The Broken Hearted Ghosts of Calle San Luis
In a densely populated city, among the winding Arab streets of Seville, there is a row of white washed buildings. Small arched doorways, and uneven walls marked by the traditional magenta paint that skirts the foot of the house where it meets the cobbled street.
People have lived in this street for centuries. They have worked and prayed, seen tough times and survived, they have been born and have grown up, married, left to build new homes, but never lost touch with the family. Seville family traditions serve as the story arc that many Sevillanos feel compelled to follow throughout their lives.
In Seville’s calle San Luis, the people stay, they live, and they die in these small houses.
Traditions and Superstitions of Sevilla
Catholics to the core, the church helps define the values that many Sevillanos live by. Traditions, and superstitions, all mix well together, as Catholic thought and gypsy lore permeate the thought processes of Sevillanos. La Macarena, the Virgin de Esperanza, an area with more churches than bars — and there are many bars, is populated by the ghosts of the past. Real ghosts.
Avoid these Streets and Keep your Sanity
The type of ghosts that only come out when it’s dark, they stroll along narrow streets where street lights flicker, unusually large moths flutter and gather close to the lamps hanging above the doorways. Some of the locals intentionally avoid walking along Calle San Luis. It’s better to not push your luck, even if you don’t believe in ghosts.
In the district of Macarena, a shout from calle San Luis, a part of Seville where old traditions like Flamenco are still proudly protected, mid-afternoon tapas are served while meeting friends and neighbours, gossip, business, the latest family news is swapped in cafes, loud voices competing with the gushing and spitting of a coffee machine, in the bright sun, nobody talks of ghosts, they discuss politics, music, and the latest World events that have changed everybody’s lives. Ghosts are a part of the mind that only fit night thoughts, lonely thoughts, the type of thoughts that creep in, unnoticed.
Ghosts can slide into the realm of a lonely thinker. Even a group of voices, happily enjoying the cheer of a summer evening can be reminded of the house across the street, the haunted one, the house that causes the speaker to pause for a moment. Tongues click and fingers cross to protect against the resonance of chilling events that are summoned through the spoken word.
Ghosts with Broken Hearts
The broken hearted lover that wanders along calle San Luis is forever doomed to pine for his lost love, so long as he is feared and spoken about. His aching heart is enlivened by the faltering steps of a late night drinker who suddenly realises which street they find themselves in, too late to turn back, the plaza at the end of the street gets closer with every step, but the shadow of the ghost of calle San Luis is seen in every doorway, seeking his lost love.
What terrible torment led to his death is always told in twisted tales of confusion — stories as confused as he was, a soul cast to the shadows to forever search until his desire for love is quenched. Maybe, he wanders in hope of redemption.
The Virgin Esperanza watches over these streets, but she never sees the ghost of the heart broken lover, she wanders in the world of pure hearts, she avoids the shadows.
In the darkness of the lonely street, a light wind hums through the eves, and the late night straggler shuffles over the cobbled stones, passes a gaping dark window, the gentle tinkle of small bells can be heard, but not located.
A low set street lamp illuminates the cobbled ground, expanding the dark shadows around it. A perspex shroud protects the bright light inside, moths clammer to its surface, teasing the black darting lizards trapped in the illuminated cavity.
The straggler’s mind is invaded by thoughts of another world. The heavy wine , the dim lights, dark windows and the wind that carries a faint voice, it fills the mind with chilled thoughts of another world. Somewhere in front, or to the side, or just somewhere, the mind knows there is a doorway unseen.
The plaza at the end of calle San Luis becomes a small square, a tiny dim light in the distance.
The straggler sees movements and hears sudden distant noises, “was that a gunshot?” He is compelled to think of the many neighbours who have lived here, their stories, all of them told with conviction, protecting themselves by dashing the sign of a cross in the air.
The walls darken around the tired figure who stumbled into this street. His mind filled with dread. All of it nonsense, but the fragments of stories, sightings and unexplained happenings weigh heavily against his common sense.
There is so much nonsense spoken about the ghosts in calle San Luis, that it must be true by now.
Ghosts of the Others
He passes the place where the infamous plot of land, much disputed and argued over, with its never ending building project, stands. The construction workers who have come, worked, and finally told their boss that they can’t work there any longer, are many. Forced to leave because of the things that they have seen and heard while on the job.
There was no dispute in their minds, there is something that haunts the site, an unseen thing. Not that ghost, not the soul who wanders heart broken through the street. It’s the others that frighten them, those tormented souls who occupy the plot of land that he now sees. Dark ragged buildings that house the ghosts that seem to want to harm the living.
A Simple Job
A security guard took a job there once, he had to sit in the portacabin, four glass windows surrounded him. An easy job to do, they even gave him a handgun to keep holstered on his belt. Just be there, all night, and at dawn another guard will come and take your place. “You won’t ever draw the weapon, it’s for show.”
