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Corregidor Island guards the entrance to Manilla Bay in the Philippines. Due to its proximity to the Filipino capital city of Manilla, the island has long been fortified against attacks by enemy forces.
From 1570, Corregidor served as both a fortress and a penal institution under Spanish rule. Corregidor’s role as a prison can be seen in the island’s very name, with corregidor coming from the Spanish verb corregir, meaning “to correct.” 1
After the defeat of Spanish colonial forces on 1st May 1898, during the Spanish-American War, the United States took over the island and greatly expanded its existing fortifications. In the decades that followed, Corregidor Island played a significant role in the harbour defence of Manilla, culminating in the island being heavily bombarded before being successfully invaded by the Japanese in 1942.
For centuries the island has witnessed much bloodshed and suffering. It is for this reason that many now consider the entire island to be haunted, with its various ruined structures home to the souls of those whose final moments were too traumatic to be able to find peace.
For those who work on the island in present times it is no secret that Corregidor is haunted. Now a popular tourist destination, the island’s tour company even offers night time tours of some of the island’s most notorious locations. 2One such site is the island’s hospital. Far from what one might expect from a place of care and healing, the hospital’s history is a violent one.
Corregidor Island Hospital
Built in 1912 during American occupation of the island, the hospital building was constructed in the shape of a cross, so that, in case of conflict, the building and the sick and wounded soldiers inside would be spared by enemy forces. Such a mercy was outlined in the treaties of the Geneva Convention. However, when Japan attacked the island in the 1940s, they were not a signatory of the Geneva Convention, and as such disregarded the request for mercy to be shown. The hospital and its inhabitants were bombed, until all that remained were the ruins that still stand on the site today. Left as it was, the bombed out building appears frozen in time. 3
Visitors to the ruined hospital have attested to its dark history having left a scar across time. A wide range of strange phenomena has been reported, including the sound of ghostly footsteps, the rumblings of hospital activities, and even disembodied shrieks of pain. 4 Seemingly in contrast to these claims, others have stated that they found the hospital to be “eerily silent”. That said, many agree that the building is one of the “creepiest” locations on the island. 5
Another eerie site is Bloodstone Beach, so named because of the peculiar red-speckled pebbles that line the shore.
Local legend states that these stones are stained with the blood of the Filipino, American and Japanese soldiers who fought and died on the beaches of Corregidor in the 1940s – and that they have remained that way ever since. Whilst the blood-patterned stones have no doubt inspired many inexplicable experiences on the beach, a natural explanation can be given. According to geologists, the stones’ colouring is the result of a chemical reaction caused by sea water on the the type of rock found on the island. 6
Undoubtedly, an island with a history as bloody as Corregidor’s is going to spawn sensational legends and misinformation. However, far from simply being a tourist trap for those seeking a creepy thrill, Corregidor Island has attracted the attention of serious paranormal investigators. Not only that, those with a more personal connection to Corregidor have commented on the strange atmosphere that seems to hang over the entire island. According to the author, George W. Smith, who has written a book the events that took place on and around the island in the 1940s, both U.S. and Japanese veterans who have visited in the years since have “sworn they could hear the ghosts of the island crying out in anguish”. 7
For visiting U.S. veterans, one location which would have particular significance would be the barracks used by U.S. soldiers during American occupation of the island.
Mile Long Barracks
After the United States took over the Philippines, they built a gargantuan military installation that is known as the Mile Long Barracks. Whilst the building is not one mile long, the name was supposedly given to it by the soldiers who frequently had to walk all three stories of the structure, the foot fall of which equals one mile. 8
In its heyday, the barracks once acted as headquarters for General Douglas MacArthur, who served as Supreme Allied Commander of the Southwest Pacific. It was he who led Allied forces to victory in the Pacific theatre in the 1940s. However, before he would know victory he first learned defeat. It was to Corregidor Island that MacArthur’s forces, comprising both U.S. and Filipino troops, retreated to after being forced to surrender control of the north of the Philippines to the Japanese in 1941. For the next few months, the island served as Allied headquarters in the region. Yet, the sturdy, hurricane-proof structure of the barracks – along with other buildings on the island – was not able to withstand Japanese bombardment. What once was a formidable fortress was reduced to ruin.
Many soldiers perished in the flames during the attack. Some say that the horror of the tragedy has meant that they have not yet been able to move on.
