Poland is a place of many hauntings. Its castles are particularly prone to paranormal activity, given the often gruesome acts of the past and the dramatic gestures of their inhabitants. Many former royal residences are made spookier by the presence of “white ladies” who are often the ghosts of women murdered as a part of jealous acts.
Those who visit Krakow will hear the notes of a trumpet call from St. Mary’s Church—the tune ends abruptly in remembrance of the sentry who warned the city of attack but was shot in the throat while sounding the call to arms. The ghost of the tower trumpeter is only one who haunts Krakow.
Wawel Castle, one of Krakow’s top sites, is, unsurprisingly, one of the most haunted areas of the city. Many stories about the dragon’s cave below the castle (where a sculpture of the original dragon now harmlessly resides) resurrect the frightening monster that terrorized damsels in times gone by. Thankfully, today’s visitors to Wawel don’t have to be worried about getting singed when they explore the castle grounds. The dragon, slain by a clever shoemaker, is remembered by his bones hanging near the entrance of the cathedral—a warning to other dragons who may consider taking up residence by the Vistula River.
As the burial site of Polish kings, Wawel Castle is inhabited by the ghost of rulers past. One legend says that they gather ever Christmas Eve, though they may make sounds or appear to people the rest of the year. King Sigismund’s court jester is also said to appear on the battlements of Wawel Castle to warn of danger.
The Wielopolskich Palace, the current residence of the mayor of Krakow, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman. She fell in love with a man of a lower rank, and her father planned to murder her—but not before tricking a priest into securing her confession. The priest was eventually able to expose the criminal. Despite these efforts, the young woman found no peace after death.
The ghost of a duchess, sometimes accompanied by a black knight, haunts Przemysl Castle. This unfortunate 13th-century noblewoman was purportedly murdered while bathing by a nasty batch of servants who were possibly bribed by her husband to commit the deed.
The Kornik Castle ghost is named Teofila, who was once a well-educated woman of high rank. A portrait of her in a white dress comes to life at night and leaves the castle walls to go riding with her beloved.
Bobolice Castle has two well-known hauntings. The first is a lady in white, imprisoned by her uncle in the castle. The other is the ghost of a woman who was entangled in a difficult love triangle with twin brothers, one who was jealous of the other. One brother murdered the other and threw the woman into a cell that was later walled in.
Niedzica Castle also has a “white lady” ghost who protects a treasure creatively hidden on the castle grounds. Stories say she is the ghost of an Incan princess who was brought to Poland in the late 19th century. The Incan treasure that accompanied her was of great value, and rather than allow her to stand in his way, a treasure thief murdered the princess in his attempts to get at the gold.
Halszka Tower is haunted by a dark princess who was forced to wear an iron mask so that no one could see her beautiful face.
In every corner of Poland--and perhaps in every castle--it's possible to encounter ghosts. Be sure to be on the lookout as you explore the grounds of medieval fortresses or climb its ancient towers.