Forget the enchanting fairytale castles of your dreams – these gloomy medieval structures are guaranteed to give you nightmares. From the bloody home of a brutal witch hunt to a stone fortress built atop the gates to Hell, join us as we tour the 9 creepiest castles in the world.
9. Moosham Castle
While the phrase “witch hunt” may conjure thoughts of Salem, Massachusetts, the brutal persecution of women suspected of witchcraft stretches far beyond Puritan America. One of the bloodiest witch hunts took place in Austria, where numerous young girls and women were taken to Moosham Castle under directives of the Archbishop of Unternberg. There they were tormented, tortured, and murdered in the dungeon chambers. It’s believed that many of these women still wander the grounds, seeking justice for their wrongful deaths.
8. Chateau de Brissac
At first glance, the Brissac Castle in Maine-et-Loire, France exudes a romantic charm. Stay the night, however, and you may find the tormented spirits of its former tenants are less than welcoming.
Jacques and Charlotte lived in the castle in the 11th century. They were said to have a rocky relationship due largely to Charlotte’s frequent affairs with younger men. Charlotte made no attempt at hiding her liaisons from her husband, who could easily hear the illicit lovers in the adjacent room. One day, Jacques had enough. Reports differ on exactly what happened next – some say he plunged his sword into the sleeping lovers, while another version has him strangling Charlotte to death in the chapel tower. In either case, Charlotte and her beau were never seen again. Today, the castle is a hotel, where guests report hearing the death cries of the slaughtered sweethearts.
7. Dragsholm Castle
A stately looking castle, Dragsholm was built in the late 12th century and is reportedly home to over a hundred ghosts. One of the spirits is the White Lady. She was said to have been the daughter of nobility, who fell in love with a commoner employed at the castle. When her father learned of the illicit relationship, he locked his daughter in her chamber for good.
Many years later, a 20th century construction crew made a grisly discovery: trapped within a castle wall was a small female skeleton, clad entirely in white, believed to be the imprisoned daughter. Her ghost now prowls the halls of Dragsholm, in search of her long-lost lover.
6. Berry Pomeroy Castle
The Berry Pomeroy Castle in Devon holds a similarly sad story of a doomed woman locked up against her will. The ghost belongs to Lady Margaret Pomeroy, an alluring young woman purportedly murdered by her sister, Lady Eleanor. So the story goes, Lady Eleanor was always jealous of the younger and prettier Margaret. So she locked her in the dungeon and threw away the key.
Margaret now haunts the 12th century castle. Those who see her claim she’s white from head to toe. Witnesses report feeling intense sorrow, depression, and anger emanating from the ghost.
5. Castle of Bardi
The haunting of this castle stems from a tragic love story. The daughter of the castle’s lord, Soleste was desperately in love with Moroello, the captain of the knights. Distant battles often took Moroello away from the castle for lengthy campaigns, during which time Soleste awaited his return perched atop the castle walls, her eyes searching the horizon.
One morning, Soleste spotted riders. To her horror, the knights wore enemy colors. Distraught at the thought of her lover perishing at war, Soleste threw herself from the wall, plunging to her death.
Alas, the riders were Moroello and his men, brandishing their enemies’ colors in celebration of their victory. Finding Soleste’s body crumpled before the castle, a heartbroken Moroello also killed himself. To this day, the ghosts of the lovers wander the castle grounds.
4. Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is known for turning skeptics of the paranormal into die-hard believers with its cast of fascinating specters. Spirits spotted on the castle grounds include a ghost dog prancing through the graveyard on foggy nights; a headless drummer who paces the halls (first reported in 1650!); and the ghost of Lady Glamis, who was burned at the stake for witchcraft in 1537, and is said to prowl through the castle at night.
Not too long ago, paranormal researchers conducted a major experiment at Edinburgh Castle. 240 volunteers – none of whom had prior knowledge of the castle’s history – spent 10 days in and around the grounds. The participants reported eerily similar experiences, including burning sensations, feelings of being touched by unseen beings, and sightings of a leather aproned ghost in the same location.
3. Leap Castle
Did The Shining’s creepy twin girl ghosts permanently freak you out? If so, this castle will definitely chill your bones. It’s said that a little girl named Emily fell to her death from a high castle wall in the early 17th century, and continues to haunt the grounds. The ghost of Emily’s sister, Charlotte, often joins her dead sister in paranormal play.
If the little girl ghosts aren’t enough, there have also been reports of a half-sheep, half-human creature with black eyes. The beast reportedly emits a terrible odor, described as rotting flesh. Visitors can also step inside Leap Castle’s “bloody chapel,” where a priest was killed by his brother’s sword, as well as an oubliette – an underground chamber where people simply waited for death.
2. Bran Castle
This 14th century Romanian castle is associated with Vlad the Impaler, an unsavory character who enjoyed impaling his enemies and their families on stakes, and is often cited as the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Though many eastern European sites claim a connection to the legendary bloodsucker, it is this creepy castle – with its ominous hallways and windowless chambers – that many believe to be inspiration for Count Dracula’s ominous abode. A quick look around and it’s easy to see why.
1. Houska Castle
While many European castles were built as strategic locations, the Czech Republic’s Houska Castle possesses a much more sinister origin story – it’s believed to sit atop the gateway to hell.
The castle is located in the dense forests surrounding Prague, about an hour north of the city. According to legend, the land once teemed with half-monster, half-human beasts. Brave builders constructed the castle to keep the devilish creatures contained. In the 1930s, Nazis occupied the site, where they conducted occult experiments in search of extra-dimensional portals. Many believe Hitler had a fascination with the paranormal, but little is known as to just what Nazi scientists discovered at Houska. Years later, skeletons of German soldiers were unearthed around the castle, seemingly killed execution-style.
Feature photo: Neil Howard / Flickr; All other photos: Wikimedia Commons