Most people love a creepy story especially if it comes wrapped in mystery and features castles, strange creatures and strange stories. Houska Castle in the Czech Republic has been quite the creepy story making appearances on all sorts of paranormal podcasts and even an entire episode of Ghost Hunters International.
It is a story that I too utilized in my Czech ghost stories book wrapped in sensationalism, mystery and horror.
Houska Castle is known as the Gateway to Hell. A reputation it has built up over the years around a story that appears to have been repeated and embellished with each telling and retelling. It now provides the owners of the castle some income as streams of tourists visit the castle and, its rather tacky exhibits. As I myself wrote in The Czech Republic – The Most Haunted Country in the World.
Over 1000-years ago, much of the Czech countryside would have been dense forest. In the Houska area, those forests would have been dark, gloomy, damp, and eerie as the area is famous for its sandstone formations known as ‘Skaly’. The sandstone in the area erodes out into block-like formations that jut out ominously in many locations, creating an eerie but beautiful landscape. Millennia ago, this landscape would have been like an alien world for the sparse populace in which the imagination would and could run riot! There were few settlements and fewer people who still clung to many pagan beliefs about woodland spirits, demons and ghosts. Not surprisingly, the area developed an evil reputation. Demons and half-human monsters were said to roam the deeply incised, tree-covered valleys, seeking human and animal victims and warm blood.
The discovery of a deep crack or fissure in the sandstone certainly wouldn’t have helped matters much in terms of the areas’ terrifying reputation. Efforts to fill the fissure with stones and boulders failed. In fact, they had no impact whatsoever. The fissure seemed endless; a crack of doom in the Earth’s surface from which that knows what monsters, elementals, and spirits emerged? Rumors suggested that this fissure without end was a gateway to hell and that demons and spirits used it as a route to Satan’s fiery regime for wicked hell-bound human souls and the innocent victims of demonic activity in the area. Local farms mysteriously lost animals and passers by avoided it in the darkness.
Something had to be done and at some point in the 900’s it seems as if a Chapel was built over the crack in the Earth in an attempt to close it and lock out the demons. In fact, no one is really sure when the Castles’ structure really was built, as mysteriously, the records have all disappeared. This fact is even more dramatic given that the Czech Republic is littered with fairytale-like Castles each with a thoroughly documented and proud history. The first mentioned structure on the site however was a small wooden fort in the 9th Century though it is believed that a structure might have existed on the site since the 6th Century. Part of Houska’s mystery is that it is the exception to the rule in not having a documented history. In fact, it doesn’t even appear on some maps; as if it were meant to be a secret that was kept secret.
The story of Houska becomes even stranger however, for as the structure was being built, the Landlord agreed that which ever condemned man would be lowered on a rope into the crack in the rock to describe what he saw there, would be freed. A volunteer was lowered only a few feet into the hole in the Earth before he started screaming hysterically. He was immediately retrieved and found to have suddenly developed snow-white hair, aged at least 30-years and had become quite mad. He died the following day without divulging what horrors he had seen in the gate to hell. One can imagine that work resumed on the Castle with even more urgency than before.
The Castle or structure that was built there was also very strange. It had defensive structures facing inside the castle as opposed to outside, to keep out intruders. Rather, it seemed designed to keep something in. Although it had several floors, there were no stairs connecting the floors and additionally, it had fake windows in the upper stories. It was a very strange Castle indeed. Added to that was its’ location, which was far from anywhere and not on any pathway or road. It did not have a source of water and it was for all intents and purposes a castle that was built where no castle would normally ever be constructed.
The fissure or endless hole apparently now lies beneath the floors of a small chapel. Painted on the walls of the inside of the chapel are rather strange designs that include the only known example of a female left-handed centaur shooting a man with an arrow. On another wall, is the image of St. Michael plunging his lance into the mouth of a fearsome dragon. Other images include St. Christopher, an angel weighing human souls and the Christ. Having stood in the Chapel myself, I can tell you that there is an energy there that after only a short while becomes unbearable. I had a headache for several hours after leaving. Interestingly, these murals add mystery to the Castle as being left-handed in medieval times was thought to be a sign of evil (the left-hand path) and St. Michael was the Archangel tasked with fighting hell’s hoards. Despite all of this, strange sounds, moans and screams are said to be heard coming from below the Chapel and people have claimed to see demonic entities there, including a strange creature that looks like a cross between a human, frog and giant bulldog.
This Saturday, I revisited Houska to show my son visiting from the USA. I had also visited it in 2019 when unfortunately it was closed. In both instances, I could feel the energy probably 10km away. It is a powerful and somewhat ominous energy that I feel in my throat and neck. Unfortunately, the castle was closed again but we got a good look at the place – false windows behind which there are thick walls, one side built on a precipice while the other is approachable up a gentle hill. We could at least walk around the outside in the fading light of the day and I had brought my dowsing rods!
The dowsing rods showed us two meter plus thick energy lines at least enter the castle – or did. The entry of one line was defended by a large stone cross that I hadn’t noticed before while the other appeared marked by an ornate and large stone placed on the ground aligned with the line.
But these days, I think I have learned to read things a bit differently. If you take away all of the sensationalism around the place, what do we have left? A fissure in the rock, a chapel in a castle with strange images, energy lines apparently blocked off? very strong earth energies.
The chapel has an image of St, Michael spearing the dragon well the dragon is a symbol of earth energies and the spearing of a dragon is that of bringing earth energies under control. The left handed female centaur drawing reinforces the point as a centaur also embodies strong earth energies. Even the St. Christopher adorning the wall can be seen as offering the perspective of something changed from bad to good as St. Christopher is often seen as a dog-headed giant who was redeemed and given human form after he carried the Christ-child across a river.
My current theory of Houska isn’t as sensational as the mass of stories on the internet. I think that this is a place of tremendous earth energies emanating from the sandstone there. Those energies can be felt for kilometers around the place and gave it a strange and mysterious, powerful vibe. I think that the attempt to block the energy with the chapel/castle and the stones blocking the energy lines has disrupted the natural flow of these energies and this is usually enough to give the energy a negative feel. Disrupted energies also attract entities possible explaining the ghost and creature sightings there. Indeed, a local we met walking her dog told us matter of factly, there were many strange ghost sightings in the vicinity.
The earliest written reference to the castle says that it keeps “something that must not be named” from escaping into the outside world. I am unable to find any pre-christian information but I wonder if the earth energy was that something unnamed? Was it or had it been a pagan slavic site utilized for that energy? I will continue to research it to see if I can find out. Meanwhile, no wonder the place was used by the Nazis and other occultists – the energy there would lend itself to such work especially as that energy has been throttled and subverted.