November 2015:  I have always been fascinated in all things related to World War II, and when I watched a documentary about Himler’s Castle-Wewelsburg that appeared on the History channel in October, a castle that Himler envisioned to be a Vatican or spiritual epicenter for the SS.  I immediately booked a mile’s ticket for a long weekend trip out to Germany to visit the castle and to spend one night there if possible. During the same trip I also planned on visiting the magical Central European city of Prague/Czech Republic.

About Wewelsburg Castle

Wewelsburg castle, located in a small town outside of Paderborn, has a long dark history. It was constructed in the 1600’s and used during the witchcraft trials that swept across Europe. Thousands of accused witches were tortured in its dungeons and executed before the castle’s gates. Germany.  It was also nearby that one of the most historic battles in northern Europe occurred between Roman and Germanic forces in the battle of the Teutoburg Forest. The battle was one of Rome’s greatest defeats and approx. 20,000 Romans were killed, any surviving Roman officers were captured, and then sacrificed by being boiled into giant pots. Other surviving Romans were either killed on the spot or sold into slavery. The historical significance of the battles being won by Germanic forces is that Rome abandoned all expansionist hopes into northern Europe.

It was because of the castle’s proximity to the location of the battle of the Teutoburg forest battle, one of the greatest military victories in German history and the resemblance the unique 3-sides castle of Wewelsburg bore to a Teutonic Knights or Camelot castle, that the castle gained the attention of the Nazi SS leader, Heinrich Himmler. Himmler one of Hitlers inside circle men, is arguably the architect of the holocaust. Himmler was obsessed with Pre-Christian German history and believed that the spirits of ancient German kings protected Germany against the east. He believed that he was the reincarnation of one of the first German kings who fought victoriously against a Slav invasion from the east.

The castle caught the attention of the Himmler in the 1930s.  The castle with its perfect symmetry met the ideals of Himmler’s grand image for what Himmler hoped to become a holy center of SS power and Germanic ancestorial worship. According to legend it was here in the castle where the SS carried out occultic rituals. The castle was derelict when Himmler found it and he spent millions of Germany’s dollars to renovate it according to his liking.   Renovations such as carving out a deeper moat, reinforcing the walls, adding medieval Germanic stone symbols, etc. were carried out by prisoners from a nearby concentration camp that consisted of Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses, most of whom died in the hard and grueling work conditions.

It is hard to say exactly what the castle was used for. Much of the knowledge is based in legend. According to locals, Pagan SS weddings occurred here, the SS held military meetings that Himmler attended on occasion. One such meeting involved the planning of SS involvement in setting up death camps to kill as many Jews and Slavs as possible during Germany’s invasion of Russia. Another legend is that seances were held in the dungeon to summon ancient German kings and some believe that prisoners from the concentration camp were sacrificed in these dungeon rituals.

According to another legend, the Nazis kept biblical artifacts in the castle like the spear that was used to ensure Jesus was dead on the cross. These artifacts were believed by the Nazis to give them special occult powers.

The dungeon room was where an eternal gas lit flame was located under a swastika embedded on the ceiling, which still exists today. The skull rings of every fallen SS soldier were kept in this room to immortalize their souls within the castle walls.

When the allied forced invaded this region, Himmler order the castle emptied and then burned. Many of the artifacts and again according to legend priceless artifacts and treasures were removed and fleeing SS soldiers unsuccessfully attempted to burn the castle. The castle was claimed by American forces and the fire was stopped.

The castle again lay in ruins for decades before it was renovated and turned into what it was before the Nazis got a hold of it, a youth hostel. It is rather peculiar to make a Nazi castle into a youth hostel but for Germany this was in effort to move on from its Nazi past.

Currently the caste serves as both a museum to the horrors of the SS and as a youth hostel. When I discovered that the castle has overnight sleeping quarters, I know I had to sleep there and explore the castle when it was at its peak of creepiness, at night.

Map of Wewelsburg Castle Location

Visiting Paderborn on the Way to Wewelsburg

My friend Kevin and I flew into Frankfurt, took a train directly to Paderborn, where we spent the night in a hotel. Paderborn is a beautiful town that despite wisdespread destruction in world war II still maintains much of its historical buildings. We walked the town’squiet historical streets at nights visiting bars and having a lae night dinner. One observation that stands out was of a group of Syrian refugges that were huddled in a street using the wifi of local shops to communicate with their fmilies via the smart phones.

Old Paderborn Cathedral that dominates the skyline

Fragment of a World War II bomb that was unearthed and defused in the church grounds

Traditional German architecture

Inside the huge Paderborn Cathedral

Spending the Night in the Wewelsburg Castle

After spending the night in Paderborn, Kevin and I took a bus to Wewelsburg. Wewelsburg is a small town dominated by the Wewelsburg castle. The castle sits on top of a hill overlooking farmland below, and adjacant to the castle on the hill top is a forest and some vestiges of the concentration camp that held prisoners that were forced to work on the castle by the SS. There is also a small town with residential houses and a few restaraunts and a grocery store.  Also, there is a vending machine on the side of the road that sells cigarettes, beer and condoms. 

