Due to the graphic nature of this haunted place, listener discretion is advised this episode includes a dramatization of body horror, seizures and psychosis. We advise extreme caution for children under 13.
Zarya was the only female guard at McCain Levski Castle, while the other guards were men and large men at that, she suspected that she'd been given the job on account of her superiors, unwelcome fondness of her, but she made the best of it.
She was very diplomatic with the Portrait Gallery's guests, and she was strong, too. So if she needed to remove people from the room, she could be like one of her current guests.
Zarya wasn't sure exactly when he had arrived, but he'd been staring at Dimitri Levitsky portrait of Catherine the Great for at least two hours, which was very strange. He was older, maybe mid 40s, thin lipped, pug nosed and pale. The outer edges of his eyes drooped sleepily as he stared at the painting. The portrait was beautiful, and Catherine glowed as if hit by a spotlight. But the strange man was scowling. Sario wasn't particularly protective of the paintings, but something told her the sooner he got out of the gallery, the better.
She announced that the museum would be closing. But the man didn't move. It didn't even blink.
She directed her gaze to him and repeated her announcement, but still nothing. She stepped directly beside him, and he finally turned to look at her. His gaze was hard and his eyes the deepest blue she'd ever seen. He asked her if she knew why Katherine was smiling, but Zarya said she wasn't interested in riddles. She turned away, pointed to all the other tourists leaving. But when she turned back to ask him again to exit the gallery, she froze.
The side of his head was bashed in. Blood and brain matter, leaked down his silk robe.
Zarya cried out and reached for his arm, but the man only turned to face her head on. The other half of his face wasn't mangled at all, but serene. His blue eyes glinted. He told her that Catherine was smiling because she won and she disappeared. Welcome to Haunted Places, a Spotify original from podcast. I'm Greg Polson. Every Thursday, I take you to the scariest, eeriest, most haunted real places on Earth. You can find all episodes of haunted places for free on Spotify and every Tuesday, make sure to check out urban legends.
These special episodes of Haunted Places are available exclusively on Spotify this week. Join me on a supernatural journey to St.. Petersburg's Mikulski Castle, a turn of the 18th century palace built to keep out Assassins' and discover why to this day it's haunted. Coming up, we'll wander the opulent halls of Mikhailov Ski Castle. Russian Emperor Apoorva First was not a popular man, which was not surprising given who he'd succeeded his mother, the Romanoff Empress Ekatarina Alexei, now better known as Tsar Catherine the Great, after deposing her own husband, Peter, the third in 1762, Catherine radically expanded the Russian empire.
She oversaw large strides in economics, public health and the arts and modernize the Russian army into a powerful fighting force, all with the help of one of her lovers, Grigory Potemkin. Under her, Russia entered a golden age, but her son Paul resented his mother's erasure of his father's legacy. And when he became emperor, he set out to systematically destroy hers. In some cases, this was good. Russia still operated under a system of serfdom, and unlike Catherine, Paul tried to address the serfs well-being by limiting the work required of serfs.
Paul also rolled back general Potemkin military reforms in favor of his father's more conservative ideals. He ordered that the Russian army study the ways of the Prussians, whom he believed had the greatest army of the world. He punished military offenders by exiling them to Siberia, a practice which many found cruel and excessive. Paul had always feared that his mother or her supporters would try to assassinate him, just like she had his father. She hadn't wanted him on the throne.
She had wanted his son, Alexander. So after growing increasingly paranoid, he commissioned a medieval style castle on the southern end of St. Petersburg Summer Garden that would serve as his safe haven named after St. Michael kind of ski castle is a quirky building, to say the least. No one side of the castle looks the same, and the architectural styles vary between French classicism, Italian Renaissance and Gothic. It has the only mode in all of Russia and includes a three point five kilometer escape tunnel to the neighboring Vorontsov palace.
