Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ghosts of Dragsholm Castle - Hørve, Odsherred, Denmark

Originally built as a palace in 1215 by the Bishop of Roskilde, Dragsholm Castle in Hørve, Odsherred is one of the most historic structures in Denmark.  At one point in it's long history, Dragholm Slot, as it is known to the Danish, was turned into a prison which hosted some famous residents.  It is said that a few of those prisoners who died there still haunt Dragholm to this day.

Dragsholm Castle in Hørve, Odsherred, Denmark

Early on, the Bishop of Roskilde's palace was fortified and made into a castle to be used as a fortification to defend against invading armies in the early 1500s. In the mid 16th century, Dragsholm was taken over by the Danish Crown during the Reformation period.  It was at this point that the castle was converted into a prison to house some high profile guests.  The likes of which included Joachim Rønnow who had formerly owned the castle, Ejler Brockenhuus who was known as the "mad squire", and the Earl of Bothwell, Ejler Brockenhuus who was the 3rd husband of Mary, Queen of Scots.

A moat surrounds Dragsholm Castle in Hørve, Odsherred, Denmark

Over the years there have been many reports of apparitions spotted roaming Dragsholm Castle.  A ghost known as the "white lady" is said to haunt the premises.  Believed to be the daughter of one of the former castle owners, she fell in love with a servant at the castle.  Her father, being the nobleman that he was, threw his daughter into the castle dungeon outraged at her affair with the servant.  Forever separating them.  In the early 1900s an excavation at Dragsholm unearthed the skeletal remains of a woman wearing a white dress.

Dragsholm Castle in Hørve, Odsherred, Denmark

A former servant girl who lived in the castle is said to return each night to check that all is in order within the Dragsholm castle.  It is said that she was a loyal servant who spent her entire life in the castle, and as it seems, in the afterlife as well.

Visitors dining at Dragsholm Castle in Hørve, Odsherred, Denmark

The most famous spirit that haunts the court yard at Dragsholm is Ejler Brockenhuus, the former Earl of Bothwell who was the husband of Queen Mary.  It is said that he has been seen riding into the castle grounds horses, carriage and all!  The ghostly sound of the horses hooves clopping on the stones can be heard echoing in the night.

Entry to the court yard at Dragsholm Castle in Hørve, Odsherred, Denmark

Today Dragsholm Castle still stands and now serves and a hotel and restaurant.  It is one of the only remaining Baroque style castles in Denmark and it is certainly one of the oldest.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wild Hunt at Charlemagne’s Stones (Großer Karlstein) - Osnabrück-Haste, Germany

In the 1st century Europe was still embroiled in border disputes among many Pagan peoples, Charlemagne, King of the Francs, was one of the first leaders of the time to embrace Christianity.  He expanded his territory and spread Christianity by waging war against neighboring bands conquering the Lombards, the Saxons, Bavaria and parts of Spain. Charlemagne used more than weapons to conquer the people of Europe, he built monasteries and encouraged teaching and learning and helped Christianity flourish.  He was ruler of all of this self-made empire, but did not think of himself as an emperor. He was made so however, in the early 800s after coming to the aid of Pope Leo III in Rome.  He became what many consider the first true Roman Emperor.  Many believe he and his armies still haunt the forests of Bavaria to this day.

Charlemagne’s Stones (Großer Karlstein) near Osnabrück-Haste, Germany are said to be haunted by King Charlemagne and his phantom army

In one of Charlemagne's conquests in Bavaria at a place now known as Großer Karlstein, he made a statement to signal the dominance of Christian rule over the Pagan people.  A monolithic stone altar or tomb was the scene of many pagan rituals and sacrifice.  When Charlemagne captured these lands, it is said that he himself smote the capstone of the altar in two to symbolize the dominance of Christian beliefs over paganism.

