IT was one of Spain’s most sought-after hotels.
Elites from across Spain came to relax in its hot springs and dine upon plush carpets beneath shimmering chandeliers.
During the day, bathers splashed and sculled in the sculpted pools, while at nightime billiard balls cracked among the velvet-upholstered armchairs.
Even the King and Queen of Spain visited the 19th century Hotel Miramar in a sleepy village in the hills near Villajoyosa on the Costa Blanca.
But now the Preventorio Aguas de Busot, as it became known, is remembered for something else: souls of the dead.
The legendary mirror that once reflected the rich and famous has become the abode of the haunting ‘White Lady’, who when laughs brings good omens, and when cries brings death swiftly in her wake.
Disembodied voices have been heard cackling through the broken floorboards while apparitions wander the grounds where many are rumoured to have ended their troubled lives.
The paranormal pull of the Preventorio stems from the period during and after the Spanish Civil War when the hotel was converted into a tuberculosis sanatorium.
Up until 1965, sick children from across Spain were taken to Aguas de Busot where nuns were rumoured to sew shut the mouths of children who talked after lights-out, and force the disobedient to clean their shoes with their tongues.
Though only three deaths were ever recorded at the Preventorio – one of which concerned a nurse burned alive by a brazier – numerous paranormal TV shows have reimagined the Preventorio’s past.
In a RTVE Cazando Fantasmas broadcast from 2011, Spanish medium Ángeles Cánovas stalks the grounds hearing the ‘cries’ and ‘screams’ of children who perished in the throes of the ‘white plague’.
In 2002, renowned ghost hunter Pedro Amoros made the Preventorio a national name when he published a photo showing the spectre of a monk cradling a baby on the staircase.
And it was these stories that inspired Swedish occult artist Czon to come, to talk to the spirits, and paste spine-tingling images across the walls of one of the most-haunted rooms in the abandoned building.
“The first time I came to the Preventorio, it was a dark night in the twilight zone, and I was lucky to meet the White Lady,” the artist, who wears a skull mask to hide his identity, told the Olive Press from Sweden.
“She appeared to me, telling me a former hotel owner gambled with the devil, and lost both the hotel and her.
“The owner was kicked out. Meanwhile she died alone, fragile and scared.
Her body is still there, somewhere, and she will haunt it until the Preventorio is brought back to its former glory.”
Czon told the Olive Press how, returning to Sweden after exhibiting in Murcia last month, the White Lady came to him again in a dream, begging him to put the Preventorio back into the minds of the nation.
And if the exhibition does one thing, it certainly stays in the mind.
“The sensation of visiting a haunted building will follow you home,” captions one image of a woman surrounded by ghostly apparitions, plasted on the wall at the bottom of a multi storey staircase.
Another image shows someone impersonating the White Lady in a dress outside the Preventorio.
Others tell the stories of legendary ghosts all up and down the Iberian peninsula.
But the images are just part of a much more terrifying exhibition.
Spatterings of graffiti, no doubt from local kids over the last few decades, are scrawled all over every ruined wall.
They read messages such as ‘don’t look in mirrors’, ‘death will catch you’ and ‘welcome’ next to distorted faces and upside down crosses.
A ouija board covers the wall of a basement room, while ‘don’t go up the stairs’ greets intrepid visitors journeying to the second and third floors.
In these circumstances, everything becomes a threat.
Pigeons scraping on the tin roof become the claws of an awoken skeleton; the wind whispers malevolent messages.
Czon’s images seem to lurk in the shadows behind every ruined shutter.
The question that keeps returning is: do you believe?
Moving around the Preventorio, the lines between imagination and reality seem to become as thin as the alleged veil between the living and the dead.
The notorious artist’s work seems to draw you into a wider exhibition in which you become a part of – the goosebumps you feel and the noises you hear all become the evolving story.
Finally leaving its enchanted grounds, you ask yourself if it was really a ghost? Or just a genius act of creativity?
What’s clear is that so long as the building remains abandoned, neither of the two will rest.
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