With its narrow cobblestone streets and its old medieval buildings Europe can easily been seen as a continent of fairy tales. However, its castles perched high on its hills hide some sinister secrets, the ghosts of which still linger today.
Below are some of the most haunted castles in Europe – and their creepy backstories.
- Moosham Castle, Austria – Moosham Castle is also known as The Witches Castle due to the many ‘witches’ murdered, imprisoned and tortured there during the seventeenth century. Moosham Castle was where the ‘Witches’ involved in the Salzburg Witch Trials were taken and, unusually for a witch trial, the majority of victims were male.
The youngest to be imprisoned here was 10, the eldest 80 and all but two were beggars. It’s believed that many of these murdered there still haunt the castle today, breathing down people’s necks and banging doors.
- Predjama Castle, Slovenia – Predjama Castle is a spooky looking castle built into the side of the cliffs, above a cave which provided the inhabitants with secret passageways. It was home to the Emperor Erazem Luegar.
Not only did Luegar use his castle to hide away from the enemy, he also used it to torture and kill. Eventually he was betrayed by his servants who murdered him. It’s said that his ghost still roams the passageways in the castle and caves below. Walk around them if you dare!
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- Houska Castle, Czech Republic –This gothic castle, built in 1253, is possibly the creepiest castle on this list! It’s known to locals as the gates to hell, as it was said to be built on top of a bottomless pit – or if not bottomless, so deep and dark that nobody has ever seen the bottom. Legend has it that the bottomless pit had half-human, half-animal creatures and black flying animals inhabiting it, so the castle was built to keep the evil in.
Today it is reported that demonic entities still live here; they’ve been seen in the chapel – which was the room built directly above the pit – and strange moaning and voices have been heard inside. Outside there have been reports of creepy ghostly visions; a large headless horse with blood gushing from his neck has been seen running through the courtyard, a figure of a woman in a white dress has been seen gazing out of a window, and, perhaps the strangest of all, a row of people all chained together, and all with some gruesome injury, have been seen walking around.
- Bran Castle, Romania – Possibly the most famous castle on this list. Bran Castle began life as a medieval fortress, commissioned by King Louis I of Anjou in order to intercept the road to Transylvania and keep it safe from enemies.
Bran castle is perhaps most widely known for its connections to Vlad the Impaler and as being the fortress in Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. However, Bram Stoker never visited Romania, and the links between them all are tenuous and most are not verifiable. Despite this the castle is awash with vampire folklore and paranormal goings on today. There are plenty of guided tours on offer and even opportunities to stay overnight. You might not get much sleep though!
- Chillingham Castle, England – Since 1246 Chillingham Castle has been owned by the same family, the Greys, who were responsible for building the beautiful gardens and grounds, as well as the damp, dark dungeons and torture chambers. The torture chamber was practically designed with a sloping floor to drain away the blood and was the last room that many traitors saw.
The castle today is used as a hotel – but it also said to be haunted by the ghosts of all those executed there. It is one of the most haunted castles in Britain. The most documented ghost within the castle resides in the pink room (which is open for guests to book). In here people have reported hearing a loud wailing sound and seeing a blue light or halo above their bed soon after.
- Dragsholm Castle, Denmark – Dragsholm castle dates back to the time of the Vikings; drag meant a place to drag ships across to avoid dangerous waters. The castle was originally built to be a place for noble kings and queens to reside but, after the Protestant reform, became a place to keep noble prisoners. Today it’s reported that over 100 ghosts live in Dragsholm castle, most of which are noble or people of importance such as The Earl of Bothwell, third husband to Mary Queen of Scots. Visitors have reported seeing him riding through the courtyard on his horse, and have heard the sound of horses’ hooves.
One of the female ghosts haunting the castle is that of a daughter of a nobleman, who became pregnant by a commoner. Her father didn’t approve of her pregnancy so he imprisoned her within the castle. Now she can be seen wandering around the castle, wearing the white dress she died in, looking for her lover and occasionally moaning in sorrow. Dragsholm castle is now a hotel and restaurant so anyone can go and see these ghosts for themselves.
- Frankenstein Castle, Germany: – There’s a theory that this hilltop castle gave Mary Shelley the inspiration for her novel ‘Frankenstein’. Whether that theory is true or not is unknown but the castle holds a sinister past not dissimilar to the novel.
The castle was home to a scientist called Johann Konrad Dippel who conducted his own gruesome experiments on animals and human body parts. He is the epitome of the stereotypical ‘mad-scientist’ we know from the literature and films of today; he kept to himself and experimented with everything from reversing the ageing process to soul transference. Allegedly he eventually moved on from experimenting on animals and began on humans. Nowadays the castle welcomes visitors from all over the world looking for a fright at one of Europe’s biggest Halloween parties.
- Edinburgh Castle, Scotland – An historic fortress on a hill in the centre of Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh castle is bursting with history. The castle itself stands on a hill called Castle Rock, which was formed from a volcanic eruption over 340 million years ago. The castle was built in the 12th Century by the son of Saint Margaret of Scotland. Since it was built until the late 18th Century the castle was almost always under siege due to tensions between the English and the Scots. After that the castle was used to house military prisoners – until a mass escape in the early 19th Century proved it wasn’t suitable as a prison.
There are many hidden tunnels beneath the castle which are said to be haunted. One of those ghosts who haunts them is the Lonely Piper, who mysteriously disappeared whilst navigating the tunnels. He played his bagpipes whilst walking the tunnels so the people above could track his movements but, half way down, the music stopped. When a rescue team when to look for him, he had vanished. It is said that he still haunts the tunnel today, and his bagpipes can still be heard.
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- La Roche En Ardenne, Belgium – The castle was once home to a rich nobleman and his only daughter, whose hand in marriage he sold to the winner of a tournament. It appeared to be an already betrothed knight who would win but, at the last moment, a mysterious entrant swooped in, killed the knight and took the daughter, Berthe, to her bedchamber. The next morning the two of them were found dead in the steep, rocky mountains below the castle.
As it turns out, the mysterious winner was Countess Alix De Salm who had made pact with the devil, and disguised herself as a knight, to get revenge on the Count and his daughter. It is said that, to this day, the Countess’ ghost haunts the castle.
Have you been to any of these castles on the list? What did you think? Do you dare visit some of them? Let me know in the comments!
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