When October claims the calendar and the long shadows of autumn begin to fall earlier every day, a harvest moon over Marco can light the way into the past, the present, and future, especially when a second blue moon will rise over our islands on Halloween.
As with many of the Marco Beach Boy Chronicles, this is a story from our past that reaches beyond Goodland, Marco, and Capri. This is a narrative from overseas, wherein the black forested regions of Germany our story continues in the remote castle hotels where on occasion; something really does go bump in the night.
In our last episode, Schloss Lembeck greeted us with rattling floor-to-ceiling windows, personal items violently scattered, and an unexpected razor accident where snaking trails of blood climbed upward on the shinning white tile of a modern shower stall. Everything spooky at Lembeck happened in the lengthening shadows of late afternoon, but all that followed on that anxious evening was a great meal, cold beer from the tap, and a nervous night with one eye open while waiting for a visit from a German poltergeist.
The following day found our ghost hunters on the road again and headed to Ulm, Stuttgart, and onward toward Wurzburg. Our destination for the evening was Burghotel Gotzenburg where we were in for our most restless and disturbing night yet and a scary scene straight out of a Hollywood movie set.
When we arrived, it was late afternoon and the castle, when we pulled up, seemed to be watching with eyes that were dark windows in the very peak of the old gothic structure.
After Lembeck, ghost stories became a theme for conversation and we were all excited about another adventure with the supernatural, or perhaps what we suspected was a poltergeist. After check–in at the old reception desk, our first question to the gracious concierge was: “Is Burghotel Gotznburg haunted?”
The answer to our group was an instant reply. “Of course,” the concierge smiled after she spoke, “We even place warnings in every room about our ghosts.”
If castle Lemback looked scary in the dark shadows of late afternoon, this castle appeared more than ready to offer an adventure into the paranormal that was more than this Marco beach boy was ready to handle.
First of all, there were deer antlers everywhere. Not only did the long and menacing horns of the long-lost deer reach out from the forlorn and lofty walls, but there were other strange animals stuffed into trophy heads that I could not identify. After following a castle caretaker that spoke no English, I arrived at my room that was on a different wing of the castle from my travel partners. Across the hall from the heavy wooden door that was the entrance to my room was the stuffed head of what looked like a werewolf. Of course, the stuffed head was an ancient wild boar, but the sharp fangs and the upward thrusting tusks of the trophy did not seem as foreboding as the dark and shining eyes that were crowded by tufts of black and brown fur.
After gaining the room for a quick inspection, I found the ghost warning on the nightstand beside an ancient four-poster bed. After asking the reception for a translation of the ghost warning written in German, I was told the message said simply: “I am your personal and very own ghost and I bid you good night!”
The little cone-shaped ghost warning was charming, but the werewolf waiting outside my door—even before nightfall—prompted me into getting ready for a drink in the castle beer garden as fast as possible.
After a large cold pilsner, Schloss Gotzenburg seemed less sinister. The folks working in the castle were very friendly and joking about the ghosts, but no one said anything about werewolves.
After a candlelit dinner which consisted of braised rabbit’s back, frog-fish medallions, and a smoked trout appetizer—complete with head, tail, and staring eyes—one of our travel partners made a comment about the withered and shrunken fish flesh: “This trout has obviously smoked for years.”
Dinner was truly wonderful, and afterward, we learned about a small inn in the nearby village with lively entertainment. When we preceded down to the reception and out the door to the drawbridge, all of us stopped in our tracks. Nightfall was complete, but under the lighted stonework from the castle and the gilded streetlights of the village ahead, a thick fog gathered completely over the cobblestones. The ground fog seemed to pour over every part of the drawbridge and then down onto the street. Above the cobblestones and the grass on either side that we could no longer see, the air was cool but clear. When we walked, the fog swished about our feet and filled in behind us as we continued toward the distant lights from the village.
As if reading my mind, one of our travelers offered the comment, “This creepy fog looks just like the werewolf movies straight out of Hollywood.”
After entering the village, the fog became thicker and covered not only the narrow street but also the base of every doorway. After walking until we could see the end of the village and the fog in the forest ahead, we found the inn and went inside. When the friendly locals learned we were Americans and English, we were warned about the haunted castle just down the street and the special nights with the creeping fog when the hillbilly folk from the backwoods turned into werewolves and roamed the countryside looking for wayward travelers.
After every scary story the locals could think of was over, everyone was laughing and drinking schnapps and beer. The guitar player was entertaining until the witching hour when all the candles were abruptly snuffed out. After the inn closed and we were walking back through the creeping fog, all I could think of was the ghost warnings and what happened at Castle Lembeck the day before. I also was considering, with grim possibilities, the werewolf waiting on the wall outside my door and a classic poem I remembered from childhood: Even a man who is pure at heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.
Later that night, I suddenly sat up in bed. From a sound sleep, I was awake and I knew someone was in my room. I heard no noise, no bump in the night, but I still sat up staring into the darkness. I felt that someone was there and I did not know why, until a tall shape, darker than the surrounding darkness, crossed through the room and disappeared when it went into the wall.
I sat up in bed watching for half-an-hour before reaching for the bedside lamp. When the light chased away the very dark shadows, the cone-shaped ghost warning sign was waiting beside my watch that read 3:30 AM. The lights stayed on until dawn broke across the sky. The next day we drove onward to the next castle and the next adventure in the Marco Beach Boy Chronicles. Please keep reading exclusively in the Coastal Breeze News for our next escapade.
Tom Williams is a Marco Islander. He is the author of two books. “Lost and Found” and “Surrounded by Thunder –The Story of Darrell Loan and the Rocket Men.” Both books are available on Kindle and Nook.