by Aaron Deese

On Halloween night in 1975 something inexplicable took place on the west side of San Antonio, TX. San Antonio is well known for its rich history, but this story is not found in academic texts. The tale of Halloween 1975 has been passed from person to person for nearly 50 years, and to this day it is not difficult to find someone who knows someone who knows someone who claims that they bore witness to it.

A popular night club off of Old Highway 90 (the road was renamed Enrique Barrera Parkway in recent years) called El Cameroncito was once a go-to fixture of the West Side San Antonio nightlife. On October 31st of 1975 the dance floor was packed. One can imagine the reverberating bass, the costumes, the lights, the drinks. If you've ever entered a night club the image is not difficult to conjure. For awhile, everything seemed normal.

El Cameroncito in late 2020

A stranger entered the night club. He is not given a name, but he is purported to have been handsome, sharply dressed and an impeccable dancer. He wowed the assemblage in a dazzling white suit, engaging with an unknown number of dance partners throughout the evening, meshing right in with the rest of the crowd.

And then something strange happened.

Amidst the celebration someone happened to glance at the young man's feet, and it was noted that they were bare. Instead of toes however, the man's feet were adorned with something far from human. The story deviates here from telling to telling. Some say that the man had the hooves of a goat, conjuring the image of a devil or satyr. Other versions purport that he had three-clawed chicken's talons, their size presumably in proportion to the rest of his body. Some other versions even mention one hoof and one chicken foot, but sadly, it may never be known how the original tale went.

Then came screaming, shoving, fleeing. The party quickly devolved into panicked chaos, and attendees chased the monstrous creature into a rear storage room of the club. The man escaped through a window, leaving the smell of sulfur in his wake and terrifying the assembled witnesses. By all accounts the non-human entity was never seen again.

Rumors have circulated ever since of disembodied voices, ghostly dancers and even the lingering smell of sulfur. This is an interesting story, made more interesting by the fact that it is not completely anomalous.

It is said that in the 1500s there existed in Ireland a cult of Satanists (or something) called the Hellfire Club. While their exploits have been greatly exaggerated and may be the stuff of fiction - human and animal sacrifice being chief among the atrocities purported - it is known that the organization did exist at one time, and was populated by some of the wealthy upper-class of the day. One tale concerning the Club is that a stranger entered the assembly hall one evening and joined the club members in a game of cards. After a time, someone happened to glance under the table at the man's feet. Perhaps one can guess what happened next.

When the members of the Hellfire Club noted the man's cloven feet - no chicken talons in this story - the man abruptly vanished, seemingly into nothing. He left behind only one thing.

The smell of sulfur.

Sulfuric odors are a recurring phenomena in cases of purported hauntings or demonic activity. While the scent has many natural causes, it's abrupt appearance in both of these tales is an oddly specific detail. As is, of course, the trope of the monster-footed stranger attending a social function. Whether neither or both of these stories have any truth to them, their similarities cannot be overlooked. The paralells seem more striking when one realizes fact that they are separated by almost five hundred years, thousands of miles and drastically different cultural backdrops. 1500s Ireland was a very different setting from 1970s San Antonio, though there is a rich history of Catholicism in both of these places. This may be a factor, but it is impossible to say.

Since 2019 I have made several visits the parking lot of the Dancing Devil's club, and have regularly driven past it since 2008. The address is well known to locals, but I spent years blissfully ignorant of its significance. My wife Sara grew up not four blocks from the building in question, and often heard the story repeated during childhood. When I entered the field of "paranormal journalism" the club became a major point of focus for me.

The 411 closed years ago, but the sign remains despite renovation.

El Cameroncito has changed names, ownership and business models an unknown number of times since 1975, and its most recent incarnation before being shuttered for several years came in the form of a strip club titled "The 411." The club advertised a free 24-hour breakfast buffet on a vinyl banner which remained for months after closure, and the building gradually became the home of squatters, vermin and a dumping ground for local garbage. It seemed El Cameroncito was destined for eventual demolition, but recently the building has been given new life.

Beginning in 2021 the structure underwent major renovation. The eastern wall was knocked out and replaced, the parking lot was re-paved, and the steel plates that once covered the main entrance were swapped out for a roll-down security door. There is a fresh coat of paint, and the bold red letters above the entrance read "La Michoacana Meat Market - Taqueria, Panaderia, Frutaria." La Michoacana is a popular chain of Mexican-style grocery stores found throughout Texas, and the Enrique Barrera storefront is poised to be their 162nd location. An impressive feat, considering the Houston-based company has only been around since 1986.

The inside of El Cameroncito in 2021 during demolition. A makeshift cot and living space occupy the corner to the right of the door.

The building during renovation in 2021. The eastern wall was demolished to expand the inside. I absconded with one of the cinder blocks from the refuse pile shown and to this day it sits in my garage.

La Michoacana's opening will be the first legal opportunity anyone has had to visit the inside of El Cameroncito in almost ten years. Whether the company is aware of the building's legacy is a fact I am still endeavoring to discover, but for now we can rest assured that the property is in good hands.

One question remains, of course - does the ghost of the dancing devil still linger?

Perhaps time will tell.

The site of El Cameroncito, now a La Michoacana Meat Market in 2022. While the building has been heavily renovated, the foundation and most of the original walls remain.

Wanna learn more about the Dancing Devil and The Hellfire Club? Check out the first episode of Hey Strangeness.

Wanna rock your own Dancing Devil T-shirt? Hit up the Hey Strangeness merch shop.