Haunted Costa Rica: Ghost Stories & Urban Legends
Like all places in the world, even popular vacation destinations like tropical Costa Rica have ghost stories and urban legends. In fact, American ghost tracker TV shows including Ghost Hunters International and Paranormal State have come to visit Costa Rica recently, leaving a slew of spirited ghost-lovers following in their wake. With the interest in paranormal activity and ghost hunting in Costa Rica on the rise, there’s no better time to detail the premier legends and haunted places in Costa Rica.
El Sanatorio Duran
Visited by the paranormal investigators of Ghost Hunters International and long considered one of the most haunted places in Costa Rica, the long-abandoned Duran Sanatorium, located in Prusia near the Irazu Volcano, was originally a hospital for those suffering from Tuberculosis in 1915. Throughout the years, the Duran Sanatorium creepily functioned as an insane asylum, a prison, and an orphanage. The Duran Sanatorium closed its doors for good in 1973, after the building sustained damage from nearby Irazu Volcano, but people say some of the patients never truly left. The people of the nearby city of Cartago have reported numerous spooky experiences over the years. Chills, sounds, and even ghosts have been witnessed in and around this haunted Sanatorium. The most reported of these spectral encounters in Cartago Costa Rica is the ghost of a nun who is said to haunt the grounds. Other reports include shadowy images, the laughter and sounds of ghost children playing, blood colored child-sized hand prints on the walls, and even coins being tossed out of patients’ rooms. Of course, the Prusia/Cartago area where the Duran Sanatorium is located is known to be an unusually chilly and foggy place, which simply adds to the ghost stories and overall creepiness of the Duran Sanatorium.
Las Ruinas de la Parroquia
Not far from the Duran Sanatorium in the city of Cartago Costa Rica are the Ruins of a Parish built in the 1500s, one of the most haunted places in Costa Rica. Despite multiple attempts to rebuild the parish, continued earthquakes have reduced the place to the ruins that remain today. While a popular thing to do for a day trip from San Jose Costa Rica, the ruined parish also harbors a darker story. As the urban legend goes, a priest fell in love with and had a torrid love affair with his sister-in-law, the wife of the Mayor. When the lovers were discovered, the Mayor killed his priest brother out of jealous fury. Not long after this violent outburst, an earthquake destroyed the parish and all further attempts to repair it have been foiled, leading the people of Cartago Costa Rica to give up on the project. The church ruins are considered to be cursed, and a headless spirit has been reported to haunt the grounds at night.
San Lucas Prison
Another location recently explored by the Ghost Hunters International team is the prison on the island of San Lucas Costa Rica. Once known as the Costa Rican version of Alcatraz, this island, sometimes called the “Island of Unspeakable Horrors” has a bloody history that spans almost 400 years. San Lucas Costa Rica was originally used by Spanish conquistadors as a concentration camp for the local indigenous people. Many of the native people are believed to have been slaughtered on the sacred burial ground of their ancestors. Later used by the government as a detainment facility, San Lucas prison quickly developed a reputation as the home of the most dangerous criminals in Costa Rica, as well as one of the most violent prisons in Costa Rican history. The graffiti on the cell walls tell the gruesome history of this haunted place in Costa Rica.
Among the many bloody ghost stories connected with the San Lucas Prison are the murder of the priest who operated the prison’s only church, and the rape and murder of a nurse, whose portrait is said to adorn one of the cell walls, painted with her own blood. Tours of the haunted island of San Lucas and the 100 year old prison ruins are available, and visitors should be prepared to feel chills, at the very least. The ghost of the murdered nurse is said to speak to visitors, and other noises from the inmates have been reported. One significant report was that of a man begging for water.
Playa Grande, Monetezuma
Located on the Southern Nicoya Peninsula is the laid-back town of Montezuma Costa Rica. The Playa Grande Beach is about a 30 minute walk from Montezuma and doesn’t allow overnight camping, yet mysterious hauntings and strange sightings have long been reported here. Montezuma Beach is rumored to have been an ancient burial ground, and when darkness falls the restless spirits patrol the beaches, scaring away nighttime visitors.