Mundane and Paranormal
In the city of Guadalajara Mexico, there is a cemetery located at 684 Belén Street which was established on a piece of land next to the Old Civil Hospital. It was designed by and architect Manuel Gomez Ibarra was commissioned by the Bishop Diego de Aranda Y Carpinteiro. Gomez also rebuilt the towers of the of the Guadalajara Cathedral after they were destroyed by the 1818 earthquake.
Santa Paula cemetery only functioned for the 50 years after it was built, from to 1896, by order of the health authorities. At the time it was built Santa Paula Cemetery, it functioned as the city Cemetery, where the dead of Guadalajara were buried. It has become museum, where visitors spend time walking it well manicured lawns, admire it’s beautiful funerary stature, amazing examples of 19th century pre-revolutionary Mexico.
Santa Paula has been changed over the years, with the common area being turned into the Tower of Medical Specialities for the Hospital (more commonly known as The “Old” Civilian Hospital, owned by the University of Guadalajara). The hospital was built because of the large numbers of epidemics that made it impossible for for the conventional hospitals to provide the levels of medical services necessary for the growing city. In the early 18th century 1737, the Spanish crown asked the Oidor Marqués de Altamira Don Juan Rodríguez de Albuerne, to provide a census of patients at the Betlemitas Hospital. Upon receipt of that information,in 1751, the crown granted permission to relocate the Hospital. King Ferdinand VI asked for a copy of the blueprints and granted funds to build a new Hospital and it just happened to have a handy, dandy cemetery attached. Guadalajara required a new Cemetery outside the populated areas. The gardens closer to the Hospital were used to build the cemetery, that’s which is why the original name was “Panteon de Belen”. It goes without saying that Belen was a cemetery for the rich; the poor one on the other side of the wall was built over long ago.
The crypts of Joseph Johnston and his wife, from Paisley, Scotland, who both died in Guadalajara at the end of the 19th century, are still adorned with messages and candles by people asking for favors.
The Hospital of Belén was inaugurated on May 3, 1793. This ends the mundane white bread history of Santa Paula but of course, this is a paranormal blog, so I will now recount the paranormal history of Panteón de Belén, (Santa Paula).
Now, if this was all there was to the Santa Paula Cemetery, we would stop right here but is one of the world’s more haunted cemeteries and I would be remiss if I didn’t recount aat least a few of the more famous hauntings. You’re free to believe it but there is, as the saying goes, a kernel of truth at the center of every myth and legend.
First, following the Mexican War for Independence, there was a large number & steady of epidemics, punctuated but not restricted to a devastating cholera outbreak of 1833, which killed huge numbers of the population, which had quickly followed the El Ano De Hambre or The Year of Hunger that started in 1785 and lasted through 1786; there were numerous smaller tragedies associated with the Santa Paula cemetery, which, no doubt, accounted for the hauntings.
In fact,are so many creepy ghost stories surrounding Santa Paula that it makes one’s hair stand on end permanently. One that can make your skin crawl chilling is the story of a haunted tree in El Panteon de Belen.
The story goes that a boy named Santiago was suffering from cancer. Doctors did everything they could to restore Santiago to healthy but nothing seemed to be working.
One afternoon,at her wits end, Santiago’s mother came to visit and while he slept, she placed a photo of his favorite saint in his hands..
When Santiago awakened, he was upset as he had lost all faith in God and his trust in her. He became hysterical and despite all attempts by his mother and hospital staff, he wouldn’t be calmed down. Somehow, that evening, unknown to everyone,, Santiago snuck out of the hospital and by the time he was found, hanging from a tree in the cemetery. Apparently, he hung himself using the sheets from his bed. The hospital quickly cut the tree. However, many have said that some evenings, a silhouette of the tree with his body swaying to and fro, will appear.
There’s also the legend of the woman who was buried alive, the mystery of the sailor’s fortune, the appearance of a monk and the most famous one of all: the vampire.
A huge tree grows out of a grave site where a man who the populace had decided was a vampire who was buried…AFTER THEY DROVE A STAKE THROUGH HIS HEART! This was after numerous animals and infants were found dead in and around Guadalajara-BLOODLESS- without ONE drop of blood. A rumor started that the vampire had pale skin and hair and when they found someone matching that rather ambiguous description, they staked him through the heart and buried him under heavy slabs of concrete. Some time later, a tree began to grow from beneath that concrete and it was said that if one peeled the leaves off or cut it’s branches, it would bleed blood.
There was a time when the bodies of animals and infants were found dead all around Guadalajara, but no trace of blood was left behind. It was believed to be the work of a vampire and rumor was that he had light-colored eyes and pale skin. Then people found someone who matched the description and drove a stake through his heart. The next day they buried him under thick slabs of concrete. The city government erected a fence around the tree but the locals believe it was protect the tree, in the belief that should the tree die, the vampire would return to life to pick up where he left off, snacking on unsuspecting late night partiers.
Then, there’s the legend in the Panteón de Belén surrounding the tomb called the Man of the dogs. This man owned many street dogs that followed him around. The man was killed one night and that same night his spirit was seen in a bar that he usually went to. Later, his dogs were heard barking nonstop and it is said that they were sad because their owner was killed. His body was buried in the Panteón de Belén and they say that if you scratch his tomb, you can hear his dogs barking.
Finally, there the Mysterious Monk who has been captured in the photos of recently wed couples by the Capilla de Vejación, at the bottom or in back of the couple you might see the ghost of a monk passing by. In his hand he carries a crucifix. Oddly, when a photo was taken once of a young couple, there were 2 cameras focused on the pair, however, the apparition of the monk was only seen on one of the photos taken.
Some time later, another apparition was spotted by a young couple during a cemetery tour. The girl said she saw something strange pass by out of the corner of her eye. The young man went to check it out in the direction it was headed. As soon as he turned the corner he saw the figure of a monk with his head facing down and watched as the figure disappeared!
Finally, there’s the story of The Lovers. This tomb ostensibly contains the bodies of people are buried here, José María Castaños and Andrea Retes. They were so much in love and planning to be married but Jose’s mother hated the girl because she was from a lower social class.
The two lovers were so upset by José María’s mother’s anger and hatred that they killed themselves. When his mother found out what happened, she almost went crazy from grief and guilt. She owned a plot in this cemetery and begged permission from Andrea’s parents to bury the two lovers together. She had a double cross carved and placed on their tomb as a way of asking for God’s forgiveness.
Still, José María’s mother’s guilt would not leave her in peace. She knew she was the one responsible for the two deaths. Cry though she might, she could not get rid of the pain in her heart. Months later, she decided to take a wreath of flowers to lay on the grave. She draped the wreath over the double cross, just the way a lasso (ceremonial rope symbolizing marital union) is draped over the bride and groom at their wedding.
A sudden silence fell over the cemetery as José María’s mother laid the wreath over the cross. Even the birds stopped singing. In that silent instant, the wreath of beautiful fresh flowers turned to stone, just the way we see them today. And with that sign, José María’s mother finally believed that the two young lovers had forgiven her.
In this cemetery, as in countless others scattered across the globe, there are sad and chilling stories of the restless souls who wander amongst the headstones, mausoleums and graves.