The sentry boxes of Old San Juan. Next to the cute/cacophonous coquis, they are the best-known icons of Puerto Rico. You see them strategically set along weathered ramparts all throughout the ancient city. Most function much as they have for 500+ years, offering incredible views of the surrounding seascapes. One particular sentry box, La Garita del Diablo, however, provides thrills (and chills) of a different kind…
La Garita de Diablo, which translates to “The Devil’s Sentry Box,” is located at el Castillo San Cristóbal. Unlike the more familiar sentry boxes atop the city walls, this one sits right at the water’s edge. The fort itself stretches along the crest of a hill rising sharply behind the box.
Its distinctive location is matched by its shape, the rounded top a further departure from just about every other sentry box in town.
According to local legend, looks and location aren’t the only things that set this sentry box apart.
The Legend of La Garita de Diablo
This story centers on an apprehensive soldier during the earliest days of Spanish rule in Puerto Rico. It’s said that the man expressed having a “feeling of foreboding” when tasked with manning the lonely post one night. After some consternation, he finally relented and set off to do his duty.
This was a mistake…
When a second soldier arrived at La Garita to relieve the first, he found the outpost completely empty. Desertion was not uncommon among soldiers at the time. Naturally, it was assumed that the first guy had simply run off. No biggie, right? The second soldier took up the post with a watchman assigned to keep an eye on him.
This was also a mistake.
Soon after soldier #2 entered the sentry box, the watchman noted a brilliant flash of light emanating from inside. A piercing scream followed, sending the watchman scurrying away to get help. Upon arriving back at La Garita, all the men found was a strong smell of sulfur in the air and black soot caked to the interior walls. Soldier #2 was now also nowhere to be found.
The sentry box was never used again, earning its macabre moniker.
Visiting The Devil’s Sentry Box
These days, La Garita del Diablo remains off limits to the general public. You can’t access if from inside San Cristóbal Fort. Park Rangers on-site also actively discourage visitors from even trying to go there!
If you wind your way down through La Perla to the shoreline, though, you can get over to La Garita. You’ll want to tread with extreme caution, of course, and not just because of the unexplained mystery of the place. A rocky shoreline and rough surf make this trek a bit treacherous.
The payoff, though, could be great, I suppose… Especially if you wish to disappear…