I was staying in a very pretty Spanish colonial style hotel in the historic quarter of Cusco. During this three-day trip from a cruise ship to Machu Picchu, I had a very vivid dream that turns out, might not have been a dream at all.
The sueno (dream)
The hotel on Santa Teresa Street was originally built by the Incans, knocked down on orders of Spanish conqueror Francisco Pissarro in 1532, and then rebuilt in Spanish colonial style.
When the Spanish conquered the Inca and took their cities, they wanted to erase their civilization – and Cusco was one of the most important strongholds. This included erasing their architecture, but since the Inca were quality builders, the Spaniards couldn’t resist keeping their strong foundations. They simply knocked off the top bulk of the buildings and used the bases to emblazon their dominance on the city.
They built their churches, houses, and public meeting places on the easy to spot Inca foundations, and the Spanish part added over a century later is obvious. This is evident in most buildings in the historic centre – including my hotel located two blocks from the main square – the Plaza des Armas.
As you walk in the hotel’s entrance: on your right is the square comfortable reception, with sofas and a table offering coca leaf and chocolate teas for guests. On your left you are greeted by a Spanish painting from the 1600s of the Virgin Mary cradling the infant Jesus in her loving embrace. This reminds you of the importance of Catholicism here – even in a chain hotel.
As you keep walking, the view opens up into the building’s biggest attraction – a very colonial Spanish style, open-air central courtyard. The centerpiece of the square courtyard is a large stone fountain, which no water flowed from, but it was striking. It sat prominently in the centre of the carefully placed cobblestone rocks within triangular-shaped patterns. To each of the left and right of the fountain, was a rattan corner sofa with ample dark blue linen-covered cushions. A matching rattan box and sizable beige parasol stood above both to protect from sun or rain, and they faced each other towards the fountain.
Five grand stone arches that wouldn’t look out of place in the Alhambra Palace, stand sentry on each of its four sides on the ground floor, next to a smattering of shrubs in metre-high white pots.
On the floor above, seven identical smaller arches, with neat wall planters of young geraniums beneath each arch complete the look.
The downstairs is mostly made up of public areas, while most bedrooms, like mine, are upstairs. After the courtyard you come to the new part of the building, where the bar and restaurant are situated. While the new section is very pleasant – the bar cozy and slick with low lighting, and the restaurant has a friendly fire burning in the evenings – the old part of the building has the lion’s share of the charm.
After a day filled with traveling, a whirlwind look around gorgeous Cusco, a delicious local dinner and show, acclimatizing to the altitude, and much anticipation about the following day in Machu Picchu, I was ready to hit the hay.
I retired to my room, had a hot shower, prepared my things for the morning and crawled into bed. The room was the same style as the rest of the old part of the building, very 1500s Spanish décor with a smidge of Catholic guilt.
All the furniture in the room was the same Spanish catholic style with dark mahogany wood. The two double beds that faced the door had large, simply designed sturdy headboards with two square panels with a smaller square within them. In between the beds was the small bedside table, with one small drawer with a little brass knob. Tucked into the corner of the room, half hidden by the wall protruding from the obvious modern addition of the bathroom, and next to the interior bed was the armoire. This stood at over two metres tall, and its doors were covered in slats.
As you come in, the bathroom was on the left up a step, with the window on the right. On the wall adjacent to the left of the door was a dressing table, with one small oval mirror with a flowery decorative fringing of lighter wood above. A small TV attached to the wall didn’t even disrupt the style, being quite discrete (plus I didn’t even turn it on).
I lay down, checked messages on my phone, and turned off the light to go to sleep, wearing shorts and a vest top as pajamas. The room felt like it was a lot brisker than I’d noticed before, and I tried to shrug the cold feeling off. When it didn’t leave, I got up and turned the air conditioning up from 21C (about 70F) to 25C (80F), as it felt a lot colder than that, more like 8 or 9C (46-50F). I put my long thick hiking socks on, wrapped myself in the plush white hotel robe and crept back under the covers.
After a little while longer, I fell asleep, and started to dream.
The first dream
I woke up – in the dream – facing the window direction, and saw the whole room, exactly as it was, exactly where I was sleeping. Then something caught the corner of my eye to the right. I moved my focus towards it and stared in astonishment.
