There are few European cities that prove the mantra that ‘with rich history comes rich legend’ better than Madrid.
For centuries the capital of Spain, and the former centre of its empire, has accumulated a real mix of stories with influences from home and abroad that go a long way to blurring the line between the real and the supernatural. Today, amidst the shaded, post-colonial, cobbled streets of the city, the sceptres of Spain’s darker history still linger in the grandiose façades of palaces and state buildings, and make Madrid one of the great ghost hunting destinations on the continent. From blood-curdling satanic and occultist happenings, to classic, romanticised paranormal activity - if you are searching for a taste of the mysterious, Madrid is your place.
Perhaps the most documented and well known ghost tale of Madrid is centred on the Palacio de Linares, the city’s Latin American ‘embassy’ that pays homage to Spanish diaspora in the Americas. The story goes that in the 19th century, the palace’s namesake and patron, the Marqués de Linares, had a son named Jose. At the behest of his father, Jose chose the daughter of a local businessman to be his wife. However, the romance was plunged into confusion after Linares confessed on his deathbed that Jose’s wife was actually the result of his own affair with the businessman’s wife, and thus Jose’s own sister. Distraught and confused at how to deal with the revelation, Jose consulted the papacy who commanded him to stay married, but in celibacy and segregation from his wife.
Today, the palace is conspicuously divided into two separate floors that represent the physical, interior separation of man and wife. Sightings of downcast figures wandering the floors have been reported by regulars at the palace, thought to be the melancholy ghost of Jose and his wife trapped in eternal segregation.
Another of Madrid’s most famous ghost stories is set in another of its magnificent cultural buildings, the Casa de la Siete Chimeneas (House of the Seven Chimneys). The building has been shrouded in mystery since its construction in the 16th century, when the bloody outcome of an amorous court intrigue gave rise to the local ghost legend. At the centre of the tale is Elena, who was the daughter of a nobleman during the reign of Carlos V. Before Carlos’ son, later to be King Felipe II, became king of Spain, he became romantically involved with Elena while her husband was away fighting in the colonies.
The story goes that after hearing the news of her husband’s death, Elena died from grief. But rumours of Felipe’s involvement spread quickly, with the implication that he had had her murdered to prevent news of their affair getting out. Elena’s body was never found, and shortly after, her own father was discovered hanging in one of the rooms in the Chimney House, deepening the suspicion against Felipe. In the months following the gruesome demises of Elena and her father, locals passing the Chimney House from the street below reported sightings of a girl clad in an ethereal white robe, wandering her way through the chimneys on the roof and admonishing the royal place buildings in the distance - the symbolic centre of Spain’s monarchic power and the source of Elena’s grief entire.
More recently, the so called case of Vallecas has detailed the supposed demonic possession of one of Madrid’s natives the 15 year old Estefania Gutierrez Lazaro. After playing with an ouija board, the young girl began acting weirdly, fell ill and died unexpectedly. After her death reports of supernatural happenings came from the family, saying that the house echoed with Estefania’s piercing screams, things moved of their own accord, and people felt like they were being touched on the arm in the night. Deepening the mystery of the story is the report that a photo of Estefania spontaneously combusted in its frame, causing the family to involve the Police who subsequently reported that they too could not possibly explain what was going on. What’s more, controversially and ominously, Madrid continues to be one of the few cities in the world with a statue paying homage to Satan the fallen angel.
There is no shortage of ghost stories in Madrid, and while the ones above only scratch the surface of the city’s dark, supernatural underbelly of paranormal activity, they are the most famous and well documented examples that retain a place in the minds of modern day Madrilenians. There are plenty of other haunted spots in Madrid to discover, where similar tales of spectral sightings and inexplicable occurrences continue to torment the locals.