As the oldest city in the Americas, Granada has got more old, spooky houses than you can shake a witche’s wand at, so you would expect it to have more than its fair share of haunted houses.
THE GHOST OF THE MASS GRAVES
There’s no question that terrible things have happened in Granada. In 1979, when the Sandinista revolution was in progress, thousands of National Guardsmen were herded into the country near Porto Assese and murdered. The bodies were unceremoniously dumped into unmarked mass graves. At one site about a kilometer from the Diamante turn-off, at a gravesite called “Panama,” there is a boulder. Locals tell of an old lady who sits on the rock imploring passersby to “Take me to the cemetery.” Eyewitnesses to the mass graves say that the site was the killing ground for Somoza supporters, their wives, and children as young as 15 years old. Beware walking at night along the dark and winding Diamante road.
THE GHOSTLY MONEY LENDER AND THE GHOST-TESTER DOG
One block south of the Xalteva church is a beautifully restored colonial house on Xalteva Park. The former resident of this house was Enrique Urbina, known locally as “Quequisque.” He ran a loan sharking and car parts business from the house. About two years ago he was brutally murdered by a local gangster. All ghost stories have the macabre, and true to form, reports claim that Quequisque was almost decapitated by the savage attack. Since then the house has been empty and neighbors say they hear sounds of children crying and objects being dragged across the floor. In 2001 a Canadian family bought the house. Soon after, workers reported hearing strange sound. A painter named Helder Fariña claimed he saw Quequisque’s ghost as it walked into the newly renovated washroom. His memory of the solid, three-dimensional figure exactly matches the description given by neighbors of the late Enrique Urbina.
I contracted to oversee the renovations and strangely, Spencer, my Schnauzer, would not willingly enter the west wing of the house. We were perplexed, but as stories of the house’s haunting surfaced it became obvious: Spencer was a “ghost tester.” He would stand at the threshold with his tail lowered and repeated calling wouldn’t make him enter the house.
THE HAUNTED HOSPITAL
The spookiest looking building in the city is undoubtedly the old Catholic hospital. Strangely enough, guards and locals say the place is not haunted. That’s the trouble with old run-down buildings; sometimes they are just that–old and run-down but not haunted at all. The old hospital is one of the great unhaunted myths of Granada. Scary–you bet your pants–but haunted, apparently not.
A DEAD PRESIDENT
On Calle Libertad is the soon-to-be-opened Hotel Seville. Owner Rafael Estrada walked me through the place one dark and stormy night. He pointed out spots where old bones had been found and told me of hearing strange sounds at night. The house was home to Jose Maria Estrada, Nicaragua’s first democratically elected president. Estrada was assassinated after only a year and a half in office. The whereabouts of his body are unknown. At the time it was felt that opposition members had removed his remains so that he could not be immortalized by his followers. Are the strange sounds and happenings at the Hotel Seville spirit forces trying to right one of Nicaragua’s political wrongs? Former residents of this house were chased out by the apparitions of an old crouching woman and a man in a black hat. Estrada admits that even his cuidador has come close to quitting because of the unwelcome nocturnal visits.
MURDER MOST FOUL
Granada’s oldest haunted house is El Palenque. Situated at the junction of Calle Consulado and Calle Palenque. It was late in the evening when I inquired about this spirit-infested house.. The owner gingerly opened the top part of the door and asked who I was. I explained that I was journalist writing about the haunted houses of Granada and asked if this house was indeed haunted, as locals had reported. All I could see of Carlos, the cuidador, were his eyes. He paused for a moment and said, “Yes, the house is definitely haunted.” At that exact moment all the lights in Granada went out. I swear this is true; there are two witnesses to this fact.
I returned to El Palenque the following day with Spencer the Ghost-Testing Schnauzer. I placed him at the threshold of the main door and I went inside and called him repeatedly. Sure enough, his tail was down and there was no way was he voluntarily entering the house. A haunted house? It appears so. Carlos took my translator Steven and I on a short tour. El Palenque dates from the 1800s and if not Granada’s oldest house it is certainly its most historically intact. Carlos assured me that the floors, walls and roof have not been changed in nearly two hundred years. Movie buffs will recognize the house from the Ed Harris movie “Walker” about the life and times of the infamous Tennessean soldier of fortune. El Palenque was the set location of Walker’s famous battle of Rivas. Carlos took us to a small, dark room. The room was cool despite the 90+ temperatures outside. In the half-light Carlos pointed to a spot on the floor and told us that in the early 1990s the owner discovered his adulteress wife and her lover and promptly dispatched them with a machete. After rendering them in pieces, he hanged himself from the cross beam in the main room. Ever since, the sounds of ghostly laments and wailing can be heard amid the odd sounds of falling cutlery and cooking pans. And Carlos has seen white shadows passing between and through the walls.
Carlos told me that the Costa Rican owners plan on setting up the house as a hotel for thrill seekers. Not for me; I don’t fear ghosts but the garden fronts an arroyo and at night is the home of truly frightening creatures–deadly coral snakes.
No doubt one of Granada’s tour operators will soon start a tour of its haunted houses. The house on Xalteva is now a private home but El Palenque and Hotel Seville can be visited for a fee.