Sunday, April 05, 2009

Mysteries - 6) Gurre Castle Ruin

 The Wild Hunt

Gurre is an exciting place with a medieval atmosphere even in daylight, but on dark nights mysterious things happen at times . If you are at Gurre on a dark night you might hear the splash of oars in the water and the muted sound of voices, it's coming closer and closer, but no boat and no passengers are showing. Everything grows even more mysterious when you consider that there is no water surrounding Gurre. But what today is dry land was in the Middle Ages a lake, and the castle was situated upon a small islet out in the lake.

The invisible boat is a peaceful experience. It was heard by various people, lonely night wanderers, people walking their dogs, larger groups , once a group of 23 people. Usually the boat is heard in summer on quiet warm evenings, and the experience is neither scaring or spooky, just a little strange. People claim that another ghostly event feels quite dangerous after they had been witnessing the wild hunt of king Valdemar.

King Valdemar Atterdag was very fond of Gurre Castle. He used it as a hunting seat and stayed there as often as he could. He died at the castle in 1385, but did not rest quietly in his grave. He once said that if he could have Gurre then God could have Paradise to himself. God doomed Valdemar to be hunting in the forests around Gurre until Judgment Day.

It's not a funny experience to meet king Valdemar. He's accompanied by awesome hounds with shining eyes and fire from their jaws. This is pure folktale, but there are stories from people who claim they have seen or heard king Valdemar and his hunting dogs. Yet he's somewhat worn out during the latest years since it seems that he's no more seen but only heard!

In February 1982 king Valdemar and his hunting party was heard by two bird-watchers from Copenhagen who went to Gurre to look for owls. After a short search they found a very active tawny owl who didn't mind to be studied while sitting in a tree next to the road leading down to Gurre castle ruin. A few minutes later the owl grew silent. It straightened up looking directly down the road to the ruin. It was obvious that it had noticed something, and a few seconds later the two bird-watchers heard the baying of dogs and the distinct sound of galloping horses. The sound grew louder and louder, but no matter how intensely the two witnesses stared down the dark road they saw nothing.

Considering the late hour it was not very likely that people were out riding accompanied by dogs. At last the sound was so loud that it was "like standing close to a racecourse". After a minute the sound disappeared and the two witnesses hurried home. In the meantime the owl had disappeared, probably frightened by the sound, which existed not only in the imagination of the two bird-watchers. It's rather funny. Bird-watchers have played an important role in three cases here. But then they are out at times where others are sitting in their cosy homes enjoying a quiet night by the TV, maybe watching a horror-movie!

Sheep grassing peacefully at Gurre.

The story about Gurre and king Valdemar Atterdag is wellknown in Danish Literature, and the texts of I.P.Jacobsen have been interpreted in music by Arnold Schönberg in Gurre-Lieder

See also this: Gurre Slotsruin

"Det mystiske Danmark", en rejseguide til spøgelser, uhyrer og andre mærkværdigheder.
Lars Thomas, Aschehoug Dansk Forlag, 2005

photo 2008: grethe bachmann, Gurre, Zealand.

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