Before I divulge any of my novice paranormal investigating, I must give you fair warning that neither of the places I describe visiting are legally accessible during prime ghost times. So if you wish to carry out your own hunt be prepared to get…creative with your entry methods, and don’t mention my name if you get caught.
Named one of the top twenty-five most haunted cities in the world by viator.com, Prague, Czech Republic is said to be home to over a hundred different ghosts and legends due to a long history filled with alchemy, assassinations, and defenestration.
“Maybe it’s the energy of anticipation or maybe the energy comes from something beyond our world, but whatever causes it, people feel and experience things in the Prague night that they don’t in other places,” said Lada Dyogtin a Mysterium Tour Praga guide as she led our group down the dark cobblestone streets by lantern light.
Like most towns, Prague has typical local legends that have been passed down through the years. The One-armed Thief who attempted to steal from the Virgin Mary idol and paid the ultimate price now haunts the Church of Saint James. A Murdered nun haunts what was once the convent of Mary Magdalene trying to save others from her fate of murder and betrayal. One of Old Town’s most beloved ghosts, the Headless Templar Knight, rides along Liliova Street every night between 12-1 AM looking for a mortal brave enough to thrust a knife through his heart and set his spirit free. These stories are described in most of Prague’s ghost tours that usually explore Praha 1. But these stories can be found in any city and I wanted to find stories buried beneath.
Most quests begin with knowledge: knowledge meaning Google and reaching out to guides. Like locals had told me earlier, Prague was known as one of the most popular meeting places for astrologers and alchemists during the reign of Emperor Rudolf II in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some say that Prague’s famously beautiful gothic architecture is decorated with esoteric symbols that, once decoded, can reveal an equation to create gold. A particularly haunted hotspot is Prague Castle where the two most infamous defenestrations of Prague took place.
The first occurred on July 30, 1419 when a group of radical Czech Hussites threw a judge, a burgomaster, and thirteen members of the town council from the window of Town Hall to the wrathful crowd waiting below. The second defenestration came nearly 200 years later in 1618 when two Catholic regents were thrown from the third floor window of the Bohemian Chancellery along with their secretary. Allegedly, the spirits of those killed haunt Prague Castle and its grounds as a warning to others to not repeat history’s mistakes and to avoid heights in Prague if you’re a person of influence.
Similar to Prague Castle, many Czech legends circulate Charles Bridge where hundreds of lives have been claimed over the years. Wandering the bridge is a favorite pastime of paranormal explorers hoping to encounter some of Prague’s most popular ghosts such as The Drowned Man who was executed by being thrown into the deadly waters below and Drahomíra who appears in a fiery carriage.
As entertaining as the mainstream ghost stories were, I didn’t feel the brink of excitement and fear often associated walking around haunted Old Town Square in the darkness. After the Mysterium Ghost Tour had ended a friend and I approached Lada to see if she’d be willing to grab a drink and discuss the true haunted places of Prague.
According to Lada’s expertise, the first spot to visit was the Old Jewish Cemetery in the Jewish Quarter in Praha 1. Most of you who have visited Prague are thinking: “The Old Jewish Cemetery…way to get off the tourist path!”
Normally you’d be correct, the Old Jewish Cemetery and the synagogue next to it are globally famous in the realm of myths thanks to the legend of the Golem.
Rabbi Judah Loew created the Golem from clay in order to protect the Jewish Quarter during a time of religious persecution. The city officials promised to cease discrimination if the Rabbi deactivated the Golem, but instead the creature in the basement of the old synagogue, in case protection was needed later. However, Lada confided in us that this was not the best story of the Jewish quarter and began to tell an even darker tale:
The Black Plague had reached Prague, but only seemed to be killing children in the Jewish Quarter. Even more upsetting, it was rumored the children’s ghosts were unable to cross over to the next world and would play in the cemetery at midnight. A Rabbi sent a pupil to investigate. As the boy hid among the tombstones the clock struck midnight and the spirits came out of their graves and began to play. When a child came close enough, the pupil snatched the spirit’s shroud and ran to the waiting Rabbi. Soon the ghost child appeared outside the synagogue’s window crying that without his shroud, he would be unable to return to his grave. The Rabbi agreed to return the shroud and the spirit revealed that the first two children who died had not perished from the plague, but at the hands of their own mother. Until she was brought to justice, children would continue to die but would not find rest. The next day the mother was found guilty and executed. The ghost children have apparently not revisited the cemetery since. Unable to take the story at face value, I set out to see if any ghosts were still searching for a playmate.
Armed with only the advice from Paranormal State and Ghostbusters, I pieced together a make shift ghost hunting kit. A medallion, a flashlight, a camera that provided night vision photo and video modes, and lots of layers were my only weapons against possible vengeful spirits and the icy Prague night.
