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