- Off the Beaten Path: Haunted Hos­pi­tal

Sana­to­rio Durán is Creepy Good Fun

Howler Magazine - - Featured Contents - By Karl Kahler

It's sup­posed to be the most haunted build­ing in Costa Rica, and whether you're a ghost hunter or a skep­tic, I pre­dict it will give you the goose­bumps.

Sana­to­rio Durán is an aban­doned old hos­pi­tal out­side Cartago that was used to treat tu­ber­cu­lo­sis pa­tients be­tween 1918 and 1963. A lot of peo­ple died here, many of them chil­dren, and there are many creepy tales — and even videos! — of ghosts that still haunt its halls.

We're talk­ing rot­ting build­ings, bro­ken win­dows, chip­ping paint, creaky floor­boards, spooky stair­wells and scary graf­fiti — in a place where many peo­ple took their last raspy breath. If this place isn't haunted, it should be.

But many peo­ple re­ally be­lieve it is haunted. There are long­time re­ports of an un­dead monk who vis­its in the night, of a phan­tom lit­tle girl spot­ted in the hall­ways and stair­wells, of a ghost in the win­dow of the chapel.

In fact, the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel's “Ghost Hunters In­ter­na­tional” sent a cam­era crew here a few years ago, us­ing su­per-duper ghost­de­tect­ing tech­niques, and they claim to have cap­tured ac­tual video of a dead girl sit­ting on some steps. (Judge for your­self at http://bit. ly/2BsZhSn and http://bit.ly/2nVcITB.)

In places this com­plex is like a labyrinth, where it's easy to get dis­ori­ented, un­sure which way is out. The blue signs on the walls will not ex­actly al­le­vi­ate your anx­i­ety: “CHIL­DREN'S DOR­MI­TORY,” “ISO­LA­TION WARD,” “OP­ER­AT­ING ROOM,” “MORGUE.”

The sana­to­rium was founded in 1918 by Dr. Car­los Durán Cartín, a physi­cian who served as pres­i­dent of Costa Rica from 1889 to 1890. Durán's daugh­ter had tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, for which there was no known treat­ment at the time, with a mor­tal­ity rate of about 50 per­cent.

Lo­cated on the road to Vol­cán Irazú, the hos­pi­tal had space for 300 pa­tients. It was be­lieved that the alti­tude, tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity were ideal for treat­ing this con­ta­gious dis­ease — or maybe the healthy peo­ple just wanted to keep them far away.

Sci­en­tists dis­cov­ered ef­fec­tive treat­ments for tu­ber­cu­lo­sis by the 1950s, and Sana­to­rio Durán was shut down in 1963. Yet it was never de­mol­ished or re­pur­posed, and so in the years since it has sim­ply de­cayed.

To­day you'll be charged a mere ₡1,200 to visit, and it's well worth it — an easy day trip from San José.

Just watch out for the rot­ten floor­boards — and the ghosts.

If this place isn’t haunted, it should be.

Eerie graf­fiti covers the walls in­side, like this ghostly face. Pho­tos: Karl Kahler

Photo: Jessie Rowan

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