The Haunting of Burg Hohenecken

High atop the Schlossburg over Hohenecken, in Hessia, stands the glorified ruin of the spur castle of Burg Hohenecken. This 13th century fortress, which looms above the valley town below, once belonged to the descendants of Reinhard von Lautern. In the 17th century, a siege resulted in its ruination by French troops, from which it never was restored.

Over the centuries the castle has accrued a number of legends: a wise woman who gave prophecy to the doomed maiden Hildegard, stories of buried treasure, and the plague miracles attributed to St. Roch. And so in my brief time there, my imagination swelled with these stories and images. Each day I would climb up the castle hill to take in the setting of the medieval legends, and be rewarded with the view of the Hohenecken valley below (to someone like me who’s spent most of his life at sea level, a snow covered castle on a tall hill is irresistible).

At the last stretch of my visit, I decided to face the cold of German winter one last time, and went alone in the night to climb the Schlossberg. Though I was now familiar with the way to the top, at night the paths seemed both steeper and more treacherous. Once past the barrier, there is no light to be had. And it was in these conditions that my imagination got the better of me. The wooded hill quickly muffled any sounds from the sleepy town below. Every step of mine became too loud against the quiet. My mind started filling in the blanks caused by the silence and the dark.

Fear of what goes bump in the night slowed me down so much. What animals may be watching me in this strange terrain? What other people could be out on this hill? Why do I feel like I am being watched? The stories of the battles that took place here came to mind, and the dread that some dead soldier might appear to scare me off. One last steep climb and I had made it to the top of the hill, and the foot of the castle whose stones threatened to fall down on me at any moment. And it was then that I heard the foot steps across the outer ward, and they were slowly heading toward me.

Never have I climbed downhill faster in my life! Goodbye to whatever may be up there watching me. Goodbye to the spirits of this old mound. Let me go and I will not come back! The self-styled sorcerer, who would have climbed the summit to perform a magic rite under the stars, was so easily spooked by the things he keeps in his own head. At the time it was exhilarating and frightful, and now safe at home I feel so silly.

The church of St. Roch on that clear night.

The mind, where all magic is to be found, is so easily suggestible.

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