Photo by David Berkowitz
The nights are drawing in earlier, the crowds of tourists are thinning out and a crisp breeze has come to blow away the summer humidity. It’s time to leave the bright open spaces of Barcelona’s beaches and parks and make the most of the other side of the city—the weather-worn, winding alleyways and small taverns nestled amongst ancient stone walls. And what better form of entertainment in these clandestine surroundings than to share a few stories of an equally surreptitious nature?
The metro. For some, an unremarkable means of going about their daily routine, for others a labyrinthine underground world full of twists, turns and disused ‘phantom stations’. One such station is Gaudí. Built in 1968 but never inaugurated, it goes unnoticed by all except those who peer into the shadows when travelling on the L5 (blue) between Sagrada Familia and Sant Pau/Dos de Maig. Some claim to see humanoid forms lurking in the gloom, their featureless faces staring blankly ahead, waiting for a train that will never arrive.
Another story revolves around Rocafort—a station that metro personnel dread being transferred to. Rocafort’s air of the unusual stems from a spate of suicides that occurred some years ago—four in one month to be exact. to have seen people on the CCTV cameras, a distracted look on their faces as they wander along the platforms. Nothing too strange there, except that it tends to occur after the last train of the night has already left and the station is closed to the public. When they have gone to explain that there are no more trains running, staff have found nothing but a deserted platform.
THE VAMPIRESS OF CARRER PONENT
In 1912, the city was cast into a state of fear and shock following some grisly discoveries on Carrer de Joaquín Costa (then known as Carrer de Ponent) in the Raval. One day in February, a neighbour spotted a melancholy face at the window of number 29 that had a striking resemblance to Teresita Guitart—a little girl from the neighbourhood who had gone missing. The neighbour informed the police, and that same day, Enriqueta Martí i Ripollés was arrested. Beggar by day and prostitute by night, Martí lured Teresita and another girl, Angelita, into her home with the promise of sweets and imprisoned them there. Searches of the house unearthed a myriad of gruesome discoveries, including children’s clothes, skulls, hair and bones. After forcing a locked door and entering one of the rooms, police also found jars full of coagulated blood, fats and other strange substances, along with books detailing ancient remedies and a roster with names of the city’s political and economic elite. Rumours quickly spread that Martí was a vampiress, creating ointments made from the remains of children and selling them to the wealthy of the city to cure their ailments, in particular the much feared tuberculosis.
THE ALCHEMIST’S HOUSE
Number 8, Carrer de l’Arc de Sant Ramon del Call, is one of the only remaining original buildings in the city’s Jewish quarter, El Call, and has long since been known as ‘The Alchemist’s House’, named after its most renowned resident. In the 14th century, there lived a Jewish alchemist, known throughout the city for his remedies and potions. The alchemist’s beautiful daughter was in love with a Christian boy, who she was courting in secret. However, tired of all the lies, she begged her beloved to ask her father’s permission for them to marry. Knowing that her father would never agree, he suggested that they become lovers instead—an unacceptable proposition that led the girl to furiously end their relationship. Spurned by his sweetheart, the boy’s love mutated into a loathing so intense that he vowed to kill her—if he couldn’t have her, no one could. He visited the alchemist, the girl’s father, and acquired a rose laced with poison that would kill with one sniff. That night, the boy called up to the girl’s window, begging forgiveness and promising that he would ask the girl’s father for her hand in marriage.
The girl accepted her fiancé’s fatal offering and as she brought the flower to her nose to smell its sweetness, she collapsed on the floor, her body wracked with pain as she died. Finding his only daughter the next day, the alchemist realised what he had done. He left the house and the city, and cursed the dwelling so that no one should live there ever again. To this day, no one has.
THE 13 TORTURES OF EULÀLIA
Eulàlia, was a brave, 13-year-old martyr, born at a particularly bad time to be a practising Christian. When Eulàlia spoke out against the repression of her community, Roman emperor Diocletian sentenced her to 13 tortures, one for every year of her life, including rolling her down a street—now known as the Baixada de Santa Eulàlia—in a barrel lined with shards of broken glass. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, she was then crucified in the form of an ‘X’. In the moment of her crucifixion, it began to snow and a white dove flew out of her mouth, believed to be her soul.
Eulàlia was later canonised and made patron of the city, inspiring citizens facing difficult times for many centuries. In 1687, however, she faced some competition. Barcelona was attacked by a terrible plague and the desperate city-dwellers prayed to her for help. When the plague continued, they turned their attention to Our Lady of Mercy, who they found was much more successful in answering their prayers. When the plague ended, the superstitious barceloneses ditched Eulàlia for ‘La Mercè’, who, to this day, continues to be the better known, and more celebrated patron of the city.
THE ABANDONED TOWN OF LA MUSSARA
Situated in the Prades mountain range in Tarragona, the town of La Mussara was abandoned under strange circumstances in 1959. Now, all that remains of the village are the ruins of eight buildings, the church and a wealth of myths concerning paranormal activity.
A lot of stories stem from the dense fog that is known to fall suddenly over the town, even on clear summer days, leaving visitors utterly disoriented. It’s believed that the mist causes strange time lapses that lead visitors to believe they have only been in the town for a couple of hours, when in reality they have been there much longer. Many visitors have also reported hearing voices and even the sound of approaching horses’ hooves. Some claim that the fog is the result of a curse that was cast on the village centuries ago by a witch, while others believe that La Mussara houses a gateway to another realm—if you jump over a particular stone outside one of the houses, you’ll pass into a parallel dimension known as ‘La Vila del Sis’, inhabited by creatures of the underworld.
Disappearances are amongst the most famous incidents connected to La Mussara, in particular the sad case of Enrique Martínez Ortiz. On October 16th 1991, a group of friends met to collect mushrooms. At some point during the day, Martínez fell slightly behind the rest of the group, and was never seen again. Search parties were sent out and his car was discovered just where he had left it, but no trace of Martínez has ever been found. The case remains unsolved to this day.
Photo by Jordi Domenech i Arnau
BARCELONA THE DARK SIDE
For those wanting to delve further into the paranormal underworld of the city, these companies offer tours that take you on an after-dark wander through the city’s most notorious spots.
- Icono Serveis. Fantasmas de Barcelona (Available in Catalan, Spanish and English)
- Trip4Real. Barcelona Paranormal (Available in Catalan and Spanish)
- Barcelona History Tour. Horror Tour (Available in Spanish)
- Cultruta. BCN Nocturna y Criminal (Available in Catalan and Spanish)
- Runner Bean Tours.The Dark Past (Available in English)
- Atrapalo. Barcelona insólita y secreta (Available in Spanish)