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Travel Guide: Europe’s Haunted Castles

Bodiam Castle UK

The 10 Creepiest Haunted Castles in Europe

It is inevitable; every year summer fades into autumn, and the leaves fall from the trees. As fall arrives, the nights get longer, and so the bonfires become brighter. It is the time of year the dead come out to play, or so the stories go. There is nothing quite like the story of a haunted castle, high up on a hill. Or of the lady who fell to her death while mourning the loss of her one true love. There is a particular kind of romance to any good ghost story, and all good stories are rooted in truth. If you think these spirits roam the castle grounds, or even if you don’t believe; these ten terrifying haunted castles are sure to get your spine tingling!

1. Brissac Castle, France

Brissac Castle France

Chateau de Brissac, the tallest castle in France has been on these grounds since the 11th century. Built by the Counts de Anjou, and rebuilt in the 15th century by one of Charles VII’s ministers to be a fort during the French Wars of Religion. This imposing haunted castle is full of the spirits of the dead collected over the years. The most famous is a lady known locally as “la Dame Verte” (The Green Lady).

The Green Lady

Legend tells us that La Dame Verte is the ghost of Charlotte de Brézé, the illegitimate daughter of King Charles VII and his mistress Agnes Sorel. In 1462 Charlotte was forced into a politically arranged and loveless marriage to nobleman Jacques de Brézé. Jacques was an avid hunter and on the evening of May 31st, 1477 he returned from one such trip and had a meal with his wife. After dinner, the couple retired to their separate bedrooms. Such was the state of the marriage.

Violence at the Chateau

In the middle of the night, a servant ran into Jacques room and woke him, exclaiming that Charlotte was having an affair with a man named Pierre de Lavergne. Jacques stormed out of his room and ran through the castle. Indeed, he found his wife in her chambers entwined in the torrid embrace of her lover. In a fit of rage, Jacques brutally murdered them both. It did not take long before Jacques moved out of the castle. Legend says, he could no longer stand the moans of his wife and her lover’s ghosts.

Even today, it seems that Charlotte can not leave her castle prison. From time to time she can be found wandering the tower room in her lovely green gown. And in the wee, early morning hours guests at the castle can still hear the moans of Charlotte and her lover echoing through the halls, trapped forever in time.

2. Dracula’s Castle, Romania

Bran Castle Romania

There a thousand stories to tell you about Vlad Tepes, who of course we know as Vlad the Impaler. He is the inspiration for Bram Stokers Dracula. Not to mention, inspiring countless actors to portray the evil bloodthirsty vampires. However, myths are often rooted in some truth. Romanian legend tells of a monster known as “strigoi,” the evil soul of the dead. A “strigoi“, can be both livings (as the soul of a person who has come out of the grave) or dead.

The Birth of the Strigoi

The monster is born into the world just as any other child. Only in this case, during pregnancy the  “strigoi’s” mother had gone out of the house without covering her head. This action allowed Satan to place a bonnet on the mother’s head, and in turn on the head of her future child; thus creating a monster.

When the child is born, when Satans bonnet remains on its head, the child becomes the “strigoi“. Grown into adulthood, we can recognize certain vampiric traits in the strigoi,” such as being bald, and having an aversion to garlic and onions. Even today, the “strigoi” are said to haunt the countryside around Bran Castle.  So make sure to eat a lot of garlic and onions before you visit!

3. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Castle in Edinbugh

One should note that Edinburgh is one of the world’s most haunted cities. And its castle most certainly does not disappoint. This site has been home to a defensive fort as far back as the Iron Age. Drenched in blood the lands around the castle have seen the lives of millions of soldiers and innocents lost to bloody battles and gruesome torture. In 683 the Celts fought Germanic attackers, who inevitably took the land for themselves and christened it “Edinburgh”.

Burn the Witch!

Burned to the ground and repeatedly rebuilt throughout history the castle even served as home to Mary Queen of Scots until her exile to England. The fortress changed hands once again, and many more times over the years. Until the 18th century, so it stands today, untouched and unchanged since then.

