Local tradition in the north west of Spain and recent witnesses speak of the existence of a procession of spirits known as the Santa Compaña (Holy Company). It is said that this procession of usually about 6 to 12 people (often in a two-line formation) is comprised by hooded entities in long white tunics. Each of these ghosts carries a light (candle or lantern) and in the vast majority of cases their faces cannot be seen. The procession appears to float and in most cases witnesses do not see feet. It is said that the apparition at the head or end of the possession whose features can be seen clearly and is not wearing a tunic, is the soul or imprint of a living person close to death. This apparition walks with an emotionless face and looks straight ahead without observing the surroundings. In other words the procession in some way signals the imminent death of someone. Tradition states that the procession sets off to collect souls of those about to die.
The Santa Compaña makes its appearance at night (very few daylight reports) in remote areas such as forest paths or abandoned chapels in the middle of nowhere. In many cases witnesses have reported the smell of candles and a drop of temperature. Incidents usually involve few witnesses; not more than four.
According to tradition the procession must be avoided as any contact or interaction could lead to death. Approaching and accepting something offered by the procession equates to your imminent death. There are various ways that one can protect themselves. First one is to ignore it and change direction, other is to lie down on your stomach and avoid eye contact and wait until it is over. Some other methods involve touching or holding a cross or carving a circle around you on the ground.
One indicative case is that of Josefa Romero studied by various Spanish investigators. In the late 40s, Josefina and her mother were walking at night on a forest path. She saw the procession but her mother could only hear the sound of steps. Fearing the unknown, they left the path and took a different direction. As Josefina looked at the procession she recognised a lady, this lady was a neighbor. A few days later the lady was struck by lightning and died.
Investigator Miguel Pedrero has concluded that testimonies share many similarities that cannot be ignored and that phenomena manifests irrespective of the person’s background, tradition or belief systems. Although most testimonies come from the north west of Spain it is not limited to this area. Testimonies have been collected from all parts of Spain and even in other parts of the world. Miguel Pedrero has shared the case of Jose Rolando Castillo who saw the procession in 1983 while in a jungle in Nicaragua fighting in the civil war.
Testimonies continue into the 21st century. According to records, the phenomenon is at least 400 years old and seems to adapt slightly depending on the area or era but the basics features have not changed. Why are witnesses experiencing this? What does it all mean?