Join us as we tour some of  the scariest places in the area...

Pirate massacres, lost treasure, Indian sacrifice, and modern day disasters comprise Manzanillo's tales of ghostly spirits.  Join us as we walk through it's haunted history. Please light a candle and say a prayer for all the souls who wander endlessly here looking for peace. These are reportedly true stories about Manzanillo's Dark Side.

Ghosts of the Golden Gate

In the midst of the American Civil War, 2 years before President Abe Lincoln was assassinated, one of the fastest steamers then on the West Coast left San Francisco with 338 passengers and crew, plus $1.4 million in newly-minted gold, bound for Panama. The date was Monday July 21, 1862. The SSGolden Gate, a 270-foot-long, 2,067 ton vessel, had 3 classes of cabins, and a capacity for 1,200 people. Two hundred thirteen people would never reach their destination. They were lost when the ship caught fire and sank off Manzanillo.

On Sunday July 27, 1862, as the crew and passengers were sitting down for dinner, a fire was discovered between the engines and the aft galley. The ship was 15 miles offshore in a calm sea when a passenger noticed smoke pouring from the engine room hatchway amidships.

The fire cut communications between fore and aft. About 100 first- and second-class passengers were sent forward but the position of the fire placed the steerage passengers at greater peril. The captain commanded the engineers to stoke the furnace, but the increased speed toward shore sent smoke and flames streaming aft. Fire soon made it impossible for the captain to communicate with the engine room.

The ship was equipped with pumps for firefighting, lifeboats, and more than enough life preservers for the Golden Gate's 1,200 capacity. Several lifeboats were gotten off but the ship was still 3-4 miles from shore and flames were now coming from the engine room hatch. Passengers were starting to jump from the ship, either with life preservers or by grabbing onto floating material. 

At 5:30 p.m. the ship had run aground about 300 yards offshore in heavy surf at what is now called Playa de Oro, 14 miles northwest of Manzanillo (Km 30.5). 

Some survivors clung to boats or floating debris until a boat came along that wasn't full.

Four Catholic priests, who had recently been ordained in San Francisco, were aboard the ship. One was credited with pulling 24 people from the surf, where exhausted passengers were unable to gain a foothold and come ashore.

About 80 people had reached the shore that evening with two of the ship's officers, as well as at least four dead. The fire continued to break up the ship, so that by dark both bow and stern had come ashore. In the morning, baggage from the wreck was found strewn along the beach, including several kegs of ale for the exhausted and isolated survivors.

The dead were buried at the beach, including at least four women.  The group started toward Manzanillo but were blocked about 11 miles from town at an area called "Peña Blanca," then spent a second night outdoors with no food or water.

On the afternoon of the 28th a Manzanillo customs boat picked up two of the passengers. It was another day before the steamer St. Louis managed to rescue the balance of the survivors, most of whom went back to San Francisco on the St. Louis.

Still, another 23 were missing from a lifeboat. They had drifted about 80 miles to the south of Manzanillo, but were picked up by the steamer Orizaba, which brought them to San Francisco.

In the days following the disaster, many bodies were hauled from the water by the St. Louis crew. Two weeks later, the American Consulate at Manzanillo helped five men return to San Francisco, and managed to bury another 25 of the dead. People at the site continued to find and bury other bodies for at least a year after the incident.

Of those lost, the burden fell most-heavily on steerage passengers, where only 33 of 134 survived. 

Survivors of the  fire and shipwreck:

1st Class: 27 (41%)
2nd Class: 25 (47%)
Steerage: 33 (25%)
Crew: 61 (62%)

Beyond the $1.4 million in gold, passengers lost thousands of additional dollars that were left with the ship's purser or taken off in sacks or money belts in haste. Paper bills had just started appearing in the east, but these passengers all carried their money in gold and silver coins. Many jumped ship with money belts tied about their waist, but they quickly abandoned them in the water because the weight of the money was dragging them under. After heavy waves or storm activity, locals frequent the area looking for coins that wash ashore at the site of the wreck. The beach's name "Playa de Oro"  (Beach of Gold) was derived from this shipwreck legend.

Another story is still circulated about the lost treasure. Locals believe that many of the people who made it ashore were able to bury their valuables, hoping to come back later to retrieve them. A few years ago, someone actually produced a map that was supposed to have the location of the treasure. Holes were dug everywhere in an area they believed resembled that in the drawing, some of them up to 4-6 feet deep. If someone did find buried treasure, it was never reported.

Over the years, many claim to have seen the burning ghost ship, while others swear they have seen ghostly apparitions walking the beach, or walking on the water. Most of the gold and silver, along with the safe, containing more coins and jewelry from the passengers has never been recovered. Locals will go to Playa de Oro and spend the day, but they will never spend the night. Would you?

