This year marks the 27th anniversary of a strange event that has its roots in Vallecas, Madrid (Spain). Those events marked a milestone of a family. Tragedy, fear and confusion were the protagonists of the Gutiérrez Lázaro family for several years. This story has become a modern myth that has even reached the big screen with a film that has reaped enormous success both in Spain and in other countries, Verónica (2017) by Paco Plaza. There have been many versions of the strange phenomena that harassed that family and which the police allegedly also witnessed. In fact, there are dissensions among the members of the family. In this post we expose one of the first versions of one of the most controversial mysteries of Spain.
November 19, 1992. 2:00-3:00 in the early morning. Vallecas (Madrid). A patrol made up of five police officers and the chief inspector José Pedro Negri went to portal number 8 of Luis Marín street alerted by a telephone call that the headquarters had received from that address. In the portal they find an anguished and terrified family that prefer to be in the cold night rather than at home. Something or someone is disturbing them, something or someone who has already manifested on several occasions, but that night has intensified their presence, making it unbearable. The father of the family, Máximo Gutiérrez Palomares, 46 years old at the time, has gone to the authorities for that reason, so that the police try to bring order to their home. The family is escorted home. The mission of the Police is obviously to watch over the safety of the frightened family and to reassure them.
At 3:00 in the early morning, the headquarters receive another telephone call. But this time it is not a member of the family. Who calls now is the chief inspector to communicate what they have just witnessed. Seeing his own courage surpassed, he assures that something “makes his hair stand on end”, that this is not normal. He states that there is “a series of phenomena of all points inexplicable”. A series of phenomena that had been going on for more or less a year, and that as Máximo Gutiérrez had told him, the beginning of that nightmare had coincided with a tragic event for that family. Because a year ago, in July 1991, one of his daughters, María Estefanía Gutiérrez Lázaro, had died suddenly at the age of 18. An unexpected death that was preceded by much anguish and pain. A sudden death in strange circumstances as the forensic report indicated, a real mystery. From this situation is born a police statement that will make the Vallecas case, as it has been named by the investigators, jump to fame. However, to really understand this whole story, it’s best to start at the beginning.
The Vallecas file: the beginning
March 1990. In a day like any other, a normal 16-year-old teenager girl goes to school. Her name was María Estefanía Gutiérrez Lázaro. She was the third of six siblings (Querubina, Marianela, Ricardo, Maximiliano and José Luis), daughter of Concepción Lázaro de la Iglesia and Máximo Gutiérrez Palomares. She studied at Colegio Público Aragón of Vallecas, located a few minutes from her house located on Luis Marín street, in the area of Palomeras Sureste. Just like any other girl of her age, she had her worries, her loves, her illusions. That day promised to be normal and routine, with the typical encounters and conversations with classmates and friends. Like any other day, she would put up with tedious teachers and would enjoy the cool ones, she would pay attention in class and would get bored. She would take notes and snort waiting for the bell to ring to return to her household. However, a request from one of her friends was going to change not only the routine of that day, but also of her whole life.
Taking advantage of a gap in her schedule due to the absence of a teacher, Estefanía meets with two friends in the bathrooms to play a game apparently innocent, almost childish, but that for many people awakens deep fears. A “game” that for many people is not. However, Estefanía had already practiced the Ouija before in more occasions, both alone and accompanied. So for once again, what could happen? In addition, it was for the sake of one of her friends, the author of the idea, who had recently lost her boyfriend and wanted to contact him to make sure he was alright on the other side (we will see that this part is much discussed).
Without further delay, the three friends sit around the typical Ouija board engraved with numbers and the letters of the alphabet, rest their indexes on a glass that they use as planchette and begin with the session. They close their eyes, concentrate and start asking questions waiting for the answer of someone. To their disgrace, a clatter interrupts the Ouija session. Dolores Molina, a teacher from the centre, bursts into the bathrooms and surprises them with the board. Without thinking twice, the teacher snatches the Ouija board from them and splits it, possibly at the same time as she looks at them angry urging them to return to class. However, something unusual happens. The glass fills with a strange smoke and explodes into multiple pieces. The unusual smoke ends up entering through Estefanía’s nostrils. All witnessed that. According to some versions, it seems that one of her sisters, Marianela Gutiérrez Lázaro, also witnessed what happened. Such was the impression for the teacher that, as Concepción (Estefanía’s mother) would later state, the next day she left her work and left the school. This is when the real nightmare begins.
