Top 5 Algarvian Ghost Stories

October is one of my favourite months, not only because it’s the month of my birthday but also because it is the month to prepare for Halloween. On the evening of 31 October, shops and bars will no doubt be transformed into a slightly more spooky setting, with cobwebs, spiders and skeleton punch bowls dotted all over the place. Partygoers will enjoy a spooktacular Bloody Mary whilst children will dart from door to door shouting that typical Halloween saying “Trick or Treat” in exchange for some sweets from the local neighbours. 

To set you up in the spirit of Halloween, here are my top-five Algarvian Ghost Stories, which, unless you’re brave enough, I suggest you read in the daytime.

Lethes Theatre, Faro (1880) 

1. Lethes Theatre, Faro

Dating back to 1605, Faro’s Lethes Theatre is one of the most historic buildings in Faro. Having first opened as a Jesuit college, it was inaugurated as a theatre in 1845 by Italian doctor Lázaro Dogiloni from Venice, who purchased the building at a public auction. Whilst still one of the most popular theatres in the area, it is famed for one of the most intriguing ghost stories in the region. 

It is rumoured that a ballerina once hung herself within this very theatre and that her ghost still roams the auditorium today. Noises of footsteps and laughter have been heard without explanation and apparitions have been witnessed on several occasions of a translucent figure practising pirouettes on the stage. Could this be the lost soul of the young ballerina who took her life all those years ago, or just a figure of the imagination? 

Courtesy of

2. Hotel Bela Vista, Praia da Rocha

Situated on the cliffs of Praia da Rocha is the Victorian villa, Hotel Bela Vista. Built in 1918, it was one of the first major mansions to be built in the area and was named Vila de Nossa Senhora das Dores, translating as the ‘Villa of Our Lady of Sorrows’. It was owned by the fishing and canning businessman António Júdice de Magalhães Barros, who had links with the former Portimão canning factory (now the Museum of Portimão), and his wife Maria da Glória Júdice and their six children. The opulent villa remained a palatial private home, where extravagant parties and banquets for the rich and famous were thrown until the death of  Maria da Glória Júdice, who is said to have died in room 108. By 1936, the villa was leased to Magalhães Barros’ cousin, Henrique Bívar de Vasconcelo, who transformed the mansion into the hotel we know today. 

Over time, hotel staff and guests started to complain about whispers, banging on walls and the eerie apparitions of a woman strolling through corridors. Many have spoken about the smell of sweet perfume suddenly appearing in their rooms, especially in room 108. The hotel was later rebuilt and rebranded as a luxury boutique hotel, but is it possible that Senhora Maria is still keeping an eye on the villa she once called home? 

Palácio da Fonte da Pipa

3. Palácio da Fonte da Pipa, Loulé  

The magnificent Palácio da Fonte da Pipa, just outside of Loulé, stands on a plateau of olive groves, accessed by a grand gated driveway. It was built shortly after lawyer and Deputy Mayor of Loulé, Marçal Pacheco, purchased a plot of land in 1875 to build a mansion similar to those he saw on his European travels. 

Now long abandoned and ravaged by fire, those who have explored this once opulent palace, complete with frescos and a glass-domed roof, have heard unnerving sounds of laughter and moans, and have even seen shadows darting from room to room. Some believe that these could be the souls of the many victims of the pneumonia epidemic of 1916–1918, who are purported to be buried near the grounds of Palácio da Fonte da Pipa. Is there any truth in these stories, or are they fabricated rumours to keep nosy explorers away from this historic property? 

© Google 2023

4. Casa de Dr. Pike, Olhão

Situated in Olhão is the former grand home of poet, naturalist and romantic Dr. John Pike. Built in the 20th century, this large villa became the family home until tragedy struck. Dr. Pike’s elderly mother, who suffered from senility, dropped his young son from a window, which resulted in his instant death. Following this terrible accident, the family moved to a newly built house closer to the sea, at Quinta da Marim (now the Environmental Education Centre), to escape the sad memories of the Olhão villa.

Since the Pikes’ departure, many have tried to make the villa their idyllic home, but as night falls, some have heard the sounds of a child crying and toys being dragged along the floors. It often becomes too much for the new homeowners to stick around. 

© Google 2023

5. Estrada Nacional 266, Monchique

I tell this tale from personal experience and can confirm that neither I nor my two companions had been sampling too much Super Bock or Sagres that day. It was not yet dark on a chilly November evening. We were on our way to Monchique, approaching the bend by the Cepsa petrol station on Estrada Nacional 266. Not far ahead of us, a grey car with dim headlights pulled squarely out of the petrol station and crossed the main road, straight into the lay-by/turning junction opposite, as cars are supposed to do when they plan to turn left towards Monchique. 

I quite expected him to race ahead and rejoin the main road in front of us, but I was not expecting him to vanish into thin air before my eyes. All three of us in the car said together, “Where did that car go?” There were no exits, no driveways and no way nearby where the car could have gone, but it was nowhere to be seen. Talking over this strange encounter, we all described a similar grey car. I went back the next day and drove up and down that stretch of road, searching for an answer, but there was not one and to this day, when I pass the spot, I wonder, did I really see a phantom car? 

If you have had a paranormal experience whilst in Portugal, I would be interested to hear your story:


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