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Legends of Houska Castle

The Gateway to Hell

Houska Castle was built in the 13th century during the reign of Ottokar II of Bohemia. Although it was an early Gothic Castle, it was later renovated as a Renaissance Castle in the 16th century. At first glance, the small Castle seems normal and almost mediocre, however upon closer inspection one starts to notice a number of strange features. Perhaps the most apparent is that many of the castle windows are fake. If one looks closely, one can see that most of the windows are merely facades: glass panes behind which sturdy walls are built. Secondly, the castle has no fortifications, no water source, no kitchen, and, for years after it was constructed, it had no occupants. This makes it clear that Houska Castle was not built as a protective sanctuary, a fortress or a residence, as is usually the case when a Castle or Fort is constructed. The location of the Castle is also peculiar. It is situated in a remote area surrounded by thick forests, swamps, and mountains. The location has no strategic value and is not situated near any trading routes. Another strange feature of the Castle is that many of its fortifications face inwards, rather than defensively outwards. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why, according to popular belief, the Castle was not built to keep people out, but to keep something in – to guard and act as a shield against something contained inside it.

According to folklore, Houska Castle was constructed over a large hole in the ground which was known as The Gateway to Hell. It is said that the hole was so deep that no one could see or reach the bottom of it. Legend has it that half-animal, half-human creatures used to crawl out of the pit at night, and that black winged creatures used to attack locals and drag them down into the hole.

The chapel inside the Castle, which is dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel, who in the Book of Revelation leads the fight against Satan, is said to have been built directly above the hole itself. Faded Gothic frescoes on the wall depict Archangel Michael battling a dragon and another of him with a small devil tied up on the end of a pole. The walls of the chapel are covered with some of the oldest paintings in Europe. Most are of demons and dragons being slain. Scenes of the Crucifixion are painted in stunning detail, and a beautiful portrait of Saint Christopher all adorn the wall, but what’s strangest is the painting of a left-handed, half-horse creature aiming a bow at a human. References to pagan mythology were not something found on church walls in this part of the county. It is important to note that during this time, the left hand was associated with service to Satan, which has led many researchers to believe that the centaur is a hint at the evil creatures which lurk beneath the church. The dragon is a metaphorical representation of Satan as well.

The Volunteer

When the construction of the Castle began, it is said that all of the village’s prisoners who had been sentenced to death were offered pardons if they agreed to be lowered by a rope and harness into the bottomless pit and then to report back what they saw. A young man, braver and more rash than the rest, volunteered to be tied and pushed into the hole. The man was tied up and slowly lowered down. A few seconds after he had disappeared into the darkness, he began screaming and thrashing in horror. He begged and begged to be pulled back up. When the prisoner, was pulled back up to the surface he looked as if he had aged 30 years in the few seconds he had been in the pit. His hair had turned white and he had become extremely wrinkled. He was still screaming and babbling incoherently when they pulled him to the surface. He was so disturbed by what he experienced in the darkness that he was sent to an insane asylum where he died two days later from unknown causes. Needless to be said, no one volunteered to be lowered in the pit after him. The other inmates preferred to be executed cleanly rather than die slowly in the throes of lunacy and madness.

It was reportedly Prince Wenceslas I who, hearing of the affair, ordered the foul hole to be covered over with the chapel, although it is said that for centuries people still claimed they could hear the yowling of the demons at night coming from under the stone floor.

The Swedish Commander

During the Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648), Houska fell under the control of the Swedish Army. The Swedish Commander, Oronto, was a cruel man who led his men to plunder the surrounding countryside and was also rumoured to practice rape as a sport. He was based in the Castle for a time, and it was rumoured that, being aware of a source of power underneath the Castle, he conducted a number of rituals in order to try and achieve immortality. His spells, which apparently included animal sacrifice, were not successful, particularly since the locals, enraged by his behaviour, offered a reward of 100 gold to whoever would kill him. Two local huntsmen shot him through a window and he died in the main hall. His ghost is said to still wander the Castle in anger.

The German Occupation

In the 1930s, with war raging across the continent during WWII, the Nazis occupied Houska Castle. There are multiple myths about their supposedly occult activities there. The most well-known one concerns Heinrich Himmler’s occult library. Himmler was an SS Nazi Chief obsessed with Germanic pagan lore. He captained an operation whose aim was to collect as many books about witchcraft, the supernatural and the occult, as possible. His collection is said to have numbered more than 13,000 such books and manuscripts, and during the Nazi’s occupation of Houska Castle, a number of them are said to have been transported and held there. Heinrich Himmler believed that the power of the old occult masters would help the Nazis to rule the world.

Himmler is in fact credited as a founder of ''Esoteric Hitlerism''. It is said that a number of top officials in the Nazi army, including the Furher, attended ceremonies intended to tap into this power. Many of them are said to have taken place at Houska Castle, which the Nazis specifically chose in order to try and harness the power of Hell.

The locals at the time saw strange lights, heard strange sounds, and were aware of a number of fringe science experiments taking place in the Castle at all the hours of the day and night. They also performed inhumane experiments on prisoners of war. After the war, the skeletons of three assassinated German soldiers were found in the inner courtyard of the castle but it is not known what they were shot for, and when. Many people claimed to have heard moans, screams and cries in many different languages coming from the Castle at night. These could either be the ghosts of the tortured prisoners, or the demons and dark creatures trying to break out from the pit underneath the chapel floor.

Text Melisande Moosong