Iulia Hasdeu Castle: A Tribute The Dead Built
“Hey, I just realized there’s an occult castle about an hour from here. Want to go?” my husband asked me one day.
Well, of course! Weird and interesting places always are at the top of my list.
So, after about a week we head out on a dull, grey Wednesday. My least favorite time of the year is this blank space between New Year and Spring, so this seemed like a perfect diversion. Plus, a haunted castle is always a fun visit!
About Iulia Hasdeu Castle:
We were heading to Iulia Hasdeu Castle (pronounced Yoo-lee-ah Hash-day-oo), built in the late 1890’s by Bogdan Hasdeu, a well-known historian and philosopher, in the small town of Câmpina. The occult part comes in because he built it entirely by instruction from his daughter, Iulia, after she died. Part invention and part instruction by traveling psychics, Bogdan used séance and spirit writing to get instruction from Iulia on how to build what became her shrine. He also contacted her to compose music, poetry, and stories from her beyond the grave. In addition to these works attributed to Iulia, Bogdan went on to write and publish many memoirs and tributes to Iulia.
When I learned a little about Iulia herself (when she was alive, anyway) I started to understand why her father was so destroyed by her death. Iulia was a prodigy from a very young age, learning to write poetry and prose in several languages. When she was a teenager, she went to Paris, France for college and became the first Romanian to graduate from Sorbonne University. She died at the age of nineteen from tuberculosis, a common illness at the time. She was the couple’s only child, and loved by many. She had just directed her first widely successful theatre show shortly before her death.
The castle survived with almost all original possessions through the communist regime when many landmarks were dismantled and redistributed. This may have been due to the highly religious Romanian’s opinion of items associated with a ghost. After reconstruction and fundraising, Iulia Hasdeu’s tribute opened for visitors in 1994.
Going to the house, I was thinking we’d have to beat other visitors, but on a cold February morning we were the only ones there. The small castle is circled by a wrought iron gate and is next to a police station, surrounded by small houses. While it was probably the first building in the area, these houses grew up around it in the last 100 years. We didn’t see any people until going in the front door to find the attendant. It costs 10 lei (maybe $2.50) per person for entry, and we got a handy handheld recording device for a virtual tour.
The rooms were all with original furnishings and plenty of donated tributes to Iulia by those who knew her or her father. We were able to tour the séance room, the room dedicated to Iulia in life, the office of Bogdan, a sitting room dedicated to artifacts of the family, and the round room with an inexplicable Jesus under a cupola.
The Séance Room:
This room was where Bogdan held séances to contact Iulia, and had artifacts he used during these meetings along with samples of the spirit writing he collected. He apparently even wrote his own séance guide, kind of like a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe for psychics. The room used to have frescos on the walls of what Bogdan felt were important images to help spirits visit, but these were apparently too damaged to save. There was also a round pass-through to the office area, I’m still not sure why. Overall, this tiny room with a large window and blank walls was not what I was expecting when I found out this is where séances were held.
As a room full of artifacts of Iulia’s life when alive, it was mostly in celebration of her life. There are many decorative lilies here, which is a symbol for the death of someone young. Diaries, books, dolls, even a lithograph of a song supposedly transcribed by Bogdan from Iulia during a séance. When reading Iulia’s diaries from her time in Paris, and her small couplets she wrong as a child, and see her practicing her name in French, you really feel connected with Iulia’s life.
The Cupola Room:
This really is something you need to experience. It is the original front room of the castle, so would have been the place visitors first saw. The central room to the castle, it has a double staircase which leads up to the walkway circling the upper level cupola. The ceiling of the cupola itself is painted with a bright red and gold leaf accents in abstract designs with constellations. What they mean is now lost with Bogdan. The Jesus statue was placed in there recently, I think, maybe as a way for the locals to feel more at ease with the spirit-designed house.
There are also two small library rooms, and a small space where Iulia’s piano sits. The piano supposedly plays itself at 3pm, but we left to grab lunch before then so it might true.
I really enjoyed having a look at this preserved landmark, where you can really see how people lived, interesting architecture of the late 1800’s and see a little about Romanian history. Whether this castle was actually built by Iulia after dying, I’m not sure. I definitely feel the despair of the house. In the inscriptions left by Bogdan where he always referred to her as ‘my beloved’ and in the lonely grandeur of the castle. Whether it actually is an occult house or not, I feel it is an important artifact in Romanian history, and is well preserved.
Definitely put it on your list to stop by, the castle can be seen thoroughly within three hours. With its easy access and close neighbors of Brasov and Bucharest, it is certainly worth the visit.