Behind a rusty gate, under tall, dark trees in the suburbs of Prague, there is an old graveyard that used to belong to the nearby mental asylum in the village of Bohnice, even if the last dead were buried here in 1963. The graveyard has been abandoned since then.
Today not many people take care of this neglected cemetery and the graves have been robbed by thieves and marked by acts of vandalism throughout the years. Crosses have been stolen and sold for iron, tombstones have been taken and incorporated into stairs or pathways in private houses and the graveyard has slowly turned into a junk yard. Row after row there are just old graves overgrown with ivy, most of them with no tombstone or indication of who has been buried there.
It is not just the mentally ill who rest here, but there are also soldiers from the First World War, suspected murderers, and countless people who committed suicide in the nearby facility, whose graves are referred to as the “non-believers.” Some believe that the grave of Gavrilo Princip, the madman who ignited the First World War that drove millions to the slaughter, could actually lie here, beneath the ivy.
In a place where murderers were buried, supposedly there is also the brutal killer of Otýlie Vranská. The body of this twenty two year old girl was cut into pieces and packed in two suitcases that were sent to Bratislava and Košice in Slovakia. One of the suspects was detained in the asylum, where he committed suicide.
Among former graves there are a ruined chapel and morgue. In the very centre of the graveyard, there is an opened grave and i don’t know if it would be worse to meet the one who used to be inside, or the one who opened it.
Over the years the graveyard became a place of many lonely souls searching for a dark experience. For example, for worshippers of Satan and their rituals in the 1980s, or for others simply looking for a bit of quiet in the everyday rush and stress of the city. The keeper of the graveyard, Jiří Vítek, has admitted that photo-traps recorded participants in such a ritual as late as 2008.
Obviously there are also the classic ghost stories. It seems that strange sounds and lights can be seen at night and many of those who visit swear to have had even stranger things happen to them.
Of course, the online discussions are full with gossip about negative energy and inexplicable events connected with this place.
However, history is more interesting if it is really documented. Opened in 1906, the Bohnice Cemetery was designated as the last resting place of the insane patients detained in a newly opened asylum. According to the records, the first person buried here was an eleven year old boy. In 1913, the asylum had almost 2.000 patients, and the only good preserved gravestone in the cemetery was erected during that period. It is that of Maria Tuma, who died in 1912 at the age of 29 because of a “brain decline”, a sort of unspecified mental illness. At the time, diagnoses were made on the basis of estimates, and treatments were experimental, including electric shock therapy, doses of sedatives, hydrotherapy, hot baths, and being wrapped in cold cloths. Many doctors were convinced that mental disorders might have physical causes, and neural malfunctioning thus could be treated with external incentives. If the patients did not calm down, they were restrained with straitjackets or placed in isolation, typically in a small room with nothing but bare walls and a bed. In addition, the doctors cured general paresis (late stage syphilis) by giving patients blood infected with malaria. This caused high fevers and sometimes killed the bacteria, yet with very unpleasant side effects. This therapy was also used in cases of mania or schizophrenia, where it was useless. Here, If the patients died, their bodies were buried in the cemetery by other (still living) patients.
Just next to this one there is another cemetery, a graveyards for deceased pets. The paths are carefully maintained there, and toys or pictures of dogs and cats cover carefully tended graves, in a slightly ironical contrast.
Author’s note: you can reach cemetery with Bus 236. The pet cemetery is nearby to the east.