History, legend and fiction haunt these six medieval fortresses, which are situated throughout Europe. Whether their walls hold the secrets of a grisly past or they have simply assumed a spooky reputation from pop culture, a walk through any of these castles can offer thrill seekers a bone-chilling experience.
Bran Castle, Romania
Perched high above the passage into Carpathian Mountains, between Transylvania and Wallachia, is Romania’s legendary Bran Castle. Famous for being Count Dracula’s lair in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, this 12th century castle was never actually visited the author- he never even visited Romania for that matter. The only documented vampire sightings in Transylvania appear to be those that have been portrayed by Hollywood actors.
Leap Castle, Ireland
Notable for being Ireland’s most haunted fortress, the 15th century Leap Castle possesses a gruesome past. The O’Carroll family once ruled the domain, and a fierce sibling rivalry between two brothers ended tragically in what is now referred to as the Bloody Chapel. As one of the brothers was holding mass for family, the second O’Carroll brother cut the sermon short by hatefully plunging his sword into the priest, killing his kin in front of all the attendees. Not far from the chapel is a hidden dungeon with a false floor, where the discovery of several skeletons was uncovered in the early 1900s. These poor souls were dropped to their deaths, landing upon a spike hidden 8 feet below the first floor façade. It is said Leap Castle is haunted by the ghosts of those who met their unfortunate fate here.
Chillingham Castle, England
Originally a monastery, the late 12th century Chillingham Castle has seen more than its fair share of violence and death. In the Middle Ages it was frequently attacked by Scottish armies feuding over territory along England and Scotland’s border. During one such battle in 1297, the women and children of the Grey family were brutally murdered when the monastery was set on fire. Chillingham has been the set for several ghost-hunting and psychic TV shows in the recent years and is said to be Britain’s most haunted castle.
Houska Castle, Czech Republic
This 13th century, Gothic fortress is located about 47 km north of Prague, and according to folklore, it serves no purpose other than to blockade The Gateway to Hell. It is said that it was built over a bottomless hole in the ground, and the structure keeps the demons at bay. More of a chapel than a fortress, the legend describes Houska Castle as having no residents, no kitchen, no water, and that it lacks the strategic placement of being near any trade routes or territorial borders.
Moosham Castle, Austria
Also known as the “Witches Castle,” this 12th century fortress hosted the prosecutions and executions of townspeople that were suspected of acts of witchcraft during the 18th century. Schörgen-Toni was responsible for holding many of the trials that convicted and sent the accused to the torture chamber of Moosham; he even inflicted torment upon his parents. It was believed that this merciless man was the devil.
Čachtice Castle, Slovakia
Ruins of the mid-13th century Čachtice Castle lie on a hill near Hungary’s border in western Slovakia. Alžbeta Bathory, the Countess of Čachtice, had a fear of growing old, so she sacrificed over 650 young peasant women during 1585-1610 with the delusion that the bloodshed would preserve her youth. She would lure beautiful girls to the castle and employ them as her servants. After the countess brutally killed one of her victims, she would bath in their blood.
A walk through any of the above fortresses is sure to send chills up your spine, especially if evening tours are available. Set out on a haunted adventure of your own and explore the abounding number of historic castles scattered all throughout Europe. A rental car in Austria, Romania, Ireland, England, Slovakia or the Czech Republic is the ideal way to journey through the European countryside in search of fascinating landmarks that boast pasts as amazing their countries of origin.