Getting Scared In Dracula’s Chamber
As we descended the steep concrete steps to the underground world we were about to immerse ourselves in, a shiver of fear intertwined with excitement rippled through me. We paid our entry – making it further than the couple in front of us who had decided they couldn’t hack it – and I couldn’t help but think about how horrible a job it would be to sit in a dark, cold cave all day.
And then we were inside, deep in the caves below the castle.
It didn’t start out too scary . In fact, it was quite a nice, bright, educational walk. Until suddenly it wasn’t bright anymore. We had reached a cross roads. We could either carry on down a dark passageway, or enter into a pitch-black maze.
The entrance to the maze stated that ghosts of the many people who had died down here haunted the corridors. Visitors have reported feeling the temperature suddenly plummet and the ghosts of people from days gone by have brushed along side them in the darkness. M was going into the maze whether I liked it or not so I had no choice but to follow. I gripped his hand tightly as he held onto the rope that guides you around. I breathed a sigh of relief when we caught up with the family in front. The dad had a torch so I put my phone flashlight on and pressed it hard against my side to shield it until my fear got the better of me and I needed the sweet relief of a little bit of light – much to M’s annoyance.
We made it out of the maze without any brush with ghosts but the corridors now seemed darker than they were back at the beginning. We pushed on forward, stepping in shallow puddles and weaving our way around many pillars creating crossroads designed to make you feel lost and spooked. We could hear voices echoing around the walls but didn’t often bump into other people.
We decided to follow the sound of atmospheric, classical music and found a narrow corridor with wax figures placed to look like they were performing an opera. The educational signs (almost unreadable due to the darkness) told us the caves used to be used for performances put on by people driven underground. Coming from a city which is also home to an underground cave town, I was fascinated.
At the other end of the corridor were low, blue lights which lead us into another dark corridor – one filled with smoke and the smell of burning oil. I squashed down the panicked thoughts that we were going to die when I noticed the oil burning lanterns hanging on the walls. As we descended down the path the smoke was getting thicker, the route was getting more winding. Eventually we stopped at the middle of a medieval looking stone circular room with pathways leading off in every direction, and a tombstone and stone body lying in the middle.
Choosing the corridor thickest with smoke we hurried on down it. The music was getting louder, the visibility getting worse and worse until putting on a flashlight made seeing anything impossible. We had to feel our way through the smoke and darkness. I closed my eyes momentarily, unable to cope with the fear building up inside me.
Another crossroads – one way was inexplicably darker than the way we had just come, and one way was filled with blue light. We tried to go on down the one too dark but, very soon the fear got too much for both of us to bear and we turned back around. We then let the blue light guide us towards Dracula’s tiny cell, and the thin cage Vlad Tepes was forced to spend his ten years of imprisonment in. The metal was moulded to his body and left no room to move or sit down. A flash from someone’s camera revealed a barred wall in front of us, invisible in the darkness. Behind the bars stood spikes with severed heads mounted on top.
A chill went down my spine as the significance of where I was standing sunk in. This place of infamy. The place I’d read about so often. A fearful place, familiar from the legends of Eastern Europe.
Then the chill got stronger and I suddenly realised I was terrified of vampires and scarpered on out of there.
We started our trek to the exit, following arrows which suddenly stopped or spun us round back in the direction we had come. I realised then that they weren’t there to be helpful but they were there to add to the disorientation and spooky atmosphere. Occasionally the walls gave way to cut-outs revealing statues of severed heads of long-dead people of note. Eventually the darkness gave way to more light, and then even more light and finally, we were descending the steps into the rainy afternoon again. Squinting, we stood at the door way trying to regain out sight and get our heart rates back to normal.
All I could think to say was ‘thank god we didn’t do that at night with nothing but an oil lamp for guidance!’, to which M helpfully replied “yeah, because it would have been so much darker at night”.
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