Marble mausoleums, famous people and haunted graves with excellent architecture. The city of Buenos Aires got more to offer than tango and good food. And in the old Recoleta Cemetery there are stories that those buried there is haunting the place. One of them is the grave of Rufina Cambacérès who were buried alive.

In the wonderful cemetery of Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, the most prominent of Argentina’s dead is laid to rest. Graves of famous people like Eva Peron, Nobel Prize winners, grandchildren of Naloleón Bonaparte and those who served as presidents have graves you can visit.

Walking through Recoleta Cemetery is an architectural wandering among the marble mausoleums with art-deco, neo-classical and neo-gothic architecture in the tombs to enjoy looking at and wondering the story of those inside.

The Recoleta Cemetery is more like a city of graves with narrow streets and cobbled ground, almost like the most quiet neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. Although the inhabitants of this city is no longer alive and the only ones roaming here are their ghosts.

Read Also: Check out all of our ghost stories around haunted cemeteries from around the world.

There are also those graves found in the Recoleta Cemetery that people got to know of the person resting there, only after the death. 

Rufina Cambacérès: The Girl who Died Twice

Portrait of Rufina Cambacérès that is now buried in the  Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. 
Photo: Source
Buried Alive: Portrait of Rufina Cambacérès that is now buried in the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. Photo: Source

This is the case of Rufina Cambacérès, a girl that barely reached the age of nineteen before she tragically died, twice. Although she was a well known socialite in Buenos Aires at the turn of the 1900s when she was alive, it is her death she is remembered for today and is one of the buried in The Recoleta Cemetery. Although her burial was anything but peaceful.

Rufina Cambacérès’ family rose to the upper class of society in Buenos Aires from the money they made from cattle farming in Argentina. Her father, Eugenio Cambacérès was originally from France and a sort of famous writer in the country at the time.

Her father died of tuberculosis however when Rufina was only four, giving a precedent of premature deaths in the family, like the one Rufina herself would soon suffer from. 

A Temporary Death

In 1902 Rufina died for the first time in her life. Her death happened on her birthday no less. On her 19th birthday to be exact on May 31st. Her mother threw a party at their lavish house in Buenos Aires and they were all supposed to go to Teatro Colón to see a show or the opera.

Rufina Cambacérès retreated to her bedroom before they went out. She was getting ready in her bedroom for the night when something felt off. Perhaps she didn’t even get a chance to realize what was happening. She suddenly collapsed on the floor and was deemed to be dead for everyone around, even her doctors.

The reason of death the doctors gave was by catalepsy, a classical diagnosis that they have given those who were buried alive in history, especially the dramatic temporarily deaths from literature. This is the same death that Juliet was given temporarily by the poison, and in Edgar Allen Poe’s writing: ‘A Premature Burial’, also beginning with a false death that ends in a true death in the coffin.

Catalepsy: Is a strange disorder from from Ancient Greek meaning “seizing, grasping”. It really is a nervous condition characterized by muscular rigidity and fixity of posture regardless of external stimuli, as well as decreased sensitivity to pain. It has been today linked to epilepsy, parkinson or drug related.

Being declared dead before your time was not unheard of during those time at all and there are many examples of it throughout time. Sadly, Rufina became a part of this tragic statistic and before anyone could prove any different, she was buried, and first after her burial, she died. 

Read Also: For more ghost stories of those buried alive, check out The Buried Alive Ghosts of Château de Trécesson in the Enchanted Forest, O-shizu, Hitobashira — The Human Sacrifice of Maruoka Castle, The Mistletoe Bough – The Bride in the Chest, The Finnish Maiden of Olavinlinna Castle and The Evil Bishop Against the Maiden in Love – The Ghost of Haapsalu Castle.

Buried in Recoleta Cemetery

No less than three doctors pronounced her dead before she was put in a coffin and preparation for her birthday changed into preparing for her funeral. She was placed in her extravagant final resting place in the mausoleum already the next day in la Recoleta Cemetery. This seems extremely quick as there usually is held a wake to prevent people from being buried alive, and they really should have kept to the old customs before rushing her funeral.

Read also: The Poltergeist of Greyfriars Kirkyard or The Joelma Building and the Ghosts of the 13 Souls for more cemeteries that are supposedly haunted.

According to legend, she woke up in the coffin, dark and she was all alone far from her bedroom she was getting ready to go party. No one could hear her screams from outside the huge mausoleum that now was her prison. She tried to break free from her tomb she suddenly found herself in, trying to scratch herself out with her bare hands. The luxurious and sturdy coffin was sealed shut though and she had no chance of breaking free from it with her bear hands.

She was stuck inside as the air was slowly fading away. She must have lasted for a couple of days perhaps before eventually suffocating to death. For real this time. 

Free Recoleta Cemetery photo and picture
Recoleta Cemetery: a massive cemetery that houses many famous people like Eva Peron. The supposed haunted cemetery in Buenos Aires has also been hailed as the best cemetery by BBC in 2011, whatever that entails. It is known for looking almost like a little city within the city with streets and doors to the many mausoleums.

A cemetery worker allegedly noticed the lid of her casket was broken a few days later when he was around checking the many graves. The fact her grave was disturbed could also be attributed to robbers, since she was very likely to have been buried with her expensive jewelry because of her high status and riches.

But not according to those subscribing to the more macabre version, it was worse, it was the signs of her trying to escape from the coffin when she awoke from her shallow death and took one last shot at living. 

The Final Death of Rufina Cambacérès

Another legend tells that Rufina even managed to get out of the casket and ran through the cemetery at night. She managed to get to the gates, but there she died of a heart attack from the fright and had to be put back inside the coffin. 

More rumors about why she collapsed in the first place have been told throughout the years, creating more drama leading up to her collapsing. Among other things, her friend supposedly told her a secret so gruesome that it knocked her out so hard that they thought she was dead. According to her friend, the boyfriend Rufina was seeing was also together with Rufinas mother, or even worse, his own. A true scandal for a Tela Novela and would certainly send everyone into a shock. 

No matter the origin of the story and what really happened that day before going to the opera, the statue outside the mausoleum is solemn enough to create a number of haunted rumours as the statue really looks like she is trying to escape.

The mausoleum of the young girl, completed with a statue, representing her, with her hand on the door, her eyes looking away from her tomb. 
Photo: Source: Tim Adams
The Haunted Mausoleum: The mausoleum of the young girl Rufina Cambacérès, completed with a statue, representing her, with her hand on the door, her eyes looking, almost with a longing look, away from her tomb in Recoleta Cemetery.
Photo: Source: Tim Adams

Her family spared no expense on her mausoleum and Rufina Cambacérès final resting place is the only mausoleum made of marble from Milan and is decorated with beautiful ornaments. The young girl, supposed to be the young girl with one of her hands on the door, almost escaping, never able to see her 20th birthday or the exit of la Recoleta Cemetery.

According to some, the ghost of Rufina Cambacérès can still be seen roaming in the Recoleta Cemetery, still trying to get out of her shallow death.

Read Also: Another haunted cemetery with a strange Mausoleum is found in the story of Paris’ Haunted Père Lachaise Cemetery

So many legends surround the cemetery to this day like we find in Recoleta Cemetery. Among some of the ghosts supposed to haunt the place, is a cemetery worker, destined to linger in this place forever, as well as a woman in white, roaming the place. Perhaps trying to get out? 

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