La Casa de America a.k.a. Palacio de Linares
Locals have seen Elena’s silhouette walking across
the seven chimneys and pointing in the
direction of the old Alcázar of Segovia
where King Felipe II once lived
by Westley Weston
It’s that time of the year when the leaves are turning colour and the winter chill is creeping in. In a city famous for its endless tapas bars, friendly residents and stunning architecture, what many people in Madrid may be surprised to know is that some of the buildings you may have passed in plain sight hold their very own haunting histories that can chill you to the bone without the help of chilly autumn. Ghosts of corrupt affairs, unresolved crimes and dark deeds are said to still terrorise some of this city’s most beautiful edifices.
For those who dare to test their belief in the paranormal and explore the dark corners of the city, I have chosen three of Madrid’s spookiest places to visit. Should you dare!
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
(The Reina Sofia Museum)
Few people know that this modern museum used to be a hospital that goes back to the mid-16th century. Erected by King Phillip II of Spain (reign 1556-1598), what we know today as the Reina Sofía housed up to eighteen thousand destitute patients, dying sufferers of the bubonic plague, the cholera and the Black Death.
Its gruesome truths were uncovered during reconstruction of the old hospital between 1982 and 1990 when shackles and chains, human skulls and the remains of several mummified corpses were discovered. The revelation pointed to the unsavoury, torturous medical practices carried out behind the wicked walls of the hospitium pauperum.
Not many Madrileños are aware that the remains of the indigent sick stay buried beneath the Museum. But those who now work there swear that odd apparitions of distressed patients wandering down the hallways, piercing screams from empty rooms and involuntary slamming doors haunt the building to this day.
The Reina Sofía museum is a 5-minute walk from Atocha rail station. For opening hours and admission fees (including free admission) check out http://www.museoreinasofia.es/. Unless there have been changes, the museum is open only till 6:00 P.M. in autumn and winter – dark enough, though, to venture out into the hair-raising hidden places of the museum and find out how much of the ghost stories you can take.
La Casa de América (The House of America)
a.k.a. Palacio de Linares
In plain sight of La Plaza de Cibeles, the Linares Palace, today the headquarters of the state consortium for International and Iberoamerican Cooperation (hence Casa América), is one of Madrid’s most famous haunted sites. Dating back to the 1800’s when it was first built by the wealthy aristocrat Jose de Murga, the first Marquis of Linares and heir to the immense fortune of his financier-industrialist father Mateo de Murga, the palace is terrorised by ghosts burdened with a mournful secret.
The marquis fell deeply in love with a woman named Raimunda de Osorio, the daughter of a cigar-maker unwed mother, Benita Ortega y Arregui. Jose’s unwavering desire to marry Raimunda was strongly opposed by his father. So it wasn’t until after the latter’s death that they wed. Only to discover in a letter that Mateo had an illicit affair with Benita Ortega who bore him Raimunda. The two lovers were half-siblings! The palace was split into two levels, the upper and lower, where each lived away from the other. Or so they tried. The couple remained under the same roof yet doomed to live a love of chastity and unbearable separation.
Nevertheless, it is rumoured that Jose and Raimunda had a secret daughter whom they had to murder for fear of getting their incestuous relationship exposed. It is said by the staff at the palace that the family of the Marques de Linares still haunts the place today. Ghostly apparitions of Raimunda and Jose have been spotted on the separate levels. Their spirits roam restless as they continue to give vent to a forbidden passion so strong it has survived beyond the grave. While their daughter’s ghost is rumoured to disturb the palace gardens where she was allegedly buried, wailing for the love that her parents could never give her.
Located inside the palace is the exclusive Cien Llaves bar-restaurant, open till the witching hour Mondays through Saturdays in autumn and winter. Dare to reserve a table and stop for a Chef Juanjo López Bedmar culinary masterpiece and maybe a side of paranormal shock?
La Casa de las Siete Chimeneas
(The House of the Seven Chimneys)
La Casa de las Siete Chimeneas is one of the few original 16th-century buildings still standing in Madrid. What is today’s centre for the Ministry of Culture is also one of the city’s most famous crime scenes.
Locals believe in the medieval mystery of a beautiful young woman named Elena who died in this house and who, according to legend, was a secret lover of King Felipe II. There are several versions of how and why she died. Yet one fact remains, which is that when she died her body strangely disappeared…
Many many years later, during the restoration of the building in the 19th century, the body of a young woman, believed to be Elena’s, was discovered buried in the basement of the house with a dagger plunged into her chest!
Despite investigations into her unexplained death, it remains unclear whether Elena committed suicide or was brutally murdered. However, some locals claim to have seen Elena’s silhouette on the rooftop, walking across the seven chimneys and pointing (accusingly) in the direction of the old Alcázar of Segovia where Felipe II once lived.
Take a moonlit walk around La Plaza del Rey and look towards the seven chimneys. See whether you can glimpse the ghost of Elena and seek the truth behind her mysterious death.
It may be beyond me to ever unravel the mystery but, as it turned out, a misty sort of isolated fog appeared drifting upward to the chimneys on one of the pictures I snapped for this ghost story in a clear, warm and windless October night with a perfectly working camera. I’m precluding exhaust fume from a passing car as the traffic was far enough behind me for a fume to insinuate itself in front of the camera. I also nix a defective camera lens.
What’s your take on this?
Photos by Westley Weston except the following:
Featured image/Emiliojge, user Panoramio, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA3.0
Palacio de Linares gardens/David Adam Kess, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA4.0
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