It was designed to be impenetrable, but less than forty days after its completion, the emperor's greatest fears came true. Paul was warned against moving into his castle early. The plaster wasn't dry and the cold of the St. Petersburg winter sent thick clouds of fog through each and every room. His remaining advisers didn't think it was proper for him to be creeping about a fog covered castle. He was a ruler and he deserved the best. But it was a fine castle.
In Paul's view. Water surrounded it on all sides. A massive drawbridge stopped unwanted visitors.
It was unlike any Russian castle. He'd made sure of that and built a castle that would have made even King Arthur proud. In truth, Paul didn't trust his courtiers. He hadn't trusted anyone for a long time. He had learned of the wiles of assassins from a very young age when his mother had put glass in his food in an attempt to kill him. Now he had his tasters sample one bite of every morsel on his table before he ate anything.
Guards searched each and every room before he entered. Anyone could be hiding in the halls. The closest he'd gotten to trusting someone was the man who supervised the building of his many projects, General Palen. They'd become close friends. But when Palin said he preferred Paul to his mother, Paul assumed it was a cover, didn't believe him, and sent Palin away for a long time. Then there was his mother's love, her general Potemkin. For as long as he could remember, Paul had watched Potemkin laugh and whisper in his mother's ear, then mock and belittle him.
His mother had named Potemkin a prince twice over, while treating Paul like a bastard. After his mother's death, even the soldiers preferred Potemkin over him, even though Paul had been the one to restore honor to the Russian military. So he destroyed his monuments and even his grave. So Potemkin Seoul should be forced to wander for all of eternity. But the relief was only temporary. As the reality of Potemkin existential fate sank in, Paul began to fear for his own, the new palace should have been the only place where he wasn't afraid of an assassin, but he could feel unrest lingering in the air.
The nobles didn't understand him and the generals didn't either. They laughed at his genius solution to end the war with France. They stifled their laughter, but he heard them. He always heard them. He knew his wife hated him. His son, too, was his distant spouse, planning a coup like his mother in order to put their son on the throne. Sometimes he thought he saw Potemkin face amongst them, whispering plans into his family's ears, telling them to finish the coup.
But it had to be his imagination. Potemkin held no power over the living, but still, Paul watched everyone with scrutiny. He looked for every twitching lip or bead of sweat he could find and removed the culprits. But it seemed that every day an old threat was simply replaced.
One night, Paul was alone in his bed when he saw hands peeking out from behind his window curtain, he was immediately spooked. A person could have been standing behind the fabric, waiting for the right moment to kill him. A thick fog covered the parquet floor, so if someone wanted to hide their feet behind the curtains, it would be all too easy to do. Paul opened his mouth to call for the guards, but paused before the words came out.
He didn't trust them. They could have been in on it. He panicked. The walls closed in. Neither his castle nor his moat were enough to protect him. He'd have to take care of this person himself. Paul placed one slippered foot on the floor, the moisture of the fog seeping into his skin. He took a look around the room. So far he was safe, so he placed his other foot on the ground and rose slowly from the bed.
The hands remained. He knew them, recognized them. As he got closer. They were gray and battle scarred. He'd seen them curled around crystal glasses and associated them with his mother's cruel laughter. Potemkin. Paul dashed off to the drapes, he pulled them open with such force that the overhanging bar shook. But no one was there through the window. All he could see was the small man made lake outside his castle, glistening from below behind him, the door handle creaked and began to turn.
Paul's heart pounded again. No one was to enter the emperor's chambers without knocking. Whoever ignored his edict must have meant to do him harm. He had to hide and quickly he wrapped himself in the drapes and his feet disappeared in the fog. The door opened with the tiniest click. Paul heard one set of footsteps. Then another, then another. Then the whispers started. He didn't recognize the voices at first, nor could he make out what they were saying.
But then he heard one.
He knew it was Palin, his collaborator, who'd helped him build this very castle. They'd had their differences, but Palin would never actually hurt him, would he? Another voice joint, far older, a man named Zubov, close friends with his mother and Potemkin. Paul had bands, Zubov whole family from the grounds he should not have been allowed to cross the drawbridge, Paul thought, unless Palin let him in. Zubov ripped the curtains down and grabbed Paul by the collar.
