Photo by Loloday Laurent Dhotelle

Buried in Old San Juan’s most beautiful cemetery, Cementerio Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis, is Félix Benítez Rexach, an engineer and businessman who designed the Normandie Hotel, which was one of San Juan’s grandest accommodations as well as thought to be one of the finest examples of Art Deco style in the world. He opened it in 1942 and designed the hotel to be a replica of the French cruiseliner called the Normandie because that’s where he met his wife, a French singer named Lucienne Dhotelle, but better known as La Môme Moineau, the little sparrow. The Normandie featured a beautiful pool where La Môme Moineau liked to swim, but it caused a scandal because she liked to swim European style, sans clothing.

They are both buried in the cemetery and there’s even a bust of Felix with a frieze of Moineau behind him at their tomb. The Normandie Hotel was renovated in the 1990s and where the original pool was became the lobby of the hotel. That didn’t stop La Môme Moineau from swimming there, even though she died in 1968. Hotel employees still saw her in the area where the pool used to be as well as smelled her sweet French perfume.

The grave of Félix Benítez Rexach

The Normandie Hotel closed in 2009 and is now abandoned, but adventurous people who have visited the closed hotel and peeked into the lobby have said they’ve still seen the apparition of Moineau’s spirit, and her ghost hits the pool in the exact same way she did in life, stark naked.

For haunted history tours in Old San Juan, please visit American Ghost Walks – San Juan.