Buenos Aires – Where Creepy and Fantastic come together. Lets wander the city and see what it has to offer this 2011 Halloween.
The Tunnels of the Manzana de las Luces (Los tuneles de la Manzana de las Luces)
The barrio of Montserrat is home to the Manzana de las Luces (Square of Enlightenment), BA’s historic centre for learning and high culture, and seems an unlikely setting for any serious Dan Brown-style action. Well stocked with culture vultures and academics, the area has quietly gone about the business of educating the children of distinguished families for four centuries. But like the fabled Illuminati, it guards its secrets well.
Hidden beneath is a cobweb of tunnels, a virtual underground city, that dates to the Jesuit days of the 17th century.
Speculation about the original purpose of the dark, dank tunnels remains: torture chambers, secret passages linking the Jesuit headquarters to churches, or defence tunnels in case of attack? The tour leads visitors from the Courtyard of the Jesuit Missions, through the House of Representatives and Presidency of Legislature and, finally, six metres into the tunnels.
Spooky Rate: 2/5
Getting there Peru 272, Plaza de Mayo. Spanish-language tours are held daily for 10 pesos (about $2). English-language tours can be arranged on request. manzanadelasluces.gov.ar.
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.
Spooky Rate: 2/5
Getting There: Intersection of Almirante Brown and W. Villafañe, La Boca
Santa Felicitas Church (Iglesia de Santa Felicitas)
This tragic tale of star-crossed lovers is as old as time itself. In 1872, one of the richest and most beautiful women in Buenos Aires, Felicitas Guerrero de Alzaga, was being courted by two men; a well-known dandy, Enrique Ocampo, and a rugged rancher, Saenz Valiente.
She chose brawn over brain causing the dandy to fly into a jealous rage, shooting her twice before stabbing himself in the heart. Felicitas’s heartbroken parents had an enormous, Gothic church built in her memory, the only church in Buenos Aires not dedicated to a saint or religious figure. Its doors opened to worshippers on January 30, 1876, the fourth anniversary of Felicitas’s death.
According to some, her ghost wanders the grounds, often seen wiping tears from her eyes. A tradition has developed in which women come to the church on January 30, tie a hanky to the gate and ask for help finding their own true love.
Spooky Rate: 3/5
Getting there Isabel la Catolica 520, Barracas/ Open on Saturday and Sunday, with free guided tours every Sunday at 11am. santafelicitas.org.ar.
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.
Spooky Rate: 3/5
Getting there: Light Blue Line from Plaza de Mayo-Carabobo
The Lions House (Casa de los Leones)
It’s said that after the double tragedy (lion mauling and suicide), ghosts of the couple began to appear, whispering, shouting, crying and making a nuisance of themselves. By way of exorcism, Eustaquio Diaz Velez replaced the real lions with sculptures on the arches of the entrance gates, doorknockers and throughout the park.
As I pick my way through the overgrown garden I almost trip over a sculpture of a lion ripping a young man’s head off, a second sculpture “stalks” me through undergrowth.
Today, the mansion is home to the Vitra Foundation, a rehabilitation centre for people with severe breathing problems. Inside, I am introduced to Anna, a long-term resident who, though completely paralysed, patiently recounts the entire story.
Although it’s chilling and requires a lot of effort on Anna’s behalf, I am equally warmed by her generosity and spirit.
Spooky Rate: 4/5
Getting there Montes de Oca 140, Barracas. The Lions House is now a private hospital and you’ll need permission to enter the grounds. fundacionvitra.org.ar.
Recoleta Cemetery (Cementerio de la Recoleta)
The cemetery is a city of the dead in which 6400 vaulted tombs occupy the most expensive real estate in town. Spread over five hectares in a grid-like pattern of stately boulevards and elegant avenues, the mausoleums look like miniature mansions, the final resting place of presidents, poets and painters alike.
Eva Duarte de Peron (Evita) might be its most famous “resident” but Rufina Cambaceres (the girl who died twice) is the most disturbing.
Rufina was thought to be dead after suffering an epileptic fit and was entombed in 1902, on her 19th birthday. Tragically, she awoke inside the casket and clawed her fingers to the bone scratching her way out but died of a heart attack before making it to the front gates of the cemetery.
Rufina’s family built a new tomb with a vault that has a sculpture of the pretty young woman holding the doorknob as if trying to get out. I dare you to look at Rufina’s sad face without getting the goosebumps.
Spooky Rate: 5/5
Getting there Calle Junin 1790. Open daily from 8am to 6pm. Free guided tours in English take place on Tuesday and Thursday at 11am.