Bert Hermans
'Reina Sofia' (2013)
Oil on canvas
60 x 80 cm
(oil painting and three giclées sold; 12 giclées still available with Certificate of Authenticity)

In the mid-16th century King Phillip II of Spain made the decision to bring all of the various hospitals, almshouses and other charitable facilities together in a single location. This was known as “El Olivar de Atocha”, where a hospital for the poor was already located. Despite the name the area was already notorious as a place where the people would be abandoned without any means of support to die of starvation or disease and to be interred at State expense to protect the wealthier people from the spread of cholera and the plague. At its peak, Atocha had a capacity for eighteen thousand patients. It was the largest such institution in Europe, and probably the world.
Even early on, the Night Porters, and carers there spoke of hellish nights inside the buildings with disembodied screams, doors opening of their own accord and hitting hard against the walls, and of ghostly shadows crossing the corridors at high speed.
In 1982 the entire site was dedicated to converting the old Hospital into what is now the Museum Reina Sofia – a recognised centre of historic cultural significance and tasked with the preservation of Spanish culture.
When the works were undertaken, a series of bizarre findings were made from unidentified human skulls, human shackles and chains, and the discovery of the remains of several corpses of children.
During the second phase of reconstruction from 1990, yet another gruesome discovery was made, the mummified bodies of three nuns in one of the Chapels were discovered, which remain today re-interred beneath the front threshold of the Museum.
Even after the second phase of reconstruction was completed the Staff witnessed and reported strange occurrences:
Alvaro Gariño, writing in the April 1995 issue of Diario 16 (“Los fantasmas del Reina Sofía”) described the strange phenomena reported by the museum staff, ranging from doors opening and closing of their own volition, wailing and screaming in empty chambers and strange phenomena playing out in the hallways. It emerged that even during the years of service of the hospital, patients had complained of unexplained noises and apparitions.
Even darker information came to light about the structure having housed hundreds of bodies during the Spanish Civil War, a place of torture and executions.
According to the Diario 16 feature, and at the request of the museum’s management, a group of researchers and paranormal experts known as the Hepta Group spent a night in the building, searching for an answer. The group included José María Pilón, a priest; psychic Paloma Navarrete and journalist Sol Blanco Soler, who is quoted as saying: “The first time we visited the structure was because the security staff was concerned about the elevators starting on their own at night, which caused them to make continuous rounds, fearing a break-in”.
On the first night they were able to ascertain that the dynamics of this phenomenon took place without any explanation whatsoever. The group’s engineers checked the machinery room and found the elevators were disconnected!
On a subsequent investigative journey, it was Navarrete, the psychic, who had the worst experience. “The most awful sensation I had was entering a circular chamber on the ground floor, where I saw several men shackled to the wall. I could see one trying to assail another, biting his face.” The article goes on to say that this museum chamber had once been the psychiatric ward of the old hospital.
These stories of the past offer no solace to the current employees who continue to witness processions of ghostly nuns through the courtyards, hearing only the sound of their heavy rosaries. Then you have the photographers who found extra, and unwanted, faces in their images of historic art, much less were the cleaning staff coming across ghosts seated on benches as they went about their morning duties.
The hauntings continue unabated to this day, making the Museo Reina Sofia one of the most haunted locations in Madrid.

The haunting of the Reina Sofia Museum
Posted on Saturday, 12 April, 2014
Columnist: Keith Pattison de Bellasis
Bert visited the Reina Sofía during a Spanish course in Madrid. Especially the incidence of light and the tension between the people in the hallway made this visit a special experience.