Gibraltar might be relatively small as an international tourist destination but its venerable culture and history provide a vast wealth of intriguing enchantment for travellers seeking a getaway with a difference.
As the Rock’s tourism board notes, “Whether you’re looking for a short or relaxing escape in the sun, Gibraltar has everything you need, with much more to offer than you can possibly imagine. However you arrive into Gibraltar, by air, foot, car or sea, you will very soon experience its intricate layers of history all around you.”
To help visitors enjoy those intricate layers, Visit Gibraltar suggests some memorable day trips (including across the Spanish border in Andalucía), more extensive tours from three to seven days, and a diverse selection of walks and itineraries – including “Haunted Gibraltar”.
The latter covers four of Gibraltar’s so-called “haunted sites”…
Located at the end of Gibraltar’s iconic Main Street, formally a 16th century Franciscan monastic house and home to the governor since 1728, The Convent is best known among tourists for the daily changing of the guards. It is also here that the “Lady in Grey” is reported to roam.
The legend goes that a young Spanish girl (Alitea) fell in love with a man (Silvano) who her family disapproved of. However, she ignored their instructions to stop seeing him, and her brother forcibly brought her back to Gibraltar and placed her in a nun’s convent.
Silvano tracked her down disguised as a Franciscan monk, and he visited the convent once a week for confession, where they plotted their escape. Unfortunately, the plot was uncovered, Silvano died during the escape, and Alitea was sentenced to death and was buried alive behind a wall in the chapel.
Stories of a female ghost began to emerge in the late 1700’s, referring to the apparition of a lady dressed in a grey nun’s habit and believed to be Alitea.
Tunnels of Gibraltar
Many men died during the excavation of Gibraltar’s tunnels, first in the late 1700s and later when they were extended during World War II, and their ghosts are said to wander the underground labyrinth extending for 34 miles (55 kilometres).
Soldiers using the tunnels in modern times have reportedly heard whistling, digging and singing, especially in the longest sections of tunnel, known as the Great North Road. One of the more common stories refers to Peter Jackson, a retired Warrant Officer who related how he once took the daughter of a soldier, Lance Corporal Lawrence Bolton, to lay flowers where he had died in a tunneling accident. Apparently… “When WO Jackson next returned to the spot a few days later, his shirt was tugged from behind and he was jerked backwards by an invisible force. On leaving the tunnel he claims a woman he had never met told him that he had been followed by the ghost of Lieutenant Corporal Bolton.”
Another sighting outside the entrance to the Northern Defense tunnels relates to reports that the sounds of two violins have been heard.
Gibraltar National Museum
The Gibraltar National Museum site in Bomb House Lane dates to a 14th century Moorish bath house which forms part of the exhibit. The premises have witnessed many historical moments over the centuries, from the time of the Moors to the Great Siege of the 1700s.
Reportedly, the ghostly figure of a man who died many years ago, and is believed to be a former director of the museum, has been sighted by both workers and visitors to the museum.
Old St Bernard’s Hospital
Patients, visitors and staff “strongly believed” the former site of the old St Bernard’s hospital was haunted. The maternity ward, in particular, has long been rumoured to be home to many anguished ghosts, and there have been stories of unexplained noises and things moving on the lower floor.
In recent years more than 200 skeletons have been found buried under the site, suspected to be victims of an 18th century siege. That same century the hospital site was used by the British military, so it could have been a military burial ground.
A scientific team discovered that the mass grave – unearthed in 2014 – is home to mostly young men who were buried in haste. Another theory is that they died from one of the disease epidemics which followed the sieges, and some of the remains date as far back as the 16th century.
The hospital is now closed but, warns Visit Gibraltar, “Visitors to the area may feel a chill in the air!”