I've been terrified and equally fascinated with ghosts and spirits ever since I was a little girl. I've watched documentaries on haunted houses and read a lot of ghosts stories. So many that sometimes I gave myself nightmares. I will go on and confess that I couldn't get my courage up to watch Paranormal Activity. I've seen the trailer and nope, not gonna happen!
But just as any curios human being, all the inexplicable things in life intrigue me. And Romania is a land full of ghost stories, superstitions and generally weird, mysterious traditions. Therefore, the possibilities to entertain one’s fascination with the spirit world are numerous.
A visit to the castle of Julia Hasdeu is on them. This little castle is tucked away in the small town of Campina, Prahova county, just before you enter Prahova Valley. Haven’t heard of it until now? It’s no wonder as it’s frequently overlooked in favor of the world wide famous Peles & Bran Castles.
Before we start exploring the castle lets see who is this Julia Hasdeu and what does she have to do with ghosts.
Julia Hasdeu, painting by Diogene Maillart
Julia was the daughter of a prestigious Romanian savant: B.P. Hasdeu- professor at the University of Bucharest, historian, linguist, philologist and writer. The girl, Julia, born in 1869, proved to be a wonder child. At 2 years old she could read, at 8 years she could speak German, French and English and at 11 she graduated simultaneously high school and the Conservatory in Bucharest. She continued this fast forward rithm, moved to Paris for her studies and got her baccalaureate degree in letters (rhetoric and philosophy) at 16. A PhD in letters and philosophy at Sorbonne was next.
All of this was not enough for genius Julia. She continued also her musical training, took on painting lessons and studied Latin and Greek. She was deeply in love with France, French and French culture and when she started writing herself, she did it in French. Pretty impressive, isn't it? It’s no surprise that her father’s adoration for his daughter was out of this world.
Tragically, Julia’s life was cut short by tuberculosis. She died on the 29th of September 1888, almost 19 of age. If you think that Julia’s life was extraordinary, just wait for it.
B.P. Hasdeu couldn't accept that his beloved Julia was gone and after her death he began a cult dedicated to her remembrance. He found some sort of comfort in the thought that Julia would live forever in spirit form. So he started spiritism sessions to contact her.
Both the temple-shrine at Bellu cemetery and the castle in Campina were built after plans drawn by Hasdeu himself but dictated by Julia during one of the sessions.
The castle was supposed to look like a cathedral at the beginning but was modified until it reached its present day towery fort-like form.
The entrance is a spectacle of symbolism. The stone door has the family coat of arms on it, the family motto: ‚Pro fide et patria’ and Galilei’s words ‚E pur si muove’.On each side of the door there are two stone thrones that have the 7 most important reincarnations of Julia engraved on them. Starts to get freaky? On top of the thrones, two feminine sphinxes guard the door. Oh! Almost forgot about the all seeing eye over the door. And this is just the front door!
The interiors are a combination of normal mansion chambers like a drawing room, an office, Julia’s room and a dome with a gigantic statue of Christ and an obscure room for spiritism purposes.
The obscure room suffered a series of alterations and doesn't look like the original anymore. The mural paintings are not restored but from old pictures we know that symbols like an angel head, a triangle and a butterfly covered the walls.
There’s also a spiritist manuscript on display. The communication method used during the sessions was direct automatic writing which meant that after the medium was in a state of trance, he would start writing what the spirit told him to. Most of Julia’s messages were in French, none in Romanian.
The dome or the temple was the first thing you saw when you entered the castle (a side entrance is used now). Before that you had to pass a small corridor with parallel mirrors. These mirrors were supposed to capture your soul and recreate it an infinite number of times.
In the middle of the room there’s a column that symbolizes the ax of the world which continues with a set of metal stairs that form a cup- the Holly Grail. On top of this stands the statue of Christ. Word has it that due to this statue, the castle survived wars, earthquakes and abandonment in its over a century of history.
You will see that a lot of metal everywhere. The reason is that even since ancient times metal and metal amulets have been used to fight and keep evil away. So you are in a pure, safe place. Eerie but pure and safe.
All in all, I can’t say it’s a scary place, because it’s not. It’s different and definitely one of Romania’s most peculiar landmarks. But it’s also a place filled with sorrow and pain.
Locals say that the restless spirit of wonder child Julia Hasdeu still roams the grounds of the castle at night.
When you enter Campina from Bucharest, stay on the main street, go straight ahead and after you pass the town center the castle will be on your right. It's quite small so keep your eyes open. Reserve about an hour for your visit. Opening hours: 9-17 Tuesday to Sunday. Ticket: 8 lei.
through the peep hole
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