On the trail of the grimmer chapters of the city’s history: a scary stroll though the medieval alleyways. Discover witch trials, torture, hangmen, executions and their settings.
As the light draws in, does the thought of penetrating the hidden corners and remote passages of the old city where who knows what horrors were perpetrated raise goosebumps?
There is a lot to unearth here and you’ll find that the spookiness will be delivered in spades.
And if you want to know the details of what actually happened – perhaps best to use your imagination. We will be, in effect, travelling in time back to a past of frightfulness beyond belief. We’ll be looking at Salzburg’s shadowside, at places where the Middle Ages held sway and at the scenes of the witch trials of the 17th century.
At this time, Salzburg had its own population of beggars and felons and after the Thirty Years’ War their ranks were further swelled by disbanded soldiers and other young people out of work. These marginalised and denigrated groups became the target for all sorts of allegations of sorcery – for example, that they would raise storms or cause sickness in animals and humans. The accused were then put to the torture in order to obtain a ‘confession’. These were hard times for many and indeed, harder for others for there were even supposed male witches – warlocks – who met unpleasant ends.
The first destination on our terror tour will be St. Peter’s Cemetery where we’ll talk about wives who were tickled to death – but perhaps this is just a story that has become distorted over time. Presumably we’ll never know the truth – anyway, after this we’ll make our way through Salzburg’s medieval alleyways.
Deep within the fortress itself are still buried many secrets but we’ll be considering the torture chamber that is actually a fake with its instruments that were introduced much later – presumably to make the whole more impressive. And while on the subject of fakes, there is the so-called ‘Hangman’s House’ located all on its own on the Krauthügel behind the fortress – now a part of Salzburg’s mythology.
There is much more in this vein – such as the ‘catacombs’ of the cemetery, the supposed ‘smallest house’ in Salzburg and the association for the ‘prevention of premature burial’ of St. Peter – a group that it is claimed never really existed.
On our tour, we’ll be meeting with stories, legends and fables but also just as many historical events that actually occurred that will make the flesh creep. Who would wish to share the experience of standing in one of Salzburg’s pillories back then? The various methods of torture and punishment meted out to individuals differed according to their status – a distinction was made between serving soldiers, officials and ordinary persons. Instruments of torture in common use at the time were thumbscrews, the Spanish boot, the rack and the torture by fire.
And why were so many malefactors not actually burnt alive at the stake? What really happened back then?
A host of questions: most of which will be answered on our terror tour of the medieval alleyways of the city.
Author: Sabine Rath
Official tour guide