The First Encounter
Paperback book flopped open, his radio whispering in the background, tunes that faded into fizzing sounds for no reason, bothered him, the guard leaned over to adjust the grubby old radio. He peered out into the darkness, it was then that he saw something shifting past his portacabin. The sound of falling debris made him get up from his seat. He strained to look through each of the windows, it was too dark, the interior light above splashed brightly against the surrounding glass.
Things Falling from the Scaffolds
It was pure darkness out there, but there was movement, something fell, followed by the dull thump of things falling — or jumping, from a height.
He looked upwards and saw the dark skyline, the dazzle of the spotlight blocked his vision. It was autumn, but the nights were still hot, his collar was already drenched with cold sweat, and he wiped his hands on his new uniform.
He had a job to do, it could have been youths messing around on the scaffolds, or thieves trying to steal cement bags. He switched off the radio, and opened the door and leaned out.
The Sounds of the Night that You don’t Want to Hear
He listened into the night — not really wanting to step outside of his box. In the distance, he could hear the rush of traffic passing along by the Guadalquivir river. But directly before him, he could still hear tapping noises followed by shuffling sounds. He walked towards the darkness, then called out in a loud aggressive voice, “Hey! get out of here — you’re not alone on this site,” He didn’t know why he said those exact words, they spooked him a little. The thumping sounds began again, followed by a mechanical ticking noise in the atmosphere. He wasn’t alone on the site. And that frightened him.
Shuffling Feet Passing in the Dark
As the guard stood before the dark expanse of land, confronted by sounds of shuffling feet passing close by, the heavy dragging sounds closed in around him, and the incessant thump, thump, thump, of something hitting against soft earth, he knew the job wasn’t for him.
Whoever, Whatever, However
But, he was on the job now, his first night, and he had to do something about whoever, or whatever, was moving around on the construction site. He loosened his collar and wiped his mouth with his sleeve.
He later said that it was the darkness that got him. He wasn’t easily scared, he didn’t believe in the spirit world, and liked listening to hard rock on his radio. He was a worldly Sevillano. But the darkness had something, something in it.
Looking into the Blackness of Night
He couldn’t fully describe it; it just sort of constantly beckoned him, in a way that was wrong. The sounds in the darkness were part of the blackness he was looking at, not separate, not noise caused by human hands, but sounds of the darkness. It was powerful, he heard its voice calling him. And he was petrified.
The night voices changed into a hissing, fizzing noise. A unison of sounds that permeated through the air, the compulsive feelings of being called, beckoned, to walk into the darkness became stronger. He wanted to walk, it was like an urge to move his legs and walk straight into the blackness before him. But his mind, fighting to find a rational thought process, had been invaded by urges and images that confused him and stopped him from turning and running.
He had heard of the stories connected to calle San Luis and particularly this construction site. But he had brushed them off and joked about them with friends.
The Weeping Voices of Calle San Luis
The sounds of weeping now filled the darkness, pleading voices, and whispers were hard to resist. He was a man who had sought a job where he could protect, and help keep people secure. The sound of weeping and pleading voices in need of help, dug deep into his mind. He began to walk towards the thick darkness.
When he was later interviewed, the security guard from calle San Luis, tried to explain what had happened that night. Although now safe, it was still a very frightening thing to think about. Some of the interviewers made jokes about his experience, and some sat in silence and listened without saying a word.
He told them of the moment were he thought he was “lost”, the darkness enveloping his mind was something like a doorway opening up, a place that he didn't realise really existed until it “took him”. “It sort of covered all of my thoughts, so I couldn’t think rationally anymore.” That’s the point when he must have drawn his handgun from its holster, and fired the weapon into the darkness.
He said, he doesn’t remember how he left the site, but he knows that he must have quickly gone to a nearby plaza where he found a bench to sit on. That’s when he noticed that his gun was empty, and that caused him a lot of worry. He waited there in a petrified state, until the sun rose.
The morning light helped him come back to his senses so he could make his way to a telephone, where eventually he called his boss. It wasn’t the first time the boss had heard about similar events on the construction site at calle San Luis. But he didn’t mention this to the new security guard, hoping to convince him to carry on with the job.
The Many Ghosts of Calle San Luis
There are many ghosts in calle San Luis, the stories that people tell are too similar for it all to be a joke, or a hoax, or the invention of fantasy; we don’t know what goes on in the nooks and crannies of dark streets at night, the histories of broken hearts, saddened lives, poverty and injustices that calle San Luis holds. There is much of that.
Calle San Luis is a quiet street in the daytime, travellers could easily stroll across its cobbled stones and become beguiled by the warmth emanating from the painted bricks and choose one of the old houses as their hostel for the night. The question is, of course, did they choose to stay, or was it chosen for them?
Further Reading from Sean P. Durham, A Walk Through a Corner of Berlin