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Prague during the day is all white and pastel buildings, blue domes and red roofs gleaming in the sunshine. Narrow alleyways and town squares are alive with the bustle of locals and artists, while tourists and vendors congest the roads. Demons seem to be far from everyone’s minds.
But as night gathers, the shadows from glowing lanterns begin to lengthen on the cobblestone streets and gothic cathedrals, statues, golems and spires turn to black shapes against the darkening sky. Now in fall, mist rises from the Vltava River and the wind blows coloured leaves through the streets. It’s during those times, that people hug their jackets a bit closer to their bodies and hurry up their pace as they move past the city’s imposing silhouettes.
Mad barbers, headless ladies, drowned maids, murdered nuns, begging skeletons, golems and even a fiery turkey (confusing story, don’t ask) – Prague seems to have it all. The city is shrouded in countless eerie tales and legends of its mythical past. The signs of creepiness are everywhere in Prague – even during the day – one just has to look closely and find them. I did some research, which yielded the result, that even the most harmless looking churches and tourist attractions have some kind of spooky or peculiar story attached to them.
As the list above implies, ghosts are plentiful in Prague. Or maybe even in the whole Czech Republic, as my visit to the Church of Bones would suggest. Here are some of my favourite well known, but secretly creepy sights in town:
The Charles Bridge:
One just hast to look at the following photo to see, that the Charles Bridge is surrounded by a fairly mysterious aura. Thirty statues line the bridge and rise imposingly into the sky and the old lanterns bathe the ancient cobblestones in a dim yellow light.
In 1621, 27 leaders of an anti-Habsburg revolt were executed in the towns square and their heads hung from the bridge tower, probably to discourage further insurrection from the Czechs. Nothing unusual so far, just your usual dark ages bloodshed and murder. But it is said, that the noblemen still haunt the bridge to this day and call out to the passer-by’s late at night. There are many ghosts in Prague. But if you get chased by one, it will probably be on this bridge, where the concentration of the supernatural seems to be highest.
The Astronomical Clock:
The oldest working astronomical clock, once considered one of the wonders of the world, makes a relatively innocent impression at first sight. Well, there is a skeleton striking the time, but apart from that, the clock is best known for it’s beauty and incredibly intricate mechanism. Thousands of tourists gather beneath the clock each day, cameras at the ready, to watch the figurines move for a few short seconds and elbow their way into a couple blurry shots.
Legend has it though, that Master Hanuš, the clockmaster that built the astronomical clock 600 years ago, did his job a bit too well. The councillors of Prague, a jealous bunch, were so enthralled by it’s beauty and clever design, that they blinded poor Hanuš to prevent him from ever designing anything so perfect again.
Additionally, a rooster crows at the end of each performance. Harmless right? Nope, the sound is supposed to chase the devils and demons from the city each morning.
One Word: Marionettes
Marionettes are an art form that goes back hundreds of years and apparently they are quite a popular form of entertainment in the Czech Republic. As beautiful as the handcrafted puppets are, I’m really creeped out by their wooden limbs suspended in mid-air and their frozen faces, begging you to play with them forever and ever and ever.
Maybe my fear of inanimate humanoids dates back to watching Chucky the murderous puppet back when I was probably too young for it, but I can’t help but think, that if you get too close to those lifeless bastards, you will end up as a bunch of mutilated limbs in the basement of marionette theatre. It may be that I’m unreasonable, but I dare you to go into a marionette store and not be slightly uncomfortable in their silent presence.