It’s Hallowe’en (or Samhein) again, a time when the doorway between the two worlds creaks open. Celts knew this and took precautionary measures against ghostly encounters by wearing masks and face paint. They also made a lot of noise and food offerings to appease the hungry souls. Later, Romans and Christians both tried to stamp out this silly pagan tradition. Romans introduced the goddess Pomona, whose symbol was the apple. Christians assigned the holiday to all the saints. All for naught. Long after the last druid lit a new fire at Samhein, people continued to put on masks, place lit candles inside pumpkins and treat strangers to food. Ghosts, too, did not get the memo …
As I was driving home from a yoga class in a witch’s hat, I wondered if there were any good Templar ghost stories out there. I’ve found several of them and even though these spectral Templars do not limit their appearances to Hallowe’en, tonight is the perfect time to get acquainted with them.
In 1148, Humbert III of Beajeu was driven to joining the Order of the Knights Templar by a ghost. Interestingly, no one ridiculed him for it. The ghost was that of one his vassals who had died without an absolution for his sins. While in purgatory, the ghost met the soul of Humbert’s father who too was suffering. Humbert was a man of action and decided to remedy the dire situation by becoming charitable and serving with Templars. (1)
At Cressing Temple, Essex stand two very tall barns which date back to the Knights Templar. One of them, the Barley Barn, is said to be the oldest timber-framed barn in the world. In 2009, a tourist photographed what appears to be a knight riding on a horse, with a shield at his left side. It’s difficult to tell if the rider is a former Templar, but the horse is uncanny.
Another site in England is the Church of St. John the Baptist in Hannington. A 12th-century Templar knight is buried within its chancel. Apparently his ghost never left and haunts the church on a regular basis.
In Bristol, a local fire station is a hot spot for paranormal activity. There are sounds of swords clashing, monks chanting and apparitions scaring the lights out of people. It turns out the fire station is on a former Templar ground and not far from the Temple Church, no longer in existence.
Scotland too has its share paranormal Templars, the most famous one being the ghost of Maryculter. The legend involves a Templar knight, Godfrey Wedderburn, who was rescued by a Saracen maiden. She fell in love with him, which was forbidden for both of them, and followed him to Scotland, an act that got both of them killed. While Godfrey was laid to rest in the Templar church, the girl never left him – her ghost continues to haunt his grave.
If you can stomach gory apparitions, your best bet is Prague. There, on Liliova Street, between midnight and 1 a.m., the ghost of a headless Templar rides his steed while cradling his own head. Occasionally, he challenges the passers-by to free him from his wretched fate. This can be done by seizing the poor knight’s sword and plunging it into his heart. It sounds like no one has had the guts to do it thus far. Should you miss the ghostly knight, you can always go see his mannequin in one of Prague’s museums.
(1) Schenk, Jochen (2012). Templar Families. Cambridge University Press. (Page 224.)