As a result of that Ouija session, Estefanía suffered a sudden change in her behavior. Her relationship with her family got deteriorated significantly, to the point that she tried to assault her siblings and parents physically on several occasions. He seemed to be very touchy and irascible. A behavior that possibly worsened with the strange experiences that interrupted his sleep at nights. Because according to her family, after that day at school, Estefanía did not sleep well. She suffered from hallucinations and visions in which a group of gloomy shadows gathered around her bed and whispered things to her, urging her to go with them. Sometimes she also uttered guttural sounds and seemed to babble languages unknown to her (in parapsychology, the expression of languages that the subject did not know is known as glossolalia). He saw those same shadows or very similar at specific moments, when she entered in a kind of trance. According to her mother, Estefanía was sometimes far away for 15-20 minutes. She didn’t react to any stimulus, she just laughed. When asked what happened to her, Estefanía stated that in those states she was in a long corridor, whose bottom was covered by a thick fog and from which some sinister voices that called her arose.
As the time goes by, her strange symptoms worsened. Anger attacks and seizures were more violent and occurred more often, as so did visions. Even her sister Marianela, who shared room with Estefanía, claims she saw one night how her sister levitated while lying in bed. The rest of the family also witnessed strange phenomena at times. Once, Estefanía went to iron her clothes in the bathroom. According to Concepción, her daughter called shouting because she had seen that a silhouette had gone into the room and the iron had lit itself. Concepción went to check it and indeed the iron was on, but not hot. Suddenly, the bathroom door closed by itself. The father came to help his wife and daughter open the door, but it was impossible, something kept it absolutely closed. When Maximo was about to throw a kick to open it, everyone witnessed how the door opened itself smoothly.
Obviously, the parents, worried about their daughter, took her to several specialists and up to four different medical centers to find a solution. However, no one was able to give them a clear diagnosis or effective treatment. Doctor speculated that Estefanía would suffer from epilepsy, and she was even prescribed medication to treat it. It had no effect either. In addition, her symptoms did not resemble those of a person with epilepsy. In fact, her mother Concepción really suffered from epilepsy for a long time, and she had no visions or voices, that is, she did not suffer from her daughter’s disorders.
The comments that Estefanía made were increasingly strange and sinister. On one occasion she made a very extravagant request: she asked her mother that her father’s family must not be informed of her imminent death and that she had to install in her coffin a photograph in which she would appear with her father.
We are approaching the date of the tragedy. One night of July 1991 Estefanía suffered one of the most intense attacks. Out of her wits, she tried to attack her sister Marianela as if she were a rabid animal. She managed to dodge it and Estefanía fell to the ground, in the midst of violent convulsions, with her eyes blank and foaming through her mouth. She lost consciousness. When she woke up, she claimed his parents that she did not remember anything. It seems that the rest of her day was normal, although according to her brother Ricardo in an interview for the radio program Dimensión Límite (2012), the morning before her death Estefanía made a sinister omen, because she told her parents that she was destined to die before them. Even so, that afternoon she met her boyfriend Pablo to go for a stroll. She returned home early, had dinner and went to bed early. It was the calm that would precede the tragedy.
On the night of 13 July, Estefanía suffered an even worse attack than that of the previous night. On this occasion she was unconscious in her bed. As Concepción remembers, Estefanía was an insufferable half hour holding her head with her hands and expelling foam through her mouth. She was admitted to the Gregorio Marañón Hospital, already in a coma, at 23:00. Three hours later, at 2:00 a.m. on July 14, the tragedy was consummated and Estefanía died from pulmonary asphyxia caused by a convulsion, a very strange diagnosis for a person of her age, constitution and health. The forensic doctors were clear: in the document signed by Pedro Cabeza and Gregorio Arroyo Arrieta it could be read that Estefanía had died “suddenly and suspiciously”. The poor Gutiérrez Lázaro family was left empty; they had been left without of a vital part of their lives. However, the drama did not end here, because the inexplicable phenomena that occurred in Estefanía’s life began to intensify. In fact, and according to his brother Ricardo, before his death Estefanía assured his family that he would warn them when she was on the other side knocking on a door. Guess what happened at 2 a.m. that day?
