Haunted destinations: The spooky side of South America


Haunted destinations: The spooky side of South America

haunted cemetery, Latin America For LessPhoto by Farm8/ Flickr

The end of October and first days of November have gained cultural significance around the world as a particularly creepy time of the year: the macabre holiday of Halloween is celebrated on October 31 , while in many countries All Saint’s Day or Day of the Dead, takes center stage on November 1.  To compliment this cluster of spooky days, here are some haunting tales from Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

Peru: The Vampire of Pisco

Pisco, a small town about 3.5 hours south of Peru’s capital city of Lima, is known as the home of the country’s national liquor of the same name.  For all the region’s picturesque vineyards and charming weekend resorts, who knew Pisco holds the chilling myth of a vampire in its history?

According to legend, an English woman by the name of Sarah Ellen Roberts was executed after being charged as a witch, vampire and murderer.  In an elaboration of the story, Sarah was said to be one of Dracula’s three brides.  After her death, the Church of England refused her burial in consecrated ground, so her husband, John Roberts, traveled the world trying to find a destination to bury his wife.  The small Peruvian town of Pisco was the only place to accept her body.

Sarah swore before her death in 1913 that she would rise from the dead and take vengeance in 80 years. But nothing out of the ordinary happened in Pisco when 1993 rolled around.  However, a deadly earthquake shook the town in 2007 and her grave was one of the only tombs that was mysteriously left untouched. Til this day citizens claim to see a ghostly woman wander the town’s dusty streets at night. So when you go to Pisco for the famous drink, don’t forget to look for the Vampire of Pisco!

sarah_ellen, Pisco Vampire, Latin America For LessPhoto from Historias y Replatos

Brazil: An Amazon Shapeshifting Monster

The Amazon rainforest in Brazil is a place of unique ecological diversity.  Travelers can take a leisure cruise down the mighty Amazon River, enjoy the serenades of exotic birds at a jungle lodge, and even catch glimpses of some of the world’s most fascinating wildlife in their natural habitats.  But, the mythical Brazilian encantado – a name that roughly translates to the “enchanted one”- is a creature that you don’t want to encounter.

These mysterious monsters are believed to live deep within the Amazon waters and take the shape of dolphins or sea snakes. Lured by the dancing at local festivities, an encantado morphs into a seductive human-like figure whose superior musical talent and beauty is irresistible to their unsuspecting human prey. Once bewitched under the spell of the encantado, the victim is kidnapped and never seen again.

These supernatural shapeshifters are frequently sighted and jungle residents have been known to avoid walking near the riverbanks at night in fear of encountering an encantado. While taking an evening stroll along the Amazon river might sound dreamy, legend says to be wary of the terrifying shapeshifters that could hypnotize you to a point of no return!

Amazon Dolphin, Latin America For LessTaking the form of a dolphin,  the Amazon encantado changes shape to lure its unsuspecting victims.
Photo by Kevin Schafer

Argentina: The Ghost of a Young Buenos Aires Socialite

The Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires is the red carpet for Argentina’s deceased.  Today visitors can check out the graves of notable people, such as Eva Peron, Nobel Prize winners and former presidents of Argentina.  Among Recoleta´s endless rows of marble mausoleums and crucifixes is the grave of Rufina Cambaceres, a young girl that is said to be buried alive.

Rufina was born into a wealthy family and enjoyed the life as a Buenos Aires socialite, which came to a tragic end in 1902 when she suddenly collapsed. As the legend goes, all three doctors pronounced Rufina dead at the age of 19.  Her body was placed in a coffin and sealed in her mausoleum.

A few days after Rufina’s funeral a cemetery worker noticed that her coffin had been moved within the crypt and the lid was broken in several places. When he opened the coffin he found several scratch marks inside.  Having been mistakenly pronounced dead, young Rufina woke up in her coffin and tried to break free, but eventually suffocated to death.

Rufina’s heartbroken father rebuilt her grave to portray his daughter opening the doors to her own grave, which people can visit at Recoleta Cemetery. At night the gruesome shadow of her former self wanders around the cemetery and unearths dead bodies to ensure they haven’t suffered the same ugly fate.

Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Latin America For LessRufina Cambaceres met a tragic fate in 1902 and now her ghost haunts the Recoleta Cemetery.
Photo by Thiago Souto/Flickr

Chile: Living in a Ghost Town

Chile´s Andean region attracts outdoor adventurist from around the world, the the abandoned town of La Noria in the country’s northern desert region has become a place of interest for ghost-story junkies.

During the 19th century, La Noria was a mining town fueled by slave labor.  The town has since been deserted, but witnesses today claim to see ghosts of slaves wandering through the town’s decrepit cemetery.  Chileans believe the spirits are from the countless number of open graves and exposed skeletal remains of the slaves that died horrible deaths and now continue to haunt the area.

If you’re looking for a place to shock up your trip to Chile, then the horrifying graveyard of La Noria will certainly leave a memorable mark on your South American adventure. Ghosts wander the overturned graves of this abandoned Chilean town.

Chili graveyard, Latin America For LessPhoto from The Ghost Diaries

As the end of October approaches, consider sharing these South American tales of horror with your friends around the campfire.  Then check out these haunted destinations for yourself!

Tour some of South America’s spookiest places

Latin America For Less specializes in organizing tours to destinations throughout South America. Contact us to start planning your own vacation.


About Author

Britt is addicted to the spontaneous nature of travel and personal growth it inspires. She bought a one-way ticket to South America in 2012, starting her journey in Argentina and slowly traveled north through Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. Unable to shake her addiction of Latin America, she now happily calls Peru home.

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