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Ruprecht the headless trumpeter

The palace that houses the Czech Senate is haunted by the ghost of a trumpeter 

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.

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.

Wallenstein Palace
One of the courtyards of Wallenstein Palace

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.

Marble statue of General Wallenstein

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.

Wallenstein Garden
Wallenstein Garden

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 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.

wallenstein palace
Concert in the garden of Wallenstein Palace


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.

Wallenstein Garden
White peacock in Wallenstein Garden

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 Tarot of Prague features several cards with references to Wallenstein, including The Knight of Swords which shows Wallenstein himself on his warhorse.

wallenstein palace
Interior of the main hall

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 treasure. Naked 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.

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