2:25 am

Ghost Tour

I finally got around to taking a "Ghost Tour" of Prague the other evening, courtesy of McGee’s Ghost Tours. (There are no pictures, as I still really haven’t mastered the art of night photography.)

This would really be a tour best taken on first arriving in Prague, as a lot of it was old hat to me. For example, the tour starts at the Astronomical Clock with the story of the blinding of the clockmaker (so that he couldn’t replicate the clock elsewhere). And some of the stories weren’t really "ghost" stories, although to be fair, the tour is billed as "Ghosts & Legends of Old Town".

Some of the new stories I heard were:

  • The Young Turk in Ungelt: Once upon time, a handsome, wealthy Turkish guard fell in love with a blonde beauty in a shop in Ungelt. Being devout, the Turk returned to his native land to receive the Muslim blessing to marry the girl. He begged her to wait, and she did. For years.

    Finally, she despaired and agreed to marry someone else. On the very day of her wedding, her Turk returned. Concealing his rage at her betrayal, he asked the girl to come away with him for just a moment’s private conversation. Feeling sorry for him (and perhaps a little guilty), the girl agreed. Neither girl nor Turk was ever again seen (alive). Some time later, a servant found the girl’s headless body, still dressed in her wedding finery, in a cellar in Ungelt. And now, the Turk haunts Ungelt, carrying the head of his beloved.

    A classmate of his saw the Turk late one night, claimed my tour guide.

  • Palác Kinských: This palace was built in the 18th century for Count Jan Arnost Goltz. One thing that makes the palace very special in the Old Town Square is that it doesn’t stand in line with the neighboring buildings; rather, it protrudes a bit into the square. The legend says that the town council didn’t want to permit the special position of the palace and so count bribed three councilmen in order to obtain the permit.

    (Ed. aside: This is an icky story. Consider yourself forewarned.) One night, just as the workmen had finished laying the foundation, they went to nearby pub for an after-work beer. They were approached by a stranger who told them that the land on which they were building was cursed and that the foundation wouldn’t stand. When they arrived at the work site the following morning, they found that, indeed, the foundation had crumbled overnight.

    That evening, they sought out the stranger and asked him what they could do. The land was cursed by a demon, replied the stranger, and the only way to vanquish it was to convince the demon that they were even more evil than the demon. To do this, they had to slaughter an innocent child and bury the remains under the foundation. The workers, in fear for their jobs, went to a neighboring village, abducted a young child, and buried the dead body under the foundation.

    The construction continued without further difficulties. The workmen, however, never again saw the stranger, leading to speculation that the stranger had itself been the demon, sent to lure them into evil.

    Coda: By the time the other city council members noticed the position of the palace, it was almost finished and nobody wanted to destroy it. Nevertheless, the count was brought to trial, but, because he had a permit, he was released. The three council members, on the other hand, were hanged in front of the palace. Let that be a lesson to city planning commissioners everywhere!

  • Three Roses House: This is currently the site of the recently opened Hard Rock Cafe. Long ago, however, it was home to three sisters of a wealthy and loving family. While their parents were alive, the sisters were much beloved. But after their parents’s deaths, they gave themselves over to vanity and idleness and extravagance. They bought expensive gowns and jewels and would sit for hours at the window, brushing their long hair.

    One day, a handsome prince from far away came to town and began wooing the older sister. They agreed to marry, and she packed her gowns and jewels and gold and rode off with her prince.

    Some time later, a dashing baron from a far country arrived and began wooing the second sister. They, too, agreed to marry, and she packed her gowns and jewels and gold and left to make a new home for herself.

    At last, it was the youngest sister’s turn to fall in love with a successful young merchant from out of town. And off they went, with her gowns and jewels and gold. And the house was left empty.

    The years passed, and the neighbors occasionally speculated aloud about the lives the three sisters must be leading. One day, an out-of-town visitor overheard them and set them straight.

    The sisters had each been wooed by the same man, in disguise, who murdered them as soon as they were safely past Prague’s outskirts! (Tell me you didn’t see that coming.)

As I said at the outset, this would be a tour better taken on first arriving in Prague. Even so, it was an enjoyable walk around Old Town and I liked seeing some of these familiar sights through this different prism.

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