Mysterious Places of Cozumel
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Mayans, Myths and Modern Day Haunts

Explore these places of mystery on Cozumel...

Assisted by our local guide Gustavo from Cozumel Tours the Mysterious Destinations Expedition Team discovered the mystic history and modern day haunts on this island named “land of the swallows” by the ancient Maya.

EMF Anomalies at the Historic Haunts of El Cedral

It was Spanish Conquistador Juan de Grijalva who first discovered Cozumel in 1518 as he was blown off course during a journey to Cuba. Grijalva left a golden statue as a gift when he departed which now resides in the downtown San Miguel Cathedral, according to a history compiled on cozumelinsider.com.

Shortly thereafter, Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés found his way to Isla Cozumel in 1519 and with his influence, which included the destruction of the many temples and the spread of the smallpox disease, Cozumel's inhabitants went from 40,000 to just 30 people by 1570. Cozumel's ancient Mayan civilization lied in ruins, and by 1600 Cozumel was uninhabited.

El Cedral

It was a small group of Mayan refugees fleeing the mainland during the War of the Castes in 1847 that began the re-settlement of Cozumel. They chose a location in the southern center of the island known as El Cedral where a Mayan ruin already stood and made this their new home.

The village of El Cedral still stands today, with the Mayan ruin and a beautiful Catholic church in the center of it. Locals in the area sometimes report strange occurrences, especially at night. Many of these, such as eerie mists, seem to be centered around the ruin… But the most frequent manifestation is that of voices on the night winds… Voices in the Mayan language, sometimes heard chanting.

Such nighttime chants have also been reported by workers and security guards at the San Gervasio ruins, where they are apparently so common that all but new employees disregard them.

The Mysterious Destinations Team conducted an electromagnetic field (EMF) sweep of the exterior of the Mayan ruin at El Cedral (the interior is closed) and had some interesting results. High EMF fields were registered at several locations (including the “window” shown in the image bar on the left). Of course, there are no electrical facilities in this ruin, so the EMF anomalies could not attributed to wiring. The only other explanation is a build up of electrical fields in the stones of the ruin, but such anomalies were not apparent in all the stones of this ruin. Neither were they apparent at other Mayan ruins on the island. The only conclusion is that, at the time of 2011 visit, there was an anomalous EMF at this location. A majority of paranormal researchers agree that the presence of anomalous EMFs may also indicate the presence of paranormal activity.

Lonely Ghost Haunts a Lovely Beach

On the south side of the island is a white sand beach bordered by turquoise waters, often frequented by recreational divers. It was here on February 4, 2011 that the lifeless body of a 32-year-old woman was found floating in shallow water near the shore, an apparent murder victim.

After the incident, locals driving along Carretera Costera Sur (South Coastal Road, a small road that branches off from the main highway of Avenida Gral Rafael Melagar near the beach) have reported seeing the ghostly apparition of a woman walking along the side of the road.

To find the location, look for a Ceiba tree out on a small point on the beach (see the photo in our illustration bar on the left of the page). Perhaps coincidentally, the Ceiba tree is believed by both the modern and ancient Maya to have strong mystical powers.

(See our article below “Multiple Manifestations at Piratas Bar and Restaurant” for more information on Ceiba trees.)

Multiple Manifestations at Piratas Bar and Restaurant

The Mysterious Destinations Team learned about Piratas bar and restaurant during a foray into San Miguel, the only major town on Cozumel. According to Piratas owner Reuben, there have been ghostly sightings in the patio area as well as occurrences regarding a near by Ceiba tree.

These trees were revered by the ancient Maya and are thought to have mystical powers and provide shelter for paranormal entities.

Some Maya believe that deities live in Ceiba trees. The Maya civilization believed, Yaaxché, a concept of the central world tree is often depicted as a Ceiba trunk, which connects the planes of the underworld (Xibalba), the terrestrial realm and the skies. The unmistakable thick conical thorns in clusters on the trunk were reproduced by the southern lowland Maya of the Classical Period on cylindrical ceramic burial urns or incense holders.

Modern Maya still often respectfully leave the Ceiba tree standing when harvesting forest timber, according to the BBC Earth News broadcast "Sacred Plants of the Maya Forest", in June 2009.

Some witnesses have described watching an ethereal creature climb in and out of the upper limbs of the Ceiba tree at Piratas, but we were unable to ascertain if these sightings were before or after imbibing one of Piratas legendary margaritas.