I watched a black shadow in the shape of a boy move slowly and deliberately from the armoire, around the bed I was sleeping in, and then disappear from my view as it went towards the door. The boy looked about seven or eight years old, by his height and shape of his hair, which was like a short bowl cut. He didn’t look at me, he simply leisurely glided around the bed and out to the door.
I froze, wondering what just happened. No sooner had I started to rationalize the sighting as over tiredness making me see things, than he came back again from the door, and made the same journey in reverse, ending by disappearing at the armoire.
Before I even had time to start freaking out again, the shadow reappeared from the armoire, and once more, he leisurely moved around the bed and out towards the door, never looking directly at me.
I woke up with a start and sat bolt upright in the bed, exactly where I had just been. I immediately switched on all the lights, opened the armoire doors, rustled through it, checked the bathroom for bogymen, and the room door for signs of tampering.
No sign of meddling was visible. So, with my heart pounding, I crept back into bed and tried to go back to sleep. After a while, surprisingly, slumber found me.
The second dream
I went back into the exact dream I’d been in.
This has happened to me before, where I wake up and go back into the same dream. Usually it happens with a complicated but fun “movie plot” style dream that I want to return to, and can steer a little when I first go back into it, knowing it’s a dream.
This was not one I wanted to revisit.
I “awoke”, facing the armoire this time. Out of the corner of my eye to the left, I saw the shadow boy come back from the door and take the same route by the bed to the armoire as before. This time, he wasn’t going slowly, but had picked up the pace. I started to lift my head to look closer at the cupboard where he’d disappeared, and he zipped out from it again, and past the bed to vanish from my view upon reaching the door.
I was jolted out of the reverie, siting bolt upright, awake and nervous. I again checked the room for signs of foul play. Finding none, I went back to bed, and after another while of convincing myself it was just a bad dream, I finally got back to the land of nod.
I thought there was no way I could go back into the same dream a third time.
The third dream
I was wrong.
I was right back at the point I’d left off at, like I’d never been awake.
This time, I woke facing the window again. No sooner had I ‘opened’ my eyes, than I watched the shadow boy dart from the bedroom door to the armoire, faster than before, almost frantically. I started to turn my head to the wardrobe, thinking I would actually investigate this time. About one second had passed when three booming knocks came from the heavy wooden door.
I walked over to see who it was, sheepishly opened the door, and standing there were two men. One was a tall, cardinal-looking man in a dark red long expensive looking robe, and pointed hat, slight of figure. The other was a shorter man of average build, wearing a beige cloth robe, who looked like a monk or friar of some kind. He stood back a little from the cardinal, silently looking at the floor, appearing to be the meek assistant to the stronger character.
He spoke to me in Spanish. “Good evening. Have you seen anything strange in your room this evening?”
Now, just dream moments ago I had been scared of the shadow boy in my room, but he seemed like nothing compared with this man. For some reason, my gut did not like him. I felt a vibe of mal-intent coming from him. So I replied, “No. I haven’t seen anything.”
He inquired again. “Are you sure you haven’t seen anything this evening?”
I shook my head vigorously. “No, nothing.” As I said this, I was thinking about the shadow boy who was, as far as I knew, somewhere in or near my cupboard. For some reason, I didn’t want to tell this man that.
He persisted, then caught my gaze right in the eye and said, “Have you seen him?”
At this point, my face must have flinched and given me away, because the cardinal turned to his sidekick and quietly said “She has seen him. Let’s go.”
With that, he shoved his way into my room, and the pair proceeded to push me on the bed and each one grabbed one of my shoulders. I saw they had a large cloth bag with them, which I could see a couple of metal instruments sticking out of just a little. I didn’t know what it was, and I sure as hell didn’t want to find out.
Then I noticed the shadow boy was cowering in the corner, by the door to the bathroom, ducking down, hiding.
The cardinal spoke again “I’m going to ask you one last time. Have you seen him?”
Terrified, I frantically shook my head. I didn’t know what he wanted with the shadow boy – or me – but it felt like something bad. I wondered what the bag had in it. Being terrified of needles, I’m always worried someone is going to inject me with one. Or maybe he was going to exorcise the room. Or exorcise me!