Edinburgh Castle is rife with ghost stories and legends. Everyone from employees to visitors experiences the terrifying hauntings. Staff members tell of seeing apparitions in the halls and invisible hands touching their skin. Visitors become upset by dark, sorrowful emotions. Most commonly, though, guests within the castle walls come face to face with the spirits of the dead. The headless drummer boy and the old man in his leather apron roam the halls and terrify anyone unlucky enough to come across them.

Ye Who Enter Beware!

Should you be one of the few brave souls who dare to venture into this haunted castle at night arrange a ghost hunt with one of the local paranormal hunting teams. But visitor beware, there are poltergeists on these grounds. Or so the legends say.

4. Dragsholm Castle, Denmark

Dragsholm Slot Denmark

Built in the 12th century, this is Dragsholm Castle in Denmark. Today, this castle is home to at least a hundred different ghosts and specters. One of the more famous ghosts is known as “The Lady in White.” The legend says that the daughter of a nobleman who once owned the castle fell in love with a commoner. Her lover had been in the employ of her father.

The Lady in White

The impetuous young girl knew that her father would not tolerate the relationship, so the couple kept it a secret. During one stolen moment together, the girl’s father caught the couple in an impassioned embrace. Furious and full of rage, the nobleman ordered his servants to imprison his daughter within the walls of the castle. Legend says they trapped the girl inside the walls where she met her untimely demise. Even now, her ghost haunts the castle grounds. Seen in a white dress, she still walks through the corridors searching for her lost lover.

Interestingly enough, in 1930 the haunted castle, underwent renovations. During renovations, the construction team removed old disintegrating walls. During these renovations, the builders found the skeleton of a woman wearing a white dress inside one of the walls!

 5. Leap Castle, Ireland

Leap Castle Ireland

Built in 1250, Leap Castle was home to the gruesome Ely O’Carrol Clan. In 1532 the clan began to fall apart after the death of Chieftan Mulrooney O’Carrol. Fighting began over who would be the clan’s next Chieftan. Would it be “One-Eye Teige O’Carrol” or his older brother, “Father Thaddeus”? One-Eyed Teige put a swift and gruesome end to the arguing when he burst into the chapel during mass, ranting Holy Rights and drove his sword right through the back of his older brother Father Thaddeus.

Father Thaddeus died on the spot, in front of his whole congregation. One-Eyed Teige became Chieftan and for now, the fighting stopped. Even now, Father Thaddeus haunts the grounds, possibly waiting for the right moment to lay claim to his clan’s lands.

One-Eyed Teige and The Story of the Oubliette

Builders found an oubliette behind the haunted castle in 1922, filled with the bones of the O’Carrol clan’s unsuspecting visitors. Dropping to their death, and impaled by wooden stakes the bottom of the pit. And all simply for the entertainment of the fearsome O’Carrol clan.

In 1922 the IRA burnt the castle and left it in a state of ruins. In 1991 the castle came under the ownership of Sean and Anne Ryan. They restored the castle and happily share its criminal history with visitors.  Visitors take heed; one would not want to end up on a spike at the bottom of the oubliette.

6. Culzean Castle, Scotland

Culzean Castle

Culzean Castle in Scotland decorates the back side of the Scottish five-pound note. Interestingly enough, this is the only American castle on our list, and yes, it is in Scotland. President Dwight D Eisenhower received it as a gift for his services during WWII. The US President visited the castle a total of four times. Eisenhower’s home on the grounds now functions as a six-room bed and breakfast.But what would a haunted castle be without its ghosts? Culzean Castle is home to yet another tale of violence and greed.

The Black Vault

The fourth Earl of Cassillis was looking to expand his territory, so he arranged for the ambush of Commendator Allan Stewart of Crossraguel at Culzean. Upon his capture, they brought Mr. Stewart to The Black Vault where he was systematically roasted almost to death over a spit. When he finally agreed to sign over Crossraguel Abby lands the set him free. As all good ghosts stories go, this was not the end. A few days later when he refused to sign the finalizing papers, the torture began again.

