The greatest summers of my childhood were spent in what now is one of East Sweden’s top tourist attractions: Kalmar. The inner city today is the home of around 25 trendy restaurants, museums, boat trip rides, beaches and a marvelous castle. Visiting my grandmother, hearing my mother Gun Kronzell sing in concerts, playing with my best friend on Sweden’s sunniest island Öland, visiting what my father Herbert Moulton described as: “A magic tree that drops presents from its branches!”, falling in love with the local girl: those were all memories concieved to adore.
But the most exciting, historical part involved the old haunted castle itself.
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We walked along the moat and strolled the walls, inspecting the two ton cannons, basking in the brilliant sunshine. All of this prepared for my life-long love affair with mysterious.
In the winter, we witnessed a strange and very small whirlwind. Standing at the corner of a tower by the water, we gazed dumbfounded as it appeared as mysteriously as it disappeared.
In the summer, we looked down into the gigantic Renaissance storage towers. They had the appeal of prison vaults. Of course, they weren’t. For us, they were the homes of two palace giants: Brambambus and his wife Trenucia. We stood calling their names down into the deep dungeon, hoping that one of them would reappear. I always tried to imagine what they looked like.
Later on, I worked here as tourguide to pay for my university studies.
To me, the two giants were the governors of the castle.
In reality, this place set the scene for many dramatic events: honeymoons and aristocratic feasts, royal visitation and international politics, civil war and enemy occupation as well as the safeguarding of over 200 cannons.
The most mysterious incidents, however, involve the governors and their families.
Looming over the city like a friendly giant, Kalmar Castle was built in the 12th century in order to guard the city and the bay like a hawk.
The great renovation period climaxed during the Renaissance, but no major changes have been made here since 1597.
Therefore, it remains the best kept Renaissance castle in Sweden.
Invaded 22 times, among others by the Danes, the palace is a fascinating breeding ground for history-buffs. It receives over a hundred thousand visitors each year. Children are among them. They sit on thrones, look at the historical decoration and listen attentively when you tell them ghost stories.
Many of the souls lost here were once the families of the governors.
Those are the stories people tell.
Why these stories involve the caretaking governors is a mystery.
A legend that surrounds these phenomenons might hold an answer to this question. The red flowers that grow along the moat are called Man-Blood (Mannablod) by the locals. The awarded historian Manne Hofrén spoke of an old wives’ tale, one that claims that the bodies of the occupying Danish soldiers and governors lie buried under the soil, giving the flowers its bloodred tinge.
Historically, the Danes at many times attacked the bay. These forces got themselves involved in what became the Bloodbath of Kalmar in 1504, 19 years before Gustav Vasa drove out the Danes and claimed himself king. The local mayor was executed. The events during this time lead to centuries of hatred. The Danish forces conquered the castle back in 1611 and held it for two years. They kept on trying to win what Vasa claimed was “his key to the kingdom”.
The governors and caretakers of the castle were the ones that protected the it from these Danish forces. But, in actual fact, the real pain was carried by the families. So, it is not strange that three of the castle’s most commonly seen spectres belong to the dear ones of these governors.
The White Lady is one of these at many occasions witnessed ghosts. Clear is that she might, or even must, have been a resident here. One theory involves a woman named Margareta Posse. As the spouse of royal army council Bo Johnsson Grip, she gave the Margareta-Chamber its future name. She died here in childbirth. Grip tried to save their child by opening up her belly with a knife. To no avail. The child died shortly after it was baptized.
The White Lady could also be Anna Eriksdotter Bielke, the wife of the governor Johan Månsson Natt och Dag (Night and Day, an aristocratic Swedish name). During the Danish occupation in 1520, Gustav Vasa roamed the country, trying to conjur up resistance. Bielke was one of the few that received Vasa with hospitality. This gives many a reason to believe that the woman that is sometimes seen in the watchtower with a light is Anna Bielke herself. She tried to act as a false lighthouse in order to confuse enemy ships from attacking the castle.
But could The White Lady also be Governor Ribbing’s vengeful German wife Anna von Hintzen? Apparantly, this woman had such a short temper that she murdered two employees in the Governor Ribbing’s apartment in 1640.
Of course, there are also stories that contradict these legends. Famous national antiquarian Dagmar Selling was accidentally locked inside the castle in the 1960’s. As a good friend of my family, she told us that she climbed to the top tower and swung a light to attract attention from locals. This incident sparked a pure surge of White Lady stories. Could this be the origin of these tales? But the legends about The White Lady go back centuries. Maybe there is another answer to this inquiry.
However, not only governor’s wives haunt the palace. One Renaissance and one Baroque ghost were both the victims of local governors.
Dorothea Öberg, a convict inside the 16th century women’s prison, fell in love with a male prisoner named Johan. She loved him so much that she wrote him love letters. These letters were found stuck into the frames of a wooden ceiling in the 1960’s. During a radio interview performed in this tower on October 29th, 2010, there were technical difficulties while the involved spoke about these historical facts. The nightly visitors, a journalist and the castle’s historian, experienced a heavy resistance, saying: “It always seems if we were not welcome here.”
But what about the seven year old boy that haunts all the rooms of the castle? He has been seen for many centuries by a wide variation of different people. Dressed in knee-length pants and a white shirt, his long and blonde hair is beautifully combed. Apparantly, he is Wolmar Wrangel, a relative of strict Governor-General Carl Gustaf Wrangel.
The Grey Monk is another addition to the assembly. He is often seen close to the Queen’s Staircase, disappearing into the walls. Did he have anything to do with the tombstones of which the staircase is built?
Finally, we conclude these ghost-stories with an anecdote that my good friend the expert tourguide Erling Berg shared with me. After closing time, he alone checked all the windows and doors and every nook and cranny for hidden tourists. The Burned Hall (posthumously named for the fire that raged here in 1647). Looking out toward the bay, he suddenly felt the presence of someone walking up behind him. He assumed that it was a colleague, trying to scare him. The shuffling of feet stopped behind him. But when he turned around, there was no one there at all. This happened a couple of times until he recieved the answer. Sitting at home in his couch, he suddenly looked up. In an unusual tunnel vision, he claims, he saw himself standing by the window. Behind him, an old woman that looked like the aristocratic widow Gunilla Bielke strolled up and stopped right behind him?
What is true?
No one knows.
Maybe that is what draws people to listen to these stories: the prospect of finding the answer is never lost. When Erling Berg took us on a midnight tour around the castle vaults and dungeons back in 1992, we asked ourselves that question. The bats in the attic, the skulls in the basement and the hidden doorways behind walls: they all spoke of mystery pleading to be solved.
And so we conclude the article with the story of me and my father Herbert Eyre Moulton standing by Brambambus’ tower, calling out the giant’s name.
Perhaps that old soul is still there, waiting for someone to discover him.
The mystery remains.