It all begins on a brisk Autumn morning…
I’m going to tell you a ghost story. There’s a girl alone in a house in a seemingly quiet, seemingly peaceful neighborhood. We see the girl going about her morning routine, and nothing appears to be out of place. We hear the phone ring. We see the girl answer it. Somehow, we are able to hear the low, even voice that speaks to her: “What’s your favorite haunted castle in Europe?”
Okay, so, that’s definitely a scene from the movie Scream, modified slightly to fit the theme of this blog post. I never said I was going to tell you a true ghost story.
The true stories are often the scariest, aren’t they? The most disturbing ghost stories take their power from reality — if you feel like the events of the story could have actually happened once, then there’s a possibility that the story could play itself out again. And if it could actually happen, that means you could get stuck in the middle of the story. And that’s a pretty unsettling thought.
What makes alleged haunted castles in Europe so scary?
The reason that haunted castles are so scary is that a.) castles are kind of scary to begin with, because nothing should have so much stone or secret passageways, and b.) castles provide the perfect settings for ghost stories. And you can visit castles, meaning you can actually step inside a real-life setting for your very own ghost story.
There are several haunted castles in Europe — some are haunted because of real events that actually took place, while others are notorious because of famous & iconic stories we associate them with.
You ready? These are a few of the most haunted castles in Europe – your creepiest choices. Sorry. And you’re welcome.
Bran Castle – Romania
Probably the most famous haunted castle of them all is Bran Castle, thought to be the inspiration for the novel Dracula. It’s easy to believe that if a place with such a fanciful name as Transylvania can exist in real life, so can creatures as fanciful as vampires. Some do believe that Dracula is based on real events — and who knows, maybe in five hundred years it will seem possible that Twilight is based on a true story, too.
The castle is full of narrow corridors and secret nooks, where it would be very easy for a vampire to hide. It was built on the edge of Bran Pass and resembles the Gothic style of castles that we normally associate with ominous characters.
To get there: Take the train from Bucharest to Brasov (approximately 2h 40m, fares from $37). From there, transfer to a bus or take a taxi onwards. The Bus Terminal no.2 Brasov has buses that travel regularly (every 30 minutes during the week and every hour on weekends) between Brasov and Bran-Moeciu. The taxi ride is about 35 minutes long and approximately 20 euros.
Dragsholm Castle – Denmark
This is one of those places that is so old and has seen so much that it’s not really surprising to hear that it’s haunted. Located outside Copenhagen, Denmark, this castle is home to several frequently reported ghosts: a grey lady, who allegedly worked at the hotel as a maiden during her life and, now that she’s dead, can’t bear to leave it behind; a white lady, who engaged in an illicit love affair with the son of the castle’s owners and, as a result, was murdered by the boy’s father; and an earl who rides his horse through the castle grounds at night.
Visitors can stay at this 12th century marvel today if they are looking for a particularly creepy way to spend a Friday night.
Brissac Castle – France
With all of the castles in France it would be surprising if at at least one of them wasn’t haunted. Brissac castle, the tallest chateau in the Loire Valley, is haunted by noises of a rather personal nature. The husband and wife who owned the castle in the 11th century had a bit of a falling out when the wife began to have frequent affairs that the husband could easily overhear from the next room. It didn’t take very long for the wife and one of her lovers to mysteriously disappear.
Their moans were not as easy for the husband to get rid of, and you might be able to hear them as well, should you choose to dole out the money for an overnight stay at the castle. Leave it to France to give us a risqué ghost story, right?
To get there: Take a daily tour or spend the night in the chateau. You can reach it by train from Paris in just under two hours.
Edinburgh Castle – Scotland
This one takes the cake. Widely considered to be not only one of the most haunted castles in the world, but one of the most haunted places in the world, period, this castle isn’t messing around. There have been so many ghost sightings and unusual reports that the castle has undergone some of the most extensive paranormal experiments ever performed, one of them involving 240 volunteers spending 10 days in and around the castle grounds.
To get there: Most cities in England and Scotland have direct train service to Edinburgh. To travel from London to Edinburgh by train, the trip is roughly 4.5 hours. Once you get into the city center, simply find the route to the Royal Mile and walk right to the castle.
