Saturday, August 15, 2015

Chile: Humberstone’s Ghosts


The town of Humberstone was established in 1862 to support the saltpeter-- sodium nitrate mining industry. James Thomas Humberstone founded the Peru Nitrate Company in this area initially known as La Palma.

This industry thrived for 50 years in Northern Chile, over 200 mines and plants were developed in the Atacama Desert to mine natural sodium nitrate.

Chile quickly became the world’s leading supplier of this material—known as “White Gold,” which was used in explosives and in fertilizers.

Abandoned train
The town of Humberstone became the epicenter for this industry. By the 1940s 3,700 people * were living in this “company town.” But this industry was already doomed.

Town's theatre
* These workers from Chile, Peru and Bolivia came to work in one of the driest deserts in the world. They were a unique community with their own language and culture.

With the development of synthetic nitrate in the 1930s, the value of natural saltpeter plummeted.

In Humberstone, production fell to 10 percent, and in the 1950s it nosedived to just 3 percent. By 1959 the town’s mines and plants were closed, and the city was abandoned.

Ever since nearby villagers believe the town of Humberstone is haunted. They are so frightened they refuse to even visit the area.

They believe that the deceased in a nearby cemetery in La Noria rise up and walk around the town. Many have seen these apparitions, and several photos taken in Humberstone have captured images of ghosts.

Ghost captured in one photo.
The sounds of children’s screams are heard in various buildings, and the sounds of children playing have also been heard.

In the cemetery at La Noria, many of the graves have been uncovered, and the remaining bones are exposed to the sun. This could be the result of rampant vandalism that has plagued the area.

Disturbed grave
The disturbance of these graves is pointed to as one possible reason the area is haunted.

In 1970 the Chilean government declared Humberstone a National Monument, and in 2005 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but vandalism and earthquakes have taken a toll so this abandoned town is now on the World Heritage in Danger list.

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