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The world is full of legends about boogeymen which have endured through local lore and continue to fascinate horror fans till the present day. A lot of these stories have their basis in real events and have taken on new color and embellishment over the years, through their transference from generation to generation over stories and tales. One such boogeyman legend that still thrills horror buffs is the tale of El Hombre del Saco, the Sack Man of Spain.

The “Sack Man” from Spain

While the legend originated in Spain, it is also common to hear versions of it in Latin American countries, which already have a rich history in boogeyman stories. Let us delve deep into the history of El Hombre del Saco and find out how he became such an enduring legend.

The Sack Man Backstory

The earliest origins of the Sack Man story come from 15th century lore, where a man would be designated to collect babies that no one wanted and transport them to the local orphanage. The man would usually use a wicket basket or a cloth bag to transport the babies, most of whom would die while being transported. With this horrific story, it is easy to see the legend of the Sack Man as a boogeyman character shaping up. In some ways the easy comparison would be to other legends such as the Krampus of Christmas lore (an evil version of Santa Claus), as well as El Cucuy or Coco of Mexican lore. But there is a lot more to the legend.

el hombre del saco legend

There exists a more concrete origin story for El Hombre del Saco, which deals with a criminal act performed in Andalusia, Spain in the early 20th century. Tuberculosis was rampant at the time in Spain, and almost impossible to survive. However, there was a local belief that drinking a child’s blood and using a child’s body fat as an ointment could cure the dreaded disease. It all began when a rich man contracted the disease and was desperate enough to consider this brutal means of cure.

The man recruited a local healer and promised a large sum of money for the cure. Consequently, the healer and an accomplice began the task of seeking out a child suitable for their needs. In the month of June, the healer located the child, drugged him, and put him into a sack to transport to his final destination. The child, Bernardo Gonzalez Parra, was soon to meet a horrific end.

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When they arrived with the child to meet with the man who commissioned them, the drugged child was finally taken out of the sack. While still reeling from the effects of the drugs administered to him, he was then brutally stabbed. The healer collected the blood from the stab wound, dissolved sugar in it, and gave it to the man to drink. The most horrific part of this event was that the boy, only seven years of age, was still alive when this was happening and witnessed the goings-on while being in excruciating pain.

The child was then transported to a place known as Las Pocicas, where the healer finally murdered him by bashing in his skull with a rock. His body was then mutilated, as the healer went on to harvest body fat from the child’s corpse to use on the man as a cure for his tuberculosis. The body of the child was finally hidden away in a crevice.

crime of Gádor, legend that inspired el hombre del saco

The men sentenced in what is called the crime of Gádor

For the people involved in this heinous crime, things did not go as planned and ended badly. Eventually, the authorities came to know about the horrible deed and all of them were caught and tried. They all turned on each other and the authorities sentenced three of them to die. While the man helping with the crime was later spared from the death penalty on the ground of being insane (which makes not any sense at all), it’s expected that the other two main players in the story received those sentences.

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El Hombre del Saco – A Primer

The boogeyman is also known as El Hombre del Costal, or the Bag Man. Apart from Spain, variations of his story are also found in countries like Portugal and Brazil.

According to legend, the terrifying figure of El Hombre del Saco is an old man, ugly to look at and with spindly limbs. He roams around with a large sack on his shoulders which he uses to kidnap unruly or undisciplined children. Once he has his prey, he transports them to his lair where he proceeds to eat the children.

el hombre del saco the Sack Man by sloeilustracion

El Hombre del Saco by sloeilustracion

The figure of El Hombre del Saco would often be visible roaming the streets in the night, looking for his prey. In fact, some legends also note that families would often willingly give up misbehaving children to this boogeyman.

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The Legend of El Hombre del Saco Endures

Just like many other boogeyman legends, the legend of El Hombre del Saco or the Sack Man of Spain has also endured over the centuries, with horror aficionados still deriving pleasure and wonder from delving into this tragic tale. His tale lives on in popular culture and word of mouth.

— FOUNDATIONS OF HORROR

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Last Updated on September 6, 2022.

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