Thursday, August 16, 2018

Ep. 270 - Haunted Castles of Denmark

Moment in Oddity - Qin Shi Huang's Tomb

One of the most incredible tombs ever made by man can be found in China. This is a large underground mausoleum that is mostly unopened. It was built for Ying Zheng who had ascended the throne at the age of 13. He ruled over the powerful state of Qin and proved to be a bold and fearless leader. He managed to unify China and this made him the first emperor of China. He commissioned the building of the Great Wall, roads and many scientific breakthroughs happened under his rule. This allseems to have gone to his head and he renamed himself  “Qin Shi Huang,” loosely “The Son of Heaven.” He declared himself a god and became obsessed with immortality. He believed he would one day rule from the center of the universe. He ordered his alchemists to find a formula that would allow him to never die. One such remedy was thought to be mercury and Huang would drink it on a regular basis. Nothing seemed to work, so he focused on building the greatest tomb. The grand mausoleum was designed to resemble the capital of Qin, Xianyang and it was a city unto itself. Seven hundred thousand laborers worked on the tomb and took 38 years to complete and measures 38 square miles. The Emperor had died before the construction was finished, so he did not get to see just how massive his final resting place was, complete with an army of terra cotta soldiers. The underground mausoleum was discovered in 1974 by local farmers. Excavations began and it is estimated that the tomb holds more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, all of which were painted and represented a real person. What remains unseen is believed to be even more mind blowing.Records indicate that in the tomb were palaces and scenic towers, priceless artifacts and a vast ceiling inlaid with the stars and constellations of the heavens. Apparently, two rivers of mercury flowed through the tomb as well. There are claims of treasures that have been booby-trapped and curses for those disturbing the mausoleum. In 2012, a massive Imperial Palace was found inside with an earthen pyramid inside of it believed to be where the Emperor's body is laid to rest. The necropolis of First Emperor Qin Shi Huang has gone on to become one of the most important archeological discoveries ever made with the terracotta soldiers making tours around the world, but building such a massive grave and then hiding it away from the world for centuries, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Sacco and Vanzetti Case

In the month of August on the 23rd, in 1927, Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were electrocuted in Massachusetts having been convicted of murder without evidence. The case against them claimed that the two men had killed a guard and a paymaster while robbing a shoe factory. There was no evidence connecting either man to the crime and eventually another man admitted committing the crime with an organized criminal gang. The men had radical political views and many believe the jury was prejudiced against them for this reason. They also were Italian, which seemed to be another mark against them. As they sat on death row for the seven years after their convictions, worldwide protests grew. The matter became the center of one of the largest causes célèbres in modern history and riots broke out in major cities from Chicago to New York to Tokyo to Aukland to Johannesburg. On the 50th anniversary of the executions, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation that declared Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly convicted and that "any disgrace should be forever removed from their names".

Haunted Castles of Denmark

Denmark is a land that has had people living on it since the Last Ice Age. This gives it an ancient history and while it is not considered a powerful nation today, it once ruled much of Europe with an iron fist. This history contains stories of wars, revolutions, political intrigue, religious conflict, Vikings and one of the oldest monarchies. The Danes are believed to have been in Denmark since 500 AD. The Middle Ages were a great time of power for the Danes and they ruled over England and united with Sweden and Norway. The monarchy of Denmark lasted for centuries and many of these nobles made castles their homes. Voregaard Castle is one of the most well preserved castles dating back to the Renaissance and today is home to a beautiful art collection. The castle also houses a spirit. Kronburg Castle was made famous by Hamlet and has a few ghosts of its own. Dragsholm Castle has been converted into a luxury hotel with a golf course, but it has more than just a reputation for being a nice place to get away to on a holiday. Dragsholm is reputedly the most haunted castle in Denmark. Join me as I share the history and hauntings of the castles of Denmark.

Voergaard Castle

Voergaard Castle is on the North Jutland peninsula, which became an island in 1825 when a storm connected the North Sea and the fjord Limfjorden. The castle is about six miles or 10 kilometers from the small town of Dronninglund. Voergaard is considered one of the country's best-preserved renaissance castles, but historians are unsure of when it was built. Recorded history of Voergaard goes back to 1481. The castle was bought around 1510 by the Bishop of Børglum. It was taken by Skipper Clement's army of peasants and confiscated by the Crown after the Reformation in 1536. In 1578, King Frederick II ceded the property to Karen Krabbe in exchange for Nygaard, an estate located between Vejle and Kolding. Krabbe's daughter, Ingeborg Skeel, took over the property from her mother and carried out an expansion and restoration in 1588.