Before the trip Kevin and I signed up to become youth hostel members in order to receive a discount on the price of our stay at the castle. I booked a night in the castle over the phone because the website was not responsive. The caretaker previously told me that because we were visiting during the offseason, that we would likely be the only guests inside the entire castle. The castle in the summer may have up to a 100 guests staying in its dorm rooms. Before checking into the the castle, we explored the town and the forest where the concentration camp was located. It was a grim and overcast day, the kind of setting that you would expect for visiting such a place. We walked through the woods and came a to ditch that seemed out of place. A sign explained  ditch was the last place where many prisoners of the camp were lined up by a firing squad and executed. 

Execution pit

We checked in to the castle. Only one caretaker was on duty and checked us in. As expected, we were the only guests. Our room was in the basement and Kevin and I stayed in the same room. There were about 6 bunk beds in the room and a common shower for the whole basement floor. The castle is separated into sections; the youth hostel and museum. Most of the SS rooms are in the museum section of the castle. This part of the castle is only accessible during museum hours during the day. 

Himler had different figures representative of Germanic folklore added to the castle.

In the front of the castle is a SS guard structure still with the two ligthning bolt SS symbols carved into it.

Me sitting in front of the castle in between the moat and the castle towers

Inside the castle towers

The museum section is free and is dedicated to exposing the horrors of the Nazi SS. The museum is very defensive about the possibility of any Nazi sympathizers from making it into a shrine or pilgrimage site. Anyone who remotely fits this image is denied entry and absolutely no photos are allowed inside the crypt where the swastika is located, and the SS skull rings were kept. Cameras are placed around the museum and curators do monitor them and will emphatically voice their displeasure over the intercom if any rules are broken. 

The highlight to me was the creepy crypt room where Himmler is believed to summon spirits of dead German kings. The natural gas pipes are still visible that used to light the eternal flame. Scant amounts of natural light are able to filter into the room from the tall windows high up above the brick walls. Several impressionistic paintings adorn the walls of the crypt. The artist that made the painting was a survivor of the concentration camp in Wewelsburg and the paintings depict the terror that the place represented to him. 

There were few other visitors in the castle but while we were in the crypt, I had the fortune of having another visitor enter the crypt while I was in there to take a photo promptly alerting the curator to scold him over the intercom and warn him that his camera will be confiscated. While this visitor provided a distraction, I crouched down and took a sneaky photo of the crypt un-noticed. 

Crypt Room where Himmler According to legend Performed Occultic Rituals and maybe Even Sacrifices

Ceiling of vault with Swastika 

SS Meeting Room centred on a dark green sun wheel a mideivel Germanic symbol was a meeting place for the top SS officers and the room was modeled by Himmler after  the legendary round table where King Arthur and his Knights met.  Now bean bags placed over the sun symbol are used for visitors to sit on. 

Vivid Nightmares and Sleep Paralysis 

Kevin and I explored the castle grounds at night having the entire castle to ourselves. Most of the hostel interior was renovated to look modern inside but we still knew we were staying in a castle with a very dark history.  Earlier the caretaker had told us that there had been some incidents where guests had seen unexplained phenomena. Some guests would check in and leave in the middle of the night in terror. One while taking a shower in the common shower room, located on our floor just outside our room, saw a menacing figure in the shower and went insane screaming. The guest was so terrified that they had to be removed by the police and taken to a hospitol. I would be lying if I didn’t say that part of me hoped to se witness these kinds of events when coming to places like this. I have always had a fascination with the  unexplained yes I did hope to experience something in the castle.

Kevin and I picked up some beers and a pizza at a nearby store and stayed up for as long as we could in the youth hostel dining room before retiring to bed in our bunk beds.

Later in the middle of the night I received what I came looking for. I remember waking up to the sound of a fierce fist pounding on the door to the room Kevin and I were sleeping in. I looked at the door and it was closed. But the pounding continued and on the other side I could hear an un-holy sounding deep and gutteral voice resonating with hate and rage warning me to leave. The worst thing about the experience was that even though I was awake, I could not move. I was paralyzed in bed. I was awake, I could see my sorroundings and I could talk  but I could not move. I could see Kevin still sleeping in his bed across the room from me and even though I tried to shout at him and wake him up he wasnt stirring. I could see my phone on the night stand nearby and I thought if I could just get to it, I could call my girlfriend. For some reason I thought that this would help me break out of this spell. But I still couldn’t move. The pounding on the door grew louder and I could imagine that on the other side there was a demon in appearance with black lifeless eyes only desiring to harm me.  I imagined the worst. Then at that moment I was finally able to break free of the paralysis, reach for my phone and call my girlfriend. This woke Kevin up and I explained to him what was hapanning and this freaked him out. Maybe it was because this was all a whole sleep paralysis nightmare but the demonic figure dissapeared the moment I was able to get out of bed.  In all likelyhood the experience was a dream. I was jetlegged and sleeping in a Nazi castle so to have nightmares isn’t really a stretch. But sleep paralysis is something I have only had one other time in my life and it was not nearly as bad as this. Kevin and I were both freaked out by the experience. Kevin didn’t witness any of the incident and the door remained locked, so in all likelyhood it was a nightmare but both of us decided we couldn’t return to bed. Instead we decided to explore the castle and climb to the towers. Instead of being scared, now we were more intrigued. The castle was vast and we walked up and down the stairs searching every open quarter and there were many of them.  Then because we needed to get an early start to catch the train to Prague, we walked out of the castle’s front gate while it was still dark outside to the side of the road and waited for a scheduled mini-bus to take us back to Paderborn, where we had breakfast and then caught a train to Prague. This experience will always leave me wondering if the nightmare had any element of the supernatural to it.

 

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