Not if your local fortess was Houska Castle.
Houska is a sinister and looming building. Built sometime in the 1200's, in an area of mountainous terrain and dark, dense forest in the Czech countryside, it's also a bit of a disaster. It has no fortifications and isn't in an area of strategic interest. While it has a lot of windows, most of them are false, being glass panes over brick walls. There's no water source to be found there and no kitchen. Even if the castle did have a kitchen, it's nowhere near any of the trade routes that existed then, making acquiring the amount of food an functioning castle would need pretty impossible. There were some nearby villages, but those would not have been able to support the castle. Essentially, Houska castle was not designed to be lived in and, for the most part, it wasn't.
For decades it bounced from owner to owner, from royalty to nobility and back again, quickly being passed on, like that one Christmas present that nobody really wants but they just keep regifting it rather than throwing it away. During World War II, the Nazi's moved in and spent their time in residence turning it into a scientific house of horrors. They used the building to perform horrific experiments not just on prisoners of war but on the defenceless locals as well. At this point Houska had been abandoned for many years, so why choose it for a prison when it was clear nobody wanted the place? The way the castle was constructed makes it the worst possible base, but realistically it's likely that they just never thought the castle would need to be defended or used as a fort, that the location being so remote would reduce the amount of witnesses to their crimes, while making it more difficult for anyone trying to escape. That would be the logical reason, but there is another theory that links the Nazis fascination with the Occult to the castle itself.
|Photo by Dr Janos Korom, CC BY-SA 2.0|
|Photo by Ladabar, CC BY-NC 2.0|
Personally I can't get my head around Houska's hauntings. I like to be able to explain hauntings, maybe come up with a theory that can explain what's happening. I'm a believer in the paranormal, but I'm also a skeptic. I believe there is some truth about the folklore, since all stories have an element of truth to them. The hole itself is there. But the flying monsters? My first reaction is to blame it on large bats, perhaps an undiscovered species, but none of the bats in the Czech Republic are big enough to carry off a human. Owls could be a culprit. The region is home to Eagle Owls and Snowy Owls, both very big birds that could have been mistaken for something worse, if seen in the dark by a superstitious passer by. With potential robbers on the roads, trying to make ends meet, people going missing while traveling at night could be explained as highway robbery and murder. I'm not even going to try and come up with a theory of how to explain how the hole could have been bottomless, because it couldn't have been. If it was then it would have come out somewhere in New Zealand. True or false, this is a fascinating story to me and there's no doubt that the building is very, very haunted.
So, dear readers, what do you think? Is there truth to the folklore? Or did someone get bamboozled by a low flying owl? Have you been to Houska Castle and experienced it's strange paranormal activities for yourself? I'd love to hear your story! Leave a comment in the comments section below or link me in a Tweet!