The Communion Girl

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Peraleda de la Mata is in the middle of an area where mystery abounds. Inexplicable stories, full of intrigue and even terror, have their origin in phenomena or events that came to us from millennia, centuries or even decades ago; a few years away the most recent, because inexplicable things keep happening around here. For some, it's only plain legends, for others they're real as life. Whatever they are, there they are, and visitors can explore it all.

Let's see here top the mysterious story, famous today due to its extensive diffusion through Cuarto Milenio -a TV mystery program- and more recently through the horror movie: The Communion Girl. All we are about to tell happened just meters from exit 174 of the A5 motorway.

The facts date back to the end of the 19th century. A girl who lived in one of the many estates that surround Peraleda celebrated her First Communion in Peraleda's parish church. She must have been from a good family, perhaps the daughter of a marquis from one of the mannors still preserved in the area, because at nightfall she returned with her family heading north in a horse-drawn carriage. On the pathway from Peraleda to Torviscoso, an ancient Roman road, there is a Roman bridge that crosses a stream shortly before reaching the ruins of the former town of Valparaíso. A moment after crossing the bridge, going up the hill towards Valparaíso, several wolves, which at that time were abundant in the area, came out on the road. The horses, frightened, reared. The carriage rocked violently. A door opened, and the girl, who was leaning on it, fell through. Quickly the driver, prepared for such attacks, fired several shots into the air to scare off the vermin, and lighting a torch, he and the girl's father retreated on foot, pleading for the girl, healthy or injured, to be safe. No matter how hard they searched, they found nothing. The next morning, other people from Peraleda joined in the search. They combed the area looking for at least the corpse of the girl destroyed by the wolves, but nothing was ever found.

Since then, there have been testimonies from people who say they have seen a girl dressed for communion on the pathway to Valparaíso, in the section that goes between the ruins of the town and the Roman bridge, almost always at night. The girl is just standing on the edge of the road and she doesn't do or say anything, but when you get closer she runs off and disappears into the darkness of the landscape. Some have not seen her but say they have felt her presence. Others, more technological, have travelled the road with electromagnetic field detectors, a.k.a. "ghostbusters", and once they have gone past the electrical wiring area (which produces false beeps in these devices), they claim to have located some point on the road where the device confirmed the presence of something, which instantly disappeared from the detector range.

The orography and the presence of the stream play their part in the gloomy scene, sometimes adding touches of a horror movie, creating wisps of thick fog that cross the path frozen on air like gauze strips suspended in space and time even in nights when the dry weather should prevent this phenomena, more typical of the cinema than of real life.

What is most intriguing about these facts is that there are some cases of strangers who, not knowing anything about the local stories, have stopped at the neighboring rest area, have taken a walk along the path, and have witnessed the apparition even though they were not previously suggested to see such a thing. A peculiar and very recent case is that of a married couple who, while inside the sacristy of the church in ruins in Valparaíso, saw a group of communion girls go by the door. They were singing, and a moment later, another single girl who was left behind asked them to wait up. As she passed by the door, she looked at the couple and they felt something strange, but they didn't give it second thought because, despite not being communion season, they thought they were girls doing a communion photo session in the  ruins. It didn't make any sense when a moment later they came out and saw no trace of the girls or anyone else anywhere around. Then they went to visit Peraleda and there, in a bar, recounting what had happened, they found out that what they had seen had nothing to do with a photo session.

Some 20 years ago, the mystery TV show Cuarto Milenio made a program talking about this strange event. That's when the communion girl (previously known locally as "the girl in Valparaíso") suddenly became known for many people all over Spain. In that show, the last person who had just witnessed the phenomenon recounted his experience. A stranger who built a cottage in the area was driving along the road at night when he saw a girl in a communion dress standing on the edge of the path. Since the highway rest area was very close to this point, she thought that she would have come away from the bar and that her parents would also be close to her. Days later, driving down the same path, he saw her again. This time he stopped to ask her what she was doing there, but the girl started to run towards the Roman bridge, and although he ran after her, he soon lost sight of her. It was after this encounter when people explained to him what he had seen.

Many years after Cuarto Milenio made this event well known, film director Víctor García decided to bring this story to the big screen. Of course, the story of Peraleda served as the basis, but the writers took all the freedom they pleased, narrating the events in their own way and transforming the town of Peraleda de la Mata in Cáceres into a small Catalan town, although this fictional town recreates many features of the original Peraleda, as well as the landscape of the Valparaíso road, which is similar to the authentic one. The film premiered at the Sitges horror festival and then on February 10, 2023, throughout Spain.

Wether you believe in ghosts or not, it is worth taking a walk through this haunted place. From the rest area of the A5 highway to the Roman bridge, it is a 15 or 20 minutes' walk, passing by the ruins of what was the church of Valparaíso, an ancient Roman place full of legends. If fate wants you to be able to witness the specter of the girl who wanders alone and frightened by the place, fear not, it has never been said of anyone who was attacked or badly injured beyond the fear felt -but if you find a doll, just leave it there! And if you were no lucky and you return with nothing but a racing heart, you can always have something to drink or eat in the spacious lounges and terraces of the Los Cerrillos rest area (where there is a restaurant, bar, hotel, shop, gas/petrol station and free parking), and then continue your journey wherever it will take you. Or you may try your luck in another of the most mysterious places in the area, just a few kilometers from there, the enigmatic ruins of Santa María.




Escrito por Angel Castaño

Apóyanos con tu firma para salvar el Dolmen de Guadalperal y también para salvar el retablo esgrafiado de Peraleda.

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