Spirits of the Costa Real

The 9-story Costa Real was once one of the more trendy hotels in Manzanillo. Built in the 1970s, with Moorish architecture modeled after Las Hadas, the Costa Real was very popular with jet-setting tourists. In September 1985, a 7.9 earthquake, centered in the state of Michoacan (the state bordering Colima), severely damaged the hotel and it was condemned. Months passed, the damage to the structure was hastily patched over, and the hotel reopened. (It is reported that the city engineer was paid a bribe to overlook some of the deficiencies.)  

Ten years passed without incident until October 9, 1995. An 8.0 quake, centered in the ocean, directly 3 miles out from the Costa Real, caused the complete collapse of the structure.  Thirty-nine people were killed when the hotel collapsed. If you look carefully at the photo on the left, you'll see the spirit orbs of those who died in the Costa Real collapse.

The site has never been built upon again, and séances are held there regularly to speak with the spirits. The meetings are taken so seriously that they are announced in the newspapers. On the left, the archway entrance of the Costa Real, and ghostly spirit orbs. Another hotel just a block from the Costa Real site has reported ghostly visitors roaming its rooms and halls. Could it be that the spirits of guests and employees who perished in 1995 have found a new location?   Bodies of Costa Real victims (photo does not enlarge)

Any loss of life is tragic, but what makes this situation even more appalling is that greed was motivating factor which lead to the hotel's reopening. One particularly sad story regarding this catastrophe involves a couple who were on their honeymoon, staying at the Costa Real. The bride was killed, but the groom survived. They were married for only 14 days.

The Devil at the Disco

About 20 years ago, in the small town of Santiago on the main boulevard, there existed a disco called Caligula, named after the Roman Emperor, a crazed megalomaniac given to capricious cruelty and harebrained schemes. 

The emperor Caligula was assassinated after a very short rein (37-41 A.D.). Outlandish stories cluster about the raving emperor, illustrating his excessive cruelty, immoral sexual escapades, or disrespect toward tradition and the Senate. The sources describe his incestuous relations with his sisters, laughable military campaigns in the north, the building of a pontoon bridge (made out of boats lashed together) across the Bay at Baiae, and the plan to make his horse a consul.

Hence, Caligula was probably not the best name for a disco, even though most of its clientele had probably never heard of the emperor, who, just before he was murdered at age 29, declared himself a deity, and ordered that a statue of himself should be placed in the Temple of Jerusalem and the Jews be forced to worship him. 

As it happens, most discos are frequented by young people, and Caligula was no exception. Local legend has it that one evening the Devil (or Caligula himself) came to the disco and danced with many of its patrons. Since that night, each person who danced with the Devil has met an untimely end. As it often happens in small towns, most of the patrons knew each other, and of that particular group, several committed suicide, others died in car accidents, and still others contracted mysterious illnesses from which they never recovered. The building is still abandoned to this day. Former businesses who tried it there after the disco include several restaurants and an ETN bus station. For some reason businesses have failed to thrive there, and ETN moved across the street. Perhaps the spirits chose not to share the rent.

Bewitched Waterfalls

Six years ago at the El Salto waterfalls, three young men foolishly jumped from the cliff into the powerful, raging torrent and drowned. Now it is said that you can hear their spirits crying out as the water spills down the cliffs. Three crosses with the names of the boys who fell prey to the water's furious onslaught were erected for a few years, but the municipality of Minitatlan decided to take them away (bad for business). Now there's a sign that warns visitors of the dangers. During the summer months, with the heavy mountain rains, the falls are at their most powerful. Exercise extreme caution--stay among the living.

Murder and Mayhem in Manzanillo

On Dec. 24, 1944 an incident at the Hotel Colonial (one of the oldest hotels in Manzanillo) revolved around Don Nicholas Rivera, who was born in the community of Del Gruillo, Jalisco, of wealthy parents. His father was murdered in Del Gruillo, but he took revenge on the co-conspirators by gunning them down, and then fled across the border to the United States. While in the U.S., someone tried to molest his wife, and he killed the offender. Rivera was tried for murder and found guilty, and sentenced to serve time in San Quentin, where he remained for approximately 3 years. He was released with the aid of the Mexican secretary of defense, who had worked at his father's hacienda. 

At this time he returned to Manzanillo, where Don Francisco Moreno hired him as the manager of the Hotel Colonial. On Christmas eve, the hotel was full, and the kitchen was too busy to give him the prompt service he felt he deserved. Going into the kitchen Don Nicholas got into an argument with the chef and stabbed him with his own butcher knife. After the murder, he fled to the roof of the hotel. In his room at the head of the stairs, he kept two pistols and plenty of ammunition. 

