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Murderous Mothers

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

Column: Legends, Lore, Superstitions, and More

Mothers are pressured to keep good care of their children. Bathe them, feed them, and teach them. When mothers don’t do these things they are looked down upon and ridiculed. For years, folktales from various cultures have told stories of mothers who did the unthinkable.

In 2019, director Michael Chavez released a movie version of La Llorona.

In Latin America, La Llorona or “the weeping woman” describes a mother who drowned her children. One version of this tale says that La Llorona was once a woman named Maria who was born a peasant. It’s said that Maria would wear a beautiful white gown at night in local fandangos. In this version of the story, Maria had two sons that would prevent her from spending nights out with men, so she would leave her sons alone, but one night she found her sons were drowned in the river.

A second version of the tale of La Llorona is about a woman who married a rich man. She and this man had two sons together, but shortly after they were born, he began to abuse alcohol and cheat on her with other women. He would only see her when he wanted to see his two sons. He no longer cared for her and only his sons. She slowly began to feel resentment towards her kids. One day while on a walk with her sons, she saw her husband with another woman. Her husband saw them and talked to her sons, but not her, then left. She was instantly filled with anger, so she did the unthinkable and drowned her sons in the nearby river.

Another tale of a mother who murdered her children is the tale of Slaughterhouse Canyon in Arizona. Sometime in the 1800s, a family lived at the bottom of Slaughterhouse Canyon. The family was struggling to find food to eat. The father left for days at a time in search of food to feed his family. One day the father left and never returned. Without food or the father, the mother and her children began to starve. This is when the story takes a darker turn. The children would let out horrific screams because of how hungry they were. Their screams would echo around the canyon. Eventually, the mother couldn’t take it anymore. She couldn’t stand hearing these screams, so she killed her children. Soon after, she took her own life too. It’s said that if you go to Slaughterhouse Canyon now, you will still hear their screams.

Andrea Yates in her prison attire

Stories of murderous mothers aren’t just fiction. The Andrea Yates case is an example of a real-life mother who tragically caused the death of her children. On June 20, 2001, Yates drowned her five children in a bathtub located in their home. A possible motive for these murders was Yates’ struggle with postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, and schizophrenia.

Susan Smith South Caroline mugshot

Another true story of a murderous mother is that of Susan Smith. Smith drowned her two sons in a lake in South Carolina in 1994. Smith claimed a man stole her car with her sons in it then drove the car into the lake. However, her claim was proven to be false and in reality, she was the one that drove her car into the lake.

Chris Watts mugshot

It’s not just mothers either, another true crime example of parents murdering their children is the Christopher Watts case. Watts murdered his wife, unborn child, and his two daughters.

Folktales of mothers doing the unthinkable have spread throughout many cultures, and even real life.

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