By Gemma Wilson
WHILE America may be the home of Halloween and horror stories, Spain certainly has its fair share of ghosts and ghouls.
Whether it’s mysterious faces appearing on the floor, or a secretive ogre living in the woods, there is no shortage of spine-tingling Spanish tales to make you want to sleep with the light on.
Many of the spookiest tales originate right here in Andalucia, including the haunted house of Cortijo Jurado, also known as Casa Encantada, in Campanillas.
The now dilapidated house was once a grand mansion built in the 19th century by the Heredia family, one of the wealthiest in Andalucia.
It is said that many young girls who went missing from the surrounding area at the time were kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the Heredias.
Legend has it that secret chambers existed below the house where the girls were kept before their death and unexplained voices and other sounds have been reported coming from the building in the years since.
Catherine O’Connor, a producer for production company Oxford Creative Film, described having her own ghostly encounter while filming at the property, which was destined to become a luxury hotel until the owners experienced financial problems.
“We were in the middle of swapping a tape over and we heard a door slam, but there are no doors in the house. It was such a shame we didn’t get it on film,” the 41-year-old told the Olive Press.
“It was an odd experience to walk around the house when it has such a legacy,” she explained.
“It was quite surreal, you do feel an atmosphere there, certainly a sense of something strange.”
She added: “It would be interesting to trace back the history of the girls that went missing.”
But Casa Encantada is not Andalucia’s only haunted house.
A property in the Jaen village of Belmez de la Moraleda has become famous for the ‘Belmez faces’, which first appeared in 1971 when Maria Gomez Camara spotted one on her kitchen floor.
Her son and husband took a pick axe to the floor, destroying it and laying down a new one, but the male and female faces continued to appear and terrifyingly continued to grow in both size and intensity.
Many have argued over the years that it is a hoax and the faces have been painted on.
But whether they are real or not the house has certainly attracted many believers and curious onlookers over the years.
Andalucia also lays claim to some of Spain’s best known mythology, including the great lover Don Juan who is said to have been dragged to hell by the dead father of the girl he had seduced.
Elsewhere in Spain, mythological creatures such as the Basa-Juan have been responsible for keeping many a Spaniard awake at night.
Known as the ‘lord of the woods’, the mysterious figure is said to be an ogre living high in the Pyrenees.
His home is in the woods and the caves, where he is said to protect flocks of sheep and goats from predators and thunderstorms.
But despite being credited with teaching humans the art of agriculture and forging, he has a more sinister side to his nature, trapping humans if they stray into his domain.
A more friendly encounter can be had with Dones d’aigua, the maids of the water.
A popular myth associated with Cataluna, the half women, half fish or bird, live anywhere with clean water such as wells, springs, fountains or lakes although they can also be found in caves and woods.
Unlike Basa-Juan, if you come upon the maids of the water they are said to be kind to humans.
Spain’s supernatural past also boasts some ghostly tales such as that of Antonio Costilla, a Spanish gentleman who was out riding when darkness fell.
Seeing a light shining from a small, secluded building he rode to it and upon realising it was a chapel, he entered and began praying.
But he was not alone.
Three people wrapped in black cloaks lay on the ground, saying nothing but looking at him with wild, sad eyes.
Quickly leaving and continuing on his way home, Costillo noticed the three figures were now following him, at once behind and then suddenly in front.
He insisted to his family that the figures were in the room, despite being invisible to everyone else.
Costillo died three days later, maintaining until the end that the three figures were standing by his bed, threatening him with their frightful stares and gestures.
Then there are the stories from Simon Goulart, who in his book Tresor d’histoires admirables tells the tale of two young Spanish boys who, on their way to university, had stopped for the night in a small village.
With all the houses full they were forced to sleep in an abandoned house which was said to be haunted.
Undeterred, the boys stayed but were woken by the sound of clanking chains which appeared to be coming from the floor below.
Going to investigate with his candle and sword one of the boys came upon a ghastly skeleton standing in the doorway covered in chains.
The skeleton beckoned for the boy to follow, which he fearlessly did, the skeleton walking ahead dragging its legs as if bound by iron shackles.
Suddenly the boy’s candle blew out and the room was engulfed in darkness.
Upon relighting the flame, the boy made his way outside and saw the skeleton standing by a well, before suddenly vanishing.
The next day the ground where the skeleton had been standing was exhumed and the remains of a body was found… wrapped in chains.
The villagers gave the remains a proper burial and the noises from the building abruptly stopped.
Other haunted places in Spain include the House of the Seven Chimneys in Madrid where a lady dressed in white and carrying a torch can be seen on certain nights.
The lady was a young bride, who is said to have died of sorrow when her husband was killed in the Battle of San Quentin.
She was a mistress to the king, and legend has it her husband was sent into battle to die so the king could have her to himself.
The Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, a 200-year-old building which was once a hospital, is also home to spooky goings on with night staff reporting strange voices and whispers that can be heard in empty parts of the building as well as ghosts being seen in the central part of the museum.
In Sevilla, Sister Ursula, a nun of the Order of Charity is said to stalk the halls of the Andalucian parliament, which was formerly the Hospital of the Five Wounds.
Meanwhile, some visitors to the English cemetery in Malaga claim to have seen the cemetery’s guardian – the last person buried there – wandering through the gravestones. There have also been reports of people being touched by unseen hands and hearing footsteps and voices.
The existence of ghosts will continue to divide opinion between believers and sceptics, but whatever happens, don’t have nightmares!