The Old Tuberculosis Hospital in Cartago Has Been the Site of Many Spiritual Encounters.
Every country has certain stories designed to send goose bumps down your spine. Like most folklore, the story lines often resemble stories from your own home country, and have been adapted to include localized names, artifacts and cultural points. Costa Rica is no exception, with its legends and scary stories designed in part to frighten people into following moral norms as well as simply scare the bejesus out of you!
Haunted Sites in Costa Rica
If you ask anyone to name one haunted building in Costa Rica, the old Tuberculosis Hospital, Prusia, is an almost automatic response. The large complex set near the Irazu Volcano in Cartago served several purposes during its functional life: as a hospital for tuberculosis and leprosy patients, an insane asylum (under the name Sanatorio Carlos Duran) as well as an orphanage for children. The complex is currently abandoned with guards patroling the grounds during the day, though they say few dare to go there at night.
A cloud of rumors hangs over the building, from ghost sightings to hearing voices and even people seeing old coins being thrown out of the patients’ rooms. It is said that the tuberculosis patients underwent inhumane tests and were often left to fend for themselves in jail-like conditions. One reoccurring ghost sighting has been that of an old nun. Once a journalist from the University of Costa Rica went to inspect the site and held an interview with someone on the premises. When she went on to describe her interviewee, she was told that the old nun was no longer of this world, though she had been spotted several times before by others visiting the area.
Almost anyone who has visited claims to have experienced the paranormal presence from cold chills to moving shadows and the appearance of unexplained ‘clouds’ in the photos taken there. A local rock group also chose the old hospital as the site for a music video, which helped to make the general population aware of its scary appearance and apparitions.
The old island prison of San Lucas, now a limited tourist destination, is another area of Costa Rica that may be haunted by spirits once interned in the maximum security prison, never to leave again. The prison can be visited on tours organized by the Costa Rica Tourism Institute, where one can experience the tiny cells that held from 60 to 80 prisoners at a time. Graffiti on the walls tells the tale of misery and frustration, and some of it was rumored to have been written in blood.
Another property that is said to be haunted in San Jose is the home of the ‘7 ahorcados’, or the seven hanging victims. Stories detail the group murder of a family living in the towering home located in Barrio California, San Jose. However, as this is a private property that still belongs to a Costa Rican family, no one has been able to actually visit the property and neighbors claim that the story is a farce.
Finally, the beach at Playa Grande on the Nicoya Peninsula is also rumored to receive frequent visitors of the cloudy white variety. The beach, located just 30 minutes from Montezuma, is said to have been the site of an ancient burial ground with roaming spirits that don’t welcome night visitors. Camping overnight there is prohibited, but night hikes can be arranged during your visit to the region.
Costa Rican Legends
Two particular characters from Costa Rican lore target men who have had too much to drink on their way home at night. One, El Cadejos, was originally a young boy with a penchant for partying. His father turned the boy into a black dog destined to roam the streets at night in search of unlucky fellows with the same vice. The other, La Segua, is a beautiful woman who was left heart broken by a Spanish officer. She now spends her nights roaming the streets tempting men to come after her. Those that do will see La Segua turn into a fierce beast with bloodshot eyes.
Should women feel that they are safe from the ghosts of Costa Rican legends, think again! La Llorona (the crier) is a common figure in Latin American folklore, who can be heard crying at night for different reasons. In Costa Rica, La Llorona is said to be the ghost of a young married woman named Maria who gave birth to her lover’s child. Not knowing how to deal with the grief, she threw the baby into a river. She now roams the country in search of her dead baby and giving a warning cry to any woman who would consider infidelity.
Another tale, likely created by men, tells of a deadly bug called La Machaca. Once bitten by La Machaca, a young girl must have sex with a man within 24 hours to avoid death.
One last popular legend that is very much Costa Rican is that of the Ox Cart without a driver. It is said that the legend comes from the 1800s when the filibuster William Walker was attempting to invade Costa Rica from Nicaragua in the north. As the Costa Rican soldiers returned to the urban populations, they brought with them a cholera epidemic. As the disease spread more and more, the victims of the plague had to be carried off in oxcarts. The sound of oxcarts began to haunt the locals at night. People stopped going out after dark for fear of running into the ghost oxcarts. Finally, one man who had to travel overnight to get medicine for his child heard the sound. To protect himself, he drove a cross into the ground, which made the image of the ox cart without a driver appear, floating just above the ground.
To avoid a run-in with Costa Rican spirits, it seems that fidelity and staying in at night are key! On that note, check out our Halloween Events article to see where the party is at this weekend, and a Happy Halloween to all of you visiting or living in Costa Rica during this frightful holiday:
|Written by Claire Saylor|
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Filed under: Tico on October 27th, 2008