The cursed house of Vallecas
Before the mystery made a dent in the house of the portal 8 of the Luis Marín street, the family had a brief period of tranquility in which they tried to overcome the unjust death of their daughter and sister as far as possible, although the calm was only apparent.
In the beginning, the strange phenomena were soft, the poltergeist (from the German, “poltern”, to make noise, and “geist”, spirit) was rather calm: the movements of objects continued, some doors opened and closed alone, some that another glass exploded, the bed of Estefanía appeared disordered in the mornings…. That is to say, the typical phenomenology that can be described in similar events. The curious thing is that the phenomena used to manifest at 23:30 h. according to Concepción Lázaro, coinciding with the coma of Estefanía. The situation began to get serious when Concepción felt some nights how an unpleasant, cold, inanimate hand caressed her and removed the bed sheets. For several years Concepción had been listening to a voice calling her. “Mom,” it said. It seemed to come from the bathroom. This testimony is important, because the family believed that the epicenter of paranormal phenomena was precisely the bath adjacent to Estefanía’s room, the same place from which Estefanía received those strange calls and where the phenomena manifested most intensely. Several “investigators” who visited the house contributed to her conviction, alleging that the bathroom was an interdimensional door through which disincarnated beings entered this world… In fact, the couple was so convinced of it that they even disabled and locked it. The family didn’t even dare go to the bathroom alone; they had to be accompanied by another family member each time they had to use it.
As already mentioned, the anomalous phenomena did not start abruptly. At first they were even bearable, but over time they were in crescendo. It didn’t take long when the family started to see a shadow in the hallway of the house and heard the malicious laughter of an elderly person. It seems that at first that entity was related to Concepción’s father, who died five months before Estefanía after suffering from senile dementia. One of the best-known stories about the Vallecas case is that the relationship of Concepción with her father was not pleasant. As it was reported from the beginning, some economic quarrels between daughter and father had deteriorated the relationship and Estefanía’s grandfather had developed a certain antipathy. It was also said that a few days before his death, he swore to make their lives impossible for them from the other side. And it seems that he was fulfilling his fatal promise.
The phenomena reached the height of the intolerable when they began to violate the physical integrity of the family. The children were pushed by someone invisible, one of the poodles that the family had as a pet flew through the air on one occasion, the mother felt more often at night that someone stood on top of her, oppressing her and touching her feet and hands. Once, as Concepción and her son Ricardo talked around the dining room table, something threw a glass in the name of hitting the child’s head. Fortunately his mother saw him from the corner of his eye and gave her time to warn his son. Fortunately, the family did not suffer any injuries during the time the poltergeist occurred.
Crucifixes were inverted without anyone apparently manipulating them, the doors of the house were opened and closed more and more violently, violent blows or raps on the walls were heard (in parapsychological slang, raps refer to unusual noises and sounds), the poodle barked and grunted at something located always at the same end of the hallway. Such was the fear that felt the family that everyone moved their mattresses to the living room to spend the nights together and protect each other. They locked the door that communicated with the hallway with heavy furniture to isolate themselves from the phenomena. However, this action was useless. That inexplicable force was able to throw the obstacles towards the opposite wall and open the doors wide. Some researchers pointed out that collective hysteria had taken over the family. Be that as it may, an atavistic fear ruled the lives of the Gutiérrez Lázaro family at that time.
Unable to control the situation and desperate, they decided to call parapsychologists and seers to find a solution. As expected, many charlatans and scoundrels alsp came to the house to make abundant profits at the expense of the family’s anguish. Without going any further, a seer from Seville offered Concepción to eliminate her problems… upon payment of 200000 pesetas (about 1800 euros). It is very possible that the frequent visits of these people molded and intoxicated the original version of the Vallecas case. For example and as we will see later, the family came to believe for a while that the entity that took away their sleep was a demon that some of these scoundrels called Crápula. Finally, this entity replaced the figure of Estefanía’s grandfather. However, the person who possibly caused the most damage to the family was a guy known as Tristanbraker. Born in the Madrid’s district Lavapiés, he achieved fame by playing Tarot in the Retiro’s Park of Madrid and making several appearances in the early 1990s in the humorous television programs Al ataque (Antena 3) and Força Barça (TV3), both presented by journalist Alfonso Arús. In these TV programs he dedicated to doing what he knew best: frauds, such as making supposed weapons to capture ghosts, because he also considered himself a ghostbusters and “investigator” of the paranormal. He was the first “expert” to whom Concepción went desperately.