Entry way to Charlemagne’s Stones (Großer Karlstein) near Osnabrück-Haste, Germany

Großer Karlstein still stands to this day just outside of Osnabrück-Haste, Germany.  These black stones are sometimes referred to as Charlemagne's Stones in remembrance of his defeat of the Bavarian people.  It is also believed that Charlemagne and his army still haunt this area.  He and his horde can be heard at night rampaging through the forests of Bavaria around the stones of Großer Karlstein and are sometimes referred to as "the wild hunt".  They are heard, not ever seen you see, because legend has it that if any person encountering Charlemagne's army must avert their eyes or meet an unimaginable fate as did those who fell before the armies in that past.

Charlemagne’s Stones (Großer Karlstein)  a monolith near Osnabrück-Haste, Germany.  It is believed that King Charlemagne himself broke the capstone as the symbol of the dominance of Christianity

So if you are wandering the forests of Bavaria at night and you hear the approaching sounds of a medieval army, close your eyes or you may join them in the after world!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Poenari Castle (The Original, Real Castle Dracula) on the Wallachia - Transylvania border, Romania

In the early 13th century, high within the Transylvania Alps, Wallachian rulers built a castle over looking the Argeş River valley.  Sitting on the steep edge of a canyon on the Transylvania border, Poenari Castle was a superb fortification which was very hard to get to.  After changing hands over the centuries, the castle eventually fell into ruin.  However, many say that spirits haunt the castle ruins and the surrounding valleys.  Hauntings thought to be triggered by a dark and evil time in Wallachia and Transylvania when the fortification was known as Castel Dracula, home of Dracula.

Poenari Castle (The Original Real Castle Dracula) on the Wallachia - Transylvania border, Romania

Two hundred years after it was constructed and partially destroyed from war, Poenari Castle was rebuilt by the Prince of Wallachia, Vlad Tepes or Vlad III in hopes that it would serve as a fortress to protect against the invading Ottoman Empire.  He was born in 1431, the son of Vlad II who was known as Dracul or Dragon, hence Vlad III was called Dracula or son of the Dragon.  

Vlad III Tepes, Vlad the Impaler or known by some as Dracula

Vlad III was an evil ruler who took no mercy on those who opposed him including priests, women, and their children.  One of his first acts was to invite nobles responsible for the death of his family members into a hall for a feast.  He then locked them inside and set the structure on fire.  Setting the pace for what would become a reign of terror.

One of Dracula's favorite means of torturing and killing those who opposed him was to impale them on large pointed steaks driven into the ground while they were still alive.  For those who did not perish immediately, it sometimes took days for them to die.  Vlad would impale victims by the thousands when invading a town or city.  He would leave these impaled victims for months on end forming a macabre forest of dead, serving as a warning to the those invading his territory.  This technique worked well as approaching armies that saw these forests of death, turned back out of fear.  It was after Vlad passed and could no longer be feared that many referred to him as Vlad the Impaler.

Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler also known as Dracula, dines among a forest of impaled victims during his 15th century evil reign of terror

It is also said that Vlad III had the bizarre pleasure of occasionally drinking the blood of his victims.  Perhaps he felt that it would make him more powerful if he absorbed their blood into his own body.  This and his evil reputation as well as the fact that the name Dracula meant "The Devil" according to some lore, may have given rise and inspiration to the literary legend of Dracula that we know today. Bram Stoker actually modeled his character and story setting in Transylvania and Dracula himself.  Visitors who wish to get a feel for the story book setting can visit Hotel Castel Dracula in Bistritav, Romania which was built to accommodate Dracula fans visiting the town where the story was based.  Nearby, about 60km to the east of
Poenari Castle, is Bran Castle which is commonly mistaken to be Dracula's Castle.  It is said that Vlad III actually only stayed in this medieval fortress a short time as it was one of his outposts in the defense against the Ottomans.

Hotel Castel Dracula in Bistritav where the story book setting of Bram Stoker's Dracula took place
Bran Castle in Bran, Romania is often mistakenly referred to as Dracula's Castle although it was one of his strongholds and he did stay there for a time, but it was not his residence.