He threw Paul against his writing desk and shoved a piece of white paper in front of him. Paul had lived in fear of this very moment since his reign began, but he knew there was no way out of it. The paper started with I Paul, the first son of Catherine, the great being of sound, mind and body. A group of soldiers in Potemkin old style of uniforms surrounded him. Paul was forced to sign. He heard a laugh.
But Helidon Zubov expressions were grave. There was no humor there. When he heard the laugh again, he recognized it. It was Potemkin. He could not see him, but he knew that his mother's chosen prince was there. Paul wanted one last chance to defend himself.
He shoved back the chair hard and a man was knocked over. But the others were on Paul. In an instant, something solid hit the back of Paul's head. He saw an ornate snuffbox clatter to the ground, a wet gurgle spilled from his mouth. He felt his hair grow slick with blood. Blood dripped onto his signature. The men tried to bring him to the ground and still he struggled, lashing out. But he was drowning in the fog.
And all the while that horrible laugh echoed. Little Prince Potemkin had used to call Paul as if Paul had never been anything but a child. Soon, a cord closing around his neck, Paul attempted to break free, but he could feel his tether to the real world growing weaker. Palin was reaching for him, trying to explain. He said, that he'd only done what he thought was best. He prayed that Paul would be at peace. But Paul only heard Potemkin Salaf before passing into the fog.
The reign of Paul the first is one of the most controversial in Russian history. Many describe him as a petty tyrant, neglecting his duties as tsar to obsess over chivalry, censorship and even fashion. Some recount that he wanted Napoleonic wars to be decided by individual duels between rulers instead of traditional armies. After his mother's death in 1796, his behavior became more and more erratic. Paul could feel the trap closing in around him. He rushed to move his family into his newly constructed castle, believing it was the safest place he could be.
But forty days later, he was murdered by a large group of military officers fed up with his policies and reign. The coup was masterminded by one of his mother's former favorites, Nikolai Alexandrovich, Zubov and a courtier and General Peter Ludvig Montopoli, who was the closest thing Paul had to a friend. Paul's personal physician, James, widely declared the official cause of death to be apoplexy. A sudden death caused by a heart attack or stroke, the same cause of death listed for his father.
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Now back to the story. The reign of Emperor Paul, the first, the eccentric son of Catherine the Great, was brief but eventful. In just four years, he tried to undo the work of his mother's 30 year reign, but was murdered by his own courtiers. One of those was his personal friend, Peter Ludvig von Capelet. Palin's role went far beyond being just present at the assassination. She'd orchestrated it to get approval for the forced abdication.
Palin had presented Paul's 23 year old son, Alexander, with evidence that Paul intended to detain him on suspicion of treason. Alexander hadn't wanted to take the throne when Katherine had appointed him after her death. He originally refused. But as his father's behavior became more erratic and dangerously paranoid, he agreed to Palin's plans. He would take over for the good of Russia and to save his father from himself.
But there was no saving himself from his father's ghost when Alexander saw his father's bloody corpse splayed on the opulent parquet. His first thought was how much his father would have hated the mess. It was never supposed to be this way. Paul wasn't well liked. Alexander's grandmother, his stepmother and even Paul's friends and advisers seemed to hate him. But Alexander knew that Paul meant well. His ridiculous, eccentric father had only ever done what he thought would make Russia a better country.
And Alexander loved him over nearly everyone's objections. Alexander had understood what was needed for the good of Russia, and he'd been in favor of forced abdication. He helped plan it, but he bit down hard on his knuckles. Seeing the body made him want to scream. He never expected that his fellow conspirators would bash his father's head in leaving his corpse like a dead animal on the parquet.
For the next several days, Alexander could feel his father's presence wandering the palace with him. Two sets of feet walked down each corridor and the fog still floated down the hallways, making it look like their legs were disappearing into the ether. There was a comfort to it. Alexander missed his father. The guilt over his role in the murder weighed heavily on his shoulders, had tried to assure him that it was for the best. But Alexander had chuckled darkly at that.
