The Ghost of La Laguna

Speaking of ghosts could just be a way to catch the reader’s attention however, “There’s no such thing as ghosts…..”  Well that’s what some folk say and while people may be reluctant to say they have seen a spectre in case they are thought to be losing their mind I suspected Tenerife is no different to anywhere else, although for some reason nobody here talks about ghosts – well they didn´t until Marc Craig came along with his articles in Tenerife Weekly which got us all thinking there could be a lot more to it than we originally thought.

Although there isn’t much detail the most famous ghost on the island is Catherine Lercaro who is said to haunt the Museum of History and Anthropology of Tenerife.

Casa Lercaro was once a fine mansion built in 1593 by Francisco Lercaro de León, Lieutenant General of Tenerife.  Over the centuries the house was expanded and put to various uses.  In the 1940s it was used by the military, it then became part of the University of La Laguna housing the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters and in the 1970s it was acquired by the Council who carried out much needed restoration.  In 1993 the house became the museum and still retains the coat of arms of the original owner and in the courtyard there is a well that has been capped.

The story I want to tell though dates back to the 16th century when the wealthy Genoese merchants family named Lercaro, settled in Tenerife after the Spanish conquest.  Catalina or Catherine as we know her in English was the daughter of the much respected Antonio Lercaro.  In those days people hardly ever married because they were in love.  Marriages were generally orchestrated for gain or some sort of strategic purpose.  Catherine’s marriage was a case in point. Her father had arranged for her to marry an elderly man who enjoyed a good position in La Laguna and was also very wealthy.  Desperately unhappy at being forced into this marriage of convenience Catherine felt that there was no way out.  On the day of her wedding she chose to end her life by throwing herself into the well in the mansion grounds.

Following the shame of the non-wedding, Catherine’s subsequent suicide and the church’s refusal to let her have a Christian burial in consecrated ground the story goes that her family hid her remains in the house, boarded up the well and moved to La Orotava.

The city of La Laguna is characterised for its stories and legends so naturally it is thought that Catherine’s spirit still haunts the museum.  Many people claim to have seen her and heard mysterious footsteps walking through the halls of the museum. The sound of footsteps is said to always take place at the top of the house, between Section VI in the museum to where there is a cabinet that houses an image of Christ.

It would appear things always happen when someone new starts work at the museum. Now whether this is employees playing ticks or the tormented soul of Catherine it is hard to say, but if not the former then what is the explanation for a museum worker who left a glass on one of the tables, when she returned the glass was broken into pieces. Or the ghostly form of a young woman that many say appears like a white cloud then fades away.  Or the experience of workmen in the museum who swear to have seen a girl watching them yet they were alone since the museum was closed to the public.

If there are such things as ghosts, and I really don’t know, it would be nice to think that one day Catherine’s troubled spirit can be laid to rest.

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