Mysteries of the Recoleta Cemetery, a compilation of the most horrifying legends and stories of this famous Buenos Aires cemetery.
Unlike other establishments of this nature, the Recoleta Cemetery is not dark or hostile as you might imagine. On the contrary, you are going to find yourself on a pleasant, curious and even interesting tour, as if you were visiting an open-air art museum.
Undoubtedly, you will be dazzled by the style and magnitude of the mausoleums that make up this mini city, streets, domes, sculptures, nooks and thousands of details with their history behind.
It is a unique place that could not have been built in another era. At that time, the treatment of the dead was high society, especially in the case of the most important families. Thus, it was that it became a neighborhood in itself, as exclusive as the one that surrounds it and gives it its name: Recoleta.
One of the most famous cemeteries in the world, where the wealthiest families in Buenos Aires established their inns for the moment of going to the afterlife. Here, rest more than 20 presidents of the Nation, famous businessmen, important political leaders, heroes and renowned personalities.
Approximately, there are a total of 4,900 tombs, of which 90 were declared a National Historic Monument, as well as the Cemetery itself since 1946. In this way, it ended up becoming an important tourist attraction. The most visited tombs are those of Eva Perón and that of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, who designed his own deathbed.
Like any place of attraction, you will find many different stories. Some you will find creepy, others more subtle and still others a little more tragicomic.
Now, let’s see the mysteries that this cemetery keeps:
The Lady in White
The daughter of a famous Argentine dramatist, Luz María García Velloso is the one who has her grave meters from the entrance to the Cemetery. She died at the age of 17 from premature leukemia that consumed her in a short time.
The legend says that a man found a girl who was crying inconsolably around the cemetery. Immediately afterwards, he offered her his jacket and took her to have a coffee at “La Biela” which at that time was called “La Veredita”. After spending a moment together, the man kissed her and she fled desperately saying that she had to go. Getting up, she spilled coffee on the boy’s jacket. He ran after her, looking for her in the dark until he reached the Cemetery that had the door closed. The night watchman, without understanding what had happened, told the man that no one had entered the cemetery, because the door was closed. He insisted until he was able to enter, he searched for her in the cemetery until he found her stained sack on top of one of the graves. Picking it up, he discovered that there lay the remains of the beautiful girl he had kissed a few moments ago.
The Eternal Watchman
David Alleno worked in the Cemetery since he was 11 years old, in 1881. In addition to being happy with his work, he envied the imposing mausoleums that were in his care, quite far from his humble budget. But, a stroke of luck changed this situation, since in 1910 his brother won the lottery and distributed it among the family. David immediately traveled to Genoa to commission his own tombstone with a statue depicting him with his work tools.
Upon returning to Buenos Aires, he purchased a plot of land in the famous Recoleta Cemetery and resigned from his job as a night watchman. As the story goes, David committed suicide that same year, only 25 years old and drinking poison. It is said that even today, he is heard working on his own tombstone for not having been satisfied with its structure!
It is not yet known if this was a myth or if the story behind the death of Rufina Cambaceres is real. Daughter of Eugenio Cambaceres, renowned writer, politician and lawyer who died in 1888. Luisa Bacichi, Eugenio’s widow, was the mother of Rufina and lover of Hipólito Yrigoyen (twice President of the Nation and his remains also rest in the Cemetery ).
When Rufina turned 19, the maid found her body without a pulse or breathing thrown in her room. The doctors declared that it had been a cardiac syncope, and she was buried in 1902 in the Cemetery. Days later, when his mother went to leave flowers at his grave, she found his drawer with the lid broken and corroded. Due to this fact, her mother fervently believed that her daughter had been buried alive with a fit of catalepsy, a state that leaves the body in a coma but conscious.
You will recognize her mausoleum by the statue of Rufina with her right hand on the tomb handle, as if she wanted to open it.
The Governors Curse
There were only 3 governors who died while in charge of the Argentine Government: José Inocencio Arias was the first to perish in September 1912. Later, the lieutenant governor Ezequiel de la Serna took office, who could not complete his mandate since he died in March 1913 , for which Juan Manuel León Ortiz de Rosas took office in July to die 2 months later. The three rest in the same Recoleta Cemetery.
Finally, Lieutenant Governor Luis García was the one who broke this streak and was able to complete the term of José Inocencio Arias, whose period was from 1910 to 1914.
Evita and her turns
Although Eva Duarte de Perón died on July 26, 1952 from cancer, it took her more than 24 years to rest in peace.
When the Liberating Revolution overthrew the Government of her husband Juan Domingo Perón, they ordered the kidnapping of Evita’s embalmed body, which was exposed for 3 years in the CGT. Her corpse traveled around the city in a truck for several months, then went to a warehouse until it was displayed in a colonel’s office. In 1957, it was resolved to send the body by ship to the Italian port of Genoa and bury it under a false name in the Milan Cemetery.
15 years passed and no one knew his whereabouts. Lanusse, who had carried out the process, organized the Return Operation in 1971 to return Evita’s body to Perón in Madrid, a place where he was in exile. Perón died in 1974 and the remains of Evita were still in Madrid despite the fact that Perón had returned to be president of Argentina in 1973.
The Montoneros organization demanded the return of Eva’s body to Argentina, so that, at the end of 1974, the mummified body was located in the presidential villa in Olivos while the altar of the homeland was being built. The 1976 coup stopped the project and the military dictatorship returned Eva’s body to the Duarte family, who managed to bury her in the Recoleta family vault inside a double-steel vault in its second basement.
Since then, it is the crypt that has the most visitors. Here we tell you more details about the life of Eva Duarte de Perón and in this link you will find information about her grave.
Gath, Cháves and the comic
The fear generated by Rufina’s story lasted a long time. That fear of waking up in a coffin by mistake made Alfredo Gath a little paranoid.
One of the most important and famous places in the city was called Gath and Cháves, two united businessmen. Cháves died in 1932 and was buried in the Recoleta Cemetery in a vault built for him, a few steps from the entrance. Knowing that his time would soon come, Gath was overwhelmed by the thought of being buried alive without being able to get out. At that time, catalepsy attacks were quite common.
For this very reason, he made an engineer design a whole system to guarantee that if he was not dead, he could escape from the coffin. As a consequence, a triple coffin was created, with a complex hydraulic mechanism that was connected to the door and the bell tower that the vault had. Gath tried the mechanism 12 times: he buried himself, they locked him up, he tried the mechanism and managed to get out. Unfortunately, the 13th time no one activated the mechanism.
Lilian and Sabú
This is the story of a woman who perished during her honeymoon. Lilian, Argentine from an Italian family, plastic artist and wife of Juan Szaszak.
During her honeymoon, in the city of Innsbruck, Australia, she was the victim of an avalanche that destroyed the part of the hotel where she was staying. Suffocated by snow, she lost her life at the age of 26. In parallel, but in the city of Buenos Aires, at that same moment, her dog Sabú also lost his life.
For this reason, its vault has a sculpture of Lilian and Sabú in memory of both. According to the popular voice, touching Sabú’s nose brings luck!
To delve deeper into the stories of the Cemetery and its history, we recommend you join our Tour here.
We invite you to join our Free Tours around Buenos Aires here, to continue getting to know this beautiful city even more!