There was no best in his family, he retorted. It had been fractured beyond repair since before he was born. Alexander stood on the bridge to the castle, watching the citizens of St. Petersburg either mourn or revolt. Some people threw flowers. Others chucked molding potatoes out the drawbridge and screamed about the KU. Alexander's guards told him there was no current threat to his life, but their reassurances didn't make him feel better. Assassination's were as much a part of his family as Russia itself.
They were the leaves to his family tree. After some time, Alexander's protective escort whispered that it was time to head back inside. Alexander turned preparing for another evening, lost in regret, but something stopped him in his tracks. A soldier stood at the end of the drawbridge, waiting in a formal position. Alexander had never noticed the man before. It was impossible to see his face, but his armor was of the showier style. Alexander's father had preferred for the military.
Alexander had since relaxed those rules. So whoever the soldier was, he certainly wasn't in the Corps, at least not at the moment. The soldier could have been one of those that his father had punished with a trip to Siberia returning to the castle. Now that Paul was dead, perhaps Alexander should have been scared of retaliation. But instead, all Alexander felt was more guilt. His father had hurt so many people and in the end, Alexander had hurt him.
Alexander asked another guard how long the soldier had been waiting. The guard reported that they had only started to see the soldier that morning. Curious, Alexander walked slowly across the bridge slowly. He kept his eyes on the still soldier and called to him about the soldier didn't respond. Alexander tossed him a ruble. The coin sailed towards the soldier, but he made no move to catch it. It simply bounced against his armor and fell to the ground. Suddenly, a shroud of mist obscured Alexander's vision.
The air grew thick, practically choking him.
He tried to clear away the clouds with his hand, searching for the soldier, his guard, anyone. But it was no use. He was sure to pass out. But just as he was about to lose consciousness, the fog dissipated. Alexander cleared his throat and reset his eyes. But the bridge and the guard were gone. He was suddenly inside the castle in his father's chambers, something didn't look quite right. The room was covered in fog, but he recognized the carved wood and vaulted ceilings.
He heard a slight groan and quickly found the source.
A frail form lay in his father's majestic bed. Alexander drew closer and studied the sleeping man's features. The lighting was low and it was difficult to see. He didn't recognize the light of the nose and the shape of the lips, but he couldn't pinpoint where exactly he'd seen the face. Before the sleeping man's chest suddenly collapsed inward, his eyes shot open. He unleashed a violent round of cloths, scattering the starched sheets with blood. Alexander wanted to look away.
It was horrifying, but he found himself oddly transfixed. He was too bewildered to do anything.
The sick man called for aid, but no one came. The man resembled his father but wasn't his father.
The nose was wrong and the eyes a bit brighter.
Yet the resemblance was almost uncanny. Plus, the man was muttering to himself. They've got you. They've got you. They finally done away with you, haven't they? Suddenly, horror dawned on Alexander, he wasn't staring at his father, he was staring at himself. He at least the older version of him was dying horribly, painfully, sleeping in the czar's chambers, but abandoned in his time of need.
Alexander called out that he was here, he would help, but his older self didn't hear him. Alexander was dying and he was entirely alone. He was fraught with questions. Where was his wife, his mistress, his children? Did they hate him? Who had hurt him? How could he avoid this fate? A grave form began to take shape near the curtains, becoming a shadow with icy blue eyes. His father, Alexander, stepped closer, hoping to see his father again, to ask what was happening, what he could do.
But there was no benevolence in Paul's eyes, only rage and vengeance as he stepped away from the window. Alexander cried out his vision filled with swirling colors. His stomach turned with dizziness. He couldn't tell where he was or if he was even standing.
He grew faint again and began falling and falling until he landed upon the footpath outside the castle with a thud.