Two policemen responded to the alert, and Rivera killed one and badly injured the other. The authorities then called in reinforcements--an army platoon and marine platoon. All night shots were exchanged, and at sunrise, Nicholas took his last stand. Versions vary; some say with his last round of ammunition, he took his own life; others say that a sniper shot him from another building at 200 yards. It is said that there are many ghosts that walk the halls and rattle the doors of the rooms at night at the Hotel Colonial.


The Plaza Santiago Tragedy

During the earthquake of October 1995, the shopping center called Plaza Santiago collapsed, killing 8 people, including the chief of police. The rubble has been hauled away and the property has been sold to the vendors who display their wares at Saturday's Tianguis market. At night, spirit orbs can be seen throughout the market stalls.

Indian Spirits go "All Inclusive" 

Manzanillo has a 5-star hotel that has been plagued with troubles, and it is believed the difficulties may have stemmed from it being built on ancient Indian burial grounds.

While excavating, numerous pre-Hispanic pottery shards and other artifacts dating back 1,500-2,000 years were found. During its construction, the hotel was beleaguered with numerous problems so serious that the project was halted for a number of years. Union strikes, property line disputes, a fire in the main structure two weeks after it opened, and 2 deaths--one a murder, and one a construction accident, further propelled rumors that the site was haunted. 

Once, when the project director was leaving the grounds, he was run off the road, totaling his pick-up and suffering multiple injuries. When the hotel finally opened, guests reported doors and windows opening and closing--and locking and unlocking on their own, plus strange odors and sounds. 

Finally, a few years ago, management asked a priest out to do a blessing. The Father went from room to room (all 300+ of them), and around the property with holy water performing his ritual. Since that time, the hotel has flourished, and is now one of the most popular vacation resorts in Manzanillo. We have been asked not to name this resort, though from all evidence, it is no longer under attack by ghostly Indian spirits.

Murder and Betrayal of a Senator

Manzanillo, 25-30 years ago, was a popular retirement spot for the rich and famous, and numerous housing projects were being built  on the Peninsula de Santiago. A former member of the senate and his wife built a beautiful 3-bedroom house overlooking Manzanillo Bay and the famed resort Las Hadas.

There were additional quarters behind the house for servants, along with a laundry room and carport for parking his chauffer-driven luxury car.

According to residents who lived in Manzanillo at the time, the senator's chauffer and an accomplice planned to rob the couple of their money and valuables, which were purported to have been in a safe.

Sneaking in the home at night, the evil twosome tied up and tortured the couple mercilessly. The wife died from her injuries that night, and the senator recovered from the brutal beatings only to die shortly thereafter. Some say he died of a broken heart, and others say he lost the will to live.

The chauffer and his accomplice were eventually caught, tried and convicted of murder.

The house remained unoccupied, was severely damaged in the 1995 earthquake, and remains empty and for sale today. Engineers visited the site recently and agreed that the home needs to be torn down, but the foundation is strong and in good condition. A new condominium project is planned for the property. If you would like to have ghosts of your very own, contact a local realtor.

Falling Walls

Do Indian spirits return to haunt us in modern times if their ancient burial site is disturbed? Are some sites cursed? A local real estate agent, who moved here from Canada, has an interesting story to tell. When Jim and Diane (not their real names) first visited Manzanillo, they fell in love with the area, so much so, that they decided to purchase land, build a home, and start a business.

They bought a beautiful wooded lot on the Peninsula de Juluapan, drew up plans for their new home, and arranged to have all their household items shipped down from Canada in a container.

The container arrived with everything intact and in good condition. They proceeded to have it processed through customs, and when later they entered their container, they found numerous items to be damaged or broken. A new $400 toilet, for example, was smashed to pieces, as if it had been dropped from a great height, and an expensive marble table top was also in pieces, though the container hadn't been moved and was secured with a padlock. The couple's general assumption was that the customs agents were responsible for the damage, since they were the only ones who would have had access to the container.

However, bad luck seemed to be following them to the site of their new home. A retaining wall being built on the property fell down, crushing and totaling both of their vehicles. While they were rebuilding that wall, still another wall fell down. It seemed that each day presented another problem or disaster they had to deal with. Their neighbor, who is a minister, suggested blessing the property, and ordering the bad spirits to leave. They did, and it seems to have worked. For the couple, life is now better than it's ever been.

The ritual blessing of property, homes and businesses is commonplace in Mexico. 

The Legend of El Chupacabra

It attacks in the night, sucking the blood from its helpless victims. Let's follow the bloody trail of the elusive "goat sucker."  Reported sightings and deaths of livestock have occurred throughout Mexico, attributed to this bizarre creature, and it is hard to find anyone within the Mexican population in Manzanillo who doesn't know of a story.

