The nights are getting darker, the weather is getting colder and there is an eerie feeling in the air… That’s right, as the winter nights draw ever closer our attention turns to the 31st of October and the festival of All Hallows’ Eve.
Halloween is believed to have originated in Celtic times during their harvest festivals and adapted over the years to become a three-day festival of Allhallowtide, the period during the Christian calendar dedicated to remembering the dead.
Today it is celebrated globally on the 31st of October and each year an abundance of glowing pumpkins appear on window ledges and door steps and children walk the streets dressed as ghouls and ghosts, on a quest for goodies to fill their totes.
It’s a celebration of all things scary, so what better way to kick things off than with a rundown of Europe’s most haunted locations.
Buda Castle, Budapest, Hungary
Standing proudly upon Castle Hill, Buda Castle is one of the Hungarian capital’s most recognizable sites and it is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.
But not all tourists come to Budapest to admire this impressive feat of Baroque architecture, oh no, because deep down underneath Buda Castle lies what has come to be known as the Buda Labyrinth and this is where things get a little creepy…
Situated underneath the imposing stone walls of the 13th century palace is a complex network of tunnels and caves. Dark corridors lead to even darker rooms, where dark deeds have been said to occur.
Stretching out over 1200metres the caves were given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1987 and were first opened to the public in 1984 . This extensive cave system has been around since pre- historic times and findings there have shown how they once provided shelter to our primitive ancestors.
However, it’s not the homo sapiens that draw tourists from near and far to this labyrinth. If visitors could make it through the misty, dimly lit and sometimes pitch-black corridors, they would be treated to sights of the weird and wonderful, from fountains pouring endlessly with wine to strange stone figures, carvings and even tombs.
Implements of torture and iron bars can also be found throughout the tunnels, where prisoners were said to have been held and tortured – it is even known that the legendary Vlad the Impaler was held here, before he was freed and began his own violent tirade.
So, it’s no surprise that along with the weird and wonderful and traitorous torturing, strange and scary goings-on have been reported in the tunnels.
A grim discovery of female bones during the 1930s led to tragic tales of women who were tragically thrown down the well during a castle takeover, who still roam the corridors, lost and looking for a way out.
Skeletal remains of a Turkish Hareem were also found in the damp tunnels, thus adding to the ghostly tales.
In 2011 another odd occurrence took place. On the 29th July a storm of riot police burst through the gates, ordered everyone out and closed the tunnels indefinitely.
No one knows exactly why the police stormed the tunnels, some say it was due to a terror threat, others believe something was discovered down there in the dark depths, something they don’t want us to know about…
Fortunately, the tunnels did reopen and today visitors can enjoy spooky ghost walks and admire historical displays and depictions of Dracula – but much of the tunnels remain closed to guests and the reasons why remain unknown.
Predjama Castle, Predjama, Slovenia
The largest cave castle in the world, Predjama Castle is a spectacular feat of Renaissance architecture. Located in the village of Prejama it is situated just nine kilometres away from the famous Postojna Cave.
During the 1500s the castle was home to the infamous Eramus of Leug. It is said that after a conflict with the Hapsburgs, Eramus fled to his family’s fortress in Predjama and began a vicious tirade against the monarchy.
Eramus is said to have rounded up supporters of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III and to have tortured them in his castle.
The torment usually involved victims being thrown into a 70-metre-deep cave, situated under the castle – where they met their bitter end.
It is said that to this day you can still hear the screams of Eramus’ victims from deep below the castle, where their bodies still lay…
Eramus eventually met a grisly end himself, and legend has it that his ghost still roams the castle corridors when the sun goes down, looking for victimes to torture – spooky stuff huh?
Bran Castle, Bran, Romania
Perched high upon a rocky outcrop dominating the small villages below, Bran Castle is probably most famous for being the home of the fictitious vampire, Count Dracula.
Tourists and ghost hunters from near and far flock to the colossal structure year upon year, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the paranormal.
