In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Prague was under the reign of Rudolf II. Rudolf had something of an obsession about the so-called "philosopher’s stone". Legend suggested that this stone could transmute cheaper metals into gold, through the somewhat dubious practice of alchemy. The rewards offered for managing such an impossible feat were huge, for Rudolph openly craved an easy source of gold. Many an alchemist searched fervently for the answer. Fail in this task and risk not only the incurring the king's displeasure, but exposure to the possibility of a slow, painful death from poorly-managed contact with highly poisonous substances. Thus, Prague was held in the grip of an alchemic movement that captured some of the brightest, most assiduous minds of the time. Alchemy laboratories were commonplace beneath the streets of 17th century Prague. King Rudolf's interests spanned the sciences, the arts and the paranormal. His interest in alchemy, black magic, ghouls and ghosts has given Prague a very interesting history with some fascinatingly dark tales…
Tale of the gold ring:
Legend has it that a golden ring was lost by one of the many ghosts of the Old Town, no doubt up to some ghoulish mischief one night. The ring was picked up by a local merchant. The merchant was a superstitious man, as many of the common folk were at the time. Thus the merchant decided to use the ring to ward off ghouls from his home. To do this, he put the ring above the gate of his house ensure protection against evil. Today you can see the ring on display above the door at his former home.
Tale of the mysterious beast:
One late evening, a lone girl was walking through Prague's old town when suddenly a green, many-headed dog-like beast, charged towards her. Completely frightened, the girl fainted. Once she awoke, she ran straight home to tell her family but alas, no one believed her. The next night, the same beast was spotted on the same street by a neighbour of the girl’s family who had heard about the story. People panicked as word spread across the town that there was a savage, terrifying beast haunting the thoroughfare at night. People avoided the street for fear of encountering the beast. For weeks, the beast appeared to various local people until one night it just went, never to be seen again. The disappearance of the beast coincided with an explosion of an underground alchemy laboratory, in the very same street haunted by the beast. It is now thought that toxic fumes seeping up through the street from the alchemy laboratory caused these vivid, terrifying hallucinations. Those who had heard of the beast expected the beast to appear, and the toxic fumes encouraged the hallucination to manifest.
These tales are just a couple of those passed on to us from locals during our visit to Prague. When you go, be sure to visit McGee’s Ghost tours for a fantastic evening out after dark. Learn more about the fascinating and spooky history of this Bohemian city, including the haunted darkness of an old convent and a haunted former mental hospital where all the victims died of the Black Death!
Prague is a beautiful city and well worth a visit. A Top 5 must do activities in Prague will be available soon.