Utrecht is an ancient city. That means there has been plenty of time for people to die and ghosts to move into cellars and other abandoned places. With its buildings from the Middle Ages, it’s cobblestoned streets, and its hidden alleyways, Utrecht is the perfect setting for terrifying horror stories. You can easily find loads of haunted places, if you know where to look. In this blog post, we’ll tell you where to find some of the most infamous ones.
Paushuize (House of the Pope)
Paushuize can be found on the corner of the Kromme Nieuwegracht and the Pausdam in Utrecht. It was built in 1517 for Pope Adrianus VI, the only Dutch (and Utrecht) pope in history. Unfortunately, he never lived in it: he died in Rome in 1523, without ever seeing his house in Utrecht. Since 2012, it has been Utrecht’s most beautiful location for conferences, weddings and dinners for larger groups. But there are stories of employees regularly hearing mysterious noises in the building: from creaking floors to clanking doors. The tale goes that it is the ghost of the wife of Napoleon, who still roams the building. So how did she end up here?
In 1807, Napoleon found his temporary home here. His wife – Queen Hortense Eugénie Cécile de Beauharnais – was so pleased that she would have said that after her death her soul would go to this house. In the building, a staircase in the basement ends on a closed wall. The story goes that she still lives behind this wall. In 2012, a paranormal team even investigated the place and the person with the paranormal senses said that she felt a court case, a beheading, the suicide of a woman and the presence of a one and a half year old girl.
The ghost cellars
In 2020, during a the large-scale renovation of the ramparts and vault walls along the canals in Utrecht city-centre, dozens and possibly even hundreds of unknown cellars where discovered. No one knows yet what they look like. The municipality used a ground radar, hints of residents and their own archives to find these hidden cavities. In the past, these cellars might have been used for all kinds of secret activities, so they might hide all kinds of interesting objects and maybe even dead people. For example, there’s a story about a secret wine cellar during the Second World War. A wine merchant made grateful use of a cellar at the Abraham Dolehof that was not included in the registry. The occupiers didn’t realize anything, so after the liberation a lot of wine was available that had been safely stored for five years.
Hof van Utrecht (Court of Utrecht)
A stone gate from the 17th century at Nieuwegracht is all that remains of the former Court of Utrecht, the court of the lordship (and later province) of Utrecht. The administration of justice took place in the buildings of the Paulus Abbey (from 1050!), which had fallen into disuse after the Reformation. Part of the ancient tuff stone wall emerged during a renovation in the 20th century. Part of it can be viewed and touched when you walk through the Hofpoort.
Anyway, back to court. Behind this gate, ‘justice’ was administered until 1811. By today’s standards, pretty horrific things happened here. During the Eighty Years’ War, the suspects of the Amersfoort witchcraft trials were executed here. Among others, the 80-year-old Geertgen was sentenced to strangulation and burning at the stake for allegedly bewitching children (by means of a biscuit, which meant they were probably simply spoiled by her). Some minors were also tortured to death because they would have slept with the devil.
Galghenwert (Stadium Galgenwaard)
It is home to the Utrecht football club: Stadion Galgenwaard. You can regularly hear the cheering cries of the loyal supporters, but it used to be not all that cheerful here. In the middle ages, the field of Galgenwaard was used to bring the bodies of people who were publicly executed by decapitation or hanging. On the Galgenwaard field, the corpses were hung or placed on a high pole with a wheel at the top. It could be even worse, because sometimes specific body parts were exhibited, such as a head on a skewer. They left these bodies hanging here until they were eaten by animals. The field was used for this purpose until 1600.