Interactive map tracks Prague's ghosts

The city is haunted by everything from headless horsemen to demonic rabbits

Prague according to legend was founded by Libuše, a pagan princess who could see the future. It should be no surprise that the city is filled with tales of ghosts and apparitions. There are over 100 ghosts, demons, walking skeletons and supernatural creatures popping up from time to time all over the city, at least according to books on ghosts and legends.

A new interactive map that can be bookmarked on smartphones pinpoints the locations of the alleged hauntings and places mentioned in legends.

The map was actually made by the author (Raymond Johnston) as guide for a few friends interested in ghost stories and similar legends, and published on a website of legends called Magic Bohemia run by Baba Studios, a small company that designs tarot cards and organizes an annual esoteric tour.

But it has started to take off, gathering lots of shares on social media and proving popular outside of the niche audience it was intended for.

Aside from ghosts, the map shows places linked to some alchemists and more modern practitioners of esoteric arts.

The map compiles legends from seven books, with a few other spots added for completeness. The points are ranked by how many books mention the tales, with yellow being the most and blue the least.

The most talked about ghost is the proud countess with bread shoes. She is supposed to have made shoes from bread and thrown a ball at Černín Palace, now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Demons from the nearby entrance to hell came up and dragged the countess to hell. She returns nightly to the empty ministry to look for a dancing partner, but, alas, the ministry is closed at night.

The square in front the ministry had a column until the late 1700s marking the spot where the same demons came up and dragged the last of the pagan royal family, Drahomira, down below in her carriage. The rest of the family had converted to Christianity and she waited outside the small church that stood there, refusing to enter. A dark circle in the pavement marks the spot.

Another popular story is the Iron Knight. A statue of this ghost stands on the side of City Hall, making it the only government building anywhere with such a spooky decoration. The knight had been engaged to a blacksmith's daughter. But when he returned from a war he heard false rumors that she had been unfaithful. He killed her in a rage, but before she died she cursed him and turned him to stone.

Once every hundred years, if a woman pure of heart kisses the Iron Knight, the stone can turn back to human form. But when that date is nobody remembers. The statue at City Hall is a copy, of course, by sculptor Ladislav Šaloun. He includes the nude murdered woman on the side, though many people miss that detail.

Ladislav Šaloun makes his own appearance on the map. He used to hold seances in the basement of his workshop, and attendees included Ema Destinnová, the opera star on the Kč 2,000 banknote, and other artists and musicians of the early 20th century.

Another popular ghost is the headless horseman who haunts what is now called Prague Crossroads, and used as the headquarters of an NGO. The former Church of St Anne was originally used by Templars. But the headless knight lost interest in riding down Liliova Street on his flaming horse after the church was converted to a printer's warehouse. He sits and sulks, waiting for some respect. Perhaps he will become interested in helping the NGO.

Then there are the downright odd tales. A ghost of a fiery turkey haunts a former mill on Kampa island every Good Friday. Weirder still is obscure demonic rabbit in the former pagan grove at Bohnice. Worse for the wear, there is a headless horseman on a three-legged horse that rides to the accompaniment of fiery sparks on Hybernská Street.

The map is a work in progress. More points will be added as more legends are compiled.

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