This season, the Harvest moon rose into the autumn air on October 1st. The second full moon of the month is the Hunter’s moon and this year’s spooky spectacular will be a rare blue moon enchanting our islands this Halloween.
As with many of the Beach Boy Chronicles, this is a story far and away from our shores, but a tale inspired by our traveling band of ghost hunters during another full moon in October.
Our last episode ended with one of the most remote and creepiest castles ever, but after an evening with dark shadows moving in the fringes of firelight, and a storm raging with skeletal lightning fingers reaching across a sky, everyone slept with a kerosene lamp burning by the bed until morning came and we were off on another adventure.
After the grand old city of Wildflecken was passed, our band of gypsies was on the autobahn again and headed toward Bacharach, Oberwessel, and the Rhine River. When we broke out on the roadway between the mountains, the scenery along the river was awe-inspiring. The broad back of the ancient river flows below incredible vineyards climbing almost straight up the mountainsides. Little riverside towns and villages nestled along the shores, but with every twist and bend of the river, the Rhine has a grand old castle with a watchtower waiting as timeless sentinels.
Our next castle was Burg Hotel Auf Schonberg and despite the beautiful day and the festive scenery on either side of the Rhine, we knew there was a ghost story waiting, but this was a haunting provided by the castle hoteliers only upon our arrival.
After ducking through a tiny door in the castle courtyard, and finding the reception, we were shown to our rooms overlooking the majesty of the river. Once again, the afternoon was fading, but when looking for ghosts along the Rhine River, darkness falls fast and creepiness moves in quickly when the sun disappears behind the mountains and shadows start crawling down from the hanging vineyards.
After dinner, when the glow from several candelabras was perfect, we were enchanted by Wolfgang and Sabine as they settled in to tell the tale of the Seven Sisters of Auf Schonberg Castle. In the atmosphere of the grand old castle, we were at once transported into the past as the candlelight glowed and melted away the years.
“Once upon a time,” Wolfgang began, “there was a wealthy Baron who lived in castle Auf Schonberg. The Baron was a good man, but also a wise man that knew the ways of the world could produce evil. As time traveled past, the good Baron married and was blessed with seven precious daughters. When the Baroness succumbed to a sickness and died, the Baron was heartbroken and older, but the more he aged, his seven beautiful girls became the light in his life. Because of his fierce and devoted affection to his beloved, he knew he must protect them from a band of black-hearted knights that were ravaging villages and fiefdoms all along the Rhine. Well before the Baron died and left his girls to manage the nobility and the nearby villages, the Baron ordered a secret passage and an escape route to be constructed. For many years, stonemasons worked in secret and created a hidden passage from a room in the castle down through the mountain and out to a cave with a hidden entrance at the river. Just above the water but beneath a stone at the mouth of the cave was an escape boat waiting in the shallows.
“After the secret passage was complete, and only the Seven Sisters knew about the entrance and the exit, the band of black-hearted knights did arrive and lay siege to the castle. Once a week, seven of the evil knights would stand before the caste walls and demand that the seven sisters open the gates and marry the marauders.
“The sisters refused for months until the serfs of the villages that supplied the castle demanded the nobility to marry and end the hunger and brutal strife. Finally, the sisters sent a message of their agreement to marry the marauders, but in secret, each young girl stuffed one of their dresses with straw and set a mock wedding reception for when the castle gates would open.
“The following day, the Black Knights rode into the open gates and were furious that all remained of the beautiful sisters was seven hapless maidens of straw. Meanwhile, the seven sisters, fearful for their fates, entered and closed the secret passage and climbed down through the riverside mountain until they exited the hidden cave that was waiting on the riverbank. The boat for their rescue was waiting as their father had promised, but with the onset of the howling winds of October, the girls drowned in the waves on the Rhine when the escaping vessel was overturned.”
Wolfgang and Sabine finished the story of the Seven Sisters by adding the tragic spirits of the young maidens still haunt the secret passage and are forever compelled to carry away kind men with good hearts who seek shelter in the castle.
After all the years, and all the searching of every room in Auf Schonberg, the secret passage has never been found, but as the ghost story goes, the seven sisters still haunt the castle, the secret passage and the hidden cave waiting at the river.
Our stay at Auf Schonberg was indeed a peaceful night—apart from a reoccurring dream where running in slow motion our band of ghost hunters was chased by skeletons wearing wedding dresses.
During the dream, there were no bumps in the darkness, and nothing scary enough to warrant sleeping with the lights on, but the next morning when this Marco Beach Boy started for the morning coffee, there were several strands of straw waiting on the old stone stairs.
Happy Halloween Marco, Goodland, and Isles of Capri!
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.