A seafaring buccaneer tried to hide on land but could not escape his fate
The current mayor of Prague, since November 15, 2018, has been a member of the Czech Pirate Party. But he is certainly not the first to fly the Jolly Roger in the Golden City. Before him, the was a pirate who became a ghost.
While the new Pirates at City Hall are by all accounts a decent and honest bunch, deep in Prague’s history there is a real buccaneer from the sea.
Even though Prague is the capital of a landlocked country, it has the angry ghost of a sea pirate wandering the streets of New Town near náměstí Republiky.
A Dutch pirate called the Red Goat, the nom de guerre of one Fredrik Jensen, sailed the seas looking for pieces of eight and other booty. He made enemies on both sides of the law as he had a tendency not to share his spoils and to be particularly ruthless with those he plundered.
But as all people do, he eventually wanted to settle down and live off the wealth he had accumulated.
He also wanted to evade both the law and other pirates, as they both wanted to get his treasure and to hang him from the nearest yardarm, with or without a trial.
Jensen came up with a simple plan. He would take a chest with as much as he could carry and go so far from the seas that nobody would recognize him or even be looking for him. No stranger to maps, he quickly figured out that Prague was practically the center of Europe, equally far from the Atlantic Ocean, North Sea and Mediterranean.
As many foreigners do when they arrive in the City of a Hundred Spires, he got caught up in a life of wine, women and song. Only, it was actually more beer than wine and not that much song. He tried to fit in by changing his name to the Slavic sounding Valentin Pazdirek, but with his thick accent, with Dutch and German sprinkled into his basic Czech vocabulary, his nautical tattoos and his rough manners, he didn’t really fool anyone.
He spent liberally in Prague’s bars and found a favorite among the city’s many women of the night, a lady who called herself Černá Lilie, or Black Lily, though very likely that was also not her real name. She pretended to be sweet and nice, but all the time she was trying to find the source of his wealth.
Eventually, “Valentin” invited “Lily” to his flat on Truhlářská Street in Prague’s New Town section. After much drinking and general carousing, Lily began to ask about the money. After quite a bit of Moravian slivovice, Valentin dropped a few hints about his past as the Red Goat and where the money was. Lily felt she knew enough to carry out her plan, so she gave him enough slivovice that he passed out.
She killed him with one of his own old pirate knives when he was unconscious, and pulled apart the most obvious loose boards in the walls, ceiling and floor until she found several boxes with pieces of eight, gold doubloons and precious gems and jewels.
Lily fled to the city and changed her name again. Some say she went to Budapest, others that she fled to Russia or Spain. She possibly posed as a countess or a wealthy widow. In any event, the trail for her runs as cold as her icy blood, and she was never heard from again.
The pirate, though, is another matter. The Red Goat wanders up and down Truhlářská Street on midnights in his classical pirate garb brandishing his saber, and looking for Lily and his twice purloined treasure — stolen by him and stolen from him.
Nobody knows where Lily went, and the treasure is certainly long gone. But there is no telling the Red Goat that, and woe to those who try, as he gets angry at any suggestion that Lily and the fortune are both beyond reach.
There is no way to free him from his haunting tasks, as he won’t be satisfied with anything but the restoration of his chest of coins and jewels, and the return of his beloved Black Lily.
While most Prague ghosts are locals, there are a few exotic strays among the bunch. Aside from this pirate there is a Native American who died while on tour with a Wild West Show and an African native who was held captive and died in a shameful sideshow, aside from some well-known Turkish merchants and assorted invading soldiers.
Beyond this tale, there is no mention of any pirate called Red Goat or Fredrik Jensen, or any lady named Black Lily. Likely the tale is cut from nine yards of whole cloth.
Truhlářská Street is near several other locales with ghost legends such as Na Poříčí Street, St Peter’s Church on Biskupská Street, and náměstí Republiky, which together have a rich assortment, from phantom horsemen to a gambling priest and even a mean and wild unicorn.
Truhlářská dates to the 14th century when New Town was founded, and its name refers to carpentry. The street has had a few name changes over the years including Na Latráně, Šterclérská, Hrnčířská, Kaňovic and Skalská.
Hrnčířská refers to pottery being made there. Some of the other names come from prominent residents.
Oldřich Šterclér was a wealthy resident in the 14th century and Pavel Kaňha lived there around the year 1500. Jan Skalský of Dubá had a house there from 1616 to 1619 in a building that is now a school.
The name Pirate of Prague is often used to refer to one of the people involved in privatizations of government property right after the fall of communism, an era that had more than its share of corruption.
The current Pirate Party in the Czech Republic, ironically, has risen to be a major political player on an anti-corruption and transparency platform, as well as presenting itself as a modern 21st-century party that will create efficiency through new technology.
Main image: Fight between the French Confiance and the Kent, by Ambroise Louis Garneray. Public domain