I arrived at the graveyard slightly past 1:30 AM and did a quick survey for security guards/cameras. Twenty minutes and one scraped knee later I made myself comfortable among the crumbling stones branded with Stars of David and Ten Commandment Tablets and waited. After another twenty minutes I had to move or the cemetery would be welcoming another ghost of a frozen American. Putting my flashlight to work, I began to explore the thousands of tombstones surrounding me. Although no ghosts appeared to join me I did notice the far left corner of the graveyard housed an abnormal amount of graves for children who all died in the same year, all under the age of ten. A coincidence? Perhaps, but this small fact gave me the encouragement to prepare for my next ghostly stakeout, the Vysehrad Cemetery.
My night in Vysehrad Cemertery was more successful, if not unbelievable. I walked onto the Vysehrad Cemetery grounds a little after 10 o’clock accompanied by my ghost-loving accomplice, McKenzie. After a police van slowly passed us 3 times in a 15-minute period, we thought it best to diverge from the main road. The only things visible in the night were the church towers, lit up by floodlights casting stark, ominous shadows on their cemetery backdrop, and our breath as it greeted the Prague air.
We had found a column close to a small shack-like building resembling a crematorium and I began to hoist myself up on the black, rod-iron gate when McKenzie’s hand flew up to stop me.
“Nicolette stop! There’s someone here,” She whispered harshly, peering through the surrounding bushes. No sooner had I jumped down when an elderly man, no taller than 5’ 1” and dressed in all black sweats came stumbling into the light. I felt a strange mix of relief with a bit of anxiety: we hadn’t been caught by security, but this man was clearly drunk and was coming towards us. As McKenzie and I backed away from the gate to avoid interaction, the man slurred something we could not understand in Czech and continued to teeter towards the gate. Then like some sort of nightmarish crypt keeper, the man pulled out a key and let himself into the cemetery. Laughing, he turned once more to face us before he locked the gate behind him and walked off among the tombstones.
Intrigued, I ran back to the gate to see where he was going and what he could be up to, but no matter how hard I looked I couldn’t find him. Undeterred, we ran to the other entrance gate of the cemetery where we saw his figure bobbing back and forth between two giant headstones. After observing for a few more minutes we ran around to another side of the gate to try and get a better look. Although we did not find our man in black we did interrupt two Czechs on their Tuesday night date in the cemetery. After everyone’s hearts recovered from the shock of encountering other people they pointed out where the best place was to jump the fence.
“We highly recommend it for a night walk,” the girl laughed and took a swig from the bottle of merlot she carried.
Before they left we had to ask, “Did you guys see a man dressed in black in there…about ye high?”
The man stared at us, not knowing whether we were actually serious, “No…the cemetery is closed. The only people in there are dead.”
That was all the motivation we needed as we hopped the fence and began to explore. I pulled my new camera from my pocket, excited to start recording our findings. One photo, two photos, switch to video and…black. My camera suddenly changed to a dark frozen screen. It wouldn’t turn off or restart. Suddenly I heard something, like footsteps nearby. I was actually relieved, we weren’t crazy, the guy existed and the couple must’ve been trying to scare us. Then the relief turned to the realization that the man was most likely a night guard who was about to catch two American women in a very closed cemetery. We bolted for the gate, jumping over in hurdler style. After waiting a few minutes and not having the man appear again, we were puzzled, nervous, and above all fascinated. Where did this man keep going? We saw him enter and due to the small size of the cemetery you can see both gates at all times; he hadn’t left.
We ran back to the side of the cemetery where we had originally encountered him. As we reached the gate the church bells began clanging, noting the arrival of midnight. Over the rings, I heard a shrill, solitary whistle. I turned to McKenzie, “Did you hear that?” She nodded and peered harder into the graveyard. The whistle came again. I twisted around to find its source only to lock eyes with the man in black who was staring at us from the doorway of the shack. Without thinking I pointed, “There he is!” The door shut and the night was silent. We decided to call it a night, as we left the Vysehrad grounds my camera beeped back to life.
Is Prague actually haunted? That question can be asked of any place in the world and the answer is always left up to the one experiencing it. Lada was correct about one thing however: Prague certainly has energy. An energy from a slightly wicked past, from college students pacing the Charles Bridge in search of a fiery carriage, or from ghoulish groundskeepers: the ghosts of Prague are there in some form for anyone who wishes to find them.
Top Available Ghost Tours:
- Mysterium Tour Prague:
- The Dark Shadows of the Old Town (2 hours)
- Esoteric Prague (3 hours)
Adults: $17 USD
Students: $15 USD
Children 6-13: $9 USD
- Haunted Prague
- Daily Ghosts and Legends
- Daily Old town and Underground After Dark
- Ghosts, Torture, and Underground
- Prague Castle After Dark
- Vysehrad Fortress After Dark
- Charles Bridge and Kampa After Dark
Adults: $30 USD
Students: $15 USD
- McGee’s Ghost Tours
- Ghosts and Legends of Old Town (70 mins) $14 USD
- Mystery River Cruise and Walk (90 mins) $20 USD
- Prague Castle After Dark (3 hours) $20 USD
- Underground Walk by Lamplight (60 mins) $18 USD