An Island and a Saddistic Doctor

If you are like me, and the hopes of visiting a real life haunted house, or haunted town, go to Savannah, Ga or even Charleston, SC. I for one, even if it weren’t abandoned, or forbidden, would not go to Poveglia. It is actually up for auction the last I heard, may have even been sold by now.

Either way, makes for a great story, so grab your coffee, curl up in your favorite chair and enjoy.

Poveglia is a cursed and mysterios island, where strange historical events have shaped its reputation as the darkest place of the Venice Lagoon and labeled this island the most haunted in the world.

Poveglia had been a thriving and populated island, however with the outbreak of the war of Chioggiain 1378-the fourth and last conflict between Genoa and Venice- its inhabitants were moved to the island of Giudecca. From that very moment this island remained deserted for three hundred years.

Since 1645, it was then employed as an outpost to control the transit of ships in the lagoon with aim of protecting Venice. Proveglia’s darkest moments will date back to more recent years, when due to the 1700 Black Death, the island became a lazaretto (an open-air cemetary), where quarantined people-even those with the slightest signs of sickness were sent to die.

I ask you, what if they had done this to us when COVID hit?

But to continue…Bodies were left on the island’s streets to decompose. Then they were burnt and their ashes were thrown in mass graves. It is said that more than 160,000 people died in agony during the bubonic plague. Today, strata of bone can be found beneath the surface, which is made up of 60% of human ashes.

Historical reconstructions were done, and during that time, in that period, the island was also the scene of the execution of criminals, who were usually killed by drowning. But believe me, this isn’t the scariest part of the story, at least not for me.

In 1922, the buildings hosted a home for the elderly. The furniture still present today witnesses that the building was actually an asylum. From the moment a person was diagnosed with a mental illness and taken to Poveglia, there was no possibility of redemption or rehabilitation. (What does that say for you or me? Those we love?) The only aim of the new use of the island was to isolate these people, and separate them from society. It’s important to remember, in the past, any uncommon way of thinking and behavior different from the socio-cultural norms of the time, was considered mental disorders. Anyone could be identified as mentally ill and locked up.

Local legend has it that the patients of Poveglia asylum reported that they saw strange shadows-probably belonging to the ghosts of the plague victims- and that they could not sleep at night because of the wails of the suffering spirits. Of coarse, the doctors did not believe them. Patients were subjected to tortures, sometimes death. It is believed that a sadistic doctor did evil experiments on them, even performed labotomies, as he believed that this cruel practice was a great way to treat and cure mental illness. This procedure was incredibly wicked and painful, as the doctor used hammers, chisels and drills without anesthesia or any concern for sanitation.

Because of the doctor’s practices, he was tormented by the ghosts who drove him crazy to the point where he jumped (or was thrown) from the clock tower that stands out on the lagoon. The legend tells that he did not die from the fall, but that he was chocked before by a mysterious fog. In some silent and calm nights you can still hear the bell tolling across the bay, despite being removed years ago.

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When Castles Speak

If you are looking for a most sinister place in which to set your story, why not choose that of Moosham Castle. It is considered one of the most haunted castles as well as the administrative center of the Zauberarjackl witch trials and the site for werewolf hunts in the 1800’s.

Although no traces of the earlier structure remain, Moosham Castle is believed to have been built on the foundations of a Roman castrum fortress.

If we travel back from 1675 and 1690, the administrative center was responsible for all: trial, sentencing, and execution during the Salzburg witch trial. 139 people were killed during this time. A horrific number of 39 children between the ages of 10 and 14 were accused and executed for witchcraft. This is where 53 teenagers also met a bloody end to their life.

As we look for stories to tell, they ly everywhere. All we need to do is look. An unusually large number of those killed were male (113). The records named every single victim. They youngest, a boy named Hannerl. He had just turned 10. The eldest was Margarethe Reinberg, 80 years old.

The methods of execution were brutal, even for this time period. The sadistic authorities preferred a process of slow torture. Only when an individual was close to death would they be offered the small mercy of a hanging or decapitation. Children were made an example of. They would chop their hands off and mark their chests with a burning iron, then kept alive and paraded in front of the locals as a warning.

As we look into our stories of the past, it is inevitable that we should hear the Voices of the Past, echoing their stories back to us.

During the late 18th century Moosham Castle would experience another troubling period after the witch trials had ended. Reports of deer and cattle were being found dead on the castle grounds. Bloodthirsty locals would immediately jump to the conclusion that in their minds seemed “logical” , that werewolves were at the castle. The residents of Moosham would be rounded up and murdered for their nocturnal predilections leaving Moosham abandoned for several decades afterwad.

Moosham Castle has made a name for itself especially for believers of the supernatural looking for the castle’s many ghosts. It is rumored that the many screams of witch trial victims can be heard at night, as well as werewolves who apparently still prowl the grounds .

There are other tales and legends to be told of Moosham Castle. One such being that of a bailiff named Anton. He ruled Moosham Castle in the mid 1900’s. Nicknamed Schorgen-Toni, known for his cruelty. He had taken pleasure in torturing his prisoners in the most horrible ways and had even mistreated his own parents. His behavior was well known throught the region, but he was never punished for his crimes. The locals had started to believe that he had sold his soul to the devil.

As the story continues, one night a storm swept over the land. He had made his final round in the dungeon, enjoying seeing the wounds and pain he had inflicted during that day. Once he was satisfied he went to his apartments. He heard this storm and an uncomfortable thought popped into his mind. Needing to shake the feeling from him, he takes a drink and settles into his chair. In the meantime, a carriage drawn by four shiny, black horses came closer to the castle’s gate. The gates open for this unknown guest as if done by magic. The carriage stops in the castle’s courtyard and a figure dressed in black gets out. The bailiff, Toni, nearly dozed off, suddenly hears a knock at the door. Toni opens the door and the figure in black is there. The stranger speaks to him. Toni begins to plead, knowing this day would come eventually, but he was not ready to face his fate. The dark figure is ruthless. It dragged Toni along in his carriage and took him down to Hell, for eternity.

Throughout the years Moosham Castle has been open to the public and many reports of paranormal incidents have been claimed. Some people feel as if they are being watched, touched even, especially in the torture chamber. Others feel as if they are being breathed on. A strange white mist and shadow figures have been seen in the corridors. During EVP sessions, dismbodied voices have been heard and a dark presence is often felt in Toni’s room where doors tend to open and close on their own. Other claims have been of people hearing footsteps, but once they turn around, nothing is there.

While these stories are creepy, they are still one’s that should be told. As we look for that one detail that could make or break our story, the tale in which we choose to write, it may be here, in the depths of these places and voices speaking out.

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