As the panic started to fill me, I woke up again, sitting bolt upright, totally freaking out. I turned on all the lights, checked the room again, and realized it was now very hot in there.
I didn’t get back to sleep after that last round, kept the lamp on and stayed awake trying not to panic, until my alarm went off at 4.30am to get up to go to Machu Picchu.
The second night
The day was an incredible adventure, and I’d all but forgotten about last night’s escapades.
After a long day of a lot of transportation, a long hike of Machu Picchu, another lengthy trip back to the hotel, I was again ready for slumber.
However, I was in the same room and remembered the dreams.
I did not want a repeat performance of the night before. Worse, I really did not want the dream to continue on, again, from where it left off, as I was pretty sure that would end in me being poked or prodded with needles, or some sort of awful tortuous shadow removing trick.
So I put off going to sleep despite my intense fatigue. I was in bed ready to sleep by 9.30pm but at 11.30pm (knowing I had another 4.30am start the next morning), I was still playing on my phone trying to find friends online to chat with, to get my mind off being in the room where the nightmare was set.
I realized I hadn’t double and triple-checked the room door like I usually do (as I rushed in to use the bathroom) so I remedied that now, turning the bottom lock and adding the latch attached to the wall.
I looked at the dressing table on my way back to bed, noticing my bracelet I’d got from my previous trip to Peru. The trinket made of poisonous Huaruyo beads was bought from a real life shaman beside Lima’s witches’ market and its purpose is to protect its wearer from harm. I put it on.
Then I noticed my pendant of Tumi, Peru’s protector and medicine god. I thought he might be helpful too, so I put him around my neck and went back to bed. After some time, I could stay conscious no longer, and fell asleep. To my relief I had no further nightmares.
Other’s opinions on the dreams
The tour guide the next morning
The next morning was the last, when I left Cusco. At the airport, I had a few minutes to chat with our lovely guide. She asked how I’d slept while in Cusco, and so I said I hadn’t slept well the first night due to an ongoing nightmare. Then the second night, I hadn’t slept much as I stayed awake too long fearing the nightmare would return. She asked me what the nightmare was, so I told her.
She went pale.
Instead of dismissing my tale as me having silly nightmares – which is what I was trying to do – she got very serious and straight away asked why I hadn’t called her immediately to switch rooms after the first nightmare. I said I didn’t want to seem dramatic, and thought it was just my overactive imagination and that the feeling would pass.
She started to ask me details about the shadow boy; where in the room he’d been exactly, which room I was in, what part of the hotel it was, details about the cardinal and monk. But before I could provide all the answers, we had to go, so we never got to finish the conversation and I never got to find out her take on it. I was sort of worried about what she’d say she thought it was.
A shipmate back onboard
After I got back onboard, I told a friend on the ship – who is not religious, but is spiritual – about it all. She said she got goose bumps as I was telling her the tale and she thought it must be some kind of spirit. She immediately said we should check Google for the area and events that happened there. She typed in a quite vague search “Cardinal conquistador 1532“, with no mention of Cusco, Peru, boys, area, or any other details.
I then watched her face go pale as she saw the results. The very first thing that showed up was a drawing of a creepy looking cardinal. She said, “Did your cardinal look anything like this?” He did. Exactly.
Polynesian points of view
The next day, I met with a friend from Hawaii who I’ve known for five years and is one of my good friends. We met in the ship’s buffet restaurant for dinner.
With the dream still playing on my mind, I told her that I had a strange nightmare in Cusco and I wasn’t really sure about what it meant. She said to save my story for sitting with our other Polynesian friends, as she thought they’d love to hear it and would have opinions on it, so we joined the others at a table.
I told them the whole tale, while this group of very cultural, intelligent, excellent storytellers who feel connected to the past, present and other world, listened intently. At the end, I asked what they thought of my silly nightmare from my over-active imagination, so they offered their takes on it.
The consensus was that it was not a dream, but that I had an experience with spirits from something that happened in that hotel in the past. They all asked a lot more questions about the details, as the guide had done. They asked about what the boy looked like, if he looked at me, how did he seem when his speed changed, asked for more details about the cardinal, if I smelled anything in the dream, and if I’d felt anything strange in the room before going to sleep or anything odd about the temperature.
