Last weekend I FINALLY got to visit a place I’ve been wanting to see all year long! My friends and I took a visit to the Duran Sanatorium (El Sanatorio Duran) near Cartago, Costa Rica. The Duran Sanatorium is considered one of the most haunted places in all of Costa Rica, and it was only a half hour drive out of San Jose. It has even been featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters International.
Nestled in the mountains, amid fields of yellow flowers and crops, the Duran Sanatorium sits more or less abandoned. It’s open to the public, and for a mere thousand colones (about $2) you can walk freely about the entire campus, exploring the empty buildings and awakening the spirits that remain there.
Why is the Sanatorium haunted?
Built in 1915 by Dr. Carlos Duran, the Sanatorium’s location was deemed to be ideal for those suffering from consumption. It operated as a hospital for tuberculosis patients for many years, as well as an asylum for the mentally ill. After 1963, the Sanatorium ceased to be operational, since tuberculosis was no longer an issue and the mentally ill could be treated in bigger, more humane hospitals. For awhile, the place operated as an orphanage, and then later it was turned into both a maximum and a minimum security prison.
The Duran Sanatorium shut down permanently in 1973 when it retained serious structural damage from an eruption of the nearby Irazu volcano. But did all of its residents truly leave?
Commonly seen apparitions in the Duran Sanatorium include a nun, who is said to have been a caretaker when the Sanatorium was a hospital for tuberculosis patients. A woman with white hair and a blue dress has also been seen walking the corridors and peering out of the windows.
Another frequently seen apparition is that of a little girl, said to be the daughter of Dr. Carlos Duran himself. She supposedly contracted tuberculosis while living at the Sanatorium and passed away. She is usually seen on the roof or the steps of this building, where she lived with the Doctor while he presided over the Sanatorium.
It was a nice, sunny morning when we arrived at the Sanatorium, and there were strong winds blowing down off the mountain. We explored the main building first, with it’s dilapidated halls and graffiti-scribbled walls. At one point, my friend swore she heard a noise and my fully-charged camera battery died without warning.
As we walked down the long corridors, I thought I might have heard a whisper too…
Other than the battery drain incident and that supposed whisper, our visit to the Duran Sanatorium was pretty normal. We explored, we laughed, we wandered, we scared each other silly.
I do have to admit that the Duran Sanatorium really delivered, though. Considering how long I had wanted to see it, I could have easily been disappointed. However, the Sanatorium was really a lot of fun. It was extremely creepy even on a sunny day (I can’t imagine hanging out there at night!), and the campus is big enough that it took us a good hour and a half to wander through it all.
For ghost hunters, paranormal investigators, or simple thrill seekers visiting Costa Rica, I’d definitely recommend a visit to the Duran Sanatorium. It will give you chills… in a good way.