Alexander struggled to bring his heart under control, one of the guards reached down to collect him, but he ordered for the guard to bring the armored soldier at once. He had questions for him as he waited for the guard to return. Alexander tried to control his breathing. It must have been a fever. It would pass soon enough. He just needed to speak with the soldier to reassure himself that the man was only a beggar, a forgotten remnant of his father's reign.
But the soldier was gone. And the coin to. It is said that when Nikolai Zubov told Alexander of his father's death, he finished with time to grow up, go it rule and Alexander did. He reigned for 24 years before showing similar paranoid behaviors to his father. Theoretically, he died of typhus during a voyage to South Russia, but that's only the official story. There are some who say Alexander faked his own death and hid out in Siberia under the name Theodore Kuzmich, afraid of being assassinated back in St.
Petersburg. He might have seemed paranoid, but being a Russian ruler in the 19th and early 20th century was a very dangerous proposition. There were multiple attempts on the lives of each of the Roman officers. And in 1881, Alexander's nephew, Alexander the second, was assassinated by radical socialists. Alexander the first relocated the Imperial Family to the Winter Palace shortly after his father's death. But the guards of the empty castle began to report a strange series of events apparitions of the Emperor Paul Fog rolling through the rooms even though the plaster was long, dry and a soldier standing beside the castle's drawbridge like a statue.
It is said that if you managed to hit him in the head with a coin, he will give you a vision of the future, which could be very helpful for a tsar surrounded by threats. Coming up, the kind of ski castle gets a new life and new victims. Now back to the story.
After the death of Paul, the first, the Romanoff's abandoned McKlusky Castle, despite having occupied it for only 40 nights, it languished empty until 18 23 when the family offered it up to the Imperial Army's engineering school. This gave the home the new name, the engineer's castle. The engineering cadets love to share stories of the castle's supernatural phenomena, but there was one young cadet that didn't quite fit in with the culture of the Engineering Institute, a 16 year old named Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Buttar couldn't joke about such things as ghosts. He was too busy experiencing them. Buderus father valued education above all and had sent him to the engineering institute when he was just 12, but Furo missed his family. He missed his mother. Above all, she had become sick and died before he could get home. He retreated into his stories and drawings. His imaginary worlds were the only thing that made him feel any better. He tried to forgive his father, but it felt nearly impossible.
He hated engineering. He hated science and math. And most of all, he hated the army. He couldn't get the steps right. For Drells, his uniform never quite fit correctly, and his rifle always felt heavy. The academy building was filled with windows, but its long hallways were dark and cavernous. Over time, furor became haunted by visions of the men. His military designs would eventually murder limbs twisted and torn and broken bridges, faces blown away by explosives, corpses coated in plaster and dust.
Slowly, his imagination, which had always been his refuge, had become a prison. And what he tried to put pen to paper. Nothing came. His stories had left him. Then he began to hear the voices. They were soft. At first. He'd hear them buzzing like flies in his ears. He didn't know who they were or what they were saying. But when his body jerked and his mind seized up, he could hear them debating the merits of murder.
Over time, he became plagued by them often enough that one night he decided it would be better to engage than ignore them. Was it so wrong to kill? He thought, if the object of your destruction harms society, the voices agreed and commended him. They said, yes, he was a wise young man. Indeed, the next night, the curtains covering Theodores dark window blew open with the breeze. Cold fog swirled around the room and a blue eyed man emerged, his form translucent.
His hair was falling away in patches and his nightshirt was stained with blood. He stared at Fiodor for a moment, a long moment before disappearing into the fog. Dawn laid back his hand on his chest. He wasn't frightened so much as he wanted to make sense of things. He waited, hoping the voices would explain to him what was happening. But when his mind locked up again, he was left alone. Darkness enveloped him. He was in his bedroom, but the walls and windows were nothing but empty voids.
He could not move. He could not think even surrounded by cold silence. Somehow it frightened him more than the voices ever did. He would die someday, he thought. Somehow he woke up on the floor, his head pounded and his teeth hurt, he told himself it was a bad dream and got up to dress for the school day. He would simply focus on his studies, but soon he was spending entire nights in the void. Locked in his own body, Buttar begged the voices to return to keep him company.
