El Silbón: The Cursed, Whistling Man Of South American Lore

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By: Alex Postrado

The Wandering, Whistling Man Of The Llanos Region

In Venezuelan and Colombian folklore, there is a certain bone-chilling sound that most — if not all — wishes to never hear.

And it comes from a tall, sack-carrying, ghastly fiend that wanders the grasslands.

Some stories say that it is a damned spirit of a man, searching for a victim to kill.

Others claim, however, that — like some kind of a male banshee — this terrifying being only foretells the demise that is soon coming.

Nevertheless, hearing his haunting whistles is — in most cases — receiving the message of death.

An omen that made El Silbón one of the most feared legendary figures of all of South America.

Who is El Silbón?

For starters, El Silbón is not only among the most feared creatures of South American lore.

The whistling boogeyman also ranks among the most respected of them all — even earning a Venezuelan celebration alluding to his name, called Festival Internacional de Música Llanera El Silbón.

But, way before El Silbón became a prominent legendary figure in the Los Llanos region, he first belonged to a mid-19th century oral story that remained relatively obscure until it was written down by a Venezuelan poet and writer, named Dámaso Delgado, in 1966.

It was titled, “The Whistle Man”.

And in the succeeding year, the legend was recorded for radio and broadcasted all over the country — creating a narrative that ultimately became known by almost every local.

El Silbón got his name from the whistles that he makes.

Tunes are believed to come in the musical note order of C, D, E, F, G, A, and B.

In English, the moniker literally translates to “The Whistler“.

And it clearly is a nod to the infernal sound that he makes as he traipses over the vast plains — known as The Llanos.

It is said that El Silbón comes with death by his side.

His favorite victims?

Well, depending on which version of the story you choose to listen to, it is believed that El Silbón is typically hell-bent on murdering drunks, adulterers, abusive men, and promiscuous people.

Interestingly enough, El Silbón likes to play-scare with his targets.

And he does this by altering the perceived distance of his whistling.

Just like the Tiktik and the Manananggal of Philippine lore!

So, take the hint:

If the whistling sounds close, you are still quite far from danger. But, once it starts to sound distant, El Silbón is nearby.

And you surely don’t want to be in that situation!

Mind you, the way he kills his victims is harrowing, at the very least.

For one, drunkards would get the alcohol sucked out of their bodies through their navels, and from that same hole, El Silbón will — one by one — collect the bones from the inside and put it in his sack.

Adulterers would suffer a similarly agonizing fate at the hands of The Whistler, as the evil creature tears them into shreds, removes their bones, and — once again — puts the remains in his sack.

Clearly, El Silbón has a thing for bones.

And the lore has it that he even drops by the doorstep of certain houses in the dead of the night to unload the package that he was doomed to eternally carry, and count the bones in his collection, by the piece.

If someone from inside the house hears the business outside, nothing bad will happen.

But, if no one hears it before dawn, a member of the family — as the legend goes — will never wake up again.

Surviving the Whistles of Death

With all that the lore is saying, it seems pretty difficult to imagine how someone could possibly beat El Silbón.

But, the deal is, there is simply no known way to completely kill the whistling menace.

After all, he is usually depicted as a soul — a vengeful, lost soul, at that.

Many believe that the straightforward way of surviving El Silbón is just to plainly avoid catching his attention.

Some people do that by not mentioning his name at night.

And while that sounds quite easy, it is not always useful. Especially, if despite that, El Silbón still finds you.

In instances like that, dogs, peppers, and whips are your friends.

Why? It is because his origin stories involve all of those things.

El Silbón statue
El Silbón is one of the most famous scares in Venezuela. Source

Cursed into Becoming a Monster?

It is widely known that in the lore of El Silbón, the humanoid monster of the plains was once an actual human.

There are multiple versions of how the transformation happened, but among the most known stories is the one that says that El Silbón used to be a young farmer and the son of a violent man.

One day, he goes home to see his father, accusing his mother of being unfaithful. And the two, enraged men soon come to blows — a fight that resulted in the demise of the mother.

Maddened by it, the son disembowels his father.

When his grandfather finds out about the murder, he orders for the young farmer to be tied in the middle of the field — eyes, rubbed with pepper; lashed, until his back started to fall apart; and left for dead in the woods for rabid dogs to feed on.

As he screams in inconceivable pain while he runs for his life, his grandfather curses him to carry the bones of his father for all eternity”.

The body of the tortured young man was never to be seen again.

And what later manifested in the plains nearby was an emaciated and sack-carrying, whistling creature that is not less than 3 meters tall, and wears a wide-brimmed straw hat matched with tattered farmer’s clothes.

If you think that was grim, other accounts of El Silbón’s origin story involve the killing of the young man’s pregnant wife; the abuse of his beautiful bride-to-be; a spoiled brat murdering his father after coming home without his favorite meal, and the mother, unknowingly cooking her own husband for dinner.

In any case, though, it still ends with the young man, being condemned to forever roam the meadows.

Gaining the name of El Silbón.

And perpetually whistling the resentful tune of approaching death.

References:

El Silbón - Villains
El Silbón, a Venezuelan Legend About the Ancestors
El Silbón - Astonishing Legends
El Silbón - Scary For Kids
El Silbón/The Man Who Whistles
Urban Legends & Folklore: El Silbón (The Whistler)
The Whistle Man Story
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