In 1872, Voergaard was purchased by Peder Brønnum Scavenius who was a politician and land owner. He managed to get back much of the original land and by the time of his death in 1914, the estate covered 4800 acres making it one of the largest properties in Denmark at the time. His son Erik Scavenius became the next owner. He was the Danish Prime Minister during World War II and owned Voergaard from 1914 to 1945. In 1955, the castle was bought by Ejnar Oberbech-Clausen, a Dane who became a count through marriage. His wife, Marie Henriette Chenu-Lafitte was the daughter of Jules-Émile Péan, one of the great French surgeons of the 19th century. Oberbech-Clausen returned to his native Denmark after his wife was killed in an air raid and he bought the castle. He brought 12 train cars of art with him back to Denmark and began the restoration of the castle. After his death in 1963, the castle and collections were passed to a foundation and opened to the public.

Today, the castle continues to house a unique and comprehensive collection of European art that includes works by Goya, Rubens, and Raphael, furniture belonging to both Louis XIV and Louis XVI, carpets, jewellery and porcelain. The castle has a Roman Catholic chapel which was used by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Voergaard is a two-winged, L-shaped castle built in the Renaissance style out of red brick. The east wing is flanked by two octagonal corner towers with a gateway and sandstone portal. The large park around the castle was laid out in 1768. In 1955 it was re-designed in the French style. Buildings in the grounds include a half-timbered building which in the 18th and 19th century was used by Voer Birk, a manor court where people who had committed local misdemeanors and petty crimes would be tried.

The castle has been considered haunted ever since the early 1600s. One reason there are hauntings going on here could be because of the castle's infamous dungeon that had no light, ventilation, or room for a grown man to sit or stand. No one is sure how many people lost their lives within its walls, but one can imagine that the torture that happened here would lead to some bad energy. Many of the darker stories about Voergaard Castle have to do with one of the owners, Ingeborg Skeel. She was a merciless noblewoman who had the architect working on the rebuild of the castle killed. Some claim that she pushed the man herself into the moat around the castle so she wouldn't have to pay him. She cut off the fingers of peasant children who stole grain from her fields. Ingeborg was considered cruel and greedy and she seems to be holding on to the castle even after her death. Priests have been called in for decades after her death to perform exorcisms. Legends claim that Skeel was a witch and had a pact with the devil and that is why she remains. Her apparition has been seen all around the castle. She blows out candles and gets annoyed when the door to a corridor on the upper floor of the east wing is closed.

Most employees seem happy to have the ghost there. One employee, Ole Senkbæk, said, “I’m happy for her to be here. We get a lot of visitors hoping to see her.” He had experience with the spirit. One night about a year ago, after he had neglected to turn off the lights in a corridor next to the banquet hall, he noticed a door shut that shouldn’t have been. He attributes this to Skeel, who was giving him a sign that he needed to turn the light off there.

There is another legend attached to the manor house. This one is about a wild boar hide that hangs within it. This legend claims that if the hide is ever removed, the castle will burn down. People also claim that the dungeons have listening channels built into the walls through which they can hear prisoners groaning. And there is an infamous blood spot on the floor of the northeast tower. People have tried to remove the spot, but it always returns. The tower room also has knocking sounds that are inexplicable.

Kronborg Castle

Kronborg is a castle found on the extreme northeastern tip of the island of Zealand. This Renaissance Castle became famous when William Shakespeare used it as inspiration for the castle Elsinore in his play "Hamlet." The castle was built by King Eric VII in the 1420s. King Frederick II rebuilt the castle from 1574 to 1585. The main architects were the Flemings Hans Hendrik van Paesschen and Anthonis van Obbergen. The sculptural work was done by Gert van Groningen. In 1629 a fire destroyed much of the castle, but King Christian IV subsequently had it rebuilt. The Swedes attacked in 1658 and looted all of its treasures. In 1785, the castle ceased to be a royal residence and was converted into barracks for the army and they stayed until 1923. It was then renovated and opened to the public. It was added to UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 2000.

Employees at the site claim that the place is haunted. A new restaurant was built some time ago that is called Kronvaerket and one of the staff, Jeannett Pedersen, claimed, "Windows and doors fly open, stacks of paper disappear and reappear elsewhere, and tables set themselves." Many other employees have reported experiencing strange things. They have seen two inexplicable gray shadows waft by and seen the ghost of an old man in the kitchen. Employees say the spirts seem to be good-natured. A transparent entity of a soldier has been seen walking through the walls, shadows have been seen in the windows, screams have been heard and the disembodied voices of soldiers and horses have been heard. Local paranormal teams claim feelings of being watched, hearing disembodied footsteps, batteries draining and capturing EVPs.