Piratas is located on a walkway just south of the southeast corner of the main plaza in San Miguel.

Cenotes

Cenotes are surface connections to subterranean water bodies. The name is derived from the Maya word dzonot, which means, “well”.

The island of Cozumel is honeycombed with at least 18 documented cenotes, and cenotes are also common on the mainland.

The Maya have been known to make offerings to their gods by dropping or placing them in cenotes, including human sacrifice as documented by National Geographic in 2011 at the Chichen Itza ruins in mainland Mexico. Here, among other artifacts, were found the bones of four adults and two children.

The reason it is unknown if the offerings were placed or dropped into the cenotes is because water levels likely varied through history. This may explain why one diver we interviewed in Cozumel described finding Maya artifacts in an underground section of a cenote that could only be reached with SCUBA gear and required a flashlight… Or it may not.

Cenotes are found at a variety of places within the Maya ruins at San Gervasio on Cozumel.

While some of the mainland cenotes, particularly in the Tulum area, are large, well lit and safe enough for visitors to swim through, this is not the case in Cozumel. Only cave certified divers are allowed to enter the Cozumel cenotes, and these dives are considered dangerous. Some of the Cozumel cenotes can be viewed from the surface, but even this is best done as part of a tour with a qualified guide. Many of the cenotes are on private property, and even above ground there are hazards, including crocodiles hiding in the water.

The Mysterious Woman Who Disappears From Cabs

While this story doesn’t include a location you can visit, the Mysterious Destinations Team encountered cab drivers on Cozumel who related a tale worth telling.

It seems that once or twice a year in the late night hours a cab driver will pick up a beautiful, well-dressed woman in San Miguel who needs transportation to the east side of the island. Her appearance is completely natural, not apparitional.

According to these drivers, sometime during the trip, the woman will simply disappear from the back of their cab!

La Tumba and Faro Celerain

On the distant southeast corner of Cozumel on Punta Sur (South Point) is the Faro Celarain Ecological Reserve, which encloses a variety of natural and paranormal wonders.

You’ll need to join a tour, hire a guide or rent a car to get to this location; and there is an admission fee of $10 (when we visited). However, the trip is worth the effort.   (Taxis won’t work for this location unless you hire one for a period of hours… There are no cabs waiting to return people.)

The area is rich in coastal dunes, mangroves, reefs, lagoons, and some of Cozumel’s most beautiful beaches and reefs. (Caution: Swimmers should beware of strong tides and currents, and no lifeguards. Essentially, swimming on the beaches is not recommended.)

The park is a magnet for migratory birds in April and May, and the lagoon is home to lots of crocodiles year-round. (No swimming allowed in the lagoon, but there is a well-placed observation pier.)

There are two points of interest to mystery seekers in the park, the Faro Celarain (Celarain Lighthouse) and a Maya structure known locally as La Tumba (the tomb) and officially as El Caracol (the conch or sea snail), although neither name accurately describes the site.

El Caracol is located on the dirt entry road about halfway from the entrance to the lighthouse on the point. It is a stubby structure made of stone and decorated with incrustations of pink conch (hence the name). The mystery about this structure is that no one seems to know definitively what is was used for. Some of the structure is underground, and several meters away researchers found the remains of structure that may have been a residence for the “keeper”.

Most researchers agree that the structure functioned as a temple of some type. Others assert that it functioned as a lighthouse or some other type of navigation aid. There is also speculation that the slat-like holes in the structure caused it to make a low whistling sound when the easterly winds picked up, making it a warning device of approaching hurricanes.

The local term “La Tumba” of course gives a more ominous possibility for the purpose of the structure, as it is well known that Maya sometimes entombed their dead under structures, as is the case with at least one structure at the San Gevasio ruins on Cozumel. (To read about our exploration of these ruins, click here.)

Faro Celerain, located right on the scenic point, includes both the lighthouse and a small museum in what used to be the keeper’s house. There are local rumors that both of these structures are haunted, although the Mysterious Destinations Team didn’t have a chance to investigate these rumors. Anyone who knows of stories, incidents, or any other leads is encouraged to contact us.

Rest assured that the next time we visit this location we’ll be conducting a full EMF sweep and interviewing the on-site employees.

Regardless of the paranormal possibilities, this location is worth a visit. The museum allows a glimpse into the lonely life of the lighthouse keepers and a history of the station. The lighthouse itself can also be entered and guests can climb to the top for one of the best views on Cozumel.