Haunted Costa Rica
Costa Rica is often regarded as a tropical paradise, best known for pristine beaches, biodiversity and epic jungles. Although most tourists stick to the beautiful and well-traveled paths of this small corner of the world, Costa Rica also has much to offer in the dark tourism department. Let’s explore 3 of the most chilling and most haunted places in Costa Rica.
3. Cartago Parish Ruins
Cartago is a busy and charming little town just outside of San Jose, Costa Rica. It’s lively, colorful town center is darkened by an eerie ruin that many locals believe to be cursed and haunted.
The Cartago Parish Ruins have a long and dark history that has caused many legends to swirl about this ruined shell of a failed gothic church. The ruins that adorn Cartago date back to 1575. This was when construction commenced on what was intended to be a church for the first patron saint of Costa Rica, Santiago Apostle. Unfortunately, the structure of this church was destroyed by a great earthquake. Construction on the church was to be attempted once again in 1870, yet it was halted by earthquakes until it was eventually destroyed beyond repair and construction was officially abandoned in 1910. These multiple failed attempts to build this church was what caused the locals to develop stories of this location being cursed.
Curses aside, the Cartago Parish Ruins of Costa Rica are also thought to be haunted. Legend has it that a priest who had an affair with his brother’s wife was beheaded and buried underneath the church. To this day, many people have claimed to sight a headless priest stumbling around within the pristine garden of this never completed church.
The town of Cartago lies just outside of San Jose and is well worth the visit to experience this eerie ruin. The ruins are open during the day, where many come to admire the beautifully manicured gardens, which now fill the old stone walls. Unfortunately, the ruins are locked each night and nighttime access is not possible.
2. San Lucas Prison
The San Lucas Prison is Costa Rica’s answer to Alcatraz Federal Prison. It was a maximum-security facility built upon an island to disconnect the country’s worst offenders from the mainland and deter escapes. It was operation from 1873 to 1991. During this time, many people passed away on the island in the cramped, poor and torturous conditions of the small prison. Some of these deaths would have been caused through murder, suicide and even disease.
The San Lucas Prison now lies empty and rotting upon its isolated island, yet many believe the space to be incredibly active in regards to paranormal activity. With so many heightened emotions having been experienced within the blood-stained walls of this prison, some believe that its hauntings could be a result of trapped energy. While there are other stories that seem to hint that there could also be more intelligent hauntings on the island.
One of the most famous ghost stories to come out of this abandoned prison is that of a female nurse. Legend has it that a nurse working on the island was raped and murdered by inmates, only to remain trapped to haunt the island. Many have claimed to sight this ghostly nurse and hear the whisper of her voice when no one is around. Another common apparition to be sighted is that of a priest, many people speculate he too, could have fallen victim to murder on this haunted island. In addition, many stories of prisoners continuing to haunt their former abodes exists. It is not uncommon for shadow figures to be sighted in the former cells, which were overcrowded usually holding up to 60 men at a time. These are also the areas where the sounds of men’s’ tortured screams of pain and begs for mercy can still be heard.
Today, the island that San Lucas Prison exists upon is difficult to access but remains a national park. It lies about 45 minutes off the coast of Puntarenas and can be reached by boat. Chartered tour boats leave for the island sporadically, usually on weekends, or private boats can be rented to reach the island.
1. Duran Sanatorium
Perhaps the most haunted place in Costa Rica is the abandoned Duran Sanatorium. Looking into the past of this building makes it easy to see why many claim this former institute to be so haunted. The sanatorium was originally built as a state of the art tuberculosis hospital in 1915. The hospital could hold and treat up to 300 patients at a time. Over the years the purpose of the hospital was slowly evolved to work as more of an asylum, treating those suffering from mental illness. As treatment methods continued to evolve, so did the sanatorium. It was later repurposed to an orphanage and then once again to a maximum-security prison. After the premises and its buildings were damaged extensively in the 1970s by a nearby volcano eruption, the Duran Sanatorium saw its permanent closure.
Since the closure and abandonment of these buildings, they steadily slipped into decay and managed to accumulate a vast variety of ghost stories. One of the most prevalent paranormal stories told about the Duran Sanatorium is that of an elderly nun haunting it. This apparition dates back to the operational days of this hospital and was always seen as a good omen to patients. No one is quite sure why this nun continues to hang around the now empty halls of this former hospital.
Another famous ghost of this old sanatorium is that of a little girl. She is thought to have been the daughter of Dr. Carlos Duran and the reason for the Duran Sanatorium’s existence. Legend has it that this little girl was suffering from tuberculosis and Dr. Duran set about building this sanatorium as a way to give his treasured daughter the best treatment possible. Sadly, she passed away within the hospital but continues to show herself to many visitors to this day.
Plenty of other paranormal occurrences are said to happen within this ruined asylum. Many claim to have sighted a mysterious woman in blue, come into contact with suddenly forming cold spots, hearing the sounds of children’s laughter and having various electronic devices suddenly drained of all battery life.
This Sanatorium is now a protected landmark and easily accessible by bus from San Jose via Cartago. It is open from 8am to 5pm daily and entrance costs just a few US dollars. The site is vast and takes hours to explore, so make sure to set aside ample time to truly experience the Duran Sanatorium, the most haunted place in Costa Rica.
Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article you might also find interest in Mexico’s most haunted places.