The Museo de Valladolid is a museum in the Spanish city of Valladolid that divides its collection into two sections, archaeology and fine arts. Among the museum’s collection, which spans the history of the city, you can find Roman coins, Renaissance-era paintings, and a 16th century chair associated with the Devil. “The Devil’s Armchair,” as this wicked piece of furniture is known, is said to be cursed.
According to legend, the chair’s original owner was Andres de Proaza, a 22-year-old student of Portuguese (some say Jewish) heritage. In 1550, Proaza was studying at the University of Valladolid’s Faculty of Medicine. He was enrolled in Spain’s first ever anatomy course, which was taught by Alfonso Rodriguez de Guevara, a renown physician who’d just come back from studying the subject in Italy.
For a subject that was just formally introduced to Spain, Proaza had an unusually deep understanding of anatomy. Everybody was impressed with his knowledge, and he was considered Guevara’s best pupil. His neighbors, however, were more scared than fascinated by the young man.
At night, they heard crying and moaning coming from Proaza’s house, and the stream behind his home was sometimes soaked with blood. Soon, a rumor spread that the promising anatomist was practicing necromancy. When a 9-year-old boy disappeared in the city, Proaza’s neighbors only grew more suspicious. They contacted the authorities to search Proaza’s house.
Down in Proaza’s basement, the authorities found blood and guts everywhere. The missing boy laid on a table, his body ripped apart and resting with the corpses of cats and dogs. Proaza confessed that he’d dissected them all.
Murder wasn’t the only evil thing Proaza was doing either. During his trial with the Inquisition, he admitted that he’d made a pact with the Devil. This being three centuries before the Parker Brothers started selling ouija boards, Proaza’s choice of communication with the Prince of Darkness was an armchair. Not just any piece of furniture, mind you, but a chair given to him by a Navarrese necromancer.
By sitting on the chair, Proaza gained all the advanced medical knowledge he wowed his classmates and professors with. He also told the authorities that only well-qualified doctors could sit in his eternally damned armchair. Anybody else who sat in the chair would die three days later, ditto for anybody stupid enough to destroy it.
For his crimes, the Inquisition sent Proaza off to the gallows. An auction was held to sell off Proaza’s belongings, but surprisingly few people were interested in buying furniture associated with child murder and Satanism. For this reason, the chair and everything else Proaza owned were moved to a warehouse at his old university.
Years passed, and the story behind the chair was forgotten. In the 19th century, an exhausted beadle stumbled on the chair and slumped down for a rest. True to Proaza’s warning, the beadle was found dead in the chair three days later. The university’s next beadle was no less cautious; he sat in the chair and died as well.
After taking the lives of two good beadles, the chair’s thirst for blood had to be stopped. To ensure that it didn’t take any more lives, the chair was hanged upside down from the university chapel. It remained here until 1890, when it was moved to the Museo de Valladolid after the chapel was demolished.
At its new home, a red ribbon has been tied across the Devil’s Armchair to keep visitors from sitting in it. This was not done to prevent bright med students from making Faustian pacts, but to protect what’s actually a rare 16th century chair. Honestly though, warning that your precious antiques are cursed would probably keep a lot more touchy hands off your stuff.
Check out my book “Mexico’s Unsolved Mysteries: True Stories of Ghosts, Monsters, and UFOs from South of the Border” for more interesting mysteries of the Spanish-speaking world. You can buy the book on Kindle here.