There’s something intoxicating about castles. They ignite the imagination and bring back all the old stories of knights and kings and queens. When you think of castles, you think of white turrets and flags and sword fights of good versus evil. But all these images fall away when you see some of the world’s creepiest abandoned castles. These are the dark places where witches and midnight sacrifices could linger around any corner. And exploring them is like stepping back to witness the darker side of humanity.
1. Bannerman Castle
Bannerman Castle is located in New York on Pollepel Island in the Hudson River and was once a military surplus warehouse. The Hudson River acts as a moat around the castle, which has turrets just like what you’d see in fairy tales. But the story behind it makes it one of the most eccentric abandoned castles on this list.
The castle was built by the Bannerman family during the early 1900s. The owner, Frank, personally designed all the buildings, docks and turrets in the style of old Scottish castles. And he did it without any professional help of any kind, almost on instinct. The castle was elaborately decorated, from the tower with its venetian tilt to the biblical quotations cut into the fireplace mantles. And the architectural details are amazing as well. For instance, if you look at the north view then you’ll notice there are no right angles on any of the buildings. All of these details confirm that the creator was a genius, and more than a little eccentric in his precision and vision.
Bannerman Castle was used to store military weapons of all kinds until it was destroyed by fire in 1969. Since then it has been cared for by a trust, but the structure is so unstable and the land so treacherous that it’s become yet another of the world’s amazing, abandoned castles.
2. Frankenstein Castle
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a story that many people claim to be one of the greatest monster tales in history. It’s also one of the most important stories about the nature of evil and set the stage for horror writers for generations to come. In the story, Victor Frankenstein conducts his macabre experiments in an isolated castle. And as the story goes, that castle was inspired by the Frankenstein Castle in Germany.
The Frankenstein Castle overlooks the city of Darmstadt in central Germany and it’s one of the most chilling abandoned castles in the world. It has existed for centuries, with the earliest reference to it in a letter written in 1252. Over the years, it saw a lot of bloodshed and turmoil, and all that death and horror has sunk into the walls, giving it a foreboding aspect. The castle is even said to be haunted by the ghost of Arbogast, a knight who once lived there, and it’s a hotspot for paranormal investigators who are seeking the truth of what walks its walls.
Whether it’s one of the world’s many abandoned castles or whether its ancient walls are occupied by a far less corporeal force, this castle is a chilling reminder of old stories and the nightmares that followed.
3. Casa Loma
Casa Loma is located in Toronto, Canada and is now a historic house museum and landmark. It was built in a Gothic Revival style between 1911 and 1914 for financier Henry Pellatt. And according to visitors, it’s one of the most haunted abandoned castles on this list. The owner suffered a number of setbacks, resulting in the abandonment of the castle. But according to the stories, not everyone went away.
Visitors to the site have reported grabbing hands, spooky voices, and a mysterious lady who wanders the halls. A grumpy spectral man is said to live in the stables and some people have even seen the original owner, angrily glaring at guests from windows. The stories about the castle make it a popular place for ghost tours and Halloween parties. So, if you enjoy a scare, then this should be one of the abandoned castles on your bucket list.
4. Dunstanburgh Castle
The Dunstanburgh Castle was built in 1313 when the conflict between Earl Thomas of Lancaster and King Edward II was hotting up. The castle is located on a remote headland in Northumberland and was built on a truly magnificent scale, perhaps as an insult to the King. The Earl was executed in 1322 after his rebellion against the King failed and the castle was passed to John of Gaunt. Over the years, it saw the Wars of the Roses and other conflicts before falling into decay. And over the years it became one of the most stunning abandoned castles around.
Dunstanburgh Castle is mostly in ruins now but was once absolutely stunning. John of Gaunt converted the twin-towered gatehouse into a Keep to strengthen it against the Scottish invasions. These additions add to its foreboding atmosphere and are an architectural marvel on their own. And the setting, poised high along the coast, is fitting for every spooky, Gothic tale ever told. As you might expect, there are lots of spooky legends attached to this castle.
Thomas of Lancaster, the original owner, suffered a brutal death. It took the executioner 11 strokes to decapitate him and his ghost is said to haunt the castle, carrying his mangled head. The ghost of Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI has also been seen wandering the grounds. The dramatic ruins have also given rise to the legend of Sir Guy the Seeker. According to this creepy story, Sir Guy took shelter from a storm in caves under the castle. He was approached by a warlock and followed him after being promised a great beauty. Once in the castle, he made the wrong choice to save the woman and was trapped there, haunting the corridors, looking for the beauty he’d lost.
5. Heidelberg Castle
In Southern Germany, the Heidelberg Castle majestically overlooks the Neckar River. It was first built between 1398 and 1410 by Prince Elector Ruprecht III as a regal residence and was added to later. The castle was destroyed during the 30 Years’ War between 1619 and 1649, and then rebuilt. It was destroyed against in the late 1600s by French troops. But this wasn’t the end of the castle’s misfortunes. It was struck by lightning in the mid-1700s and then pillaged by local villagers for building materials. It wasn’t until the 1800s that the castle could be brought back to its original glory.
