Atacama Desert Dispatch: My Supernatural Experience

In the Chilean town of San Pedro de Atacama, fancy hotels are rare. The destination is a favorite for backpackers, hippies, and hardcore outdoor enthusiasts (think James Franco in 127 Hours) who basically only need a mattress and rolling papers to get by. However, there are few luxury locales to choose from in the desert town, and Matt and I began our stay at Casa Atacama, popular for its all-inclusive package and location just walking distance from the main street. There are only 21 adobe-style rooms, so it remains quite intimate, with an outdoor pool and jacuzzi, young and enthusiastic staff, and a fantastic restaurant with outdoor fireplace. There are also ghosts.

After Matt and I had dinner, I opted to take a quick nap before our big birthday night out. As I lay in bed, I continued to slip in and out of consciousness, slowly becoming aware of the fact I could not move. My whole body was paralyzed. In my sleepy state, I wondered whether it was a reaction to something I ate or if the long commute from NYC truly put me out. It was unusual and surreal, and at some points my heart was racing so fast I thought it would implode. My body seemed to be a magnet for the bed. I was simply paralyzed. Then I started to see things. Random people coming into the room, flashes of faces peeking from behind the door, indistinguishable visages, all in fast-forward mode, looking at me while I stayed pinned like a bug on the mattress. I tried to scream Matt’s name, but my voice had been stripped away. I’m not even sure how I forced myself out of bed, but I ran to Matt’s room in a panic and found out two hours had passed. Two hours of me being paralyzed, which had, at the time, felt like no more than twenty minutes.

In other words: WTF? My research proves that sleep paralysis is common, though there’s no proven scientific explanation for it. However, there have been instances where someone has walked into the room in which their partner was experiencing sleep paralysis and they’ve actually see a figure hovering over them. Creepy.

image Needless to say, I changed rooms quickly – only to change rooms again due to another situation – but discovered along the way that I wasn’t totally delusional. It took a while, but the staff eventually admitted that the hotel was built on top of an ancient cemetery. In fact, as it turns out, all of San Pedro de Atacama is one big cemetery, as thousands of natives are literally buried underneath the ground in an area covering more or less the entire span of the village. You are literally walking above thousands of corpses at all times.

I can’t say this hotel is actually haunted, as I never felt threatened (hey, the ghost was simply curious), but I do think Ghost Hunters needs to make a trip here fast.

Spirits aside, Casa Atacama is actually one cool resort. The Ghost Hunters crew would not only have a great setting, but their stay would comprise rooms with comfy beds, organic toiletries, a private terrace, free internet, an indoor garden, and, most importantly, the prospect of contacting a Chilean spirit (or two thousand) in the desert.

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