The only relatively beneficial contribution made by Tristanbraker was to help mediatise the Vallecas case which, unlike other strange cases on Spanish soil that have fallen into oblivion, it has become part of popular culture (because not only is there a film about the case, but several youtubers have also divulged it). This was important because serious parapsychologists and investigators, such as Fernando Jiménez del Oso or Father José María Pilón, who really worried about trying to give some solution to the family’s uneasiness in a disinterested way, became interested in the case of the Gutiérrez Lázaro family. It is noted that these people left a positive imprint on the family, as they have always spoken well of them and how they tried to make the family not worry about the phenomenon and learn to live with it.
The supposed parapsychologist Tristanbraker and his team Grupo Unidad Cero went to the home of the Gutiérrez Lázaro family to do their “research”. An “investigation” (although it would be more correct to say a joke in bad taste) that was broadcasted in part by the Telediario of Antena 3 channel and that took place on October 14, 1992. This date is important to bear in mind, since it is prior to the moment that served as a turning point for the Vallecas case to become immortal. The report, in charge of which was the journalist Chus Morán, shows several shots of the house while it is narrated the strange events that occurred. The voiceover highlights that the spirit of Estefanía’s grandfather is causing this nightmare as revenge for the economic fights with his daughter Concepción (Tristanbraker was surely the architect of the idea that the evil energy belonged to Concepción’s father, even convincing her of it, as can be extrapolated from some interviews). What stands out most from the report is the state of the bathroom, which Concepción opens with a key to show it to the cameras. We can see how there are several objects accumulated in the bathtub, presumably belongings and furniture of the disappeared Estefanía, supported by some wire bedsteads. The rest of the report is simply absurd. It shows supposed evidence of the presence of a ghost in the house, among them a photograph with a kind of brightness and a psychophony recorded by Tristanbraker in which, giving it a good dose of imagination, one can perceive that it says “beware of the grandfather”. The ghostbuster asserts that there are two “energies” of opposite character in the house: a benign and kind energy that would belong to Estefanía and another “negative, rather insulting, threatening” energy that would belong to the grandfather. If the reader wants to have fun and witness an extreme level of ridicule, he can stay until the end of the report, when one of the seers accompanying Tristanbraker is possessed by the negative energy. In a state of supposed trance, she smiles maliciously at the ghostbuster as he hysterically yell at her to come back from her lethargy.
There’s not much more to say about this guy. His story was completely undone in a broadcast of Esta noche cruzamos el Mississippi, a program broadcasted on Telecinco and presented by Pepe Navarro, in which Tristanbraker came face to face with part of the Gutiérrez Lázaro family (Máximo, Concepción, Querubina and Marianela). Sometimes the atmosphere seems to warm up and that the discussion is going to get worse. However, the interesting thing is that the family brings to light that Tristanbraker tried to trick them into renting a car to transport his equipment and that many of the supposed strange phenomena he demonstrated were simulated. It seems that Concepción even innocently paid him for several trips in taxis. Moreover, while the ghostbuster claimed to have cleaned the house, the family claimed that the phenomena still swarmed about actually. Even so, Concepción has assured in several interviews that one of these teams of “investigators” suffered in their own flesh the anomalous phenomena. She saw how one of the components was thrown into the air and stamped against a wall of the house, while another had his face deformed and swollen veins, presumably because that energy entered into him.