Castle Poenari, which is the "real" Dracula's Castle, was abandoned a couple of centuries after Dracula died in 1476.  It was partially destroyed by a land slide in the 17th century, but an attempt was made at restoring the castle foundation.  The walls and turrets survive to this day and still stand on the rock precipice overlooking the Argeş River along the scenic Transfăgără
şan Road.  There are few who dare venture there because it is a long 1400 step climb to reach the castle ruins.  However, some of those who have made it and have actually spent the night there claim to have seen some very bizarre phenomenon.  Strange eerie glowing lights have been spotted in and about the castle ruins.  They are erratic in nature and have also been seen approaching from the valley below. Apparently, one group of paranormal investigators spending the night on the mountain were so scared after seeing floating lights approaching from below, they left before they made it through the night and did not even finish their investigation.

High in the Transylvanian Alps, lies the ruins of Poenari or Castle Dracula

It is also thought that Poenari may be haunted by the spirit of Vlad III's wife.  It is said she could no longer bear the evil wrath of Dracula or some say she did not want to be captured by the advancing Ottoman army and jumped off of one of the towers to her death.  The lights or orbs seem to migrate to the castle location and it is almost as if the spirits who have died by the hand of Dracula are returning to take vengeance on him.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

White Lady of Kinsale - Charles Fort near Kinsale, Ireland

On the shores of Kinsale Harbor lies the remains of the stronghold built on the ruins of Ringcurran Castle.  Known as Charles Fort or Dún Chathail to some of the locals, it was designed to protect the town of Kinsale from an attack by sea.  Although this once mighty fortress has seen much action during Ireland's history, no soldier haunts this fortification, but a lady.

The White Lady of Kinsale haunts the ruins of Charles Fort and the local streets and town of Kinsale

Sometime after the fort's construction in the mid 1600s, a soldier in the fort married a local girl who was to stay with him at the fort on their wedding night.  Her husband took temporary watch that night and as he had a long day, had trouble staying awake at his post.  He was found asleep at the post and as protocol of the day called for, he was promptly shot on the spot.  The bilwildered bride hearing of the death of her new husband, flung herself off of the embattlment walls to her death below.

Charles Fort near Kinsale, Ireland on Kinsale Harbour

It is said that to this day, even though the fortification now lay in ruins, the bewildered bride can be seen wandering the rampart walls longing for her lost love, still wearing the white dress she wore on her wedding day.  She has also been seen wandering the streets of Kinsale where she once lived, only to disappear into the night.  She is referred to as The White Lady by the locals.

Charles Fort near Kinsale, Ireland on Kinsale Harbour.  The town of Kinsale can be seen in the background on the left.

Charles Fort is located to the southeast of Kinsale on the south end of the village of Summer Cove along the harbor.  The site is today an Irish National Monument due to the part it has played in Irish history.

Charles Fort and the village of Summer Cove, Ireland

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ghost of William Wallace at Ardrossan Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland

Located on a high bluff along the coast of Scotland, stands the ruins of what is today known as Ardrossan Castle.  This ghostly visage of the past stands guard over the town of Ardrossan located in Ayrshire.  However that is not all that is ghostly regarding the castle. A legend of the past is known to haunt the castle that he captured in the late 13th century as well as other phantoms of the past.

The ruins of Ardrossan Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland

The once great castle that stood in Ardrossan was formerly known as Castle Crag as it stood high on the rocky craggy terrain above the sea. Built in the early 12th century, the castle originally belonged to the Barclay clan.  Sir Fergus Barclay was a famous and legendary horseman of the day.  Legend states that Sir Fergus' skills were so great because he made a deal with the Devil and acquired a magic bridle.  However, Barclay did not want to give his soul to the devil so he tricked the Devil out of the deal. Enraged, the Devil attacked Castle Crag, leaving hoof marks in the jagged rocks around the stronghold.  Sir Fergus survived but paid for it in the end however. Eventually, Fergus was put to death for murdering his wife. He died on the Isle of Arran and was buried there. Oddly, a storm on the night he was buried uncovered his body and it was washed up on the shore at Ardrossan.  He was reburied on the castle grounds in the chapel.  He was known as The De'il of Ardrossan.

