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Kasteel van Horst and the legend of ghost chariot

5 min read

Castle of Horst, locally known as Kasteel van Horst, is located in Sint-Pieters-Rode, Belgium, north-east of the city of Brussels, in the province of Flemish Brabant in the Flemish region.
It was built in a strategic place in Winge-valley and was one of the strengths that protect the nearby town of Leuven, which was the largest and most important city of the Duchy of Brabant in the 14th century.

When the first Horst castle was built it is not known, but there was a ‘castellum Rode’ in this area already in the 11th century, despite the name of Horst was seen the first time in 1263.
Most of the castles in Flanders were renovated or rebuilt in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, but at Horst nothing happened, and everything stood still after 1658.
In 1369 the castle was bought by a Amelric Boote, described in local records as a wealthy money-changer, who rebuilt it while, by 1482, it had come into the hands of Lodewijk Pynnock, Bailiff of Leuven.
Being bailiff has always been an unpopular profession, and residents of Leuven expressed their displeasure at Pynnock by burning down part of the castle. However, he rebuilt it and re-started his life there until his money ran out in 1500, and he was forced to sell the castle.
After other owners, it was 1650 when a remarkable woman who fell in love with Horst, widow Maria-Anna van den Tympel inherited the estate and carried out major work on the property. A deeply religious woman, she built a new chapel, three living rooms were decorated with superb stuccos, and a servants’ wing was added. Outside the main gate, a coach house was constructed.
The lady of the castle died in 1658 and Horst has been uninhabited ever since.

Either way, this impressive estate has belonged to many different people over the centuries.
According to legend, among them, was a very wealthy (but very envious) baron, who traveled a lot and he has been to many countries. When his younger days were over, he decided to settle down for good and marry a beautiful young girl, known for her kindness and generosity as well as for her beauty.
Her kindness certainly had a positive impact on her husband, but he remained a very jealous man, to the point where he forbade his wife from leaving the castle or even having visitors, lest she might fall in love with another man. The one exception was the castle’s curate, a kapelaan (an old Dutch term for a devoted man of God), the only man allowed to see the baron’s wife in person.
Either way, the baron suspected that the curate was planning something behind his back.
One day, a young farmhand was hunting near the castle and killed a hare.
Whether intentional or not, he committed this act on the baron’s lands, which were reserved for him and him alone. To hunt there without his permission was a crime, and therefore the young lad was apprehended and sentenced to death. However, as was often the case, the baron’s wife interfered. She went to talk with the lad, who told her that he was engaged and planned to marry his beloved soon. The girl took pity on him and managed to talk her husband into releasing the farmhand.
Sometime later, the baron was summoned by his feudal lord, the duke of Aarschotm and he left in his carriage with only his wife and the curate with him.
As coincidence would have it, their carriage passed by the wedding of the young farmhand, but the baron did not know this, as he had never actually seen the lad in person. The young man’s newlywed wife saw the passing carriage and recognized the baron’s wife. She knew that this woman had saved her beloved and wanted to thank her, so she ran up to the carriage and gave her bouquet to the curate, sitting near the window, and asked him to pass the flowers to the baron’s wife.
The curate did as he was told, but the baron was watching. He had been theorizing that he was in love with his wife, and now he even accepted a bouquet of flowers from some random peasant and gave it to his wife! In his mind, this was all the evidence he needed to prove that there had been a grand conspiracy going on. Thus he unsheathed his dagger and killed the curate on the spot.
His poor wife fell unconscious and died after a handful of days, presumably from the sheer shock.
But the baron never admitted his mistake, and he was far too rich and powerful to be brought to justice. He lived his life without remarrying, and his family line died with him.

But, as story goes, he would not stay dead: the baron of Horst in fact would haunt the castle he once ruled, and people often saw a pitch-black carriage, pulled by six black horses, flying around in the sky and driving through the castle’s gate.
A brightly flashing light could sometimes be seen coming from the embrasures in the fortress’ tower, and people would see a ghostly figure floating around the area, chasing people who wander after dark. This spirit was once shot by the local forester, upon which it disappeared while a disembodies laughter could be heard. The forester then saw the carriage and lost consciousness. Luckily he survived but his hair turned white.
The carriage would only appear at midnight, It was called the ‘Spookkaros’ (‘spook’ means ghost and ‘karos’ is a dated word for ‘carriage’), and there are a lot of supposed sightings.
And there are different versions of the story.
For example, some states that the carriage is bloodred instead of black. One version of the legend claims that, instead of giving the bouquet to the curate, the girl gave it directly to the baron’s wife. She gestured to the curate that he shouldn’t say a word about it to the baron, but he saw the gesture and, not knowing what it meant, accused the two of conspiring and he killed the curate. In yet another version, there is no mention of a wedding or a young farmhand. Instead, the baron spent an entire day chasing a single hare and, when he arrived at the castle, he found that mass had already finished in the castle’s chapel without him. Angered, he shot the priest on the spot.
Either way, the castle itself is standing still today and is worth a visit. Ghost chariot apart….

Images from web – Google Research