This legend is perhaps one of the most iconic in Supernatural’s history. Featured in the pilot episode of the show, The Woman in White was sure to send a chill down the viewers’ spines. What does the legend tell us about this type of spirit, and how does it fit into the Supernatural universe?
Although there are a multitude of variations on the story from across the world, the basic premise is this: a young woman who is mistreated by her husband murders her children in a fit of despair. An alternate version is that she murders them because they are in the way of her marrying the man she desires most. Regardless, she always ends up dying and haunting some place as a spirit.
The most famous version of the story is the Mexican one (La Llorona). The story goes that a beautiful Indian princess falls in love with a Mexican nobleman. They had children together, but the nobleman refused to marry her. He eventually deserts her for another woman, and the princess drowns the children in a river and then later drowns herself too. An alternate version is that she stabs her two children to death in anger. She was found wandering the streets with her clothes covered in blood and she was sent to the gallows. Since her death, the ghost of La Llorona (the “weeping woman”) wanders around the countryside calling out for her children. If she finds any child, she will likely steal them away.
An alternative to this, more closely linked to Supernatural’s take, originates from Dallas. The Ghost of White Rock Lake, a pretty girl in a white dress, hitchhikes with a driver and directs them to an abandoned house before disappearing. These spirits rely on the human quality of wanting to help others in need.
In Supernatural, the spirit is that of Constance Welch, a woman who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge and drowning after her children had drowned in the bathtub. Her husband, who had been unfaithful, had her buried in the back of their old house. Constance is picked up by drivers on the side of the road and then directs them to old house, urging them to “take her home”. Due to the fact that Constance had become vengeful, she targeted anyone who even remotely resembled those who had driven her to suicide.
Eric Kripke, the creator of Supernatural, talks about the version of the story that was used in the show.
I just combined [the stories] to create that particular vengeful spirit. The story of the Vanishing Hitchhiker is one of the most well-known urban legends… But to give her more motivation… and characterisation, we used elements of La Llorona. They say the Vanishing Hitchhiker may have been inspired by La Llorona, so there’s actually a cultural connection between them.