Lots of abandoned castles have tumultuous histories. But the trials of this castle go further than most. Some say it’s because of the land. The castle was built close to an area of religious importance that dates back to the Celtic era. And people claim that angry spirits have been causing all of the problems. In fact, witnesses have reported hearing wailing from the castle, as well as hooded figures walking between the castle and the sacred site.
Whatever the truth may be, if you’re looking for abandoned castles with really bad luck, this is a prime example.
6. Zvikov Castle
The Zvikov Castle is said to be the home of the Rarasek. This is a supernatural creature of Bohemian folklore, which is described as either the spirit of a cyclone, or a domestic spirit. This creature wreaks havoc on the castle and anyone who goes inside. It causes technical problems, electromagnetic anomalies, weird animal behaviour, and dampens any fires that spring up. This creature is said to live in the ancient tower, Markomanka, which was built during the Marcomanni rule over Bohemia, in the 1st century BC and 2nd century AD. This ancient tower was integrated into the castle when it was built later and contains stones that are engraved with unknown symbols.
As if this doesn’t already make this one of the creepiest abandoned castles on this list, there’s also a legend attached to the ancient tower. Apparently, anyone who sleeps there dies within a year. So, whatever you do, don’t get sleepy when you’re exploring this site.
The exact date of the castle’s construction isn’t known, though mentions of it are found in writings dating back to 1234. It’s located at a junction between the Vltava and Otava rivers, around 15 kilometres or nine miles north of Písek. Today, this is one of the most difficult to access abandoned castles, as it stands on a steep promontory above the rivers. The castle has been partially destroyed, added to, and used for a variety of reasons over the years. It has also inspired painter and writers with its chilling atmosphere and supernatural stories.
7. Bran Castle
Vlad the Impaler is one of the world’s best known and brutal historical figures. According to the stories, he took death and torture to a new level. He was particularly known for impaling his victims alive on stakes and displaying them outside of his castle. In fact, he was so brutal that he became one of the biggest inspirations for Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel. So, there’s really no wonder that his once home is now one of the creepiest abandoned castles in the world.
Bran Castle in Romania is on the border of Wallachia and Transylvania. It was built in 1378 to defend against Turkish invaders. It is thought to have once been the seat of Vlad Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler as he has come to be known. And as if that wasn’t enough to give you goosebumps, there’s a chapel on the grounds that holds the heart of Queen Marie in a golden casket. This is definitely one of those abandoned castles that you wouldn’t want to be near at night.
8. Moosham Castle
Moosham Castle was built at the end of the 12th century and is better known as the Witches Castle. It’s located near Unternberg in the Lungau region of Salzburg, Austria. Over the years, like most abandoned castles, this site saw lots of bloodshed and turmoil. But its role during the Witch Trials is what makes it really stand out. The castle served as an administration center during the Zaubererjackl witch trials between 1675–1690. And this history is what gives it a creepy vibe that’s greater than most other abandoned castles.
Around 139 people were executed during the trials, 39 of them children between the ages of 10 and 14. Many of them were tortured, burned and mutilated before they were hanged, burned alive, or decapitated. But the stories didn’t stop there. In the 19th century, numerous dead animals were found near the castle. This gave rise to stories of werewolves using the castle as a refuge.
The castle is now privately owned and contains an art collection that is accessible to the public.
9. Dragsholm Castle
The Dragsholm Castle in Zealand, Denmark has one of the longest spooky histories of any of the world’s abandoned castles. It’s one of the oldest secular buildings in Denmark and the original castle was built in 1215. It was modified during the Middle Ages from a palace to a fortified castle. These modifications made it the only castle in Zealand strong enough to withstand the armies of Count Christoffer in the mid-1500s.
Today, this site is one of the scariest abandoned castles in Denmark, with lots of ghost sightings. One of the ghosts is supposedly a young girl dressed in white. According to the story, she was imprisoned in her room by her father after falling in love with a commoner. Her bones clothed in a white dress were found in one of the castle walls by construction workers in the 20th centuries, adding fuel to the story.
This castle was also used as a prison from 1536 to about 1664 for noble and ecclesiastical prisoners after the Protestant Reformation. This may be the reason why Dragsholm is one of the most haunted abandoned castles in Europe. More than a hundred ghosts have been seen within its walls, many of them prisoners who spent their last days in pain and torment and never moved on.
10. Charleville Castle
Charleville Castle is located in Ireland and is thought to be one of the most haunted abandoned castles in the country. The castle is located near the Shannon River next to the town of Tullamore and is in the middle of Ireland’s most primordial woods. These woods were once the territory of Ireland’s druids. The style of the castle is legend. It took 14 years to complete and is one of the finest examples of gothic-revival architecture in the country.
Charleville Castle is said to be haunted by a girl named Harriet, who was the third Earl of Charleville’s daughter. According to the stories, she died in 1861 at the age of eight, when she fell from the staircase. Over the years, the creepy stories and hauntings at this castle have brought in paranormal investigators and TV reality shows. It seems everyone wants to experience one of the Irelands scariest abandoned castles.
If you enjoy exploring the creepier side of life, then you should spend some time in the world’s most chilling abandoned castles. There’s nothing like a bit of history to make a place of legend and story even more powerful.