The macabre legend of Houska Castle, about 50 km distance from Prague.
In the second half of the 13th century, a mysterious Gothic castle was built in the forests north of Prague. It wasn’t near any water, it is never been a strategic battle location, and didn’t seem to have anyone living in it. It was not built to repel attacks or to keep something out. So why was this random fortress built? It was built to hold something in and, as story goes, It was built to close the gateway to hell. According to local legend, it was meant to trap demons!
Supposedly, a gate to hell opened on the craggy Czech mountain, the castle was constructed around the portal, and a chapel was plopped directly atop the hole to keep evil monsters from spilling out of the underworld and slipping into the human realm. Moreover, black winged creatures used to attack locals and drag them down into the hole.
So the castle is built upon a fabled bottomless pit from which winged creatures and half-man-half-beasts allegedly exited. Demonic activity persisted at this site and eventually, Bohemian rulers decided to seal up the gateway with a castle. Before sealing off Hell’s realm, it is said that all of the inmates that were sentenced to death were offered a pardon if they consented to be lowered by rope into the hole, and report back on what they saw. The story goes that the first person who was lowered, he began screaming after a few seconds, and when pulled back to the surface he looked as if he had aged 30 years. He had grown wrinkles and his hair had turned white. He died of unknown causes just days later.
Folklore says those who did attempt to enter the dark orifice encountered demonic human-animal hybrids.
However, story gets stranger. In reality, the castle was built in the second half of the 13th century probably on the orders of Bohemian ruler Ottokar II of Bohemia during his reign (1253–78) to serve as an administration center from which the extensive royal estates could be managed. Later it passed to the hands of the aristocracy, frequently passing from the ownership of one to another.
But it still has some real-life demons in its past. Nazis occupied the fortress during World War II, and used it to perform inhumane experiments on local people or prisoners of war. Multiple myths abound about their supposed occult involvements there.
During the 1930s, it seems the Nazis took conducted occult experiments with dimensional portals. Hitler, a paranormal enthusiast, was known to dabble in the occult, and it is uncertain what the scientists learned from Housksa Castle. Years later, during renovations, several Nazi officer skeletons were found, and it appeared they were killed execution style.
It’s possible to tour the mysterious castle and scope out any hauntings for yourself. You can view the old knight’s drawing room, the chapel that supposedly covers the gate to hell, and admire the old frescoes and murals adorning the building’s wall.
The recurring ghosts at Houska are plentiful, and include a giant bulldog/frog/human, a headless black horse and a woman in an old dress who is frequently seen peaking out of the top floor windows. Beneath the cellar there is said to be some nonhuman remains of the beasts that emerged from the hole. People claim cars won’t start near the castle and strange, bleeding beasts still roam the area after dark. Still today, over seven hundred years after the pit has been sealed, visitors still claim to hear the scratching of creatures from the lower floors at night, trying to claw their way to the surface. Others claim to hear a chorus of screams coming from beneath the heavy floor while phantoms have been seen walking the empty halls of the castle…
Author’s note: This is hard to get to with public transportation. The castle is about 50 kilometers north of Prague, and the bus doesn’t run too often. Best bet is by car and you can drive through the countryside. There is parking at the base of the castle, and then a little hike uphill through the grounds.