The infernal appearance of the malpais has given rise to a number of myths and superstitions. The English explorer George Frederick Ruxton, travelling through the area in the mid-19th century, mentions some of these beliefs in his Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains. Describing the 'Mal Pais' as an ‘evil land’, he writes:
The Mexicans, as they passed this spot, crossed themselves reverently, and muttered an Ave Maria; for in the lonely regions of the Mal Pais, the superstitious Indian believes that demons and gnomes, and spirits of evil purposes have their dwelling-places, whence they not unfrequently pounce upon the solitary traveller, and bear him into the cavernous bowels of the earth; the arched roof of the prison-house resounding to the tread of their horses as they pass the dreaded spot, muttering rapidly their prayers, and amulets and charms to keep off the treacherous bogles who invisibly beset the path.
The cloven hoof has traditionally been associated with the Devil and his minions.