The remains of Ardrossan Castle over look the town of Ardrossan, Ayrshire, Scotland

The castle passed from family to family over the couple of centuries that followed. Around 1292, Edward I of England invaded and Androssan Castle fell into English hands.  They only held it for a few years however.  In 1296, William Wallace, the champion of Scottish independence who was one of the few who stood up to Edward I, led his followers to the castle, overtook and destroyed it.  He threw the dead English soldiers as well as the survivors into a cellar vault beneath the castle
with what little food was there and left them to die.  This became known in Scottish History as Wallace's Larder.  Wallace would go on to capture other English strongholds and lead the Scots to many victories. However, he was betrayed and captured in 1305.  Edward I, humiliated by Wallace's success, had him drawn and quartered to set an example for all other Scots who dared rise against him.

William Wallace, leader of the fight for Scottish independence in the late 13th and early 14th centuries
Entrance to the vaults beneath the ruins of Ardrossan Castle where Wallace's Larder took place

Although Ardrossan Castle was rebuilt and enlarged several times and survived over the years, it met it's final end around 1650 when Oliver Cromwell who felt threatened by the fortress, had his army destroy it.  They used much of the stone from the castle to build a fortress at Ayr.  Later in the mid 1700s, more of the stone was taken from the castle to build walls in the town of Ardrossen itself.

Today, there are many statues honoring William Wallace, the champion of Scottish independence.  This one stands outside of Stirling, Scotland.

Today the ruins of Castle Ardrossan still stand on the rocky crag overlooking the town of Ardrossan. Many believe that the spirits of those who lived and died here still haunt the ruined chambers.  There is one ghost in particular though that intrigues most. It is said that on stormy evenings, the figure of a tall bearded man can be seen standing around the ruins.  One minute he is there, then in another he is gone.  It is believed that this is the spirit of William Wallace which has somehow bonded to these ruins. 

William Wallace has his own castle of sorts in modern times.  This tower stands on a hill overlooking Stirling, Scotland where Wallace led the Scots to victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge
Ardrossan Castle as seen today from the streets of Ardrossan, Ayrshire, Scotland

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Poveglia Island near Venice, Italy

Just off the coast of Italy near Venice, Poveglia Island is one of the most unwanted places in the world.  This is due to the fact that it is most likely one of the most haunted places on the planet.  Nicknamed the Island of Death, visitors to the island have been so terrified, that today people are forbidden from visiting the island.

Poveglia Island near Venice, Italy is thought to be one of the most haunted places in the world

According to legend, the notoriety of this island began back in the reign of the Roman Empire when during a plague outbreak, the bodies of the dead would be brought to this island and thrown in heaps to keep them away from the general population.

The island became a refuge for those fleeing the barbarian invasions between the 5th and 8th centuries.  Many wars were fought on the tiny island as it became a fortification to protect against the invaders.  Many died on the island during these wars.  A structure known as the Octagon was built to help defend the island.  The eight sided foundation of it remains to this day.

The remains of the fortification known as The Octagon can be seen in the foreground of Poveglia Island near Venice, Italy

In the 1500s, another plague struck Italy and Poveglia as well as other local islands served again as a dumping ground for the bodies.  They were thrown into large pits and later they were piled up and set ablaze.  To this day, ash still covers the island.  The ash is what remains of the cremated plague victims.  It is said that some plague victims that had not even died were rounded up and led to the island in boats to await their death.  The Italian doctors could be seen in the boats wearing their plague masks with the bird-like beak to protect themselves from contracting the disease as they led them out to the island.

The plague doctors of old Italy would wear plague masks to protect them from the diseases carried by the patients they administered to

Supposedly, as time passed visitors to Poveglia began to witness paranormal events on the island.  Apparitions of the plague victims of the past were said to roam the tiny piece of ground.  Screams of the dead and dying are rumored to be heard.  At a couple of points in history the Italian government tried to actually give the island away, but there were no takers.