Soon after, when the Scottish Privy Council heard of this, Cassillis received a fine of 2000 pounds sterling. And he was to pay Allan Stewarts pension for the rest of his living years. Notably, Cassillis kept the lands. Even today, visitors hear the sounds of Stewart screaming over a crackling fire in the deep, dark dungeons of Culzean Castle.

7. Moosham Castle, Austria

Moosham Castle Austria

Moosham Castle in Austria, the locals call it “Witches Castle.” The castle history dates all the way back to the year 1191. Right, smack at the beginning of the European witch hunts. Thousands of Europe’s witch trials found their victims at Moosham Castle.  Accusing women and bringing them to an unfair trial often lead to the outright murder of innocent women on these grounds for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, no one knows exactly how many women faced trials at the castle. At the time, it didn’t matter much who these women were. Records of their supposed deeds and trials seemed unnecessary, an undue expense.

Witches and  Werewolves

The souls of countless witches haunt the castle grounds, taunting anyone who dares to visit. Another local myth tells of more than witches who haunt these grounds. In the 1800’s local villagers found the bodies of dead and dismembered cattle surrounding the castle. Of course, leading the villages to believe the woods are full of werewolves. All this castle needs is a visit from Count Dracula to complete the horror genre mythology!

8. Chillingham Castle, United Kingdom

Chillingham Castle England

Chillingham Castle is one of Englands most haunted castles. And with a name like Chillingham who would expect anything less? The most famous ghost of the castle is “The Radiant Boy”. The Radiant Boy resides in the castles pink room, and at the stroke of midnight, every night, his wretched cries echo through the halls. As the moans begin to fade away, guests to the pink room note the vision of a bright halo of light appearing. After the light appears, the apparition of a young boy dressed in blue walks silently towards those sleeping in bed.

A Christian Burial

Legend says that construction workers found the bones of a small boy wrapped in blue cloth within the walls of the corridor just outside the pink room. Given a proper Christian burial, no one ever saw his ghost again. That is at least until the chamber became a guest room. Visitors to the castle report were seeing blue flashes of light shooting out of the walls in the darkness of night. And just in case your wondering, it could not be the electrical wiring, as there is no wiring in that portion of the wall!

9. Eltz Castle, Germany

Burg Eltz Germany

Built in 1157 this picturesque castle sits quietly among beautiful German hills. For more than 30 generations, the same family occupies Eltz Castle in Germany. Located in the beautiful Mosel region, Eltz is a sight to behold. I had the pleasure of visiting this site a small handful of years ago. The view as you walk down the approach to the castle is mind blowing. It is no wonder that people still see the ghosts of Knights still patrolling the grounds.

Interestingly, German castles tend not to have ghostly residents. There are but a small handful of German Haunted Castles. Burg Eltz is one of the best.

10.  Houska Castle, Czech Republic

 

Castle Walls

Just north of Prague, resting quietly in ancient forests, sits Houska Castle. Interestingly enough, unlike many of the haunted castles on our list, this castle was never a strategic location. Houska Castle wasn’t built to protect villagers from invading outsiders. No, in fact, they made it protect against the forces of hell itself.

The Gates of Hell

As the legend goes, they built the castle upon the gates of hell. A bottomless pit out of which a winged demon once flew into the Czech countryside. Demonic occurrences ruled the area until Bohemian rulers sealed the gate with the castle. Out of curiosity for what lie beneath, local prisoners were given pardon providing they would venture into the whole. Thus enabling Bohemian rulers to discern what was at the bottom. One such prisoner was dropped into the pit and let out a blood-curdling scream! He was brought to the surface only to find he had aged more than 30 years! A few days later, the gentleman died without cause!

The Hitler Connection

As if building a castle on gates of hell wasn’t weird enough! In the 1930’s Hitler sent Nazi troops to take over the castle. He then had a team of scientists conducting experiments with interdimensional portals at the castle. Years later, locals found several Nazi officer skeletons, as if they had been secretly executed on the grounds.

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