Continuing with the casuistry of the Vallecas case, the month of November 1992 was particularly intense. One night Marianela and Querubina saw a faceless creature, a kind of dark, spiky shadow crawling on the floor of their room and throwing into the air the toys it found in its path. They tried to light a small lamp to frighten the creature, but it was shaking and making its manipulation impossible. When they turned on the light to see better what was disturbing them, the shadow vanished. The parents came to see the disorder but not the creature, although on November 19 they could see it crawling down through the hallway. It seems that, after that event, the frightened family gathered at the front door of the house when they watched a ball bounce towards them. Máximo, surprised by that and in an attempt to spread security to the rest of his family, grabbed the ball and threw it across the corridor, but surprisingly and before hitting any obstacle, the ball bounced back towards them. Always according to the testimonies of the family, this shadow left physical evidence of their presence, because those places where they lay were cold as ice. This shadow was seen by practically all the members of the family. The children also saw shadows dressed in hoods, looking like monks, and Máximo Gutiérrez observed one night a shadow by his side of the bed.
Despite the insistence of the phenomena, Concepción wanted to prove in a more empirical way the reality of those anomalies. In this way, on one occasion she spread flour in the corridor of the house. The next day, the footprints of a man’s shoe appeared. On another occasion when the family was going to leave the house empty for a while, he tied all the doors with cords. When they returned, they could see that all the threads were broken. They also installed a burglar alarm system that also went off one day when the house was empty. The psychophonies were also the protagonists of the Vallecas case. Several people who came to the family’s distress call put their tape recorders around the house and captured mainly two voices: one male and one female. Normally the messages consisted of insults and bad words that urged the investigators to leave the house. However, given some of the people who stepped into the house, there is reason to suspect fraud.
However, the most important day was 19 November 1992. The phenomena reached a peak on that day. The family couldn’t take it anymore. If the supposed experts in paranormal phenomena could not solve anything, it was time to ask for help from others.
The Police take action
We therefore come to the moment that we have briefly told in the introduction of this post. That night, Máximo Gutiérrez calls 091 at 2 a.m. due to the exaggerated situation. He hurriedly tells the receiver of the call that since one of his daughters died someone or something is upsetting the routine of the family and that the phenomenology was being especially annoying that day. He described how the crucifixes in his house were inverted on their own and that three claw marks had appeared on a poster without any explanation.
The answer on the other side of the line doesn’t take long. It has a markedly skeptical tone, and it is normal, as it is not something for which the National Police is usually called. The officer who attends Máximo asks him to pass the pone to his wife Concepción to rule out that Máximo was under the effects of some substance. However, Concepción has the same anguish or more than her husband. As the situation still seemed incredible, the officer asks to pass the pone to two of the children. They all tell the same story in a state of obvious fear. As the situation seemed real and the family seemed to be in danger, the aforementioned patrol of agents was sent to the address of Luis Marín street. In the portal number 8 they meet with the family, who seemed to be more protected on the cold night of November than in their own home.
Once in the building, the police conduct a visual inspection of the house and interview the family. A few minutes later, Negri calls to the headquarters of 091 of Vallecas to tell that what the family had declared in the previous call was true. Something very strange was happening. As a result of this call a report is generated (although it is really a part of incidences) that will become the fundamental pillar of the case (the complete part is available in this link). The report contains the oral testimony of the chief inspector during the call he made to the police station. It summarizes the prolegomena of the casuistry suffered by the family (the death of Estefanía, the visit of alleged parapsychologists, such as “Tristan de Bra…”, alluding to Tristanbraker, paranormal phenomena, etc.). It also includes the presence of the demon Crápula, with whom Estefanía supposedly had conversations (we have already seen that this idea could have come from some pseudo-investigators who visited the house).
During the interview to the family, Negri is startled because the door of a little closet in the living room opens and closes by itself on several occasions. It should be noted that paranormal events occurred in the dark, since according to the family the phenomena manifested when there was no light, although thanks to the light of the streetlamps that entered through the window they could have an adequate vision. At that moment, four of the policemen decided to leave the house and go down to the portal, leaving only the inspector with another agent. The light comes on and Negri proceeds to carry out a visual inspection of the furniture to rule out fraud. He analyzes it in depth and concludes that there is no mechanism that would have provoked the movement of the doors and that the doors are kept rigidly closed. As Concepción stated on several occasions, one of the police would have taken out his regulatory weapon because of the fright and pointed it at the closet (we will discuss this point further in the second part of this article). Shortly afterwards, as they comment on what happened and inspect the rooms, a band was listened on a small terrace of the house, similar to a rock or a saucepan hit. The policemen go out to the terrace to check the cause of the noise but again they do not find the cause. While the officers investigate the noise of the terrace, a stain similar to a “brown slime” is generated on the tablecloth of the living room table that held the telephone. The inspector still regrets not having collected a sample of that substance for analysis, which undoubtedly could have provided essential data to solve the case.
