A beautiful woman, pale and dressed in white, strikes terror in those who drive by Chilco hill on Peru’s north coast…
Do you believe in ghosts? There are many in the world who do, Peruvians not least of all. Today’s legend is our first true ghost story of the series, although we have seen some classic horror tropes such as haunted houses, giant snakes, and cannibalistic undead so far.
Thanks for joining us. This tale will make you scared to ever drive alone along Peru’s north coast where hundreds of kilometers of a desert wasteland separate city from city.
It’s here we must go to tell the tale of the ghost of the gringa of Chilco hill.
There is nothing in particular that calls attention to the ordinary looking rock mass between Trujillo and Chiclayo along the Panamerican Highway. What then explains the unusual number of traffic accidents occurring in the night as they pass the hill known as Cerro Chilco?
What explains the terrifying experiences that the solitary truck drivers have told since the 1970’s?
It began with one, then two, then three accidents in such a short time that no one imagined it could be a coincidence. They all happened in the same place at the same time of night: passing the Chilco hill just before reaching the town of Pacasmayo, just after midnight.
The first two drivers perished. They were found with foam coming out of their mouths, faces frozen in terrible and unnatural masks of fright. Jaws open, eyes wide and red, bodies contorted, those responsible for cleaning up the scene were scared as much as the locals once rumor got around of the deaths. They had driven straight into the steep and rocky hillside.
The Third Victim
The third driver survived, barely. They found him in the wreck at the foot of Chilco hill trembling uncontrollably which at first they thought related to his injuries in the accident. However, he continued to tremble even when he had recovered from his injuries and constantly seemed to be terrified of something. He didn’t speak for weeks. One day, he finally told what happened with great difficulty; this is what his family could gather from his stammering:
As an overnight driver bringing goods from Lima to the northern cities of Trujillo and Chiclayo, he had been rushing past the Chilco hill looking forward to a rest stop in Pacasmayo.
At that moment, he saw something that made him jump in surprise.
A woman, pale, blond, and dressed in white was waiting along the side of the road. The driver also noticed she was half-naked and pulled over to see if she needed help. She asked if he could give her a ride to Pacasmayo and he agreed – it wasn’t far after all, and he was hopelessly captivated by her beauty; he would have driven her all the way to Panama if she’d asked.
“She sat in the drivers seat…a-a-and began to stare at me,” he told his family, hands still shaking constantly. “I felt s-s-so cold and she growled at me to drive faster. Then she changed…she ch-ch-changed into a skull!” He couldn’t say any more.
Another incident occurred in 1980 when a driver was passing Cerro Chilco and saw the same blond woman in the middle of the road. His truck struck her, appearing to kill her instantly. He hurriedly drove on to Pacasmayo and informed the police of the incident. When they brought her body to the hospital, she was not blonde. In fact, the woman looked completely different; she had dark skin and black hair and was known by many in Pacasmayo.
But no one knew anything about the gringa. Some of the locals began to investigate and theorize about the dangerous ghost.
Rumors began to circulate that she was the daughter of a widow, a resident of Pacasmayo, now very old and who had lost her memory and most of her sanity. The only daughter of this woman had attended the National University of Trujillo to study medicine. One day she had been on her way home from Trujillo when a fatal accident took her life.
They say she has haunted the hill ever since.
After the gringa appeared in a restaurant one day and left everyone inside with tremors and the inability to speak for weeks, the legend became simply a part of the landscape. A fact of life. “Beware the Cerro Chilco,” they say, and “never drive there alone at night.”
Those who drive from the Andean city of Cajamarca to Trujillo are not safe either.
The gringa has been known to appear and enchant drivers, asking them for a ride to Pacasmayo on their way. She gives them her address and invites them to visit her when they return. If they do, she leads them to the nearby cemetery and shows them their grave.
The stories continue and it seems the gringa of Chilco is here among us to stay.
The True Story?
The legend of ‘La Gringa’ is the 3rd spooky tale from the Peruvian coast that we’ve covered in this series. Like the Casa Matusita and the vampiress Sarah Ellen, the story revolves around a non-indigenous Peruvian woman. In fact, they all appear to be immigrants who have come to tragic deaths.
It’s not an accident that the closer to Peru’s coast you get, the more legends involving ‘outsiders’ you find. Yes, Peru today is highly mixed and there are people of all different shades of skin and ethnic backgrounds today as there have been for a long time. I simply want to point out that the geography of Peru’s legends closely follows the human and physical geography of Peru’s people.
As for the truth of the legend itself, I haven’t driven past Cerro Chilco alone so I can’t tell you for sure. Maybe you’d like to go and find out for yourself…Dun Dun Duuun!
There are other stories that tell of a pale blonde woman hovering on the islands near a military base outside of Lima. Could it be the same spirit? Or are there gringa ghosts just running around all over Peru’s coast?
Next time on Terrifying Legends of Peru we return to high altitudes to take a look at one of the country’s classic witch tales. Stay tuned and please like, comment, and share if you enjoyed tonight’s chapter. Thanks for reading!
Sources and Related Links:
Historia Real (La Libertad, Peru) la gringa del cerro chilco (Youtube)
La Gringa del Cerro Chilco
Leyendas de la Libertad
Una gringa en el cerro chilco
© Michael Lee Dreckschmidt, 2017. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael Lee Dreckschmidt and Living in Peru with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Now that you're here:
We're asking you, our reader, to make a contribution in support of our digital guide in order to keep informing, updating and inspiring people to visit Peru. Why now? In our near 20-year journey as the leading English-language source on travel in Peru, we've had our fair share of ups and downs-but nothing quite like the challenges brought forth in the first quarter of 2020.
By adapting to the changing face of the tourism and travel industry (on both local and international levels), we have no doubt we will come out stronger-especially with the support of our community. Because you will travel again, and we will be ready to show you the best of Peru.
Your financial support means we can keep sharing the best of Peru through high-quality stories, videos and insights provided by our dedicated team of contributors and editors based in Peru. And of course, We are here to answer your questions and help whenever you need us.
As well, it makes possible our commitment to support local and small businesses that make your visit an unforgettable one. Your support will help the people working in these industries get back on their feet once the world allows us to make our dream of enjoying everything Peru has to offer a reality again-from its mouthwatering gastronomy, thriving Amazon and archaeological wonders such as Machu Picchu.
Together, we will find a way through this. As a member of our community, your contribution, however big or small, is valuable.