In most cases, the animals were drained of blood through small holes. A definite pattern of unexplained killing has developed. Several of the animal victims were goats, which inspired the locals to christen the killer, "El Chupacabra." To this day, its rampage of gruesome slayings has continued and spread to many parts of the world, including the United States, Puerto Rico, even as far away as Australia.

The Chupacabra hunts mainly at night (although there have been several daylight sightings), and the attacks show that the creature exhibits some kind of intelligence beyond that of the average night stalker. Its victims have a regular pattern of wounds; a triangular series of punctures into the neck and jaw bone that pierce the brain, and reach the cerebellum, which instantly kills the victim. This is a euthanasia technique; less intelligent predators would not even be able to make these kinds of attacks with such precision. Also, these wounds are cauterized, apparently, some think, to keep blood loss of the victim to a minimum. Some animals have identical punctures on their bellies, but other than these wounds, there is no other trauma, abrasion, scratch, or bruise to be found.

News stations, local government, talk shows such as "Cristina," and even Mexican soap operas speak about the creature as if it were real. One news broadcast even featured an interview with a man, who was hospitalized after the creature bit him in the neck and drained his blood while he was sleeping. The cameraman did a close-up pan to the neck area where the bite was.

Whatever the origins of the Chupacabra, it has taken hold of the collective conscious of Hispanic peoples everywhere. This is most likely due to the upbringing of Hispanics, who often believe in the strange and supernatural much more readily than other peoples. An entire cottage industry has sprung up around this phenomenon, dubbed Chupacabramania. Songs have been written. T-shirts and other merchandising are for sale.

Are the Chupacabra real? The evidence seems to stack in favor of reality. The sheer number of people, credible, sensible people who only have embarrassment and ridicule to gain from reporting these sightings; the dead, mutilated livestock; and the lack of another explanation for these deaths can only lead to one conclusion. Believers say that until the seriousness of the situation can be fully comprehended--until the average person believes in a creature called "goat sucker," the skepticism will remain. What will it take, they ask? The mauling of a housewife? The death of a child at the hands of these vicious creatures? Whatever the case, until the Chupacabra is treated with the respect it deserves, it will remain a legend.

Unidentified Flying Objects Hover over Manzanillo's Power Plant

This unexplained phenomenon is seen frequently by many people. A photo appears in the local papers from time to time, along with an article. Mexican pilots coming into Manzanillo have reported "saucer-shaped" and "cigar-shaped" objects, lights flying in formation, pulsing lights, and all the rest. There is even a cable TV program devoted to strange happenings, and in the modern times of digital and video cameras, there is no shortage of photo material available.

Why are the UFOs often seen around the power plant? Just WHAT is it we are seeing hovering overhead? Manzanillo isn't just famous for it's sunsets; take the time to look at the sky while you're here. Maybe you'll see an interplanetary tourist, instead of the regular kind from the U.S. or Canada.

Orbs: Are they ghosts, angels, energy, or dirt on the camera lens?

Orbs are a rather new phenomenon in the world of paranormal investigators.

Orbs, sometimes known as spirit or ghost orbs, are basically unexpected circular "spots" that appear in photos after development. They are not generally visible to the naked eye at the time photo is taken. They can also range in size and color. Most are white in color, but many photos show red or blue orbs as well. Ghost orbs can also appear both solid and transparent.

The importance of orbs is heavily debated within the paranormal community. Many "ghost hunters" will argue that  orbs occur more frequently at known haunted locations, so the importance of these anomalies must not be overlooked.

There are many theories regarding ghost orbs. Some people believe that they are a form of "spirit energy" or a ghost trying to manifest itself. Others believe that they are a form of angels or angelic intervention. Whatever orbs are, they are definitely appearing in photos and seem to be growing in numbers over recent years.

When visiting Manzanillo, take a walk through one of our local cemeteries, or visit one of the haunted sites in this story, and maybe you'll get some ghost orb photos of your own.

The information contained in the stories above was acquired through first-hand interviews, comments made by people about their experiences, television shows, and newspaper and Internet articles. The author accepts no responsibility as to the accuracy of the statements. Enjoy "Manzanillo's Most Haunted" as you would a good book or movie.

This article is dedicated to the families of the people who lost their lives in the October 9, 1995 earthquake. Those of us who survived it will always remember.

You Tube video of paranormal investigators at Manzanillo's abandoned social security hospital. The hospital was destroyed in the earthquake of 1995. Video is in Spanish, but the ghost at the very end can be seen clearly. This year, Ghost Hunters Manzanillo will explore the hospital on the date of the 1995 earthquake, October 9. Do you have ghost hunting equipment? E-mail us.

You Tube video of paranormal investigators at the site of the Costa Real. They brought along a psychic to talk to the spirits. At the end of the video, apparently 2 ghosts watch the proceedings.

Just for fun! To protect yourself against evil spirits, click here.

More fun! For a Web Ouija board, click here.