During visual inspection, agents also bump into the phenomena. In one of the rooms they can see an inverted crucifix and the Christ to whom it was glued lying on the floor. It seems that the first time the agents entered that room, the crucifix was in its natural position. In the same room they find the poster with the scratch marks. One of the things that most impressed the inspector was the sensation he had when entering the bathroom, which at that time was unusable (remember that it was supposedly the place where the epicenter of the phenomena was). Who knows if it was because of autosuggestion or because there really was something, but José Pedro Negri will never forget the “interior cold and discomfort” he felt in that bathroom. Finally, the conclusion of the report communicated by the inspector is clear:
“There’s a series of phenomena that can’t be explained.”
Inspector Negri has always argued that everything he lived and saw that day was completely true and that, despite his extensive experience and after witnessing murders and seeing corpses in all kinds of states, that impacted him. Even so, Negri is not completely credulous. Some of the episodes, such as the one of the living room closet, might perfectly well have a rational explanation for him. Also, according to his point of view, Estefanía’s parents were completely normal people who hadn’t any kind of psychopathology. According to Negri, Máximo and Concepción always acted honestly and without attempting any kind of fraud. They were people deeply affected by a fear that had been growing inside them for a long time. A fear that was fed to obtain benefits by scroundel people who, not content with it, also intoxicated the case, ridiculing it and favoring the appearance of absurd versions that lead to confusion.
This is basically the Vallecas case. We have tried to show one of the first versions that the investigators began to handle as faithfully as possible, although it is true that we have added some elements that emerged later. During all this time, however, new witnesses and testimonies have been appearing which, in some cases, have helped to clarify the Vallecas case and in other cases to add more confusion and contradictions. In the second part of this article we will analyze the variants and contradictions of this case, as well as the latest information that has emerged from some of Estefanía’s relatives. As we will see, the Vallecas case is extremely confusing.
The Vallecas case is also important because of the high number of external witnesses who experienced what was happening in the house. These include National Police officers, investigators and pseudo-investigators, and family friends and neighbors. On one occasion, the wife of a friend of Máximo and Concepción noticed a small impact on her leg. Invisible hands had thrown a clip at her. On the other hand, some neighbors assured that the times they visited the house of the Gutiérrez Lázaro family they saw strange shadows.
The phenomena continued to happen after the police intervention. In fact, another of the events that made the Vallecas case famous occurred on All Saints’ Day of 1993. That day, a photograph of Estefanía was burned in a very particular way. Concepción found the frame lying face down on the floor. What was her surprise when she turned it over and saw that only the photographic paper in which his daughter’s portrait was present was scorched. Neither the frame nor the protective glass had been damaged, nor had the surrounding objects or the floor.
Fortunately, the phenomena were decaying. Concepción and Máximo stated in a 1996 interview for the program Misterios en la intimidad, directed by the always remembered Fernando Jiménez del Oso, that the demonstrations had significantly softened at that time. They had even left the bathroom operational again. It seems that the family had learned to live together and to adapt to the poltergeist. They all faced it together. The strengthening of family ties was helping to overcome that nightmare. Therefore, all the consequences of those events were not negative. The family ended up moving house and turned those experiences into a taboo subject that they kept to themselves. It seems that this act filled their troubled lives with calm, as they never experienced anything strange again. If they did not move before, it is either because they believed that the poltergeist would chase them, or they induced them to believe in that. The same can be said of the new tenants, who have never lived a poltergeist in that house.
As is often the case, the Gutiérrez Lázaro family were indifferent to these issues before the alleged poltergeist broke into their lives, they did not believe in it. Until the mystery knocked on his door… and he settled in his house.
To have a complete view of this case, which is certainly a bit labyrinthine, we redirect you to the second part of this article:
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