Ghost Hunters International investigated the site. One of the teams, Barry and Kris, heared noises and footsteps and saw a shadow in the Great Hall. Another team claimed to get a bad feeling. Perhaps the most compelling evidence was of the multi-meter experiment set up by Paul and Susan in the basement. The flashlight moves slightly and the EMF reader spikes to a 0.6 and the temperature gauge goes up by several degrees. This is not huge evidence, but all three things happening at the same time does make one wonder.

Dragsholm Castle

Dragsholm Castle is reportedly the most haunted castle in Denmark. The castle is located on the island of Zealand and was built as a palace in 1215 for Peder Sunesen, Bishop of Roskilde. The castle was heavily fortified through the years and for this reason, was a favorite for naobles to use as a living quarters. Dragsholm was the only castle to survive Denmark’s civil war of 1534-6, which was known as the Count’s Feud because it was waged by Count Christoffer who supported the Catholic King Christian II until the election of Christian III deposed him. The castle passed into the hands of King Christian III after the Protestant Reformation. The castle would no longer be a home for nobles, but rather a prison for them.

This would be a dark period and as Lutheranism spread, Catholicism was outlawed and bishops were imprisoned at the castle. Among the prisoners were a number of rather famous inmates, such as Joachim Rønnow, who was the last Catholic Bishop of Roskilde and James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell and third husband to Mary, Queen of Scots. The prisoners were assigned to cells custom built to fit their crimes, actions, and nature of their behavior toward the King. When the armies of Charles X Gustav of Sweden invaded Zealand, Dragsholm’s defenders attempted to blow it up. The castle lay in ruins until King Christian V passed the castle onto Heinrich Muller, a grocer. He owed the man money and this was to cover his debt. Muller restored the castle. In 1694, nobleman Frederik Christian Adeler bought Dragsholm and rebuilt it as a baroque castle. The Adeler family held onto it until 1932 when the family died off. Denmark’s Central Land Board became the owner of Dragsholm Castle. In 1939, the Central Land Board sold Dragsholm Castle to J.F. Bottger, but only included the land belonging to the main estate. The Bottger family preserved the Baroque style of the castle, but extensively restored and modernized the interior.

There are reputedly nearly 100 ghosts living within the castle. Five of them are fairly well known: the Earl of Bothwell, the Mad Squire, the White Lady, the Bishop and the Grey Lady. The Earl of Bothwell was Mary, Queen of Scots third husband, James Hepburn. Hepburn always seemed to be in trouble and he ended up fleeing for his life from Scotland in 1567. A storm forced his ship to land in Norway, which was ruled by Denmark at the time and he was arrested for not having the correct identification papers. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that Hepburn had run off with his former fiance's dowry and it was thought he had murdered Queen Mary's second husband. King Frederik II of Denmark imprisoned him at Dragsholm and reportedly he was barely given enough food and water to keep him alive. He was tied to a pillar and eventually went mad and died in 1576 or 1578. His spirit has haunted the castle ever since and visitors claim to see him riding into the courtyard of the castle in his carriage being pulled by horses. The sound of horses hooves have been heard in the cobbled yard as well.

Our next spirit is known as the Mad Squire. His real name was Ejler Brockenhuus and he was part of the noble Danish Brockenhuus family. The family began in Denmark with Oluf Brockenhuus who fought in the wars with Sweden and Norway and expanded into a Norwegian branch. Ejler was chained in the dungeon and left to die and guests claim to hear his groans float up the stairs.

Our Lady in White makes an appearance at Dragsholm. It is believed that in life she was Celina Bovles, a daughter of the Bovles family of nobles. As is the case so many times, she fell in love with a man her family did not approve of. He was a commoner and he ended up getting her pregnant. Her father was enraged and locked her in the dungeon where she died. And before we relegate this story to legend, it is interesting to note that workmen were repairing the plumbing at Dragsholm in the 1930s and they discovered a skeleton wearing a white dress inside one of the walls. Witnesses claim to have seen a woman wearing white walking around the castle at night and that she occasionally moans in sorrow because she is looking for her lost love.

Joachim Ronnow was the last Catholic Bishop of Roskilde was supposedly imprisoned in Dragsholm Castle in 1536. He did not die here, but some claim that they have heard his moans in the tower the sound of Catholic chanting.

The Gray Lady was a woman who was a servant at Dragsholm. She came to work one day in agony because of a toothache. The master of the castle gave her a poultice that cured it, but she eventually died. Her spirit is said to remain here because she was so grateful for the relief she got from her toothache. She is seen in spirit form as a gray mass or full-bodied apparition wandering the halls of the castle and she is said to perform good deeds for visitors.

These castles in Denmark are reminders of a long history of nobility. The spirits are a supernatural reminder. Are these castles haunted? That is for you to decide!



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