Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there’s nothing quite like a good old ghost story. And while Peru is better known for mummies, mountain spirits and (unfortunately) ancient aliens, it still has its fair share of specters and haunted places.
Here we look at some of the spookiest places in Peru, including haunted hotels in Lima, eerie abandoned houses in Cusco, and a palace that even the former President of Peru says is cursed.
Ghosts of the Gran Hotel Bolívar, Lima
The historic Gran Hotel Bolivar sits proudly on Plaza San Martín in the historic center of Lima. Built in 1924, the hotel has hosted a number of visiting celebrities over the years, including Orson Welles, Ava Gardner, John Wayne, Julio Iglesia, and Santana.
A number of spectral residents have also made a name for themselves by terrifying both employees and guests in the three-star hotel. These include a ghostly woman in white, a long-dead former employee, and the ghost of a woman who had previously thrown herself from one of the hotel windows.
The fifth and six floors of the hotel have apparently been closed to the public for more than a decade due to extreme paranormal activity.
The White Lady of Real Felipe Fortress, Callao
The Real Felipe Fortress in Callao (part of the wider Lima Metropolitan Area) has been a source of ghostly reports for many years. Built in the mid-1700s to protect the port of Callao against pirates, corsairs, and rival nations, the fortress has certainly seen its fair share of battle, blood, and death.
Arguably it’s most famous ghostly resident, however, is not a military figure but a footless female known as the Dama Blanca (White Lady) who appears at midnight at the gate of the Torreón del Rey (King’s Tower). Some say she is the ghost of Micaela Villegas, known as La Perricholi, a woman famous for being both an entertainer and the mistress of Manuel de Amat y Juniet, Viceroy of Peru from 1761 to 1776 and the man who finished the construction of the Real Felipe Fortress.
Other ghostly sightings have included soldiers, prisoners and, more disturbingly, the ghost of a child, said to be about two years old, whose footprints have been seen on the cold stone floor of the fortress.
The Haunted House of Lunahuaná, Cañete Province
Head about 100 miles southeast down the coast from Lima and you’ll find yourself near a small village called Lunahuaná. It’s a charming place, settled in a thin slice of green within the surrounding desert, watered by the Cañete River. Residents of Lima typically head to Lunahuaná for wine and river rafting. Some, however, go to visit La Casa Encantada de Lunahuaná (The Haunted House of Lunahuaná), otherwise known as La Casa Blanca (The White House).
This nondescript house, located on a hillside about 15 minutes outside the village, has a dark past — at least according to local legend. In the 1880s, during the War of the Pacific, Chilean soldiers marched up to the house, breaking in and massacring the owner and his family (the owner is said to have been Peruvian, or perhaps of Italian descent).
Years later, the man’s granddaughter moved into the house with her family, but they were soon disturbed by the sounds of burning carts, drowning horses, and the screams of men, women, and children. The family fled and never returned. Later still, the house was purchased with the aim of converting it into a hotel, but the project was soon abandoned and the place left deserted once again.
Many more stories followed, including one tale of a group of teens from Lima who had come to camp in the area. Seeing lights and hearing music coming from the house, they went to investigate, hoping to join in on the festivities. Upon entering, however, the sounds stopped and the lights disappeared, leaving only a chill feeling and an overriding sense of dread. One of the youngsters turned and ran, running directly across the nearby road where he was hit and killed by a passing vehicle.
The Ghosts and Goblins of the Government Palace, Lima
Former President of Peru Alan García is on record stating that Lima’s historic Government Palace is home to at least one supernatural entity.
In 2011, during the final months of his presidency, García claimed that “strange things” were happening in the palace. In an interview for the program La Noche es Mía, García told a reporter:
“At three in the morning there is a friend from centuries ago who usually wanders the palace, especially the second floor. A governor, someone who was executed.”
He also said that many palace employees reported the presence of a "duende" —an elf or goblin — in the palace garage. Apparently, some of these employees sought assistance due to nervous breakdowns following encounters with this creepy creature.
The Sinister House on Saphi Street, Cusco
Just a few blocks from Cusco’s historic Plaza de Armas stands an abandoned house with a dark history. The largely unfinished three-floor house on Saphi Street has been abandoned for more than 70 years, save for those who use it as temporary shelter.
According to local legend, a jealous man beat his lover to death in this very building many years ago. Other stories say that a large family once lived in the house and that one morning they were all found dead inside with no apparent cause or explanation.
Ever since people have heard strange cries and noises emanating from the building, and nearby residents are afraid to even approach let alone enter the house on Saphi Street. Of those that have entered the building over the last few decades, few have remained for long due to intense feelings of unease or outright fear.
Events surrounding the house on Saphi Street took an even darker turn in 2013. Previously, in November 2012 in the Valparaiso Region of Chile, a 36-year-old Chilean cult leader named Ramon Castillo was accused in the ritual killing of a 3-day-old boy. The child, believed to have been Castillo’s son, was thrown onto a bonfire because Castillo and his followers thought the child was the antichrist.
Having fled from Chilean authorities, Castillo was later found dead in the city of Cusco — hanging from a beam in the house on Saphi Street. Some local residents say it was the house itself that forced Castillo — a man who considered himself God —to take his own life as punishment for his grisly crimes.
The Macabre History of the Casa Matusita, Lima
The Casa Matusita is an innocuous-looking two-floor building at the intersection of Av. Garcilaso de la Vega and España in central Lima, about 10 blocks southwest of the Plaza de Armas. The first floor contains a Mi Banco branch, but the second floor is basically sealed, secured and off-limits to all but the bravest paranormal investigators and the occasional TV crew looking for a fun story.
Two tales exist to explain the origins of this most haunted of places. The first tells of a Japanese-Peruvian man who, upon entering the second-floor bedroom, found his wife in bed with another man. Enraged, he stabbed his wife and her lover to death with a kitchen knife. Some accounts state that he then butchered his two children when they returned home to the school that same day.
The alternative story is significantly different. In this version, two servants sought revenge on their abusive employee and his family. During a large family lunch, they laced the food with a powerful hallucinogen in order to scare the gathered diners. Retreating to the kitchen, the two servants waited for the drugs to take effect. They soon heard a commotion from the dining room. Satisfied that their plan had worked, they went to admire the scene, only to discover blood splattered all over the dining table and walls, and the mutilated corpses of the family, so crazed by the drugs that they had torn each other to pieces.
Some skeptics argue that the U.S. Government invented the ghost stories during the 1950s or 1960s, supposedly to help protect the U.S. Embassy located next door to the Casa Matusita. The diplomats working at the embassy were concerned about spies operating from the adjacent building, and so concocted the terrifying tale to scare off eavesdropping enemy agents.
The Casa Matusita, however, continued to create new stories — and new victims — long after the original events. There are numerous tales of TV reporters and psychic investigators fleeing from the building, some screaming and foaming at the mouth, others permanently traumatized and unwilling to talk about their experiences.
A Hollywood horror movie based on events at the Casa Matusita is currently in pre-production. "The Mystery of Casa Matusita," starring Malcolm McDowell, Skeet Ulrich, and Bruce Davison.