In The Footsteps of Ghosts…
I have set a large part of my latest novel, Waking the Ancients in Vienna, Austria where many ghosts and restless spirits walk among the verdant parks and lavish palaces. But Austrian ghosts do not confine themselves to their nation’s imperial capital. They can be found in towns, cities, villages and the depths of the countryside all over this beautiful land.
In Styria you can find the Barock castle of Riegersburg (now renamed Schloss Ruegers). It has endured a chequered history, alternately loved and then left to deteriorate into a virtual ruin. First mentioned in 1390, it was remodelled extensively in the late sixteenth century, and then again in 1730 to plans drawn up by noted architect Franz Anton Pilgram (he has a street and a bridge named after him in Vienna).
There are a number of ghosts walking the sumptuous rooms, halls and surroundings of the castle, and their footsteps can be heard on still nights. One of these unfortunates is said to be Graf Ferdinand von Hardegg. By the end of the sixteenth century, the Hardegg family who owned the castle, had become Protestatnt and as such, directly opposed the Catholicism of the Emperor. Count Ferdinand was commander of the Fortress of Raab and, as this was during the lengthy war with the Turks, made the decision to surrender the fortress precipitously. As punishment for this, he was sentenced to death by hanging. This was later commuted to death by beheading, which was carried out in Vienna in 1595. His headless ghost continues to walk the corridors of his castle to this day.
There is a bedroom in the castle where the covers are regularly disturbed so that they and the pillow look as if someone has slept in them – but nobody has. This even happens when the door has been locked, with no available key. In an attempt to solve the mystery, flour was sprinkled on the floor to see if ghostly tracks (or those of a more solid kind) could be seen. The next day, the covers were disturbed but no tracks were visible. What is really going on in that room remains open to debate. Maybe someone has a spare key and likes to play tricks, while carefully removing any trace of footprints. Or maybe there really is a ghost, enjoying some well-earned rest.
Another likely contender as resident ghost, possibly chief among them, has to be one of the most famous – infamous even – owners of the castle. Katharina Elisabeth von Galler, known as the Gallerin. She owned the castle for a long time in the early seventeenth century and, in legend, she is remembered as a quarrelsome, difficult woman, but she was certainly ahead of her time in claiming equal ownership rights. In her day, inheriting a castle from her late husband was unheard of. Castles were owned by men not women. The Gallerin, however, was not like other women. There was nothing subservient about her. She prepared to do battle to keep the castle for herself. She came from a wealthy family – the Radkersburgs, who were merchants who had achieved wealth and status in the sixteenth century. In 1630, she married Hans Wilhelm von Galler and they had a daughter, Katharina Regina. Her husband died in 1650 and thus began many years of trials against male heirs and even against her own daughter and son in law as well as a major battle with the main pastor of Riegersburg. This latter dispute went to extremes largely because the pastor disapproved of the Gallerin’s allegedly dissolute lifestyle, having an affair with her steward. In response, Katharina incited her subjects to revolt against the pastor and accused her opponents of a number of atrocities.
In 1661, she married for the second time and, following his death in battle in 1666 took a third husband – the slightly younger Baron Rudolf von Stradl who beat her servants and spent most of his time in a drunken stupor. The marriage was impossible and, in 1669, Katharina divorced him – again a most unusual action for a woman of her time.
She continued to fortify the castle, providing safe refuge for her subjects in a time of war against both the Turks and the Hungarians. Her wealth had enabled her to rise above the usual lowly station of women in those times and she died in 1672, genuinely mourned by the subjects she had loved and protected. A woman of contrasts indeed. So, does she still watch over her beloved castle? Is it she who sleeps in the bedroom when no one else is there? We shall probably never know.
Waking the Ancients
Legacy In Death
University student Lizzie Charters accompanies her mentor, Dr. Emeryk Quintillus, on the archeological dig to uncover Cleopatra’s tomb. Her presence is required for a ceremony conducted by the renowned professor to resurrect Cleopatra’s spirit—inside Lizzie’s body. Quintillus’s success is short-lived, as the Queen of the Nile dies soon after inhabiting her host, leaving Lizzie’s soul adrift . . .
Paula Bancroft’s husband just leased Villa Dürnstein, an estate once owned by Dr. Quintillus. Within the mansion are several paintings and numerous volumes dedicated to Cleopatra. But the archeologist’s interest in the Egyptian empress deviated from scholarly into supernatural, infusing the very foundations of his home with his dark fanaticism. And as inexplicable manifestations rattle Paula’s senses, threatening her very sanity, she uncovers the link between the villa, Quintillus, and a woman named Lizzie Charters.
And a ritual of dark magic that will consume her soul . . .
Waking the Ancients is published by Kensington-Lyrical on April 24th and is available here:
About the Author:
Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine. She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.
You can connect with Cat here: