Recently The CR Post sat down with a group of Tico Paranormal experts and asked which places in Costa Rica they considered to be the most haunted. Here is what they told us.
by P. Venkman
#5 Cartago Parish Ruins
Near the center of the town of Cartago you will find the ruins of the ruins of the unfinished Parroquia Parish. Several churches have existed on this site since 1575 all of which were destroyed or rendered unsafe by massive earthquakes and subsequently demolished.
The last attempt to rebuild began in 1780 and was halted for thirty years. Construction began again in 1903 before being completely canceled in 1910 after it was wrecked by yet another earthquake.
The ruins as they stand are not ruins in the strictest sense since the church was never actually completed. Today The Cartago Parish ruins serve as a tourist destination, complete with a public park, benches and street vendors selling pirated DVDs and plastic toys containing lead paint.
According to Tico Folklore, the origins of the Church’s haunting involves two brothers who lived in colonial Cartago before the first church was constructed. One of them was a politician and the other a priest.
As the story goes, the priest and brother were both in love with the same woman but due to constraints by the church the Priest was unable to pursue his love for the woman and she ended up marrying the brother.
In a fit of jealous rage the priest murdered his brother during a New Years mass and in penance for his mortal sin decided to build a church for the city. Unfortunately for the priest one year afterwards an earthquake leveled the church and he was forced to start over. Each time the church was rebuilt another earthquake would destroy it, until as mentioned above, construction was cancelled permanently as it was declared a cursed site. Sightings of a headless priest are fairly common on these grounds, not so much in other churches.
#4 The Phantom Fare
Unlike the other entries on this list this haunting isn’t confined to one specific location and seems to be quite fond of traveling the open highways of Costa Rica. The legend of the Phantom Fare is the story of a woman who appears on side of the road, hailing taxis during odd hours of the night and once inside gives the driver directions to a house located next to a cemetery. When they arrive she points to the house and tells the driver to collect the fare from the family inside and quickly disappears into the cemetery, or bushes, depending on who is telling the story.
The driver, now intrigued, knocks on the door and explains what happened and ask them if they know the girl and request payment if so. The family in the house show the driver a picture of a woman, which the driver recognizes as the girl and then inform him that she has been dead for some time. More likely than not this is probably just an Urban Legend but we like to think that it was all an elaborate ruse to score a free ride off the taxi driver and the family was totally in on it.
#3 San Juan de Dios Hospital
The next story and possibly the oldest on the list involves the spirit of a lonely nun stuck between this life and the next due to her deep regret for denying the last wish of a dying patient, a simple glass of water.
The story of the Nun with the Glass, goes back to the early days of the hospital San Juan de Dios’s operation and now serves as a cautionary tale for those who would ignore their duties or the importance of God and Repentance. The nun is said to walk the hallways at night offering a glass of water to the patients, all of which are too afraid to accept, therefore is unable to find the closure needed to move on to the next life. As someone who has been to San Juan de Dios and seen the state of their plumbing chances are I would pass on that glass of water myself. Just sayin’.
#2 Sanatorio Duran
Located in the area known as Prusia, near Volcan Irazu you will find the ruins of Sanatorio Duran. Originally a Tuberculosis hospital, Sanatorio Duran was established in the early 1900’s. During this time nuns cared for around 300 patients who suffered from the terribly infectious disease, spending their final days pale, gaunt and delirious. Over the years the series of structures were also used as a prison, an orphanage and an asylum.
Declared unsafe and evacuated after a powerful eruption of the nearby Irazu in 1973 many Ticos in black t-shirts believe that a few of the former residents may have stayed behind. Considered a local Mecca for Paranormal Enthusiast and people that listen to Evanescence, the most common sightings at Sanatorio Duran are those of yet another wandering nun, this one having pale skin and white hair drifting through the hallways.
Many visitors have also reported seeing a young girl sitting on one of the many sets of steps in the complex. Legend has it that the girl is the daughter of a physician by the last name Duran which contracted and died from the very same disease that her father was there to treat.
#1 Isla San Lucas
Although not near as popular among Tico Goths looking for a place to cut themselves on a Friday night, Isla San Lucas is definitely the most haunted area in Costa Rica. From 1873 to 1991 San Lucas Island served as Prison for some of the worst criminals in Costa Rica. Founded by Tomás Miguel Guardia Gutiérrez, the same dictator that abolished the death penalty a year before, being sent to the island prison was considered to be a death sentence by criminals as their lives there were often short lived and spent in torture.
The Prison was also the subject of a book by Jose Leon Sanchez called “The Island of Lonely Men” in which he claims he was unjustly prisoned for a crime he did not commit and details some of the inhumane conditions on the penal island. Now day’s San Lucas is a full-fledged tourist destination complete with drunken tourist in Imperial Shirts tromping through nearby pre-Columbian sites.
Some claim the structures are haunted by the tortured souls of the violent criminals who died there, many spending their final days screaming for mercy as they were tortured or “grilled” in a small cell referred to as “the hole” according to locals. Some say you can still hear their screams. Local legend also speak of the spirit of a beautiful nurse who was murdered by a prisoner and now walks the hallways alone and disfigured from her brutal beating.