The History Behind The Most Haunted Building In Brazil

Stories about ghosts and haunted places have been told for centuries, dating back to ancient Rome. In those accounts, ghosts are not a threat, but they are still wandering on Earth because they were not buried properly. "In the first century, they wrote letters recounting ghost stories they claimed to have witnessed — chains rattling, haunted house type stories," says Paul Patterson, Ph.D., associate professor of English (via Saint Joseph University).

Ghost stories have changed, but they are still fascinating people in the 21st Century. For many people, they are not only stories. Despite the lack of scientific evidence, 45% of Americans believe ghosts are real, according to YouGovAmerica

Haunted places are often associated with tragedies or violent deaths. In West Virginia, Moundsville Penitentiary was one of the most violent correctional facilities in the country and received many prisoners sentenced to the death penalty. The place was closed in 1995, but visitors still claim that it is possible to hear strange noises during a tour (via Travel Channel).

In Brazil, a fire in one of the highest buildings in Sao Paulo killed 187 people. The place became famous as one of the most haunted places in the world.

The fire was caused by an electrical short

On February 1, 1972, a fire struck the Joelma building, a 25-story skyscraper in Sao Paulo, Brazil. At 8:50 a.m., an electrical short in an air conditioning unit on the 12th floor started a small fire that soon reached other floors. Clara Lucia Dias Gomes was the first person to notice the fire and escape the building. Gomes looked at the skyscraper when she was outside and was in shock. "When I got there, the flames were already racing up through the building. Already people were jumping from the windows," she said (via The Guardian).

The fire destroyed 14 floors, and people tried to escape the building using the fire escape and elevators. Forty people who were trapped by the flames jumped to their deaths. There were 800 people inside the building; 300 were injured, and 187 people died in the fire. Only September 11 would surpass the Joelma building in numbers of victims in a skyscraper fire.

According to The Guardian, firefighters arrived 20 minutes after the fire started, and they didn't have the proper equipment. Their ladders could reach only 14 floors, and 20 people died while waiting for a helicopter.

Among the victims, 13 bodies weren't unidentified. They were found embracing each other inside an elevator. Most of them were dehydrated, and had inhaled too much smoke. According to Narratively, part of their remains fused with the elevator walls, and it was impossible to tell them apart.

People still report strange things in the building

The 13 unidentified victims were buried side by side in adjoined graves in the Sao Pedro Cemetery. Multiple people claim they still hearing screaming, moaning and people asking for help coming from the grave. Luiz Nunez, who worked as a caretaker in the cemetery, emptied a watering can in each grave, and the voices disappeared. Since then, visitors leave a glass of water on the graves (via Narratively).

The place became known as the "13 souls graves," which attracts hundreds of visitors every year. Many people believe that if they pray for those souls, they can find some help to solve their own problems. In the cemetery, there are hundreds of messages thanking the 13 souls for things they have achieved. Near the graves, there is a chapel honoring the unknown victims of the fire.

In 1976, four years after the fire, the building was open again as a commercial building under the name Praça da Bandeira. For decades, several people who worked in the building claimed the place was haunted (via The Paranormal Guide). While some said they have seen ghosts, others would report odd phenomena, like car lights that would suddenly start blinking in the parking lot.

Many people avoided entering the building. In 2004, part of the city hall staff would have to work in the building. Before they began, they invited a Buddhist monk to purify the place.

People believe the place is cursed

Many people believe the place has been cursed for centuries. According to some sources, the land where the Joelma building stands today used to be home to a "pelourinho," a place where slaves and criminals were tied up, tortured, and often killed in public. It was nothing unusual until the abolition of slavery in the country in 1888.

In 1948, chemistry professor Paulo Camargo had a house in the place that once was a "pelourinho," where he lived with his mother and two sisters. When Camargo started dating Isaltina dos Amaros, his mother disagreed with their relationship and did everything to end it. When Carmago found about her mother's plans, he was furious. The professor shot his mother and sisters and threw the bodies in a well on the property. Later, Camargo told friends that his family went to a farm and would be gone for a long time. His half-brother didn't believe him and decided to contact the police after visiting the house.

When the police arrived at his house and uncovered the well, Carmargo went to the bathroom and killed himself with the same gun he killed his family ( via Narratively). A fireman who helped recover the bodies in the well died of an infection after not using gloves to touch the bodies.

It might be a coincidence those tragedies happened in the same place, but they helped to create the reputation of the most haunted building in Brazil.