A cemetery in Guadalajara, Mexico that is noted for its highly decorative architecture, pillared buildings, elegant tombs and spacious, tree-enveloped grounds, Panteon de Belen was built in 1848 and closed its doors four years before the dawning of the twentieth century. But, that hasn’t stopped its residents from being highly active – which is somewhat notable since each and every one of them is, of course, quite dead!
Not only that: Panteon de Belen can boast of being home to more ghosts, ghouls and fiends of the night than pretty much any other cemetery in Mexico – and quite possibly even the world, too. That same body of supernatural entities includes just about everything from pirates to bloodthirsty, undead vampires, and spectral hounds to a ghostly, shrieking nun. And such is the interest and fascination in the specters of Panteon de Belen, that guided tours of the cemetery have become incredibly popular, and particularly so – and certainly most appropriately - during the course of the Mexican holiday of November 1-2: Day of the Dead. And, now, you shall see exactly why.
Without doubt one of the most macabre of all the many tales of terror attached to the cemetery is that of its very own, bloodthirsty monster of the night. So the story goes, back in the 19th Century and to their eternal horror, people began finding the blood-drained corpses of numerous animals in the immediate vicinity of the old tombs. Bodies were also discovered torn apart and strewn around yards, on streets – particularly on Nardo Street, which is located only a few blocks from the graveyard - in nearby woods, and just about anywhere and everywhere else in the area.
The savage nature of the attacks, coupled with the massive blood-loss that was clearly in evidence, inevitably pointed to one thing and one thing only: Guadalajara was home to a rampaging and soulless vampire. And when the predatory, undead monster suddenly turned its attentions to the children that lived in the immediate vicinity of Panteon de Belen, crazed hysteria well and truly broke out en masse. Just like in those old black and white monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s, frightened locals locked themselves behind closed doors at night, hung crosses outside their homes, and lived in deep fear of the cold-hearted killer now widely believed to be lurking among them.
The time eventually came, however, when enough was enough and a plan of action was put into place: a band of men, including a number of who had lost children to the beast, were determined to put an end to the reign of terror that had crippled and blighted their lives. Suspecting that because many of the killings – of both children and animals – occurred in and around the cemetery, the wisest approach was to secretly stake out the old, cold graves by night and confront and kill the marauding monster. It was a plan that actually worked.
By the light of nothing but a full moon, the black-garbed, pale-faced fiend was cornered in the shadows of the cemetery, in the early hours of one particular morning, while greedily feasting upon the corpse of a young, newly-slaughtered girl. The outraged villagers wasted no time and lunged hard and fast at the undead thing. It took half a dozen men to pin the snarling, shrieking creature to the ground, but their actions paid off. One of the group, armed with the proverbial wooden-stake, thrust it deep into the vampire’s chest, ensuring its reign of terror came to a bloody and decisive end. A variation on the story suggests that rather than having been confronted in the heart of Panteon de Belen itself, the vampire was spied prowling the shadowy streets in search of food, and was stealthily followed by the men to its abode – an innocuous-looking, small apartment on Nardo Street – where swift, cold justice was rapidly and decisively dished out.
That was not the end of the story – or stories - however. On the following morning, the body of the nightmarish figure was quickly buried in the grounds of the cemetery and covered in concrete, with the stake left firmly in place, deep in its black heart. Several months later, however, distinct cracks started to develop in the thick slab. A cold chill swept throughout the folk of the area. Was the vampire slowly forcing its way out of its concrete prison, as many initially feared was exactly what was going on? No.
It was actually the roots of a tree that, legend says, sprouted from the wooden-stake that had brought the reign of terror to a shuddering end. But this was no normal tree, as most might astutely suspect. Local folklore says that, even today, cutting the bark results in human blood, rather than sap, seeping from its now fully grown form. Others claim that the tortured faces of the victims of the monster can be seen imprinted in the branches and trunk of the tree. And, fearful that, if it should one day die, the vampire will be unleashed upon the townsfolk to once again embark on a deadly killing spree, even to this very day the tree is devotedly cared for, fed and watered, albeit from a perspective of sheer terror rather than love.
Nick Redfern is the author of many books, including his new release Close Encounters of the Fatal Kind . He has appeared on more than 70 TV shows, including: Fox News; the BBC’s Out of This World; the SyFy Channel’s Proof Positive; the History Channel’s Monster Quest, America’s Book of Secrets, Ancient Aliens, and UFO Hunters; the National Geographic Channel’s Paranatural; and MSNBC’s Countdown. Nick writes regularly for UFO Magazine, Mysterious Universe, and Fate.