The Wolf Girl of Devil's River
In 1835, a group of American colonists, led by Dr.
Charles Beale, were camped at Lake Espontosa, a renowned haunted location near what is now Carrizo Springs
in southwest Texas. Half a mile away from the Beale group, John Dent and his
pregnant wife Mollie Pertul Dent, both from Georgia, had built a brush cabin.
Dent had come to trap beaver in the Devil's River area, north of the present day Del-Rio, but was also on the run from the law for the murder of a fellow trapper
in Georgia. The Dents were to prove fortunate in their choice of a site distant from the
lake. A band of Commanches raided the main Beale camp and massacred most of the
inhabitants, afterwards throwing the bodies of the victims and
their carts into the lake.
Even at this time Espontosa Lake had acquired a reputation for
ghostly goings-on, this incident adding to the store of
ill-luck and sorrow centering on what, to this day Mexicans consider a haunted
location, the name Espantosa meaning 'frightful'.
As Mollie was
approaching the end of her pregnancy, the couple were reluctant to
travel despite the danger of hostile Indians. One night in May 1835, there was a severe
thunderstorm and Mollie went into labor. She appeared to be having problems with
the birth so Dent decided to ride westwards for help. He arrived at a Mexican goat ranch on the Pecos Canyon,
and told them desperately about his wife's condition, begging for someone to
ride back with him.
But as the Mexicans prepared their horses to
leave there was a furious crash of thunder and a bolt of lightning struck Dent
from his horse killing him instantly. After a
considerable delay the goat herders mounted up and followed Dent's directions.
However, darkness fell before they had got over the
divide to Devil's River, thus delaying the search. Finally, at sunrise the next
morning they located the Dent's isolated cabin.
But what they found outside the
cabin, in an open brush arbor, was Mollie Dent lying dead, alone. She had
apparently died in childbirth, but there was no trace of the baby anywhere. The
child was never found, but fang marks on the woman's body and numerous wolf tracks
over the area made the goat herders naturally assume that the infant had
either been devoured or carried off by lobo wolves.
Sighting of the Wolf Girl
But this was just the beginning of the story.
Ten years later, In 1845, a boy living at San Felipe Springs
(Del-Rio) reportedly saw 'a creature, with long hair covering its features,
that looked like a naked girl' attacking a herd of goats in the company of a pack of lobo
wolves. The story was ridiculed by many, but still managed to spread back among the
settlements. Around a year after this incident, a Mexican
woman at San Felipe claimed she had seen two large wolves and an unclothed young girl
devouring a freshly killed goat. She approached close to the group, she said, before they
saw her and ran off.
woman noticed that the girl ran initially on all-fours, but
then rose up and ran on two feet, keeping close to the wolves. The woman
was in no doubt about what she had seen, and the scattering of people in the Devil's River country
began to keep a sharp watch for the girl. There were similar reports by others in the region during the following year and Apache stories
told of a child's footprints, sometimes accompanied by hand prints, having been
found among wolf tracks in
sandy places along the river. A hunt was organised to capture the 'Lobo (or
Wolf) Girl of Devil's River' as she had now become known, comprising mainly Mexican vaqueros.
On the third day of the hunt the naked girl was sighted near Espantosa Lake
running with a pack of wolves.
The cowboys managed to separate the girl
from her wolf companions and cornered her in a canyon, where she fought like a
wildcat clawing and biting frantically to keep her freedom. They finally managed to lasso
her to keep her still, but while they were tying her up she began to make
frightening, unearthly sounds somewhere between the scream of a woman and the howl of a
wolf. As she howled, the monster he-wolf from whom
she'd become separated appeared and rushed at her captors. Fortunately one of
the cowboys reacted quickly and shot it dead with a pistol, at which the wolf girl
fell into a faint. Securely bound, the men were now able to examine the
noted that despite a body covered in hair and her wild mannerisms, her appearance was
human. Her hands and arms were well muscled but not out of proportion, and she lacked the
ability to speak, only making deep growling noises. She moved smoothly on all fours,
but was rather awkward when made to stand up straight.
The girl was put on a horse and taken to the nearest
ranch, an isolated two-roomed shack amid the desert wilderness. She was put in
one of the rooms and unbound, the cowboys offering her a covering for her body and food and water, but
she refused, cowering in
the darkest corner. They then left her alone for the night, locking the door and
posting a guard outside. The only other
opening in the room was a small boarded up window.
But as night fell the cowboys heard terrifying
howls coming from the wolf girl's room. The strange cries carried through the
still night air, unsettling her captors and soon finding answers from among the
wolf pack in the wilderness beyond the shack. Soon there were long deep howls
coming from all sides as the pack drew closer to the house, and occasionally strange
howling screams from the girl answering them from inside her dark room.
Suddenly the large pack of wolves charged into the corrals,
attacking the goats, cows and horses and bringing the cowboys outside shooting
and yelling to drive them away. In all the confusion the wolf girl managed to
tear the planks from the window and escape into the night. The howls soon abated
and the wolves crept back into the wilderness. The next day not a trace of the girl could be
Though there were a few unverified reports in
the following years of a young hair-covered girl being seen with a wolf pack in the area, no one ever came in
close contact with her. Meanwhile gold had been discovered in California and westward
travel had increased significantly. In 1852 a surveying party of
frontiersmen searching for a new route to El Paso were riding down to the Rio Grande at a
bend far above the mouth of Devil's River. They were almost at the water's edge
when they saw at close range, sitting on a sand bar, a young woman
suckling two wolf cubs. Suddenly she saw them, quickly
grabbed the pups and dashed into the breaks at such a rate that it was
impossible for the horsemen to follow.
The girl would have been seventeen years-old that
year. After that she disappeared into the wilderness forever. It is impossible now to
know what became of Mollie Dent's daughter, presuming that's who the wolf girl was.
There were subsequent reports of 'human-faced' wolves in the area right up until
the 1930s, and author
L.D. Bertillion (see sources below), wrote in 1937, 'during
the past forty years I have in the western country met more than one wolf face
strongly marked with human characteristics'.
Ghost of Devil's River
story of the Wolf Girl of Devil's River reads more like a folktale than a real
feral child case, and the large amount of evidence for what
happened is all anecdotal. She does, however, seem to live on in a more subtle form; her 'ghost' has apparently been seen in the
old San Felipe Springs area beside the banks of Devil's River. In 1974 (the same
year as the Delphos wolf girl in Kansas), a
hunter in this area claimed to have seen her again, in the form of a white
apparition which vanished before his eyes.
Back in the autumn of1835, when John and Mollie Dent had newly arrived in Texas,
Mollie wrote her mother an odd letter. It said merely -
The Devil has a river in
Texas that is all his own
and it is made only for those who are grown.
Yours with love
Sources & Further Reading
Of Wolves and Men - Holstun Lopez, Barry.
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 1978.
'The Lobo Girl of Devil's River' - Bertillion,
L.D. in Straight Texas - Publications of the Texas Folklore Society.
Number XIII, Dallas, Southern Methodist University Press. 1966 (1937), pp79-85.
Copyright 2005 by Brian
Haughton. All Rights Reserved.