An attempt was made to actually use the island again in 1922 when a mental hospital was built on Poveglia.  Patients at the hospital complained that they would see ghosts and were haunted by the spirits of the island.  However, these complaints were dismissed since they were mental patients after all.  

An interior shot of the mental hospital at Poveglia Island, Italy

Legend says that a particular doctor at the mental institution was crazed and performed tortuous experiments on many patients, killing them in the process.  They say that the spirits got revenge on him however, causing him to jump from the bell tower on the premises.  When he did not die from the fall, they say that an eerie mist enveloped him and suffocated him. The hospital remained open until the 1960s. Rumor has it that the spirit of the crazed doctor has now been seen among the others on Poveglia Island haunting the bell tower where he died.  Some say that on certain nights, the eerie chime of the bell tower can be heard across the harbor, however, the island is unoccupied.

The docks and structure of the mental hospital at Poveglia Island, Italy.  Some say the shadowy figure near the top of the dock stairs to the left is an apparition.

Today, the island is abandoned and is closed off from the public.  Access can only be granted by special permission.  Various paranormal teams have been allowed to investigate the island and it's facilities and reports are that Poveglia is definitely a haunted place!

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The Catacombs of Paris (l'Ossuaire Municipal) - Paris, France

Deep beneath the streets of Paris, France, there lies the jumbled remains of over six million Parisians.  Many believe that because these poor souls where disturbed in their resting places, they roam the ancient subterranean stone quarries of Paris or what today is known to many as "The Catacombs".

Some of the first remains relocated to the old stone quarries of Paris (les carrières de Paris) or more commonly known as The Catacombs

What is known by many as l'Ossuaire Municipal (The Catacombs) or by some les carrières de Paris (The Quarries of Paris), began when an overcrowding problem occurred with church cemeteries in the 12th century.  Offering burial in their cemeteries was a source of income for the churches.  As a result, they would take in more bodies than they could really handle.  Large pits were dug for those who could not really afford a proper grave to make room for well paying customers.  When these mass graves were full, they would fill them in and open another.  

The catacombs of Paris hold over six million human remains

In the late 18th century,  this technique of burial began to cause health problems, so after a time when the remains in one mass grave had decomposed, the bodies would be exhumed and relocated and new bodies buried in the pit.  The bones of the previous occupants were moved to the old under ground quarries that were refurbished and reinforced. The bones would be stacked neatly in rows where they remain to this day.  After a while, mass burial in the city was banned all together.

Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp located in The Catacombs of Paris

Over the centuries the catacombs have been visited by many including both French underground and German soldiers during World War II.  There are tales of death and murders that have taken place deep within the hidden catacombs of Paris.  Many visitors claim to have "felt" strange things when they have been in the catacombs.  Feelings like they were being followed and in some cases touched by some unseen force.  Other visitors have reported seeing shadow figures or specters deep within the stacks and rows of skulls and bones.  Undoubtedly the disturbance of all those souls to be brought into the catacombs has left the spirits of these individuals unsettled. 

Paranormal researchers visiting the catacombs of Paris have captured strange EVP recordings as well as photographs of strange, unexplained lights or orbs as well as misty images appearing on film.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Tower of London - England

In 1078 in London, England, William the Conqueror began construction of a castle eventually destined to be known as The White Tower around which over time, more towers and structures where added to make up what would become the massive Tower of London.  The original tower today serves as the keep of the enormous structure.  For a time, the castle housed the royal family and the crown jewels, however today it is mostly inhabited by the tower guards or beefeaters and due to it's long bloody and torrid history...  ghosts.

