A medieval fort built in the middle of nowhere. With seemingly nothing to protect, and nobody to intimidate or impress. So are the legends true? Was Houska Castle placed there to guard a gateway into hell?
On the face of it, it certainly seems that the existence of this medieval fort in Houska is anomalous. Built in the 13th century, its location in an isolated region of the Czech Republic, close to the German border, was miles from the nearest water source, town, or trade route. There’s no evidence of it being anybody’s home, nor that it was strategically significant. So why was it there?
Some believe it served a supernaturally sinister purpose. That this so-called “hell’s entrance castle” was designed not to keep evil out, but in. Read on, as we dig down to discover the truth.
The Legendary History of Houska Fortress
At the turn of the 13th century, local residents reported strange occurrences in the dense forests of Houska. There were tales of a bottomless pit, and of winged beasts emerging from its depths. Legend has it that the local duke, determined to dispel any notions of hellish happenings, arranged for a young prisoner to be lowered into the hole.
But the descent was long. Longer than anyone imagined. Then there was an agonised scream. When they pulled him up, the boy had aged 40 years. So disturbed was he by what he had witnessed, that he was committed to an insane asylum.
The duke took action. And that action was to build Houska Castle directly atop the pit. To block the entrance to whatever lay beneath. It was completed in 1278. And that was just the beginning.
Hell’s Entrance, Castle on a Hill
Believing that their best defence against the dark unknown was the power of God, a chapel was constructed directly over the Houska Castle pit. In fact, it was dedicated to the Archangel Michael, believed to have raised God’s army against Lucifer’s fallen angels.
The chapel itself is unusual for its many references to Satan and paganism. For example, the depiction of a left-handed half-woman half-horse figure, when left-handedness was considered the sign of the devil.
The Ghosts, The Blackheart…
Around the 1630s, the castle was believed to be occupied by a Swedish black magic practitioner named Oronto. It was said he toiled night and day to discover an elixir for eternal life. However, the locals were so scared of him two hunters broke into the castle and murdered him.
Houska Castle in World War II
During World War II, the Nazis are said to have taken an intense interest in Houska Castle, which was part of what was then Nazi-occupied Czeckoslovakia. Locals reported seeing unexplained lights emanating from the castle at night.
Today at the Medieval Fort in Houska
The history of Houska Fortress continues to cast a shadow over the castle today, and stories of happenings continue. One visitor heard what they described as a ‘chorus of screams’ coming from the pit beneath the chapel. Others have allegedly heard the scratching of claws.
Nowadays, Houska Castle is owned by the family of Josef Šimonek, the former president of car maker Škoda, and it’s open to the public. It’s 30 miles north of Prague and not the easiest place to reach. But perhaps that’s for the best.