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Monster of the Week: Mexico’s ‘La Planchada’

The legend of Mexico’s “La Planchada” is relatively recent, starting in the early 1900s or so. La Planchada is the ghost of a nurse who wanders the halls of hospitals throughout Mexico, particularly in the cities. She is a healing entity—it is said that she often appears in the emergency room, where her presence ensures that the patients who see her will survive their disease or wounds. Others report that she makes rounds, looking in on all patients but saving special attention for the sickest of them.

My rendition of "La Planchada."
Octavio Ramos Jr.

The name “La Planchada” in Spanish means “the lady who is ironed.” This name comes from the fact that this ghost’s uniform is perfectly starched and ironed. Never does she appear disheveled or wrinkled in any way. Her overall appearance takes on various types, from a young woman with long hair to an old woman with short hair.

There are various source tales regarding how this ghost came to be. One story tells of La Planchada working at a hospital in Juarez, Mexico. In this story, her name is supposedly Eulalia. Young and attractive, she fell in love with a doctor who was sadly engaged to another woman. The doctor began an affair with the nurse, and she eventually found out about the other woman. The nurse fell into a deep depression, which subsequently killed her. In her ghostly state, she has returned to her original mission, to help others so that she can forget her one true love.

Other versions have the nurse bungling a procedure that leads to a patient’s death. As a ghost, she is trying to make up for her mistake. In another version, she kills herself or a patient in a fit of anger and now as a ghost must make penance by helping the living. There is even a version of an old nurse who as a ghost continues her tireless efforts in healing the living.

The appearance of La Planchada depends on the origin story. Some say she appears like a normal human being with a slight aura about her, whereas others say that she appears as an evil-looking creature with blood stained on her uniform. Other variations have her as a ghostly manifestation, walking through closed doors and walls. Some say she floats rather than walks. Her uniform is always immaculate but is out of date, hearkening to the 1920s or 1930s.

Regardless of appearance, this ghost is always benevolent, curing patients of horrible diseases or healing wounds. As a result, few patients fear the appearance of La Planchada.