Leap Castle – Ireland
Here we have a story about a family brawl gone awry — two brothers, one a warrior and one a priest, fought to the death in the chapel, which is now known as the Bloody Chapel. This place is also notable for the unusual, terrifying creature that is said to haunt its grounds: referred to as an Elemental, this creature is reported to be the size of a sheep with a human face and black pools where its eyes should be. It smells like rotting skin. Is there anything more terrifying than that image? We don’t want to know.
To get there: You can take the train from Dublin to Roscrea, (depending on the time of day, it can take as little as 1h 30m to travel this route by train!) using a Eurail Ireland Pass and then grab a taxi to travel approximately 6 miles to the castle.
Witches Castle (Moosham Castle) – Austria
This castle’s name leaves little mystery as to why it’s famous. Formerly known as Moosham Castle, it dates back to 1191 and was the site of thousands of witch sentencings. It isn’t known exactly how many women were tried and executed for witchcraft on these grounds, but let’s just say it’s a high enough number that we probably don’t even want to know. One woman in particular is said to taunt anyone who tries to visit the castle — and really, who can blame her?
Witches aren’t the only beings thought to haunt the grounds. Some think that the number of dead deer and cattle found near the castle in the 1800s means that there must have been werewolves taking refuge somewhere nearby. Sounds like the setting for a fairy tale gone wrong.
To get there: Take bus #270 from the Salzburg bus station to reach Moosham. The trip lasts about two hours.
Castle of Bardi (Landi Castle) – Italy
This castle is located in Italy, and its ghost story sounds very similar to a certain Italian romance we all had to read in high school: Moroello and Soleste were young lovers, she the daughter of a lord and he the captain of the knights. One night, when she presumes him dead after a particularly brutal battle, she throws herself off a balcony. When he arrives back at the castle very much alive and finds out what has happened, he kills himself.
He’s said to roam the castle at night searching for the soul of his lost love, whom he thought he’d meet again once they were both dead.
Life imitating art. Or is it ghost story imitating art?
To get there: Travel to Emilia-Romagna by train from Bologna or Milan on Trenitalia’s high-speed Le Frecce trains. Upon arrival, you can take a taxi to the castle.
Houska Castle – Czech Republic
Though it’s located in the forests of Prague, this castle sounds like it comes straight from a Greek myth. Built upon grounds that were allegedly home to demonic, half-human half-monsters, the castle is thought to have only played one role: keep the monsters contained. The castle is so notorious for these unfathomable beasts that during the 1930s it caught Hitler’s attention, and the Nazis used the castle to perform certain occult experiments.
Several monster-like skeletons have been found in and around the castle grounds — some belonging to unexplained beasts, and some belonging to Nazis.
To get there: Located just north of Prague, day trips to this castle are easily arranged.
Warwick Castle – England
This is a castle haunted by battles and war-worn inhabitants. One of the more popular, tourist-friendly castles, this is a great start for those who want to ease into the whole haunted castle thing. The most frequently seen ghost is Sir Fulke Greville, who was murdered by his manservant in the early 1600s. He is said to occasionally materialize from his portrait at night, much like we’d expect from a scene in Harry Potter.
To get there: You can travel by train to Warwick from London Marylebone station, it takes roughly 1h 20m, fares from $16 one-way. Upon arrival at the station in Warwick, the castle is about 1 mile away.
Horst Castle – Belgium
This Flemish Renaissance castle located on the edge of a lake outside Aarschot is said to be haunted by its lord, the lord of Rode. He rides back to the castle every night around midnight in a carriage led by six horses. It is thought that he cannot find rest because he murdered a priest — it is not known why he murdered the priest, but it sounds like he’s as haunted by his own actions as we would be by his presence should we ever run into him while visiting Belgium.
There isn’t much to see inside the castle, so if you decide to visit stick to the outside grounds around the lake, which offer beautiful views of what is left of the castle ruins.
To get there: Located in the village of St-Pieters-Rode between Aarschot and Leuven. With a Eurail Benelux Pass, take a train from Brussels to Aarschot (about 1 hour). Upon arrival in Aarschot, take a bus ten minutes to St-Pieters-Rode.
So, as the end draws near…
What do you think? Will you choose a castle with a more whimsical, mythical ghost story attached to it, or are you going to straight for the scariest one and pray that you don’t end up on the news the next morning? Whatever your choice, we are eager as always to follow along with you.
Good luck, and stay safe!!