September 27, 1934, Spain. The building on Gascón de Gotor street looked like another building in the sprawling city of Zaragoza. It was the home of several families including the Palazon family, who lived on the second floor. That September morning a loud cackling reverberated throughout the otherwise quiet building. It was a maniacal laugh that grew louder and more harsh as it spread throughout the building. After a few minutes, residents began opening their doors and taking a peak outside, to try and see who was behind that obtrusive and disturbing laughter. Those that investigated did not find the source, but felt that the laughter surrounded the entire building. Just then, as soon as it started, the laughing stopped and an eerie silence fell upon the building that made the residents retreat to the comfort of their homes. That September day was to be the start of the two month ordeal inside the Palazon residence. A haunting which was dubbed ‘El duende de Zaragoza’, or The goblin of Zaragoza.
A couple of hours after the incident early that morning, life was back to normal for the Palazon family. They employed a young maid named Pascuala Alcocer, who by that afternoon had arrived at the residence unaware of the commotion earlier. As she was about to light the wood stove, a voice from within the stove cried out: “You’re hurting me!” Pascuala recoiled in horror. She ran out of the kitchen and into the living room where some of the members of the Palazon family were sitting and listening to the radio. They turned to see the fear on the maid’s face and just then heard an effeminate voice coming from the kitchen: “Light! Light! I cannot see!“
Pascuala told them how she had heard the voice from within the stove and it was unlike anything she’d ever heard before. To her, it sounded almost like a small child, a little girl calling out from inside the stove’s pipe. It seemed to them that the taunting laughter they had heard earlier, was now inside their home; harassing the maid. For the next few days, the family would be haunted by strange noises throughout their home, accompanied by the disembodied voice, who would bark out answers from time to time. “Where are you?” They would ask. “Inside the stove!” it replied. There were days in which nothing would be heard, only to be followed by days in which they heard a lowly, mournful cry come from within the stove. As the days wore on, what could only be described as a tormenting type of haunting, things turned for the worse inside the residence. The voice, once sounding like that of a little girl, had now morphed into a guttural, demonic voice. “Turn on the light!” the voice would demand in the middle of the night.
From neighbors to the curious passerby, the stories of what was transpiring inside the home of the Palazon family spread all through Zaragoza, the country, and the rest of the world. Soon, newspapers like the London Times would chime in on the Duende from Spain. The London Times reported the incident on November 24th, 1934.
A Polite Spanish Ghost – Talks down the chimney
The voice continued tormenting the family, fuelling the growing crowd’s curiosity. There were thousands of spectators descending into Zaragoza, hoping to catch a glimpse of the so-called goblin. The local police and judges vowed to “put an end to circus” of what the case had become. The officials descended upon the Gascón de Gotor street looking to dispel the ludicrous claims of a goblin. Neighbors attested that when the police showed up, the phantom voice cried out: “Cowards! You’ve called the police!” The officials were sure it was a hoax perpetrated by one of the inhabitants of the household. They were so sure of it, that they brought with them a psychiatrist to evaluate Pascuala. Who according to the police, was behind the voice that had been tormenting the residents.
Masons, carpenters, and plumbers were called to the scene in hopes of making sense of where the voice was coming from. As the investigation unfolded, the police and everyone else inside the residence at the time heard the laughter, emanating from the stove once more. “Who are you?!” yelled one officer. There was no answer. Just the soft murmurs of those spectators outside in the street. “What do you want?” asked another.
“Do you want money?” someone asked.
“No!” the gravelly voice finally responded.
Shocked, the policemen carried on with their questions. “Do you want a job?”. Again, the voice responded: “No!”.
“Good god man, what do you want?!”
“I’m not a man!” it said.
They then asked if it could see them, to which one of the officers asked how many people were in the room at the time. The voice responded with the correct number. Forcing them to believe that it had eyes on the entire room. The judges were not convinced that the voice was from a paranormal source. They believed that the practical joker was somewhere near, casting their voice from a hiding spot. With that, they asked for the building’s architect to do an inspection from top to bottom of the entire building to find the ventriloquist. The architect showed up along with a few masons that had previously worked on the building. They meticulously searched every square inch of the building, especially inside the residence. They turned up nothing. According to their investigation, there was no way they could see that someone would be able to hide and speak in a manner which was loud, clear, and fully aware of what was happening in the room.
The psychiatrist on the scene was able to extensively analyze the young maid. Joaquin Jimen Orriera separated Pascuala from the group and began a series of questions. He would come to the conclusion that Pascuala was indeed behind the voice, however it was due to “…a phenomenal mixture of hysteria and subconscious ventriloquism.” Pascuala flat out denied any involvement in the strange goings-on, and believed herself to be a victim of the so-called goblin just like everyone else. To prove his theory, the psychiatrist and others asked Pascuala if she would accompany them while running some errands. With that, they hoped that once she left the residence, the voice would stop. To their surprise, the voice continued to talk and cry at times even when Pascuala was nowhere near the building or street. With that, the psychiatrists theory went up in smoke and a more sinister feeling engulfed the gathered group of investigators and family members.
The next step for the investigating team was to isolate the source. They ordered the building to be evacuated and all electrical and telephone wires cut. By then the national guard was in place, making sure that the growing crowd outside the building was a safe distance away. With no power or communication running into the building, and no other residents inside (including Pascuala), the investigators again called out to the voice. To their dismay, the voice was still coming from within the stove. However this time it had a more aggressive tone and started insulting everyone in the room. Swearing that it would kill all of the members of the Palazon family.
At this point, the architect had ordered one of the masons to take some measurements of part of the wall that was next to the stove. Just then, the voice spoke out. “Don’t worry, it measures 75 centimeters…” To the surprise of everyone in the kitchen, the mason measured the wall and found that it was exactly as the voice predicted. The masons were unnerved by the strange happenings. So much so, that it was reported that they left in a hurry, leaving behind some of their tools. To everyone’s surprise, the phantom voice had showed them that it had structural knowledge of the building itself. Something that wouldn’t be known to the residents, or even to Pascuala herself.
The home owner was present during most of the investigation. He was usually accompanied by his young son, Arturo Grijalba. Just a small boy then, Arturo found himself being the next victim of the Goblin of Zaragoza, as the media had nicknamed it. As Arturo would later testify, there was a police presence always in their home after the initial investigation. There was a guard present in their kitchen, one of the patio or balcony, and another outside. The place he knew as their home was no longer theirs. It seemed to the young boy that whatever that voice was, it had pushed them away and brought stress and panic into their otherwise peaceful life. With that, Arturo one day told his father: “Let’s go dad, I’m tired and I want to sleep. This whole thing is crazy…”
To his surprise and to that of the policemen that were present, the voice responded: “No, not crazy little one…“
That was to be the last time Arturo and his father heard of the voice. After two months of insults, threats, and the maniacal laughs, the haunting suddenly stopped. No one was ever able to figure out where the voice was emanating from, or who or what was behind the gravely threats. The only true victim of this case was the maid herself, Pascuala Alcocer. The police, national guard, and even architects all blamed the maid, given that she had been the first suspect when the psychiatrists came up with his theory of a subconscious ventriloquist act. Eventually, the voice that tormented the residents of Gascón de Gotor would fade into obscurity. The building has since been demolished and now a new residential one stands in its place, aptly named Edificio Duende or Goblin Building.
Pascuala eventually left the family and lived a very reclusive life. Never fully recovering from the blame that was put on her, she refused to socialize with the people of the city. In old age, she gave an interview about this incident. When asked where the voice was coming from, Pascuala only answered with a few words:
“From within the wall.”