Ghosts of Ogrodzieniec Castle in Poland
A ghostly black dog isn't the only thing prowling castle ruins in Poland.
What is it about old castle ruins that attract ghosts? Other than the obvious, of course—that castle ruins are just awesome. There's usually some story of an apparition, a strange beast, local legends of orbs or lights, or odd encounters with people who seem to be from another time period. Let's take a trip to Poland, to a small town called Ogrodzieniec, where a ghostly black dog (and maybe a few other spirits) haunts the ruins of a 14th-century castle.
Pronunciation of Ogrodzieniec
Go ahead and try to say that before you listen to a native Polish speaker saying the word. Here's how to pronounce Ogrodzieniec. Was your pronunciation close? Chances are that it was pretty far off if you don't speak Polish. In case you can't listen to that native Polish recording out loud, you can get a rough approximation of the word like this: au-grow-jean-yetz. (That's au as in, "Just fry and stop me from eating these au gratin potatoes.")
There's nothing like a map to show a place's location. The town of Ogrodzieniec is in the southern part of Poland and dates back to around the 11th century.
Originally, Ogrodzieniec was a wooden castle in a forest settlement until sometime in 1241, when the entire place was burned to the ground during the first Mongol Invasion of Poland (there were three invasions). A Polish trumpeter saw the invading army, sounded the alarm, and then promptly took an arrow to the throat.
The invasion took less than a year before Polish armies lost to the Mongols. A new stone castle at Ogrodzieniec was built afterward. The Ogrodzieniec castle is one of twenty-five along a chain of medieval castles in southwestern Poland that make up the Trail of Eagles' Nests.
Reported Hauntings of Ogrodzieniec Castle
The ruins of Ogrodzieniec Castle are said to be prowled at night by a black dog that pulls a heavy chain. Some people believe the dog to be the spirit of a nobleman named Stanisław Warszycki, who was accused of cruelty against his peasants and rumored to have sold his soul to the Devil. He may have even built a "cave of tortures" at Ogrodzieniec. The castle does have a known torture chamber that you can still visit at the ruins.
There are a lot of stories about Stanisław Warszycki, and most of them paint him as a villain.
Just to name a few of these stories: he blew up part of his wife and part of his own castle after suspecting she had an affair, he immured (enclosed her in part of the castle) his wife for being unfaithful or possibly for trying to poison him, and he promised a dowry to his daughter and then gave her nothing out of his own greed. Then again, he's also said to have held feasts for poor people and provided baths and clean clothes for them.
The truth isn't exactly clear, and we may never really know. What we do know, though, is that Stanisław Warszycki's ghost reportedly haunts at least three castles in the Trail of Eagles' Nests—one of which is at Ogrodzieniec, another at Danków and yet another at Olsztyn.
The black dog stalks the castle at night, supposedly guarding wealth that Stanisław Warszycki left behind, or perhaps as torment from the Devil for making an unholy bargain.
While researching the castle, I did find a few sources mentioning human ghosts in the vicinity, along with the black dog. I wasn't able to dig up much information on them, unfortunately, so if anyone reading this happens to know more, please do get in touch.
The black dog spirit reminds me of a fairly well-known legend from English and Nordic folklore: a church grim. A church grim is a spirit that takes the form of a black dog and protects churchyards from vandals, thieves, witches, warlocks, and even the Devil himself. They are supposed to come from the very first burial in a new churchyard, and some sites have even buried a black dog before burying any humans so that the dog's soul will stand guard instead of a human soul. You may have heard of these dogs via a legend, or maybe Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but if you want to see a fictional one in action, I'd highly recommend you check out the series: The Ancient Magus' Bride.
As far as the legend of the church grim and the stories of the black dog of Ogrodzieniec Castle go, their duty seems to be similar in that they are both guarding something, but their motivations are quite different. Outside the churchyard, there are dozens of other legends of black dogs from folklore around the world—many of which are thought to be connected with the Devil and generally considered malevolent. Tales of black dogs are so prevalent, in fact, that one of the most famous stories ever written, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, features them and may have been inspired by authentic English folklore.
If you're ever out at Ogrodzieniec Castle at night and you hear chains rattling, you may want to run—or that could actually turn you into prey for the black dog to hunt, as turning and running from wildlife predators is typically a bad idea. How exactly would you handle a malevolent black dog stalking you? 🤔
Relevant & Related
- Iron Maiden released a video in 1984 of footage of the band in Eastern Europe, and Ogrodzienec Castle served as a backdrop for their song "Hallowed By Thy Name." You can see it here: Iron Maiden - Hallowed Be Thy Name (Behind The Iron Curtain). (Castle Ogrodzienec first appears around the 44-second mark.)
- You can follow Ogrodzieniec Castle on Facebook over at Zamek Ogrodzieniec. (Zamek, meaning "castle.")
- At the foot of the ruins of Castle Ogrodzieniec is Park Miniatur—a park of miniatures with replicas of siege engines, castles and strongholds, valleys and canyons, and much more.
- SILESIA FLESZ TVS on YouTube has a short video during one of the annual International Knights Tournament at Ogrodzieniec Castle.
- Ogrodzieniec Castle is one of the filming locations for The Witcher television series. Take a walk around the place with Closely Observed World on YouTube: Ogrodzieniec Castle, Poland.
- Get even more photos and videos of the area with A visit to the medieval Ogrodzieniec Castle.
- Can't get enough haunted castles? Here's a 45-minute documentary about haunted castles in Wales: The Mystery Of Wales' Most Haunted Castles.
- Want to read another article I've written about Poland? Check out artist Zdzisław Beksiński.
Originally published in my weekly newsletter Into Horror History—every week, I explore the history and lore of horror, from influential creators to obscure events. Cryptids, ghosts, folklore, books, music, movies, strange phenomena, urban legends, psychology, and creepy mysteries.
About the Creator
J.A. Hernandez enjoys horror, playing with cats, and hiding indoors away from the sun. Also, books. So many books—you wouldn't believe.
He runs a weekly newsletter called Into Horror History and writes fiction.
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