Whilst Bram Stockers’ blood sucking character may not have resided within the castles walls, a lot of strange and spooky goings on have been reported in and around the residence over the years.
It has long been said that living in the villages around Bran are Strigoi – people who, during the daytime, go about their lives just like you or me – but when the sun goes down their souls leave their bodies, turning into evil spirits who haunt and torment other villagers in their beds from midnight, until the first cockcrow, when their power to harm people fades away.
It is also believed that Strigoi survive and gain vitality by sucking the blood of their tormented victims.
If you’re staying in one of Bran’s villages, be sure to lock your doors and windows before hopping into bed.
Poveglia Island, Italy
You probably wouldn’t think that floating across the lagoon from the widely popular, historic city of Venice, was one of the most haunted locations in the whole entire world.
First inhabited in 421, as the years went by the Italian island of Poveglia lost a lot of its residents and by the 14th century it was left completely abandoned.
However, it was later on that century when the islands tirade of tragic events begun.
When the bubonic plague broke out during the middle-ages, it was decided that sufferers should be separated from those who were well to prevent the disease from spreading, so plague victims were taken away to Poveglia to serve out their last days.
Tragically though, the Italians became over cautious and anyone with even a hint of a sniffle was dragged over to the island, meaning a lot of healthy people died unnecessarily.
The island was then left empty until the 1920’s, when a mental institution was opened on Poveglia, meaning droves of mentally disturbed patients were taken over there to reside.
Due tales of torture and awful scientific experiments, the institution was shut down and abandoned in 1968 and today it is illegal to visit, leaving the ghosts of previous residents to mix with the spirits of the plague victims and wander at peace.
Residents of the neighbouring island of Venice claim that sounds can still be heard from the island, if you listen close enough…
Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
When standing in the ornate Hall of Mirrors or being wowed by the fabulous grounds of this epic palace, it would probably be hard to believe that Versailles is known to have had a haunting or two.
In fact, the most famous paranormal resident is said to be that of Marie Antoinette. The queen of France during the 1700’s, Marie was originally an Austrian princess and, in a bid to unite the two countries, she was wed to Louis XVI of France, at the age of just fourteen.
To this day she remains one of the most iconic characters in Versailles’ rich history and that’s probably because she never actually left…
The tale of Marie Antoinette is one of woe, with her life coming to an end when she was executed by guillotine after being overthrown by French revolutionaries. She was only thirty-seven years old when she died.
Enjoying a lavish life was part and parcel for royals in France, and Marie was introduced to the lifestyle at a young age. She became the official queen of France at age just nineteen, when Louis XVI’s father died of the smallpox, leaving the throne to his son.
For women at the time, there were not a lot of court duties and so whilst her husband was busy at court, Marie spent most of her time socialising, gambling and drinking.
Her extravagant ways spiralled out of control and she even had a model farm built within the grounds of Versailles, so she could dress up and act like a ‘peasant’ with her children and ladies in waiting.
As the people of France grew tired of the royal’s profligate behavior, a revolution was born, and poor Marie’s down fall was set in motion.
As the uprising began, Marie and her husband did their best to escape to Austria but failed and as a result were arrested by the revolutionaries for treason.
They were both sentenced to death and buried in an unmarked grave.
However, such a brutal death must have brutal consequences, so it’s no surprise that on a summers day in 1901, when two girls, Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain were enjoying a tour in Versailles, they stumbled across the ghostly figure of a pocked faced man and the late Marie sketching in her personal chateau.
Further sightings have been reported over the years but no actual evidence to show the lost soul of poor Marie has even been shown.
If she does still roam the halls of Versailles at least she is enjoying an afterlife as lavish as her actual life.
If you’re feeling spooked, fear not, ghosts aren’t real of course… but if you are a fan of all things paranormal and enjoy the occasional scare, all the destinations mentioned in our blog can be visited on our River Cruise or Rail Holidays!