Even if the pumpkins, the trick or treating and the dressing up aren’t quite so wide-spread in Europe as they are in say the U.S. or the UK, that doesn’t mean to say that it’s safe to venture out after dark around All Souls’ Day — or any other time of year, come to that. It’s infernally scary out there!
Stay away from Italy, for a start. It was reported last year that Italy has more abandoned, reportedly “haunted” houses than any other country in the Mediterranean — enough to contain the entire populations of both Rome and Milan. Literally thousands of villages are inhabited by nothing more than ghoulish specters, babies who can be heard crying at the bottom of wells, abandoned women, victims of torture and partisans of bloody deaths who haunt the foyers, landings and deserted piazzas. It’s also claimed that Italy is the most ghost-infested country in Europe.
At least seventeen ghosts inhabit the dark, narrow streets, churches and palazzi of Genoa. Here, for example, a grizzled ancient woman dressed in black haunts Via Madre di Dio and always asks for directions to the Vicolo di Librai, an alleyway that has not existed for the last 50-plus years — since the city was bombed in World War II. She made numerous appearances in 1989, but has been spotted several times since.
Nowhere is safe…particularly not churches. Beware of Stefano Reggi, dressed in a purple tunic at the Church of San Donato. He committed suicide in 1600 and now paces relentlessly outside the church steps without peace. And in the Chiesa di San Matteo, poor bloody handed Doria can be seen entering the church and disappearing into a marble column. And in the Chiesa di San Cosma, on moonless nights hooded ghosts roam freely.
Not far from Imperia, in the village of Dolceaqua, 17-year-old Filomena was thrown into an underground cellar and left to die after refusing the advances of a lustful Duke in the XVIth century — but Filomena’s still seen around town. And a stone’s throw away in Scogna Sottano there’s a place dubbed by locals: “the house of the violin,” which was once the home of a talented young violinist. The house had been neglected for many years; vagrants would spend the night in the house and many of them claim to have witnessed the now neglected violin emerging from its case and beginning to play while terrifying screams seeped through the building’s walls.
Some places are so intensely ghost infected that visitors are forbidden and Poveglia Island is one of those places. Situated between the cities of Venice and Lido, it’s said to have been used as a dumping ground for victims of the Bubonic plague in 1576. As the Black Death took hold of its victims (men, women, children, even babies who were showing plague symptoms), they were taken from their homes to the island and left to die. The corpse count rose to more than 160,000 tortured souls. Later, in 1922 a psychiatric hospital was built on the island and patients complained of whispering walls and plague-victim specters. The doctor in charge refused to believe the patients, but he too eventually was haunted by Black Death ghosts and threw himself from the bell tower. Allegedly the fall did not kill him and instead a curious fine mist rose up from the earth and strangled him to death.
Che Dio vi benedica!