But when they did, they argued and howled, bashing about his head. And when they finally left, he felt tired and empty in their absence. During the day, he wondered if he was possessed. The other boys teased him, said he was speaking to ghosts. The castles halls were supposed to be full of them, but only a demon would suggest such monstrous things about death. And he resolved to renew his study of sacred texts. War could wait or it could not.
The void would come to him either way. At night, he barely slept in school, his marching, which had never been very good, only got worse each day. He tried harder and harder to follow the steps, to learn them thoroughly. But soon the void overcame him. Even during the day, he began to see images in his peripheral vision spectral soldiers, the swirling fog. Sometimes the blue eyed man from his room appeared in the corner of the classroom and grimaced.
Each time Fyodor made a mistake. But soon the blue eyed man followed Theodore everywhere. Nobody else saw him. He was there. Even when the castle windows brought in the brightest of light. He'd hoped to escape from the man in sleep, but the man found him there. To night after night, his glowing blue eyes pierced through the darkness of the void. Fyodor had to be possessed. The next time the blue eyed man appeared, Fyodor asked him what he had done to court such torture.
But his tormentor only stared silent. Fyodor told him he believed in God. He had studied the Bible. No demon could harm him.
He had faith but a void, and the man closed in, appearing even more often. It was no demon. He realized it was something far older, something that he could not get rid of through faith or the study of engineering.
It did not care what he believed and would consume him until his body was just a shell, a corpse lying on the parquet. Fyodor pause, he felt still. Peaceful for the first time, if he allowed the boy to take them entirely, that it would be over, wouldn't it? You wouldn't need to worry about his work, his faith, his mother is suffering would be gone. Fyodorov stare deep into the void, into the blue eyes of the man unafraid.
This time the man stared back. Theodore laughed, and the void left back. The man placed a little book into Furors Palms. Feodor opened it. The pages were blank. When he woke the next morning, Feodor began to write a story, one even the void would accept. In 1836, 15 year old Fyodor Dostoyevsky entered the tuition free Nicholai of Military Engineering Institute on the grounds of McKlusky Castle. While enrolled, he suffered his first of many seizures for the rest of his life.
He struggled with epilepsy. After passing his exams, he went on to serve as a lieutenant engineer and published a highly successful novel, Poor Folk. In 1846, he resigned from his military post to focus on writing full time. Even while in school, Dostoyevsky's work focused on the dark inner lives of those neglected by society, probing into matters of morality and existentialism. His classmates described him as reclusive and obsessed with the study of religion. But was he simply keeping to himself or hiding from the darkness McCluskey's castle held from the beginning?
All fortifications are built to keep people out, but McCluskey's castle has an ominous quality that many writers sometimes struggle to articulate. They often suggest that it says if the murdered emperor's paranoia radiates from the walls, that the building didn't get to have a life before it aided in the death of its creator. McKlusky Castle is now part of the state Russian Museum. It holds a renowned sculpture collection and portrait gallery, as well as artifacts from czarist Russia. One of those artifacts just happens to be a snuffbox said to have dealt the final blow to Tsar Paul, the first head.
We are sure, Paul, the first spirit is thrilled that the acquisition. Thanks again for tuning into haunted places. We'll be back on Thursday with a new episode. And don't forget to come back on Tuesday for our Urban Legends series available only on Spotify. You can find more episodes of Haunted Places and all other originals from podcast for free on Spotify. I'll see you next time. Haunted Places was created by Max Cutler, and it's a Spotify original from podcast.
Executive producers include Max and Ron Cutler, Sound Design by Russell Nash with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Erin Marsing. This episode of Haunted Places was written by Lil Deridder and Jennifer Rachet with Writing Assistants by Greg Castro. I'm Greg Poulsen. Don't forget to check out our love story, the newest Spotify original fun podcast every Tuesday discovered that many pathways to love as told by the actual couples who found them. Listen to our love story. Free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.