The Tower of London, England
The Tower of London, England in 1802
The most visible part of The Tower of London, The White Tower or central castle keep, can be seen in the center of a more complex system of walls and towers

St. Thomas' Tower

    In 1241 it is thought that the first known haunting of The Tower of London occurred in St. Thomas' Tower.  Supposedly a priest witnessed the ghost of martyred Saint Thomas Becket appearing and reportedly causing some damage to the structure. Centuries later in the early 1800s, a soldier witnessed the apparition of a headless woman in a white dress covered with blood roaming the castle grounds.  It is thought that she is the spirit of a wife who was beheaded by her husband who was one of the tower guards in the late 1780s.  Her head however, was never found!  Many believe she returns, searching the castle grounds for her head.

St. Thomas' Tower part of The Tower of London, England

Wakefield Tower

    King Henry the VI, apparently having a lack luster reign, in 1471 was found in Wakefield Tower where he was imprisoned, brutally stabbed to death.  Later it was thought that this heinous crime was carried out by Richard III.  Henry is said to revisit this tower on midnight on the anniversary of his death each year.

Wakefield Tower part of The Tower of London, England

The Tower Green

    The courtyard area of The Tower of London is known as Tower Green.  This is the place where most of the nobles and aristocrats were executed on the block by beheading vs being put to the stake and burned to death as were the lesser heretics and such. 

One of the most famous people to be executed here was Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII who seemed passionate about executing his wives.  It seems that in 1536, Queen Anne found herself accused of adultery and incest and was beheaded on the Tower Green.  To this day, her headless body has be seen strolling through the Tower Green courtyard and in the tower where she was imprisoned. 

The Tower Green and Queen's House part of The Tower of London, England

One of the more gruesome tales of Tower Green is that of Margaret Pole
the Countess of Salisbury.  After her son managed to insult King Henry VIII and then escape to be protected by friends, Henry imprisoned his mother Margaret Pole, and in 1541 sent her to the executioner's block.  However, being innocent of wrong doing, she refused to bow down to have her head removed.  Infuriated, the executioner began swinging the axe at her and chased her around the Tower Green hacking her to death.

A year after the gruesome death of the countess of Salisbury, another wife of Henry VIII, Queen Catherine Howard, was discovered to be committing adultery and was executed on the green  in 1542.  Her ghost is also said to have been spotted aimlessly wandering around The Tower Green.

Another misfortunate royal victim was Lady Jane Grey.  In 1552, after nine days of being Queen she was overthrown by supporters of a rival and imprisoned along with her husband. Two years later, both she and her husband were put to the axe on the Tower Green.  Lady Jane's apparition which appears as a shimmering translucent figure has been seen lingering around the area where she was executed as well as the towers.

Beheaded victims are not the only spectral entity that has been seen on The Tower Green.  Some witnesses have claimed to see a procession of phantom soldiers marching through the green on their eternal quest to guard the castle and London itself.

The Salt Tower

In the 16th century, the Salt Tower was used to imprison Jesuit priests who underwent excruciating torture deep within the tower's dungeons.  Scratchings on the walls of the dungeon chambers still exist to this day to prove that they were there and what they went through.  Today icy cold spots have been known to manifest themselves in these dungeons and hushed whispers and moans can be heard from horrors of the past.

The Salt Tower part of The Tower of London, England

Bloody Tower

In 1483 heirs to the thrown which was then held by their uncle, Richard III, were Prince Richard and Prince Edward.  Once King Richard took the throne, he had them imprisoned in The Bloody Tower.  It seemed he felt threatened that they would take over his reign. They could be seen running and playing in the tower windows and parapets.  However, at some point, they disappeared completely.  It was assumed that Richard III had murdered them and centuries later, this was confirmed when their remains were discovered on the castle grounds after some work had begun.  Some say that the two little princes can be seen to this day running around The Bloody Tower wearing their white nightgowns, just as they would have been doing centuries ago.  However, when the Ghosts of Prince Richard and Prince Edward are approached, they seem to fade into the stone as if they were a part of The Tower itself.

Bloody Tower (right) part of The Tower of London, England

The Tower of London is open for tours daily and you will be guided by the legendary Yeomen Warders or Beefeaters and learn about more ghosts and hauntings in The Tower.  Hear of the legend of the Tower Ravens which it is said that if they ever leave, London will fall!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

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