Estonia's manors provide wealth of ghost stories and supernatural tales
Virtually all of Estonia's manor houses, be they inhabited, used for accommodation or recreation, or dilapidated or in ruins, are said to be haunted, if local lore is to be believed at least, weekly Maaleht writes.
Manor houses (Estonian: Mõis) are such a fixture in the Estonian collective memory that former prime minister Andrus Ansip once referred to one of his successors, and party-mate, current incumbent Kaja Kallas as a "lady of the manor" (Estonian: Mõisapreili), while, much as with large, old houses in other parts of the world, there is no shortage of stories of a more supernatural nature attending on such places either.
Maaleht reports (link in Estonian) that tales abound for instance of the "floating islands" of Porkuni järv, Lääne-Viru County, where apparitions included hidden treasures, Baltic crusades era knights and manor residents, and fire on the small lake's surface.
Several Porkuni residents say they have witnessed inexplicable phenomena, both in the environs of the old manor house and of at long-forgotten burial site, with sightings of floating men in black hats, ladies in evening dresses and strange, cloaked "demi-humans" all apparently having been reported.
The frequent backdrop of the Estonian manor points towards the origins, not only of many of the tales, but even of the entire genre of territorially-bound ghosts themselves, which folklorist Liis Järv told Maaleht was brought over to Estonia by the German speaking aristocracy and gentry and its transcendental Christian faith, compared with the preexisting, somewhat animist Estonian peasant concept of a spirit apparition being that of a stranger, or an unknown individual who had passed on.
Having a resident ghost at any big house in Estonia had by the romantic period of the 19th century become somewhat de rigueur, she added, in addition to tapping into a human need for story telling, atavism, concepts of good and evil, and links between the past and present, all of which make it immaterial, if you will pardon the pun, as to whether ghosts actually exist or not.
Of these specific stories, Palmse manor, also in Lääne-Viru County, is the site of both crying children – even when no youngsters are present – and doors which open or close by themselves, while in Lihula manor, Pärnu County, unrequited love forms the backdrop, though in this case it is the young man who murdered the object of his affections who cannot be at rest and is said to haunt the manor, rather than the spirit of his victim.
Meanwhile at Sagadi manor, Lääne-Viru County, the haunting concerns no less of a person than the lady of the manor, said to have committed suicide out of longing for a local lad; at Rägavere, in the same county, whispers, footsteps and the rustle of cumbersome dresses disturb the living, whereas self-locking and unlocking doors and moving objects are the specialty at Pädaste, on the island of Muhu.
Other tragedies still played out can be found at Mooste, Põlva County, and at Taali, Pärnu County, as well as at Kolga, Harju County, family seat of the Stenbocks, after whom the building which houses the Estonian government is named, and where ghosts have even been known to congregate to play cards and laugh uproariously – all this in addition to the Kolga manor's piece de resistance, an apparition of a red haired youth who was murdered there.
Vana-Vigala manor, Rapla County and Kiltsi manor, Lääne-Viru County, also have their stories – in the latter case the white lady thought to have been the inspiration for the Haapsalu Castle (completely explicable) "apparition" of the same name wrought havoc during an overnight school trip – while Rogosi manor, Võru County, is home to a more benign woman specter, a nun in fact, sporting a blue habit.
Saka manor in Ida-Viru County, too, has a friendly ghost, who reportedly gives out gifts to passers-by, notwithstanding the general Estonian folklore standard of the cruel (to the extent of many stately homes supposedly being decked out with their own torture chambers) Baltic German baron repressing and enslaving the local Estonians.
The original Maaleht piece (in Estonian) is here.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte