Ancient castles with crumbling, moss-covered stone walls, or turreted strongholds in mist-shrouded forests make for the perfect fantasy setting. Just looking at them can give locals and travelers chills, but some have such dark pasts that people believe lonely spirits still walk their dank halls. Here are Europe’s 7 creepiest castles:
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Bran Castle – Transylvania
The setting of the gothic horror novel Dracula, 1000 year old Bran castle in Transylvania was once the home of Vlad III Dracul, also known as Vlad the Impaler. Not so different from Count Dracula in terms of cruelty, Vlad the Impaler was known for his favorite method of punishment: impaling. Vlad’s cruelty didn’t end there, however; he was also known to have nails hammered into the heads of thieves, lopping off limbs, blinding, strangulation, burning or boiling alive and scalping or skinning alive.
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Leap Castle – Ireland
This grey stone castle is hailed as the most haunted castle in Ireland. The history of Leap Castle tells of a warrior killing his brother, a priest. The name of the chapel, the Bloody Chapel, is a reminder of the bloodshed. The castle also has an oubliette: a deep dungeon accessible only from a door placed high up or in the ceiling, into which prisoners were pushed onto spikes in the floor. With such a ghastly past, there is sure to be a spirit or two wandering around this castle.
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Moosham Castle – Austria
This 13th century castle set into deep green forests near Salzburg, Austria was home to Austria’s bloodiest witch trials. Between 1675 and 1690, over 100 people were imprisoned, tortured, tried as witches and then executed. Stories tell of a castle caretaker named Anton, also responsible for much of the torture, whose ghost is said to still haunt the castle.
Moosham Castle is now a museum, and open for people to visit. Some of these visitors have reported feeling hands touch their hair and legs as well as someone breathing on them, and workers have reported that occasionally when they open the museum in the morning, all the guns in the hunting room will be hanging upside down, even though the museum had been locked up all night.