Stream leading to an artificial lake in Prague's Stromovka park.
cemeteries and memorials,  ghosts and phantoms,  magic prague,  Prague and Bohemia,  vampires

Prague’s zombie: The Stromovka ghoul hunts on moonlit nights

One soldier stayed behind after the Siege of 1848 and became a zombie-like ghoul.

One of the most pleasant ways to spend an afternoon is whiling away the time in Prague’s Stromovka Park. But that wasn’t always the case. In 1848, there was a popular uprising in the city, and martial law was imposed.

General Alfred Candidus Ferdinand, Prince of Windisch-Grätz, kept strict control over the peasants in the city. Unfortunately, he did not monitor his own troops so well. One of his captains, who came from a noble family somewhere in the Carpathian Mountains, was decidedly peculiar. Some accounts say he could trace his family history to House of Basarab, which also included Vlad Țepeș — better known as Dracula.

The captain displayed signs of the supernatural. He could command the fish in one of the artificial lakes in the park. In the evenings, he would take off his uniform and get in the water with his fish army, forgetting that there was a real peasant uprising taking place. The captain would make the poor fish line up in formation, swim in a rank and file as if they were marching, and even take part in combat exercises. Like all soldiers, the fish didn’t like it.

Austrian General Prince of Windisch-Grätz Bohemia Prague magic tarot
General Alfred Candidus Ferdinand, Prince of Windisch-Grätz. Source: Wikimedia commons
Tunnel entrance in Stromovka in 2016 Rudolfine tunnel
Tunnel entrance in Stromovka before restoration

One night, after he put his uniform back on, he was walking through Stromovka alone and encountered a patriotic miller named Vondra, who attacked him with a threshing flail. Vondra dumped the captain’s battered body in the lake, where the fish, free of his spell, pushed his remains deep into the mud at the bottom. But due to his bloodline perhaps, he wasn’t really dead, though his powers were too weak for him to become a full-fledged vampire. Instead, he became a sort of ghoul or zombie — neither dead nor alive, and neither ghost nor vampire.

The captain digs himself out of the mud from time to time and tries to catch someone near the shore, but he moves so slowly that he seldom gets near anyone. The zombie is even too slow to catch a live fish in the pond. So since 1848, he has been subsisting on dead and rotting fish and mosquito larvae. The fish still hold a grudge, and bury him deeply again every time he returns to his watery home.

According to legend, the zombie is mainly seen on moonlit nights, still in the battered remnants of an Austro-Hungarian officer’s uniform.

Artificial ponds in Stromovka
Artificial ponds in Stromovka
Artificial pond in Stromovka during renovations Rudolfine tunnel
Artificial pond in Stromovka during renovations
Lake in Prague's Stromovka park Bohemia Prague magic tarot
Stromovka park in Prague
Rocks on the shoreline
Rocks on the shoreline
Ferry to an island
Ferry to an island
Willow the by the shore of the pond
Willow the by the shore of the pond
Underpass by the pond
Underpass by the pond
Fountain in the pond
Fountain in the pond

Background

There were peasant uprisings across Europe in 1848. They started in Palermo and quickly spread to Paris and then the rest of the Continent. Peasants largely sought to end the feudal system and replace it with democratic reforms. Fighting broke out in Prague from June 12 to 17, 1848.

Alfred I, Prince of Windisch-Grätz was a field marshal in the Austrian army. He helped to put down the uprising in Vienna in March 1848, and then made his way to Prague, where his wife was killed by a stray bullet. As a result, he declared martial law in Bohemia. The Prague rebels were poorly organized and had little military training. They attempted to negotiate for the creation of an independent state, but were not successful. The Prague rebels surrendered after an artillery siege on June 17.

Grave for soldiers who died in 1848 in Prague
Grave for soldiers who died in 1848 in Prague
Revolution of 1848 Bohemia Prague magic tarot
Painting of the Revolution of 1848 in Hungary by Mór Than. Source: Wikimedia commons

Stromovka Park was established as a royal game preserve as far back as 1268 by Přemysl Otakar II. In 1547, the first artificial lake was added. Emperor Rudolf II took an interest in the park starting in 1584, adding more artificial lakes and importing all kinds of trees not native to the area. The entry to a tunnel used to bring in water from the Vltava River to fill one of the lakes can still be seen, with the royal “R” inscribed on the stonework.

The park at that time also contained a mill, which Rudolf rebuilt into a place for mystical contemplation, with baths and a grotto, called the Imperial Mill (Císařský mlýn). It fell into ruins and the salvageable elements including a stone arch and historical entry gate were incorporated into a new housing development at the start of the 21st century.

Stromovka opened to the public in 1804, and a fairground called Výstaviště was added in 1891 for the General Land Centennial Exhibition.

This is not the only military spectre. The ghost of a French officer allegedly haunts Vyšehrad and Swedish soldiers are in Malá Strana.

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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