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Ruprecht the Trumpeter: A headless ghost haunts the Senate

One of Prague's finest palaces is home to a headless ghost who missed an important command.

Some people like to sleep in late, especially after a night of partying. And isn’t it just those mornings that someone starts band practice in their garage, or worse yet, jack-hammering in the street? Back a few centuries ago, the issue was often the daily trumpeting at palaces to announce the comings and goings of assorted noblemen and ladies, and the starts of various parts of the day. A headless ghost is a reminder of those times.

There was a trumpeter called Ruprecht at Wallenstein Palace who was particularly proud of his skills, blowing louder and longer than anyone else. Sometimes he even forgot what he was trumpeting about, and would keep on with his improvisations.

This was all well and good while General Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein was off fighting battles or at one of his other estates such as Frýdlant Castle in Northern Bohemia. But when he was in residence in Prague’s Wallenstein Palace it was not time for fun and games. Generals in general have little sense of humor.

General Wallenstein left word that he was not to be disturbed for any reason at all, and he locked himself in his room.

He didn’t explain why, but it was not his character to tell servants more than they needed to know. Some speculated he got hold of some bad food or wine at lunch, others that he was upset about an unfavorable horoscope — he took the stars very seriously — and finally a few claimed that he had toothache that wouldn’t let up.

Wallenstein Palace magic prague tarot headless ghost
One of the courtyards of Wallenstein Palace
Marble statue of General Wallenstein headless ghost tarot of prague bohemian gothic
Marble statue of General Wallenstein
Detail of the main hall magic bohemia tarot of prague
Detail of the decor in the main hall of Wallenstein Palace
Detail of the decor in the main hall headless ghost tarot of prague bohemian gothic
Detail of the decor in the main hall

His command was whispered around the palace, and not too loudly so as not to upset the commander. But it didn’t reach Ruprecht, who went about his trumpeting chores. A maid chased after him as he went up the stairs to reach one of the high windows, but she was too slow.

Just as she reached the door, Ruprecht belted out a rousing ditty to tell everyone that it was vespers, or lamp-lighting time.

But Ruprecht would not live to see if anyone heeded his call. The General stormed into the room and, in a flash, cut off the offender’s head.

That didn’t stop the faithful trumpeter, though. He now wanders around Wallenstein Palace with his head in one hand and trumpet in the other, still trying to announce the hours. But anyone can see that the head wouldn’t be able to muster up much breath without any lungs, and that Ruprecht doesn’t have a hand free to play any notes.

He’s not a bad headless ghost, and quite friendly if you stop to chat with him. That is unless you are a wind musician carrying your instrument. Then he flies into a rage, swinging his head and trumpet as he flails his arms. But this makes him too dizzy to put on a proper chase, so the musicians have an easy time getting away.

The palace garden hosts free classical concerts many times a year, attracting thousands of fans, but there hasn’t been an incident recently.

Sculpture in the Wallenstein Garden headless ghost tarot of prague bohemian gothic
Sculpture in the Wallenstein Garden
Sculpture in the Wallenstein Garden headless ghost tarot of prague bohemian gothic
Sculpture in the Wallenstein Garden

Background

Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein, known in Czech as Albrecht Václav Eusebius z Valdštejna, is well-known in esoteric circles for his strong belief in astrology, so strong that when assassins came for him on a day long predicted to be one of his last, he didn’t fight back.

He was one of the most significant generals of the Thirty Years’ War, which lasted from 1618 to 1648. Wallenstein Palace was built between 1623 and 1630 and Wallenstein himself died in 1634, so this can give us a rough time for the story. While it is a charming tale, there is no external evidence to confirm that a trumpeter was ever executed there.

The palace is now the Senate building, and its statue-filled garden is a public park that features an original dripstone wall, complete with mysterious devil faces, a fish-filled fountain, an owlery, and roaming peacocks. His riding school is part of the National Gallery and the street containing the palace is named after him.

Dog sculpture in the Wallenstein Garden
Dog sculpture in the Wallenstein Garden
Pavilion used for concerts and events headless ghost tarot of prague bohemian gothic
Pavilion used for concerts and events
Wallenstein Garden magic prague tarot headless ghost
White peacock in Wallenstein Garden
wallenstain mermaid magic bohemia tarot of prague
Mural of a mermaid

The palace is quite elaborate. Some 26 houses, six gardens and two brickworks were torn down to make room for it. Wallenstein hired Italian architects and artisans to make the palace a showplace. Architects included Andrea Spezza and Niccolo Sebregondi. The interiors were decorated by artists from Florence. A fortune also went into the furnishings and precious metal tableware.

After Wallenstein’s death, the palace fell into the hands of relatives, where it remained until 1945 when it became state property.

The surrounding streets are home to many other ghost tales. A gluttonous merchant resides in the pub next door. Down the street is the woman with two husbands, due to a World War I misunderstanding. There is a fiery man searching for lost treasureNaked Cecilie perished fleeing from a house during a blizzard. A skeleton with a nail in its head wanders nearby. Up the hill, a well is supposed to have once been the hiding place of the philosopher’s stone.

The Tarot of Prague features several cards with references to Wallenstein or his palace, including The Knight of Swords which shows Wallenstein himself on his warhorse. The pavilion  of the palace can be seen on the Ten of Cups and the mermaid on the Page of Cups has fresco from that same pavilion.  The staff on the Ace of Wands comes from a statue in the palace garden. Justice in the Major Arcana has an image from an inlaid wooden panel inside the palace.

Mural of Wallenstein as Mars in Wallenstein Palace magic bohemia tarot of prague
Mural of Wallenstein as Mars in Wallenstein Palace
Knight of Swords from The Tarot of Prague, © BabaBarock Ltd magic bohemia
Knight of Swords from The Tarot of Prague, © BabaBarock Ltd
Ten of Cups from The Tarot of Prague, © BabaBarock Ltd
Ten of Cups from The Tarot of Prague, © BabaBarock Ltd
Page of Cups from The Tarot of Prague, © BabaBarock Ltd
Page of Cups from The Tarot of Prague, © BabaBarock Ltd
Ace of Wands from The Tarot of Prague, © BabaBarock Ltd
Ace of Wands from The Tarot of Prague, © BabaBarock Ltd
Justice from The Tarot of Prague, © BabaBarock Ltd
Justice from The Tarot of Prague, © BabaBarock Ltd

An article by BabaBarock with Raymond Johnston. Copyright BabaBarock Ltd, all rights reserved. Please contact us if you would like to syndicate or otherwise use this article.

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