One personal testimony comes from someone who visited the barracks in 2010. It is in their photograph of the front facade of the building that they claim to have captured a spectre standing on the third floor. The supposed anomaly appears as a white figure in the centre of the image.
According to their testimony, there were no people in the building at the time the photo was taken – with the third floor being especially difficult to access due to the ruined nature of the structure. As such, they have described the photo as a mystery. 9
Certainly, there are many mysteries and mysterious locations on the island. Yet, there is one which stands apart from the rest in terms of its dark past.
Malinta hill rises abruptly to an elevation of 390 feet. The position of this ascent made access to the eastern, tadpole-like tip of the island difficult, with roads to the north and south curving around where the base of the hill met the shore. In order to provide more direct access to the rest of the island, the building of a tunnel complex through the middle of Malinta hill was proposed.
Work on the tunnel began in 1922, and was substantially completed ten years later. When finished, Malinta Tunnel consisted of colossal east-west passages measuring 836 feet long by 24 feet wide. Reinforced with concrete walls, floor and overhead arches, Malinta Tunnel provided bomb-proof shelter for a 1,000 bed hospital, military headquarters, shops and a vast labyrinthian storehouse. 10
Despite not being specifically designed for human habitation, during the Japanese siege of Corregidor, the tunnel also became the last stronghold of the joint Philippine and American military. Its occupants numbered over four thousand, including female nurses and wives of military personnel. So close quartered, there were many complaints of poor ventilation, damp, insects and dust. Those in the tunnel remained trapped as the island outside was bombed to pieces. On 6th May 1942, with the forced surrender of Allied forces in Malinta Tunnel, the island fell to the Japanese. 11
During Japanese occupation of Corregidor Island, the tunnel continued to be used. It wasn’t until February 1945 that the island fortress was able to be recaptured by American and Filipino forces. Once again, Malinta Tunnel was the last area of the island to fall.
In an attempt to flush the remaining Japanese soldiers out from the tunnel, American military engineers poured and ignited large quantities of gasoline down the ventilation shafts of the tunnel.
In the aftermath of the battle to recapture the island, Japanese defenders who survived chose to end their own lives rather than surrender. Corregidor reverberated with many underground explosions for days afterwards.
Today Malinta Tunnel remains partially ruined because of the explosions that happened inside the tunnel. Steel bars can be seen twisted out of warped concrete walls, with roofs low and contorted from the explosions. Charred remains from those who chose to stay rather than surrender can even be seen on the ground. 12
With all that happened in Malinta Tunnel, it is perhaps not surprising that this location is described as extremely haunted.
Multiple visitors have described the tunnel as “eerie”13, with the “darkness” being described as “so total it can paralyze all the senses”. 14
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According to guides who take visitor on tours of the partially ruined section of the tunnel, those able to use their “third eye” have claimed to have seen the spirits of Japanese soldiers. 15 Similarly, an article in the Filipino magazine People’s Tonight reported that a psychic who visited the island encountered several spirits of soldiers whilst in the tunnel. 16
Objects seemingly moving of their own volition has also been reported in the tunnel. Someone who knows this from first hand experience is Amy, a paranormal investigator who has traveled the world, documenting her adventures to many locations claimed to be haunted. When she visited Corregidor’s Malinta Tunnel, a lamp supposedly began to sway by itself – despite their being no air movement in the tunnel.
Eerily, in U.S. wartime footage one can see how the very same lamps in Malinta Tunnel moved as bombs were dropped by the Japanese outside. 17 The lamps swing in a similar motion to that which Amy filmed during her investigation. Could it be that she experienced some sort of distortion in time – in line with the concept of Stone Tape Theory – as she explored the tunnel, a distortion which allowed her to experience the terrifying moment that bombs were falling in the 1940s? Or, could it be that the lamp was moved by a spirit, who remembered that terrible time from personal experience?
At another point during her investigation, Amy also recorded an audio anomaly using a ghost hunting mobile application which scans for electronic voice phenomena. The name “Gregory” was heard, leading Amy to speculate that this may have been the name of the one of the many people who lost their life in the tunnel, perhaps during the time it was used by U.S. forces as a 1000 bed hospital.
With numerous tragedies connected to Malinta Tunnel, it is not hard to imagine that – if spirits of the dead are real – many would haunt the tunnel – and many of the other bloodstained locations on Corregidor Island.
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