The Church of San José (St Joseph) at No. 43 Calle de Alcalà, is probably the favourite spot of the ghost hunters who seem to abound in the city.
The first ghost story associated with the church took place in the nineteenth century shortly after the expulsion in 1836b of the Discalced (barefooted) Carmelite monks of St Hermenegild who lived in the monastery to which San José church once belonged. They left behind only empty buildings and the ghosts of former residents. But a strange thing happened one New Year’s Eve.
After dining with his family, a young man made his way to the ball that was being held in a palace owned by one of the capital’s noble families. He had been observing the guests for some time when, at 3 o’clock in the morning, he saw the most beautiful girl he had ever laid eyes on enter the ballroom. He hastened to greet her and the pair danced for the rest of the night. It was almost morning when the girl said she had to go home. The couple walked hand-in-hand through the streets until they arrived at the San José church. “I stay here,” the girl said. The young man thought she must be mistaken, but when she insisted he thought she was making fun of him, so left in a huff. The following day at noon, the young man again passed in front of the church and saw that a funeral was in progress. Driven by curiosity, he entered the church and approached the coffin to find out who had died. To his great fright, he saw lying there the girl with whom he had danced all night. Feeling faint, he left in a hurry but heard someone following him out of the church. It was another girl who wanted to know what had happened to him. When the young man told her his story, she said, “That girl was my cousin. She had always been in love with you, but she was too shy to approach you and speak to you. Yesterday, at three in the morning, she passed away…”
There is another version of this Madrid legend, although the names of the main characters are different: the boy was called John and was English, she was Elena de Mendoza and belonged to a noble family. The pair met at a costume ball during Carnival, on 12 October 1853.
This tale is the starting point of many other stories that take place in and around the San José church involving supernatural sightings, so as the story of the House of Seven Chimneys. (See another post on this blog).