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Prague, Czech Republic

The haunted Charles Bridge disappears into the fog. Do you dare cross it?

Peter Adams/Getty Images

Writer Angelo Ripellino once remarked, "When I seek another word for mystery, the only word I can find is Prague" [source: Banville]. Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic and the ancient capital of Bohemia, is indeed a mysterious and magical city that provides an ideal setting for ghost stories. Prague's dark, intertwining, narrow alleys and ancient bridges are said to be home to some of the most unusual ghosts and spirits in Europe.

Prague Experience Tours offers the Prague Ghost and Medieval Mysteries Walking Tour. The tour takes visitors through some of the most historically significant and paranormally active areas of this Central European city.

One of the most famous tourist attractions in Prague is the beautiful Charles Bridge. This bridge across the Vltava River, with origins dating from the 14th century, not only links both sides of the city but is also home to some ghostly inhabitants. The bridge is lined with statues of saints said to bless those who cross it. However, legend has it that not all of the saints rest safely in the next world. St. John of Nepomuk took the confession of Queen Johanna, wife of King Wenceslas IV. When St. John refused to tell the king what his wife had confessed, Wenceslas had the priest tortured and thrown from the bridge to die. According to legend, for the next 300 years, St. John roamed the area around the bridge until his soul was captured in his statue in the 17th century. If you touch St. John's statue, it's rumored that if you have a secret, no one will discover it.

In addition to St. John of Nepomuck's wandering spirit, 10 lords who were executed during the Middle Ages also haunt the Charles Bridge. The lords' heads were placed on spikes on the bridge, and they're now said to sing ballads of sadness to scare away anyone brave enough to cross the bridge at midnight.

After crossing the bridge from Old Town, the tour comes to the Little Quarter. A Swede who lost his head during the 30 Years War can be seen on his horse carrying his head in a burlap sack. Next, the tour explores Josefov, the former Jewish ghetto of the city. Rabbi Loew and the Golem of Prague dominate the legends of this area. In the 16th century, Loew created the Golem, a figure molded out of clay from the Vltava River, to help save the Jews from accusations of murdering Christian children. Loew brought the Golem to life by reciting Hebrew incantations and released it onto the community. The Golem grew larger and larger, and the Emperor begged Loew to destroy him. After protecting the Jews from murderous attacks, Loew put the Golem in the attic of the Old-New Synagogue, where its body is said to rest to this day. Loew ordered that no one should ever enter the attic; even the Nazis were unable to penetrate this area of the Old-New Synagogue.

The Old Jewish Cemetery, which contains more than 100,000 bodies, is said to be teeming with ghosts. The oldest existing Jewish graveyard in Europe, the cemetery was used from 1439 to 1787. Although the Nazis attempted to destroy all Jewish cemeteries, Hitler ordered that this one be preserved because he intended to construct a Jewish museum in Prague after he had exterminated all of the Jews in Europe.

One of the more popular walking tours in Prague, the ghost tour attracts many visitors, particularly in the high tourist season. Organizers of the tour state that many tourists are afraid to walk the streets alone after learning of the ghoulish, mysterious history of this ancient city.

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