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SANATORIO DEL GOTTARDO

A Visit to the Haunted & Abandoned Tuberculosis Clinic

Story by Sandro Gämperle September 6th, 2014

Fight against Tuberculosis

Nestled against a steep mountain slope high above the valley Leventina in the Southern part of Switzerland, the Sanatorio del Gottardo offers a unique view across the Alpine landscape. Built in 1905, the Sanatorio was operated as a tuberculosis clinic - the fresh and clean air in the Alps was ideal to treat and battle lung diseases.

After WWI, the Sanatorio was taken over by the Swiss government and served as a military hospital until 1920. It was then handed over to the Swiss canton of Ticino until it closed down in the 1960ies due to a declining number of patients with lung diseases.

Since then, the once magnificent building is slowly taken over by decay. Stained wallpapers, peeling paint, dusty floors, mouldy walls and rusty pipes emanate a gloomy atmosphere.

When you take the hike along the small mountain road leading from the village Piotta down at the valley floor uphill towards the Sanatorio you can already see the building from far away. Up close though, the 5 story building raises higher than its surrounding trees and certainly knows how to make an impression on you.

The main entrance is locked down and prominent prohibition signs tell you not to even think about entering the building. It won’t take long though to find an alternative entry and before the courage leaves you for good, you daringly enter the dark hall that lies in front of you…

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Haunted House

Exploring the over 70 rooms “armed” only with your camera and a flashlight might be a somewhat disturbing experience - especially when you are prone to the super natural (which I wasn’t). It doesn’t really help to know that countless ghost stories entwine around the Sanatorio. Even if you do not believe in ghosts at all it is still hard not to expect an eerie creature waiting for you each time you point your flashlight into one of the countless pitch black rooms on the lower floors.

While photographing one of the rooms I suddenly heard a very loud but brief shriek behind me in the hallway. It sounded like a pig whose throat was cut but then again what would a pig do in that hallway on the fourth floor of the Sanatorio del Gottardo? My second thought was that it was a bird (no, not a ghost, even though it was a really tempting thought at that moment) but I have never heard such kind of a bird in my whole life. Whatever it was, it didn’t disturb me any further…

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The age of the unicorn

Even though I did’t see a real ghost I discovered a unicorn (well, sort of). To be honest, I turned into a unicorn myself (in case you didn’t notice already) as it seemed to be a fittingly outfit for a strange place like this.

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for sale

The Sanatorio is still owned by the canton of Ticino and is up for sale. You could bring back the glory of the old days if you’ve got a few millions of Swiss francs to spare - or simply turn it into a Haunted Mansion kind of tourist attraction (make sure to hire me as a freelance ghost actor).

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Footnote: Please also check out my other exposure posts as well as my flickr page www.flickr.com/sandrotto
Piotta, Quinto, Switzerland