Urban Legends: the Haunted Sanatorium of Athens
the tragic story of the hospital, that stroke terror in the hearts of the Athenians
Here’s a little experiment for you. Open “Google maps” and go to Athens, the capital of Greece. Find the Parthenon and draw a straight line to the north. Soon, your line will reach a mountain called Parnitha. Right there, sitting like a vulture at its peak lies the Sanatorium of Parnitha, one of Athens’ most haunted places. Once a great hospital, now completely abandoned, it became the source of numerous urban legends. Inside its ruined walls endless terrors lurk, unknown to almost anyone, except the city’s citizens.
If you ask a local about this God-forsaken place, he will stare at you with a chilling look, while the older ones would refuse to even look directly at the “cursed” building, fearing its paranormal wrath! Today we will explore the history of this curious site, which was destined to become “Greece’s most haunted building”!
“For the Greater Good…”
It was the first decade of the 20th century and Greece was plagued by a terrible pandemic of tuberculosis. The First World War was raging on, while at the same time refugees from Asia Minor were plundering Athens, seeking safe shelter. During these desperate times the hospital “Euaggelismos” (which was at the time the only medical center in the small capital), being unable to handle the growing number of cases decided to open a new facility to provide services for the victims of the plague. It was built at the peak of mount Parnitha, on a site previously belonging to a monastery called Petrakis. In 1914 the Sanatorium — officially called “Hospital of G.Stauros and G.Fougos” — opened its gates to the public.
Sanatoriums were large medical facilities, originally designed for any long-term illness, but eventually, they were used mainly for tuberculosis. They were usually located in remote places in the countryside, both as a quarantine meter and because the fresh, clean air was beneficial for the patients.
The Sanatorium offered a cell for the patients to live in, food, and medical care in change for the sum of 300–480 drachmae per month, a price which many poor Athenians could not afford. So desperate they were, that soon hundreds of tents and improvised medical camps began to spring out of nowhere in its yard and expand around the building. The living conditions both in the hospital and the camps were terrible… Patients were forced to rest by laying on their beds, sometimes for the whole day! The medical staff allowed them a limited set of activities while forcing them to stay out in the yard for as much time as possible, despite the weather conditions.
The hospital was soon transformed from a place of hope into a house of terror, a place where the poor victims of tuberculosis would spend the rest of their miserable lives, before being choked to death by their own phlegm. Hundreds died in their cells, while others froze to death during the cold, winter months. Many were driven mad or left with deep psychological wounds after they were forced to stay in their cells for hours or even days, listening to the agonizing deep breaths of their roommates in the nearby cells, who were slowly dying. There were cases where patients were transported to the hospital by force, because they refused to willingly go there, knowing that as soon as they entered its doors, they might never leave alive.
Spirits from the Past
In 1928, at St. Mary’s Hospital, London, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. This discovery led to the introduction of antibiotics that greatly reduced the number of deaths from tuberculosis. The sanatoriums had no reason for existence and began to shut down. The Sanatorium of Parnitha shared a similar fate and was eventually closed in 1965. For the next two decades, it became a faculty of the Hellenic Tourism Organization, but was abandoned hastily… It was then turned into a hotel, under the name “Xenia”. However, it was also abandoned in 1985 and since then it has been left to rot. The official reason for its abandonment was that the ruined building was far too unstable and dangerous for anyone to use it. In fact, the Greek government pledged to demolish it by 2017. But no one ever came…
The fact is that “Xenia” was sat down after many terrified guests reported that they heard mysterious sounds during the dark nights… Sometimes there were chilling screams, coming directly from the building’s basement where the Sanatorium’s mortuary was located. Others said that they heard cries and mysterious voices begging them to take them out of this place! Finally, some people said to have seen ghosts, dressed in white, ragged medical robes, wandering the halls at night. Many said that these were the souls of the patients who died at this hellish building…
As the years passed, these sightings became more and more frequent. Some ghost stories feature a forty-year-old woman, dressed in white who wanders the yard in search of a long-lost person, whom she cared a lot. If she spots you, you should run like the wind, for once she realizes that you are not the one she looks, she will turn into a terrifying form, so hideous, it will drive you mad by fear… Other legends speak about a girl, wearing a white dress with a blue ribbon, who lurks near a broken fountain and cries, begging anyone who passes to get her out of here.
“Let me come with you…”
Today there are countless horror stories regarding the Sanatorium, ranging from paranormal activities and ghost sitings to Satanist rituals under the full moon. Like a magnet, it draws in its rotten corpse hundreds of ghost hunters and adrenaline seekers, eager to discover if the stories are true. The government is aware of that and has blocked every access to the interior, even putting warning sites around the area. This has only attracted more visitors to the site.
Teens, drug addicts, pranksters, and graffiti artists have all crossed its threshold, looking for an adventure. Many fled terrified claiming that they have heard screams, whispers, and the sound of hard breathing and uncontrollable coughing, along with phrases such as “please let me come with you”. Others stayed enchanted by the otherwordly beauty of the abandoned hospital. Some said they saw ghosts, some dismiss the stories as nothing more than fairytales.
Which one speaks the truth? We will never find out…
Disclaimer: the Sanatorium of Parnitha is still standing today. However, I’m in no way urging anyone to visit it. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, some real dangers are lurking. Criminals, rusty edges, and ceilings ready to collapse. Therefore, entering the building is extremely dangerous because it can fall apart at any moment.
TB Facts.org, (2020), Sanatorium — from the first to the last, available at https://tbfacts.org/sanatorium/, (last access: 08/04/2022)
Euaggelismos Hospital, History, available at https://www.evaggelismos-hosp.gr/index.php/istoriko, (last access: 08/04/2022)
Poulakou-Rebellakou, E., (2014), The proceedings of the sanatorium of Parnitha as a source of data on the medical and demographic approach to tuberculosis during the interwar period in Greece, availabe at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259371941_The_proceedings_of_the_sanatorium_of_Parnitha_as_a_source_of_data_on_the_medical_and_demographic_approach_to_tuberculosis_during_the_interwar_period_in_Greece, (last access: 08/04/2022)
Geraioudakis, A., (2019), Sanatorium: Ghost stories over a snow-covered Parnitha, available at https://www.ethnos.gr/greece/article/13466/sanatorioistoriesfantasmatonsthxionismenhparnhthavidpics, (last access: 08/04/2022)
Menzel, K., (2014), The Greek Haunted Building on Mount Parnitha, available at https://greekreporter.com/2014/01/21/the-greek-haunted-building-on-mount-parnitha/, (last access: 08/04/2022)