Pronounced “shoo-nahn-too-nitch,” these ruins in Belize remind me of Indiana Jones movies. But instead of a writhing pit of snakes, exploding statues, and a swashbuckling Harrison Ford leaping and flying about, there is a ghost who gently haunts this site.
An early sighting of the ghost occurred in the later 19th century. One fine day, a gentleman was out walking near Xunantunich when he saw a woman he’d never seen before. Dressed in a beautiful, white, Maya dress, she approached the ruins. He followed after her. When she turned to look at him, he was startled to that her eyes were fiery red. The mysterious lady walked up the stairs to the highest part of the ruins, El Castillo, and slipped into a cavern. The gentleman raced to the village to get assistance. But when he came back, he discovered that no human could ever hope to go where he saw her enter. It was not a cavern, but solid wall.
He was not the first person to see her, and not the last either.
Is she the ghost of someone who was climbing to witness a ritual Maya execution? Was she a relative of a sacrificed person? Or does her spirit perpetually re-enact the moments before her own execution? No one knows.
Xunantunich is not the original name of this ancient Maya community. Like the civilization, the name is lost in time. But once the previously lost site was excavated in the later 19th century, the ghost sightings began.
Because she was seen among the stone ruins, she has been given the nickname “Stone Maiden” and “Maiden of the Rock.” A local legend, she is remembered by people who have seen her, and by those who see her still. She is also remembered in the name of the ruins, for Xunantunich means ‘Stone Maiden.’
What’s in a name? A great deal.
Place names often come with a story. Are there any locales or sites near you with a story attached to its name? Do tell!
Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.
Wikipedia – Xunantunich
PHOTO CREDIT: By Thomas Shahan /CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons