Ghosts, vampires, and demons may or may not exist, but one thing is certain – the stories revolving around them and the places they haunt are often fascinating. I dare say there’s a grain of truth in all of them, or at least that’s what I like to think. Like most big cities, Bucharest, the city where I was born, is full of supernatural mysteries and urban legends, many of which are inextricably tied to historic buildings. Recently, I took the trouble to compile the most interesting of these from local sources and now I would like to share them with you. Whether or not you believe in the supernatural doesn’t really matter – it’s the stories behind these mysteries, rather than their authenticity, that lend them their charm.
10. Dracula’s Old Princely Court
Dracula may have enjoyed the quiet privacy of Transylvanian castles, but his ghost seems to prefer the ruins of the Old Princely Court in the heart of Bucharest. Vlad III the Impaler, the cruel Wallachian prince who inspired the legend of Dracula, built the Old Princely Court in 1458-1459 as his residential fortress. In 1459 he issued from it the historic document which put the city on the map, marking the beginning of its growth and development.
After Vlad the Impaler’s death, the Old Princely Court remained the seat of the Wallachian rulers until the late 18th century, when it was eventually demolished. Today the ruins have become an archaeological museum. Only a wall from the original construction remains, in what used to be the wine cellar. It is around this wall of Dracula that, on nights with a full moon, mysterious sounds and unnerving shadows have been reported. The locals think it is Dracula’s ghost, roaming the ruins of his old fortress, deploring its fall.
9. The Strange Occurrences at the Central Boarding School for Fine Young Ladies
The Central School in Bucharest used to be in the 19th century a prestigious boarding school for the young daughters of the most important statesmen and boyars (landowners) in the country. It remains to this day a top school, but there is a darker side to it. Strange phenomena have been reported within its walls: doors that creak open and windows that slam shut without human intervention, objects that levitate, fetid smells in certain parts of the building, chilling breezes, and disturbing screams that come from the empty basement, allegedly the end of a mysterious tunnel.
It is unclear what exactly took place in the old school apart from classes, but it is said that the girls had to endure a draconian regime. The school is full of walled-up doors and corridors, which further deepen the mystery. Until a thorough investigation of the building takes place, though, we will not know anything for certain.
(c) lizzy-bennet phantom bus
8. The Phantom Buses
One night, a girl was waiting at the bus stop before the National Theater of Bucharest for the trolleybus 85, which was to take her to the Northern Station, the city’s main train station. The girl waited and waited, but the bus did not come. She was about to hail a cab when a trolleybus 75 came to a sudden halt before her and opened its doors. A piece of paper in the window informed her of its route: Rossetti Square – The Northern Station. The front of the bus was dark, too dark for her to see the driver; the rest of the bus was empty.
As soon as she stepped inside, a pestilential stench overwhelmed her. She got down. The bus closed its doors and drove off into the night. By the time the girl had recovered her composure, another bus numbered 75 showed up. This one was also dark and empty, but it did not stink. It drove without stopping straight to The Northern Station, where the girl got down. The first bus 75 had already arrived at the station. Out of nowhere, two drivers appeared and began talking to each other. “She made my bus stink!” one of them said, or so the legend goes.
Bucharest’s public transport company maintains several night buses, but no route 75 trolleys, which leaves us wondering, where do these come from and who drives them?
7. The Victims of the Secret Organ Trade
There’s a hospital in Romania that has a particularly bad reputation: the former Hospital of the Posts, located in the shadow of the Stravropoleos Church. Today it is a recovery institute, but in the past it used to be the last refuge for patients afflicted with life-threatening diseases. Over the years, disturbing stories have been told about the hospital, unsurprisingly so, considering the many deaths recorded there.
It seems that instead of treating sufferers, some of the doctors in the hospital killed them silently in order to harvest their organs. It is said that the stolen organs were stored in frosty suitcases which the organ traffickers would then connect to the batteries of their cars to preserve them until they reached the black market.
There have been reports from people who, passing by the grim building of the former hospital on wintry nights, claim to have heard shrieks and excruciating cries coming from it. Locals think the ghosts of the tormented patients haunt the hospital that, instead of curing their suffering, had ravished their souls.
6. The Suicides in the Haunted Casino
In the 19th and 20th centuries, many wealthy people swaggered into the beautiful and imposing House Vernescu, one of Bucharest’s oldest and most notorious casinos, only to stagger out ruined and in debt. Roulettes roll, cards are cut, and the stakes are still high in House Vernescu, which today is a casino palace and high-class restaurant, but many of its guests are on the lookout for ghosts.
Some of the gamblers who in centuries past lost their wealth and reputation in this casino killed themselves on premise. Some sources speak of 3 ghosts, others of no less than 23. Either way, the furniture moves there inexplicably, cold drafts blow even though the windows are closed, and a mysterious smell of gunpowder lingers in the courtyard. Imputed to the ghosts, these baffling occurrences are thought to be warning signs for guests to leave before they are ruined, before it is too late.
