What Happened To The Humberstone In Chile?

ruins, humberstone
Photo by Diego Delso on Wikimedia Commons

Once a bustling mining town in the Atacama Desert, Humberstone has now become a disturbingly silent ghost town with no workers or residents in sight. How did this happen? How did a progressive town become a hotbed of paranormal activity? Read on to find out.

The Beginning Of Humberstone

James Thomas Humberstone founded Humberstone in 1862. Due to the abundance of sodium nitrate in the area, miners built 200 plants to mine and process the material. Sodium nitrate was popular due to the manufacturing of explosives and fertilizers, transforming the agriculture in both America and Europe and collapsing the whole industry.

With the rise of the saltpetre funds came the influx of labour from different backgrounds such as Peru, Bolivia and Chile, creating the Pampino culture that has their own language and culture. They created Pampino culture with their belief in social justice in mind. However, all good things come to an end when the great depression of 1929 paralysed the industry along with the invention of synthetic fertilizer in Europe which caused the collapse of Chile’s nitrate industry, creating the ghost town. By the 1960s, locals abandoned both Humberstone and Santa Laura, leaving most of their items in place such as clothing, pictures, and suitcases. It is currently the best preserved along with Santa Laura which represents the 200 saltpetre works in the past and has since been named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 and titled as the Chilean National Monument.

Ghostly Hauntings

ghost town, humberstone
Photo by Diego Delso on Wikimedia Commons

Ever since then, Humberstone became a ghost town. Till this day, citizens in nearby towns refuse to set foot in the area because they believe it is full of the supernatural. There are several reasons for the proclaimed hauntings of Humberstone. The first reason would be the La Noria cemetery. The second is the massacre in the Santa Maria School. The third is because of the old theatre of Humberstone and the old schoolhouse.

Several accounts from visitors claimed that they have seen shadow people and apparitions of former residents and had taken ghostly images in Humberstone. Eerily, some even reported hearing screams, voices and footsteps walking towards them. Visitors also recounted the sounds of children’s laughter as they play.

La Noria Cemetery

Just like Humberstone, La Noria was a progressive mining town that met the same fate as Humberstone due to economic problems. The cemetery houses the remains of the slaves who worked under horrible conditions. The cemetery also includes children who died from accidents and/or poor living conditions. With a huge number of deaths, the people built a makeshift cemetery for the bodies near the town. The cemetery at La Noria had been heavily vandalised with the bones of the deceased exposed to the harsh elements of the desert. Disturbingly, there are open graves where you can see the skeletons inside. Some bones of the dead outside of the coffins are also visible around the vicinity.

Because of the open coffins and visible skeletons, there is a rumour that the dead from the Cemetery of La Noria would rise and walk around both Humberstone and La Noria. The locals of neighbouring towns are so afraid that they refuse to step into La Noria and its surrounding areas. Some of them even attempt to stop tourists or visitors from exploring. Eyewitness had also reported that the dead would rise from their graves when the sun descends and walk towards Humberstone.

People speculate that it was actually grave robbers in search for treasure were the ones who dug up the coffins. The spookier theory is, of course, that the opened coffins were the work of zombies up and about at night. However, regardless the reason, it has been clear that the graves of the spirits were disturbed.

The Santa Maria Massacre

Because of harsh working conditions, workers of the saltpetre mines from different towns in Chile had organised a strike. Workers negotiated with their bosses but instead told to head back to work as a precondition. President Pedro Montt initially acted as a mediator during the conflict. However, he decided that the 5000 strikers that occupying the Santa Maria school and the 2000 workers that took over the Manuel Mont plaza posed a threat to public security and health. He wanted them to be removed with any means possible. Authorities fear what the strikers might do even though they may not be of any threat. So, on December 21, 1907, General Roberto Silva Renard gave the order to open fire on the 5000 workers inside the school. An estimate by a historian states that there were 1000-2000 people were killed or wounded during the massacre.

This tragic massacre contributed to the ghostly encounters of visitors or tourists that went to explore the town

Old Theatre Of Humberstone And The School House

Another hotspot for the paranormal would be Humberstone’s old theatre. It was once a grand theatre donned with red drapes and filled with laughter. But now, it became a dilapidated stage where many sightings of shadows moving around were seen.

The old schoolhouse is one of the most unsettling yet nostalgic places in Humberstone. Many visitors have claimed to encounter children that roam the hallways and curiously peering from corners before disappearing. It was also reported that the voices of children playing can be heard through the hallways.

Final Thoughts

Humberstone is still undeniably strangely beautiful and holds a deep culture behind its existence despite the ghost sightings. If this article has piqued your interest and adventuring spirit in exploring the eerily beautiful ghost town of Humberstone, there are packaged tours to choose from depending on your stay in Chile.

The town of Humberstone has a bleak history. Starting from being a progressive town to a hotbed of poverty and corruption, it’s understandable why locals don’t want to set foot there. Whether it is true that Humberstone has ghosts or not, let it be a reminder of what South American has suffered.

Have you been to a ghost town before? Share with us your experiences below!


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