Saturday, December 28, 2013

San Lucas Island - San Lucas Prison (Costa Rica)

Ok, last post about Costa Rica (until I go back)

Soooo....while we were staying at La Carolina Lodge, we asked the other guests (expats living in Playa Langosta) if there was anything that they recommended we check out while we were in the country, and they told us about an old, creepy, abandoned prison out on San Luca Island in the Gulf of Nicoya.

Apparently, the prison used to house the most violent criminals in Costa Rica, and now it's allegedly haunted by ghosts of people who were murdered there (prisoners, a priest, and a nurse who was, according to the stories, raped and murdered by five men who used her blood to paint a picture of her on the wall when they were done)

I had to read more about it after our visit, and this is what I found out:

The prison was built in 1873 by dictator Tomás Miguel Guardia Gutiérre, with the intention of hiding away the most dangerous criminals in the country - rapists, murderers... those kinds of guys. (Although one website I found says that boys as young as 14 years old were sentenced there for crimes as petty as robbery... so I'm not sure what to believe)

It sounds as though being sentenced to serve your time there was pretty much the equivalent to receiving the death penalty, since many prisoners ended up dying there. Living conditions were horrible - the cells each held anywhere from 60 to 100 prisoners at a time, and everyone wore a ball and chain around their ankle, which would sometimes cause skin infections, and there are stories about inmates serving their entire sentences in underground solitary confinement cells (which I didn't see, damnit)

I can't find any information about why the prison shut down, but it's been closed since the early 90's.

I've been searching for a book about life in the prison that was written by a guy named José León Sánchez (who served 30 years there for a robbery he claims he didn't commit) called La Isla de Hombres Solos (the island of lonely men - also known, in English, as God was looking the other way) but it's out of print and the cheapest copy I can find is on Amazon for $98.98. Feel free to buy it for me. 

Anyway, here's  what I did see while visiting...

The dock:

A pretty, tree lined pathway

A cement bench and old pay phone area

A bone on the pathway...

The church:

The old kitchen, where the prisons would steal knives from to stab each other:

The courtyard area, surrounded by cells with the underground water tank in the middle:

The jungle taking over:

A random brick in the grass:

Lots of graffiti (some drawn with what is clearly blood) most of which I can't understand since I don't read/speak Spanish:

There was also a bunch of old stuff laying around- typewriters, sewing machines, bikes, and tools...

After we toured the prison we followed a trail leading into the jungle and saw a sign for a beach that we never found (we walked for at least 45 minutes looking for it) 

We didn't see the cemetery, either (I didn't know there was one until after reading about it - totally bummed) but we did pass a few more run down shacks and a bunch of spider webs..

Welp.... that's pretty much it. I really want that book that I mentioned (God was looking the other way) so go ahead and email me for my address once you buy it for me, and maybe it'll give me some clues as to where to look for the underground holding cells and cemetery the next time I go for a visit. 

I'll leave you with some random pics of the 45 minute boat ride over from the mainland....