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Hunting for Ghosts in Costa Rica, the Finca Sanatorio Durán

About an hour outside of San Jose, lies the most haunted building in Costa Rica, the Finca Sanatorio Durán.

History of Sanatorio Durán

The Finca Sanatorio Durán, translated as the Duran Sanatorium Estate, was named after the primary doctor and founder, Carlos Durán Cartín. The hospital was created in the early 1900s as a tuberculosis ward, a disease that Durán’s own daughter had been suffering from. As time went on, the hospital began accepting patients with other ailments including leprosy and mental illness. The Sisters of the Charity of Santa Ana came to the sanitarium to assist the doctor in caring for the growing number of patients.

By the 1960s, larger and more advanced hospitals were established. With the threat of tuberculosis waning and the mentally ill patients transferring to better-equipped hospitals, Sanatorio Durán shut down.

We were told that after the hospital closed down, the building was used as an orphanage and a prison for a short period of time. A large-scale eruption by the neighboring Irazu volcano caused irreparable damage to the building, and it was permanently closed in 1973.

 Sanatorio Durán today

We visited the Sanatorio ruins on a warm and sunny day. You thought we went at night? Yea right! After paying our nominal entrance fee, we were free to wander about as we pleased.

The Sanatorio is enormous. The west wing consists of a chapel and hospital ward. The east wing was the children’s ward which I assume later became the orphanage. Connecting the two wings is a long and unnerving hallway filled with the handprints of children. A few feet outside of the main hospital is another large building which was used for staff housing and administrative purposes. Perched on a small hill behind the Sanatorio remains the home of Dr. Durán and his daughter, where he would keep a watch over the property and residents.

Everywhere you looked, the walls were covered in graffiti. However, between people’s markings you can actually observe some interesting layers of chipped paint. (“Ooooh sounds fun” is what I hear you saying.)

Chipped Paint Sanatario Duran
Chipped Paint

The paint had chipped off of the walls to the point where you could see layer after layer of different paint colors. I saw the inner most layer and imagined that this sea-foam green must have been the color of the walls that Durán’s daughter saw when she was first a patient here. Then there was a cream color painted over the green. Perhaps this was a decade later with new patients suffering from a new ailment.  Finally a layer of white was used to cover all the paint and history that came before it, as it transitioned into an orphanage and prison. I don’t know why, but this mesmerized me as if I was peeking into a cross-sectional time capsule. (See, that was pretty interesting.)

Related Content: “The Largest Treehouse in the World: Remembering the Minister’s Treehouse”

The “Residents” of Sanatorio Duran

The sanatorio was a tuberculosis/leprosy ward and asylum, turned orphanage and prison. That has all of the makings of a horror movie wrapped into one. Unsurprisingly, this location has come to be known as the most haunted building in Costa Rica due to the frequent paranormal sightings. Among those rumored to still reside in the sanatorio are a little girl who plays on the upper-floor balcony, a nurse who wonders the west wing, and Dr. Durán’s own daughter who has been seen sitting on the steps of her old home.

The volume of sightings attracted the attention of the show Ghost Hunters International, who featured Sanitorio Duran in a later episode.

Do you dare visit the Finca Sanatorio Durán?

Things to know before you visit:

Cost: 1200 colones (about $2 USD)

Hours: 8am – 4pm (we heard rumors that some people spend the night, so feel free to explore that option if you are a scare junkie.)

Location: Sanatorio Dr. Carlos Durán, 219, Provincia de Cartago, Costa Rica

Planning a trip to Costa Rica? Check out our list of the “Best Adventures, Activities, and Attractions in La Fortuna”

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Cecilia is a bubbly Filipino-American with an affinity for constant change...that or a 10 second attention span. Refusing to sit still, she travels the world, in pursuit of adventure, excitement and meaningful experiences. She holds a Masters degree in International Development and Public Policy, and a BA in Business Management.

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