It was then that I realized the room had been very cold on the first night, despite the air conditioner saying it was 21 degrees Celsius, it felt much colder, and the next day there were no issues.
After I’d answered them all, this was their summary:
• The shadow boy was the spirit of a real Incan boy (from my description of his hair and silhouette) who died in that area by the hands of the Conquistadors in some way, or he hid from them and died from getting stuck somewhere.
• The whole experience happened because the boy was drawn to my energy so decided to show himself to me, as he felt safe with me, as I didn’t shoo him away. I just watched him as he played, (I did say I was too scared to say or do anything) so he didn’t feel he had to leave.
• They said he knew I was wary of him, which is why he didn’t show his full form, only a shadow, and why he didn’t look at me directly. They thought he was a child who wanted to play and feel safe, playing zipping around the room, leaving and coming back, and ending at the armoire, as it was like a safe spot for him, nestled in the corner of the room, hidden behind me protecting him from anything at the door.
• They thought the cardinal and monk were real people. When they were at the door, I had an ominous feeling straight away. They thought because I hadn’t heard any stories about cardinals or how they dress while on tour, that this wasn’t just my imagination adding on details to other stories.
• The cardinal’s spirit was not a good one, which is why they said he had to knock – he couldn’t just come in as the boy had. I answered the door, so I allowed him in. Despite me being afraid of the boy moments before, when I met the cardinal figure, I didn’t tell him the boy was there, even when they grabbed me and I saw the bow cowering in the corner. I had a feeling that I shouldn’t – they said that proved that the boy visited me, as he knew I’d protect him.
• The cardinal had appeared as I’d let the boy in and he was connected to him.
• I was not dreaming, but in the state of sleep where you can see things that most people aren’t otherwise open to. Some people feel they can access seeing or feeling this world more frequently if they are attuned to it, have studied it or are sensitive to it. I am not. So I saw it only because as I was in this sleep state in this room with all the energy of the past events there.
• The last piece of “proof” that it wasn’t just a dream was that the encounter continued after I’d woken up. I went right back to the same spot, and the next phase happened. I went back into sleep, so was still open to it two more times, but after the third time, I’d been sufficiently freaked out that I didn’t allow myself to sleep again and so it was finished.
• I didn’t experience anything the second night because of either my wearing the Peruvian talismans – which they said they thought it could be, from either their power, or the power of however much I believed they’d protect me – or if it was because the boy didn’t initiate the contact again after I was put in danger after he’d made contact with me, so he wanted to protect me back.
They said I should find out when the hotel was built and see if there’s any history on that, the area and street, and thought I may have picked up on the energy of something that happened there.
The book I’m currently reading
I read something intriguing in the non-fiction travel-writing book I’m currently reading – An Irreverent Curiosity by David Farley (p.168) the day after returning from Cusco.
The quote comes from a conversation between the writer and a resident of an ancient Italian village, where the resident is telling the writer his opinion that the village is special because it holds a lot of energy of it’s past turbulent history, and how he thinks one can learn about it’s energy.
“You should just feel it. It’s all about something called ‘psycho storia,’ which means that just being here, you will subconsciously pick up the past energy here and then understand the history.”
I’m not really sure what I believe it was or wasn’t, but I mostly wanted to write it down so I won’t forget it or mix up details after time has passed.
I will look into the building, street and area of Cusco when I have regular Internet again later and will update this if I learn any more.
So far I know the Spanish Conquistadors took the area from the locals in 1532 by force, and imposing Catholicism was a large part of that, so there were men of the cloth doing wicked things in the name of furthering their religion for their king. Therefore, it is quite feasible that an Inca boy met a sad end in some way at their hands or because of them being there.
I’d never heard of ‘psycho storia’ but it’s now on my list to check out too.
Was it a dream from an overactive imagination? Or did I have an encounter with some sort of spirit?
To be honest, I really don’t know what I believe. I only know it felt very strange and different to anything I’d experienced before. For now, all I want to do is share it.
Has anything like this ever happened to you? Have you ever felt a strange energy in a place? Have you had a dream that felt real? Do you think this was just an over-active imagination? Or something else?
If you’d like to share any opinions or experiences (polite only please), write them in the comments below.