They say the piano can still be heard playing in the midst of night. Yet there’s no one there to play it. Also called The Spiritualist Temple at the Foothills of the Carpathians, the story of how this eerie residence came to be and what it witnessed over the years is even more impressive than the castle itself. One of the world’s most haunted and of course haunting places, it stands as a symbol of love transcending life and death.
Julie Hasdeu’s ghost is one of Romania’s most noteworthy legends. This is because it might actually be true. Between 1852 and 1855, Victor Hugo turned towards spiritism and the so-called tables parlantes. He had lost his beloved daughter, Leopoldine, in 1843, drowned in the Seine with her husband. She was only 19. From that moment on, and for the rest of his life, Victor Hugo desperately tried to communicate with his daughter through seances, convinced they work. Back then, spiritism was in its heyday. Half a century later, a very similar story occurred on the opposite side of the continent.
Scholar Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu, a remarkable figure in Romanian history, writer, academician, historian, publicist, linguist and folklorist, he lost his daughter when she was 19. A few years later, he built a castle in her honor. Parental love flows in the air. Symbolic elements shroud the castle in mystery, while its exact origins remain an enigma. B.P. Hasdeu claims the plans where etched during seances. Julie sent her father details on how to build the castle, even though she never studied architecture during her lifetime.
The fortress-looking building sends us straight to the Middle Ages, and stands as testimony to an enduring love that broke material boundaries and opened doors to a world shrouded in secrecy for most of us.
“The uninitiated, not knowing where to begin, see the simplest things as an enigma.” B.P. Hasdeu
B.P. Hasdeu’s only offspring, Julie was a precocious child, a little genius who was always in a hurry to learn. She could read and recite poetry at two an half years old, and by the time she turned 11 she already spoke three foreign languages. At the age of 16 she became the first Romanian woman admitted at the prestigious Paris-Sorbonne. Julie was deeply in love with words and dreamed of becoming a writer. She never lived to see her dreams through. In 1888, at the tender age of 19, Julie Hasdeu fell ill with consumption and passed away. Her hour of death strangely coincided with her hour of birth. Precisely and exactly.
So unexpectedly taken from this world, her parents were left stricken with grief. They never recovered from the loss and tried to find other means to be together again with their daughter. They began believing in her soul’s immortality and created a cult around her.
Julie Hasdeu Castle
Between 1894 and 1896, following the plans Julie sent to her father during seances, B.P. Hasdeu built a castle like no other in this world. Based on numbers three and seven, as well as numerous mysterious symbols, sacred and profane blend into this astounding temple-castle. There are three entrances, two secondary and a main entrance with a massive sliding door that seems to be put there to conceal the secrets within. Guarded by two stone sphinxes, Pro fide et patria, the family’s motto, and E pur si muove are written on the gate, while the all-seeing eye watches from above. A truly bizarre building, with battlements, not a castle per se but rather a small manor, it has an intriguing architecture to say the least. And if you though the exterior was strange, wait till you see what lies inside.
There are three towers, three cellars, three chairs in Julie’s chamber, and seven-steps stairs. Triangle shapes – symbols of divine trinity, balance, harmony and coordinates of the brain dominate the castle. Entrances and windows have parallel mirrors – symbols of the inconsistency of the body’s matter, the spirits immateriality and vastness of infinity. It is said that everyone and everything that enters through the doors and windows is multiplied to infinity.
The tower in the middle hosts the Temple, housing the statue of Jesus Christ and a shrine with a piano that is said to sometimes play by itself. The Narthex has parallel mirrors. The shape of the temple, in section, symbolizes the Holy Grail.
The Darkroom was the place where seances were held. Spiritualist manuscripts, a séance table and eerie pictures adorn the obscure chamber. Three chairs remind of ancient oracular tripods worshiping spirits. One of the walls has a hole connecting it to the scholar’s study, said to be the place through which Julie’s spirit would enter the room.
The exact circumstances of how B.P. Hasdeu started building the castle remain a mystery. He said the plans of the castle were drawn after spiritualist dictation. Could it be true? Did B.P Hasdeu actually establish a connection with the afterlife and managed to contact his beloved daughter?
The castle became B.P. Hasdeu’s refuge, and he lived within his walls for ten years. The Hasdeu family’s sepulcher in Bellu Cemetery in Bucharest and the castle are recognized as the world’s only temples of the afterlife.
Conversations with the spirit world in the temple of the afterlife
B.P. Hasdeu himself kept records of his meetings with Julie. A total of 101 transcriptions of seances were recorded between 1890 and 1903. According to these records, Julie sent her father instruction for the castle, gave him advice on a variety of issues and even talked about her past lives. Her seven reincarnations were Agnodike, the world’s first female medium, Aspazia, Pericle’s wife, Beatrice, Dante’s lover, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth Tudor, Charlotte Corday, Marat’s assassin, the very soul of the French Revolution.
According to locals, B.P. Hasdeu was often seen coming out of his window in the midst of night and howling like a wolf. Not to mention the piano playing by itself accompanied by Hasdeu’s applause, and the statue of Jesus Christ in the temple that seems to punish anyone who means its harm.
Some say Julie’s spirit never left the castle. She is its true patron, although she never actually lived there. At least, not in the way we understand things. We are only able to visit her architectural masterpiece and messages from the afterlife because she invites us to.