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Sanatorio Durán: one of the most haunted places in Costa Rica

4 min read

We are along the road to Irazú Volcano, 7 kilometers north of the city of Cartago, Costa Rica.
It’s said Carlos Durán Cartín, an eminent physician who briefly served as president of Costa Rica (1889-90), opened this tuberculosis hospital in 1918 hoping to treat his own daughter who was suffering from the disease, for which there was no known treatment in Central America at the time. Others say that she contracted the disease after the hospital opened but, in any case, he chose a remote location complete with good weather, fresh air, and natural light. However, despite his efforts to treat his daughter, she died from tuberculosis.

The sanatorium continued to function after her death and the atmosphere of the location was thought to be beneficial for those that were ill.
It was staffed mostly by nuns, the Sisters of Charity Santa Anna, and It is said that they treated up to 300 patients at a time. In addition, the hospital also housed those being treated for mental health.
By the 1960s, when tuberculosis was no longer an epidemic or a threat, the sanatorium’s mental health patients were transferred to better facilities.
The building went on to serve as an orphanage and then a prison. The facilities closed in the 1970s after the Irazú Volcano erupted and ruined parts of the complex. After that, the building was abandoned…at least by the living…and still stands in its original location.

Today, you can explore the old sanatorium.
Signs mark bathrooms, the morgue, doctors’ quarters, the children’s wing, and more. The west wing consists of a chapel and hospital ward, while the east wing was the children’s ward which I assume later became the orphanage. Connecting the two wings is a long and unnerving hallway filled with the handprints of children, which was spooky enough, as all the children housed here had tuberculosis, for which there was a mortality rate close to 50 percent a century ago. A few meters outside of the main hospital is another large building which was used for staff housing and administrative purposes while, perched on a small hill behind the Sanatorium, remains the home of Dr. Durán and his daughter, where he would keep a watch over the property and its residents.
Knowing the suffering and sickness that took place here gives it a eerie feel, especially when looking out the hospital windows on a sunny day. And, if this is not enough, apparitions are commonly reported at Sanatorio Durán.

The sanatorium was a tuberculosis ward and asylum, later turned into an orphanage and prison. That has all of the makings of a horror movie wrapped into one and, unsurprisingly, this place has come to be known as the most haunted building in Costa Rica. For istance, It’s said nuns’s ghosts, and the ghosts of the children who died at the sanatorium still wander on the building, while others have claimed that they have seen a woman staring out the windows. She has been described as an older women wearing a blue dress and white hair. No one know if she was a hospital or mental illness patient, a worker at the hospital or a staff member of the prison or orphanage.
Among those rumored to still reside in the sanatorium are also a little girl who plays on the upper-floor balcony, a nurse who wonders the west wing, and Dr. Durán’s own daughter who has been seen sitting on the steps of her old home. In addition, visitors have reported that they feel cold spots or unexplained drafts when they travel through the halls of the buildings and, as with any haunted location, there are of course reports of noises that cannot be explained.

Author’s notes: don’t trust the shortcut suggested by the Waze app, as will lead you up a steep, narrow road. From San José, take Highway 2 to Cartago and then Highway 219 east, following the signs to Irazú Volcano. Not long after the big white statue of Jesus on the right, look for a sign pointing left toward “PRUSIA.” The sanatorium is 500 meters down this road.

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