5. The Strange Lights in the Fire Tower
Built initially as a base for local firefighters, the 42-meter tall Fire Tower is now a popular museum. It is so well integrated into the urban landscape that it hardly attracts the attention of the locals anymore, except on the ninth day of every month at 11:30 pm. At that precise hour, peculiar lights can be observed in the empty tower, or so the locals say.
Some believe the tower is haunted by the ghost of a firefighter who, many years ago, had suffered there a spontaneous combustion. Others say it is the wife of a firefighter. She was trying to catch her husband cheating on her with a laundress when she fell from the second floor to her death. Had he really cheated on her? Or had jealousy, the green-eyed monster, feasted upon her patience, goading her on to her doom? Apparently, she’s still trying to figure things out.
4. The Elevator Shaft in Hotel Cișmigiu
Built in 1912, the fine Hotel Cișmigiu enjoyed several decades of prosperity before being occupied by communists towards the end of WWII. They left it in such a poor state that for 20 years it was closed down. In 1990, after the fall of Ceausescu’s regime, the rundown hotel became a bohemian dormitory for the students of the local Theater and Film Academy. It was in the winter of that year, on a weekend when most of the students were home with their families, that an acting student tried to use the building’s decrepit elevator.
Little did she suspect that behind the elevator’s worn-out doors gaped a black abyss which, the moment she stepped into the elevator, swallowed her whole: she fell down the elevator shaft and hit the bottom, but she did not die. She screamed in agony from the shadowy depths of the shaft, filling the building with her heart-rending laments, but nobody could rescue her. After three hours, the screaming stopped and the building became deadly quiet.
The story of the ghost in Hotel Cișmigiu began with her death. Blood-curdling cries are said to rise from the bottom of the elevator shaft of the old building, the cries of a woman still begging for help.
3. The Tormented Orphans
In the heart of Bucharest, on the French Street, there squats a large old building which has fallen into such a state of neglect that only stray cats and the occasional wandering rat dare visit it anymore. Once upon a time, though, the building was a bustling orphanage packed with 203 homeless children under the supervision of Stavrache Hagi-Orman.
So far so good, except that Hagi-Orman wouldn’t fit the definition of a kind and generous man. It is said that he kept the children locked in his orphanage against their will, starved them, and refused to give them water. Even worse, he forced them to watch as he gorged upon choice dishes.
Tens of children had starved to death between the walls of the orphanage before the authorities finally closed it. Now there are unnerving reports from people who, having passed by the building in the night, claim to have heard through its closed stutters shrill little voices imploring them for water, for just a drop of water…
2. The Dead Workers Who Built the Palace of the Parliament
The Palace of the Parliament is the largest administrative building in the world, as well as the heaviest. The construction of this architectural behemoth visible from the Moon was, as one can imagine, not without its death toll. No less than 27 deaths have been officially recorded on the construction site, and it is believed that many other workers were murdered by Ceausescu’s secret police so that they would not divulge the secrets buried deep beneath the opulence of the grand chambers — the mysterious rooms and corridors built for the secret services.
None of the dead workers appear to have had Christian burials. Even worse, some are thought to have been walled up into the building. This may account for the strange noises the night guards have heard in the empty chambers of the palace, the inexplicable whistling on the shadowy corridors, the muddy footprints that mysteriously vanish right before a wall, or the alarms that set off for no apparent reason in the dead of night. Ask the guards and they will tell you that after nightfall, the ghosts of the dead workers haunt the stately corridors, imploring those whom they encounter to show them the way to eternal peace.
1. The Supernatural Tenants in the House of the Black Blood
The most fascinating of all supposedly haunted houses in Bucharest is the so-called House of the Black Blood. Located in a quiet neighborhood, the dilapidated house has been over the years the scene for several violent murders. On some nights, the neighbors hear a strange gurgling sound coming from behind the house’s gate. On the following mornings, they observe dark stains around the gate.
The house is thought to be the abode of no less than 3 demons and a ghost. It is unclear who the demons are or what mischief they are up to, but there are two legends concerning the identity of the ghost. According to the first, the ghost, nicknamed the “Tramper” because of the tramping noises it makes about the house, is the discontented spirit of a prostitute who, in the 19th century, was savagely murdered in the house.
The second legend claims that the ghost is none other than the spirit of a former tenant, the long-dead Mircea Eliade, one of the country’s most distinguished writers. There is even an alternative to this second legend, which claims that the ghost had actually lived together with the great writer, inspiring him to compose some of his supernatural novels.
The identity of the ghost may remain forever a mystery, but we know for certain that people aren’t rushing to buy or rent the House of the Black Blood, which for over 60 years now has been without a tenant, one made of flesh and blood, that is.
Do you believe in the supernatural? Which of these stories is your favorite?
This post was edited by Gregoria.
Don’t take my word for it – here are sources: