This is Halloween, this is Halloween…did you sing it in your head as you read that? If not, start over and read it again. You probably will now.
So, it isn’t quite Halloween yet, but spooky season is definitely upon us. Darker evenings and the season that embraces all things ghostly make it a perfect time to explore a little Dark Tourism. Feeling brave?
Spooky and Edinburgh go together like Hocus and Pocus. This city has a turbulent past, medieval streets, graveyards galore and all presided over by a haunted castle. This place has seen more than its fair share of public executions, witch trials, body snatching and disease.
If you want to get to grips with the Grisly side of the Scottish capital, a guided ghost tour is a fun way to do it. There are plenty of tours on offer, romping through time and episodes of history involving witch trials, torture, the history of the Covenanters and a bit of body snatching. I’ve experienced a couple of tours with Auld Reekie and can recommend them. The guides have a great knack for the kind of story telling that gives you both a chill and a chuckle.
Literally, a City of the Dead. Accessed by crossing the Bridge of Sighs and brimming with suitably gothic tombstones, tributes and mausoleums this place is perfect for letting your imagination creep up behind you.
The Necropolis is actually a peaceful place, and a fascinating way to see the history of the area through it’s people. Aside from a vague rumour about a Lady in White and the occasional report of statues on the graves turning heads and changing facial expressions, there doesn’t seem much to report haunting-wise. But who knows, give the place a visit and maybe you’ll find out differently…
In 1278 a handful of earth from the Holy Land was sprinkled upon the grounds of a small church yard in the Czech Republic, making it a hugely desirable place to end up. Some years, a few wars and a touch of plague later, the demand for burials outstripped available space and a solution had to be found. Cue the creation of the Ossuary beneath the Church of All Saints.
The bones aren’t just stored here, they are crafted. There is a story that a mad, one eyed monk started the trend for using the bones to build with and although that is wonderfully dark, there’s no proof that it’s true. The jaw dropping pieces on display including a chandelier made using every bone in the human body and a coat-of-arms recreated entirely in bones- are the work of a woodcarver by the name of Rint. If you look hard enough, you’ll see his name picked out delicately in finger bones within the church.
There aren’t many places that have higher spook factor than an abandoned hospital. Beelitz Heilstatten, just outside Berlin, is an abandoned hospital complex with turbulent history to boot. Established in the 19th Century by the Berlin health authorites as part of the fight against TB, Beelitz was a thoroughly modern concept at the time of its birth.
Many years and two world wars saw the place fall into disrepair. 1945 saw the hospital grounds turned into a battlefield as Soviet and German forces fought for the win. The Soviets won and converted part of the area into a military hospital, and so it remained until the early 1990s.
As if that wasn’t enough energy and history to give a place some fear factor, Beelitz can also lay claim to the notorious ‘Beast of Beelitz’ a former policeman who killed five women and a baby in and around the grounds. Beelitz has long been on the radar of European Urb-ex enthusiasts, but the buildings are now being preserved and are open to all.
Bock Casemates, Luxembourg
A lot has happened in the Bock Casemates over the years. These are the remains of one of Europe’s most formidable medieval fortresses. Started in 963 by a Count by the name of Siegfried, the fortress was added to by the various armies who conquered and held it. What made the fortress so unique was the 23 km long network of tunnels. Not only designed to shelter thousands of soldiers and their horses, these tunnels also housed everything needed to function and survive including bakeries, slaughterhouses and workshops. People were born here, died here, fought here and withstood seige here.
Are the Casemates haunted? I’m not sure. I do know that the tunnels were designed to confuse the invader and exploring them can be a bit disorienting. There are stairways to no where, dead ends and it’s easy to end up exploring the same part three times because you’ve lost your way. Throw in atmospheric lighting and strange acoustics and you’ve certainly got atmospheric, if not outright spooky. Personally, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a ghost or two about the place.
For everyone out and about over Halloween, on your travels or just trick-or-treating in the neighbourhood, I hope you have a great time and stay safe. And don’t worry if you hear foot steps behind you or see shadows where there should be none. It’ll just be your imagination, or a trick of the light. Probably…