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With Recoleta Cemetery gracing the cover of many guidebooks, Buenos Aires has always existed along side the dead. But lurking behind every postcard is a far spookier past. Presenting the cities’ top five haunted places; a tour through the legends of the underworld, as told by the spirits themselves…
1. La Iglesia Santa Felicitas
Not the first young girl paralyzed by the grip of a crippled heart, Felicitas is the classic fodder of legend. But her tragic existence, upended by the futility of love, has outlived the search for a good ghost story. La Iglesia Santa Felicitas was built by the wealthy Guerrero family in 1876 in honour of their young daughter who had been first widowed and then brutally murdered by a vengeful lover, six years earlier.
The chapel is devoted to St. Felicitas, a Catholic martyr who was sacrificed along with her seven children; also the namesake of the young heiress. The ornate decorations and angels hovering above the altar are mere whispers of the abundant future that the young Felicitas had ahead of her. A collection of sculptures provided by famous artists and wealthy donors from all across Europe punctuate the delicately landscaped garden; a testament to the power of love. Moreover, the power of love cut short.
At the entrance way is a stone statue of Felicitas, capturing the vulnerable innocence of youthful amour. Now, she ambles through the city until dawn, her bloody torso, the only evidence of the life within. To this day, women appeal to the wandering spirit for help by hanging pink ribbons at the gate of La Iglesia Felicitas in their bid to repair broken hearts and find new love.
Isabel La Católica 520, Barracas
2. Recoleta Cemetery
Recoleta Cemetery is the red carpet of lost souls. It is here that Argentina’s rich and famous are laid to rest. But it is also here that the gory glitterati reemerge to ‘liven’ up the graveyard when the lights go down.
Squeezing between crypts, and mausoleums it is easy to be swept away with the memory of the dead. Unlike Chacarita, the dead here have not been forgotten. Fresh flowers decorate the tombs, and lovingly inscribed headstones provide a tender map of family history.
But in and amongst the happy souls that wander free in the Plaza Hotel of graveyards, lurks a story of immeasurable pain and deep dark, suffering. A story that was tragically unearthed. Quite literally. Somewhere among the endless rows of marble mausoleums and crucifixes is the grave of Rufina Cambaceres. A pretty thing, immortalized in a delicate stone carving.
In 1902 young Rufina was mistakenly pronounced dead and left to rest by a grieving family. Waking up in her own coffin, she battled to break free, but eventually suffocated. Rufina was found buried alive, her body scratched and mauled beyond recognition. After the gory resurrection her heartbroken father rebuilt the gravesite to portray his young daughter opening the doors to her own tomb. The innocent young Rufina, a gruesome shadow of her former self, now wanders the cemetery at night, unearthing dead bodies to ensure that they haven’t suffered the same ugly fate…
Plaza Francia, Calle Junín 1790, 8am–6pm daily
3. Subte Línea A
Subte Línea A, built in 1913, is the one of oldest underground trains in Latin America, and little has changed since it’s original construction. That in itself is a scary prospect. But moving beyond the rickety wooden carriages and the screeching track, lurks a far greater fear to face. Ghosts. They are everywhere. The tunnel of Línea A crawls with the spirits of the deceased. One hundred years of rail-road accidents, suicides – even a murder. First stumbled across by a rail technician, the site of man lying in a pool of blood on the bathroom floor of Sáenz Peña has been reported many times.
The glass lanterns on the roof of the carriages flicker constantly, plunging the tunnel into complete obscurity, or dizzyingly illuminating the train with an eerie green glow. Passengers have reported seeing people dressed in the tweed garb of yesteryear weaving in and out of the shadows. Sometimes they patiently wait on the platform, checking their pocket-watches for the ticking of time, long gone. But once inside the carriage, they evaporate, their outlines faintly visible under the quivering lights.
Between the subte stops, Alberti and Pasco, are the remains on an unfinished station. During the construction of this tunnel a tragic landslide took the lives of two workers. The station was abandoned. But as the train passes through the half finished platform, it is said that the two man can still be seen, working endlessly on a station that doesn’t exist.
4. Torre del Fantasma
Home to a tortured artist and an eccentric widow, the Torre del Fantasma stands as the shadow of a wounded soul battling the tragedy of mediocrity. Confining herself to the top window of the tower, ‘Clementina’ painted until her fight for perfection became an obsession. Dissatisfied with her life’s work, the young artist threw herself from the top window of the tower, her blood spattering the side walk below and clogging the gutters of this quiet corner in La Boca. Neighbours heard the screams that pummeled the woman to the edge of insanity, but they were too late.
Her ghost can still be seen in the top window. Sometimes her blood-curdling howls echo through the night. A tragedy of creative proportions: tortured in life by failure, haunted after death by the impossibility of improvement. Clementina will be pace behind the leaded window for as long as it takes to achieve perfection.
Intersection of Almirante Brown and W. Villafañe, La Boca
5. Chacarita Cemetery
Tiptoeing over the human remains that litter Chacarita Cemetery leaves absolutely no doubt that ghosts haunt this dilapidated graveyard. A snap shot of your deepest, darkest nightmare, the itchy grass under foot and the crumbling headstones harbor an empty underworld of fugitive souls. Towering high into the blue sky is the palace of burial sites – more than ten levels of shelves reserved for the dead. But through the years the stone has fallen to the ground and the cubbies have been left uncovered. Some are home to more than one set of bones, muddled far beyond the recognition of human remains. Others are completely empty.
On a patch of dry, dead grass, a statue of Jesus is cracked in two. Part of the cross is missing. The sculpture, once a shield of the body beneath, now lies in ruins. Casually lurking in the weeds along side is a human leg bone. But who are these people? Their tombs are abandoned. Their families no longer come. Flowers don’t rest at the head stones. Instead their bones are splayed across the site, a knuckle in one corner, a skull just surfacing through the dried mud. The only movement is the low breeze that creeps among the tombstones, sneaking up on you from behind; the whisper of life long gone, still blowing in the warm air.
Chacarita Cemetery, Subte Línea B: Fédérico Lacroze Station, Cemetery is across from Av. Guzmán, 7am-6pm daily