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San Lucas Prison

San Lucas Prison




Location: Province of Puntarenas, San Lucas Island (Isla San Lucas)  Map

Active: 1873 to 1991



Beltrán Dalay Cortés Carvajal (1908-1984)

Most Haunted Places in the World




Description of San Lucas Prison

San Luca Prison is located on a San Lucas Island (Isla San Lucas) in Province of Puntarenas of Costa Rica. Before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors the island was believed to be sacred by the local Chara people. Located at a distance of only 1 mile from the mainland Costa Rica they brought here their offerings to the gods and performed their rituals. Once the Europeans arrived pagan traditions were ceased. One of the Spanish officers Gonzalo Fernandez Oviedo ordered first concentration camp erected here for the native population. Many died fro567m sickness and hunger, others were killed by the Spaniards that dispensed from their enemies quickly and brutally.


San Lucas Island gained negative fame from all the injustices committed and lay largely abandoned until the construction of San Lucan Prison in the late 19th century. The location was perfect. Even if the person dared to escape from the Island he had virtually no chance of making it to the shores of mainland Costa Rica. You either drowned in strong currents or guards would chase you. As far as historians know only two prisoners were unaccounted for in its long history. We don't know what happened to them. Neither police nor families ever saw these two men who just disappeared from the island one night.

Prison was active from 1873 to 1991 and housed many prisoners who got here either for committing a violent act or opposed government injustices. Original structure was created by dictator Tomás Guardia Gutiérrez who also abolished the death sentence in the country a year later. However sending people here became a punishment that was not much better than a firing squad. Many succumbed to diseases that are common in these jungles. Other became victims of other inmates.


Holding cells of San Lucas prison hold a gruesome fame. These were cells for convicts that just arrived to the island. Theoretically this was a shot stay before transferring to the main prison cells. It didn't always work this way. Small rooms housed many people who could barely find a place to sit. Their food and water rations were scarce. One of the prisoners died on a second day from an apparent heart attack. Inmates preferred to use his ration of food and live with a decomposing body rather than give it away to the guards. Eventually the stench became so horrible that the presence of the dead body became evident.

The island is famous as a prison that housed José León Sánchez who later wrote his book "La Isla de Hombres Solos" ("The Island of Lonely Men" in English). It was inspired by personal experience here. Another famous prisoner was Beltrán Dalay Cortés Carvajal who got his fame after killing Carlos Manuel Echandi Lahmann and Ricardo Moreno Cañas. Both surgeons were responsible for unsuccessful operations on his humerus.


Carlos Manuel Echandi Lahmann (1900- 38)

Haunting in San Lucas

San Lucas prison has a long history of tortures and violence. Inmates were beaten, killed, and humiliated by the guards or by other inmates. In fact the average life expectancy on the island was about five years. Many succumbed to harsh conditions of prison life, while others died from tropical diseases and infections that were largely left untreated. A common punishment of shackles here turned into torture since many of the prisoners would develop gangrene. Their limbs would subsequently amputated. A fairly common place for apparitions is the structure called "The Disk". It is actually a water collecting cistern that was used as a solitary confinement for the inmates that broke any of the prison's rules. People report sudden drop of energy, disembodied voices and other strange occurrences.

San Lucas Prison

One of the most haunted place is the church of the San Lucas Prison. One of the priests stationed here was killed by the inmate who claimed to have spoken to the evil spirits. Today some people report ghostly figure that walks, prays or gazes at the guests of the island. Other heard threatening voices insult people promising them death and despair.


Church where a priest was murdered

San Lucas Prison 

Inside a prison cell. Each room housed about 20 to 30 prisoners per cell. Most of the walls are covered by the graffiti of religious, pornographic and other themes.


Another story states that a nurse who worked on the island was kidnapped by the prisoners. She was dragged to the cell where she was raped by five men. Subsequently they killed her by beating her to death. The legend states that the blood of the murdered woman was used to draw a picture of a woman (see below). Some eyewitnesses heart women's screams, pleas for help and words spoken to them when they visited the site where this gruesome murder and rape occurred.

 San Lucas Prison

Graffiti in prison cell. Picture of the nurse on the right is that of a woman who is said to be raped by 5 men and subsequently killed. The legend goes that some of her blood was used to draw the picture.














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