Ecuador Leyendas y cuentos de terror: Ecuador’s Legends and horror tales

Scary stories, especially in the Sierra mountains of Ecuador, are a long-standing oral tradition meant to entertain family generations when they gather. Besides providing a fun adrenaline rush, the stories may also carry a moral lesson to the listeners or evoke pathos in the telling of a tragedy. The specific culture of the region is recreated with every telling. Different ages in family groups and their friends bond over this shared experience. The stories bring witches, ghosts, and other supernatural beings to life, or address common psychological fears of loss, endangerment, or lawlessness.

Many of the same tales are told throughout Ecuador, but the legend of a haunted tunnel near a very old local hospital is a scary story unique to Loja.       

The Hangman’s Tunnel

This is the tale of the Hangman’s Tunnel. The tunnel was built in 2007, but its name comes from a legend that took place here. We consider it one of the saddest and most breathtaking stories belonging to the city of Loja.

A long time ago, where what is now the Hospital Isidro Ayora, was a clinic known as “San Juan de Dios Hospital,” located on the north-west edge of the city. The front gate was on Imbabura Street. At the end of the hospital’s property, there is a path that diverges in two directions: one path takes you to the Pedestal neighborhood, and the second skirts the hospital’s property leading to a huge cliff that was known as “The hangman’s path.”

Leprosy used to be an incurable communicable disease. For this reason, everyone who suffered from leprosy was persecuted and placed in this asylum hospital ward at least until they were sent to a Leprocomio, or leper colony, in the nation’s capital.

The lepers were cared for by doctors who took the strongest precautions to avoid the spread of the disease, sometimes only prescribing treatment from afar on the other side of the room. In contrast, the nurses could not avoid direct contact with the patients, and many of them became infected with the incurable disease. This is the main reason why it was so difficult to find people to work in this area of the hospital, and only in extreme cases would some take the job. Such was the case of Luz Marina. A tragic figure, Luz was kicked out of her family home for becoming an unwed mother, so she left the country where she grew up and went to the city looking for a hospital to take care of her newborn daughter. The little girl was admitted in the children's ward of the hospital, but her mother did not have any place to stay. Consequently, the “Hermanas de la Caridad” who at the time ran the hospital, proposed the mother stay and work for the leper “Aislado” (asylum).

Luz Marina had no other options and resolved to stay permanently at the hospital with her daughter. The daughter, named Ana María, over the years was provided an education and a nursing course. When she was 16, she was a cheerful and lively girl who loved fulfilling her obligations and duties. She was diligent in order to be free and have plenty of time afterward to play on grounds of the hospital, behind which there was a high hill strewn with Eucalipto (eucalyptus). Along one of the hospital paths she walked every day after lunch. One day on one of her usual walks, she bumped into Luis Felipe, a young law student walking slowly through the lonely path with just his notebook in his hand. When they saw each other it was love at first sight. They didn’t need to speak, but with tender looks and smiles they knew instantly they would be in love until death. Despite the intensity of their feelings, their love was chaste and pure. They lovingly met for two years, finding each other every day on that lonely path on one side of the hill, or on the other side with its beautiful vegetation.

After the death of her mother, Ana was alone and her only dream was to marry her beloved Luis Felipe. Fate, however, is cruel and played a horrible trick on the couple. One day after lunch Ana was manicuring her nails next to the window of her small room in the hospital, when suddenly she felt one of her fingernails was loose. When she pulled on her nail just a little, it came completely off without causing her any pain. She intuited what this ominous event could mean, but hoping to be wrong, went to talk to the doctor. Sadly, there was no doubt, she was infected with the dreaded disease, and needed to resign her position to live enclosed with the other lepers. This was not to be the case.

“No!” she shouted and ran to the top of the hill behind the hospital, and then ran down the dangerous slope wishing only to stumble and fall to her death. Her desire was stronger than her physical ability, and she arrived unscathed at the road before the hour of her daily appointment with her beloved. So she sought in the pocket of her white nurse's apron a pencil and notebook she always kept there to receive the doctors’ instructions and wrote rashly:

“Forgive me Luis Felipe, for the pain I will cause you, but I cannot lock myself away to die of leprosy, nor condemn you to look at me in torment. Goodbye my love. I’ll wait for you in eternity. Yours forever: Ana María”

She put the paper in her pocket so that most of it would be visible and then took several cabuya fibers from the many that were on the penco enclosure next to the path, and made a hard rope which she used to climb a nearby guabo tree. One end of the rope she tied across a branch and the other to her neck, and then threw herself into the void.

When Luis Felipe went to the daily appointment, he was surprised that he did not find his beloved jumping with that natural happiness she always had. But then he looked up at the tree where he saw her lifeless body hanging. He screamed and ran to help her, but it was too late, his first and only love was dead. Now stricken with inconsolable grief, he made cabuya braids just like his love had made, tied one end of the rope to his neck and the other to the branch of the same quabo tree as she had done before him, and threw himself into the void. When the two corpses were found together, the tragic deaths of the young lovers shook the entire small city of Loja. Nowadays, some people come here to have ouija board seances, hoping to conjure Ana and Luis, and ask them about their devastating love story, and about the future. Still others claim to have seen the dead bodies hanging from their necks in the middle of the tunnel.

This Lojano legend is just one of many known to the people of our fair city and is an example of how the team at Life in Loja helps tourists and visitors, expats and immigrants, to better appreciate the culture of Loja, Ecuador. If you would like to know more about our custom tours and relocation services then contact us by email or phone/WhatsApp at 593-098-674-5994 to begin a conversation.


  1. Oh, what a sad story 😪
    It sounds very much like one, that could come from the Colonial times..

    I wonder dear 'Life in Loja' how many 'illnesses' these old Colonials have invented during the lifetime of our beautiful planet ...

    The 'illness' told about in this sad legend from your Loja reminds quite a lot of a certain other 'illness' which is very present ...😥😏🤭

    Thanks so much, for a good and - very timely - legend. If I hadn't been convinced before, that I will love your area, I certainly am now....


  2. Dear "Traveller's private blog"
    Comments like yours make our job a rewarding activity. Loja has many similar stories. Actually, we have an entire book of folk tales that have roots in colonial times. The book is called "Cuentos y leyendas de Loja". We hope you like it.

    Warm hugs


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