(Hey, I'm pleased as punch to welcome back one of my favorite gothic horror authors, Catherine Cavendish. Cat always brings the spooky with her well-researched trips into gothic history and this is no exception. Also, her new book, Waking the Ancients, has just been released. It's a sequel to her stellar book, Wrath of the Ancients, and I can't wait to dig into it. So onward!)
I have set a large part of 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.
Some forty nine miles south of Vienna, in a remote spot not far from the Lower Austrian town of Warth, stands one of the most beautiful castles in Austria – Steyersberg. It lies on top of a tall hill and, with its 100 rooms, is an imposing sight.
It has been owned by the same family – the Wurmbrand-Stuppachs – for centuries, but this noble family have been haunted by their past evil deeds and a curse which has followed them down the generations.
The family itself is steeped in legend. It is said the origin of the Wurmbrand (literally ‘fireworm’) part of the name came from an early Countess Stuppach whose husband, the Count, disappeared during the Crusades. The knights were becoming impatient with her, urging her to remarry and bear an heir to secure the succession. She stalled them but when a lindworm (a serpent/dragon hybrid) appeared in the area and began killing indiscriminately, she relented and agreed to marry any man who could kill it. The farmer who did so won her hand and the wedding celebrations lasted a full week.
In common with many castles, this one has a dungeon which has seen much torture and cruelty. During successive wars against Turkish and Hungarian forces –among others – prisoners were held there in appalling conditions, often dying as a consequence, or being murdered. At least one prisoner issued a curse that no male family member would die a natural death until the family name died out.
This certainly seems to have held true as none did die a natural death and the name has indeed died out, certainly as far as ownership of the castle is concerned. With the death of Count Degenhard von Wurmbrand in 1965, the castle passed to his daughter Leonora and is now in the hands of her son, Dr Paul Miller.
Count Degenhard himself had some strange experiences growing up in the castle. As a child of six, he woke one night to see three crows in his bedroom. His younger brother, Ernst, was asleep and their nurse saw nothing. The memory of the strange encounter stuck with him until, many years later, he met an alleged American psychic in Hollywood who asked him who the black entity was that surrounded him. He recommended exorcism and a Buddhist monk tried to perform the ceremony a total of three times. He knew nothing of the Count’s history but described three ragged men who were the ghosts of three who had been sorely wronged by two of the Count’s ancestors. They had been falsely accused of treason, and had been tortured and killed in the castle in 1710 when the castle was indeed in joint ownership.
Count Degenard Wurmbrand was a peace loving man but, on hearing this, revealed that it could explain why he sometimes had an almost overwhelming desire to kill. He then realized something else. The phenomena surrounding the three crows had occurred in the room that just happened to be directly above the dungeon. He immediately ordered that the dungeon be sealed so that to this day no one can access it unless they want to demolish a sturdy wall.
Count Degenhard lived in the USA for a number of years but when he returned, in 1961, he learned that a séance had taken place there in his absence and that a number of the participants had been quite scared. A male clairvoyant had conducted proceedings and all present had heard heavy footsteps. His brother, Count Ernst, was resident in the castle and he claimed these then followed him to his room. Terrified, he asked the medium for advice and the man, with no knowledge of the goings on in the boys’ bedroom all those years earlier went directly to that room, saying he wanted to sleep there. He emerged next morning none the worse for his experience but it was curious he chose that particular room when he could have had any of fifty or so alternatives.
It is possible the curse has now expired, although there are some who say that the three angry prisoners still carry their resentment and thirst for revenge. It is to be hoped that, if that is so, no one lets them out of their walled up dungeon for, if they do - as we know from Dr. Emeryk Quintillus’s example - the consequences could be disastrous.
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 . . .
You can find Waking the Ancients 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. Novellas include Linden Manor and Dark Avenging Angel. 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: