedy that involved applying warm child fats poultices to the sick person’s chest and the ingestion of fresh infant blood.

Along with these two individuals, six others were involved in the infanticide: Julio Hernández Rodríguez, who helped Leona kidnap the boy by putting him in a sack, his brother José, the parents of both, Pedro and Agustina the Witch , the latter also a healer and who put Leona in contact with Francisco Ortega, and the wives of José and el Moruno. Thus the terror myth of the Spanish bogeyman was born. Unfortunately, reality surpasses fiction on too many occasions…

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