When one thinks of churches, you often think of peace, love, and tranquility, but what if the church has a dark past? Secrets hidden deep with its walls, artifacts touched by those long dead hidden in the basement?
These 10 churches have a past and secrets one would least expect. From haunted churches to downright scary churches, these have it all.
1) The Museum Of Purgatory
The city of Rome in Italy is known to drip history from its very foundations. Located on one of Rome's most notorious rivers, the Sacro Cuore Del Suffragio is a beautiful gothic church with a dark past. Next to it is The Museo Delle Anime Del Purgatoria or The Museum Of Purgatory in English.
Our story began in 1897 when a fire swept through the chapel in the great city. After the fire was brought under control, Parish Priest Fr. Victor Jouet noticed some strange markings on the wall behind the altar, which upon closer inspection, looked to him like a human face with a mournful expression. He was convinced that this was a lost soul begging him for help to release them from their eternal capture in purgatory. This caused Father Jouet to have an adventure of his own and seek out similar happenings from around the world.
After gathering an extensive collection of items now on display deep within the church, it is said Father Jouet passed away in the one-room church in 1912. To date, no new artifacts have been added to his collection. He believed that every artifact had been touched by the unfortunate souls of those trapped in purgatory. This old Catholic belief left them unable to continue on their journey and find peace after their actions in the mortal world.
The collection of these artifacts could have very well have been what caused this to become a haunted church as they say spirits cling to objects in their next life.
2) Snagov Monastery
On an island in Romania sits a picture-perfect church. The Snagov Monastery dates back to the late 14th century. The name Snagov is suspected to be of Bulgarian origin from the word sneg, which means snow or snaga, meaning the human body's strength.
The original structure was built from wood and was destined to be taken by the elements. It sank into the lake that surrounds the island, causing locals to believe the island to be cursed.
Eventually, this would be the resting place of a battle-hardened bloodthirsty killer, known by many names of the centuries, the one we recognize most is Dracula. Vlad The Impaler, who was the inspiration behind Bram Stoker's novel, is said to be buried at the Monastery's entrance. Ironic right?
During the time of Vlad The Impaler, it is said that he had fortifications on the island as well as a jail and torture chamber for his enemies. The Monastery was excavated sometime in the 1930s, and his body was never found.
It could very well be that the torture and human suffering that went on, on this island is what resulted in this becoming not only a haunted church but one of the scariest churches known worldwide.
3) St. Mary's Church
St. Mary's church is a beautiful building and secretly one of my favorites. Built around 1350, this church has seen more than its share of deaths and has one of the fascinating legends surrounding it.
Piers, The Dragon Slayer, lies buried in (yes in) the north wall of the church. Legend has it that he traveled the realm to search for a beast worthy of his sword, only to return to the village to find a dragon preying on the inhabitants.
Determined and excited to have finally found a monster worthy of him, he hunted the dragon to its lair, and after a fierce, bloody battle, he was victorious. While admiring the handy work, he was confused when Satan appeared before him.
Furious over the loss of his pet, the Devil vowed to hunt him until his last breath, a soul for a soul. When Piers lay upon his death bed, the Devil began to play tricks on his mind. Taking a bow, he fired it high into the air and asked that his final resting place be wherever it landed.
As you can probably guess, this arrow struck the north wall of the Church of St. Mary, and thus, he was entombed into the wall upon his death. His tomb can still be viewed today, and written upon it is the encounter with the dragon.
While today we may view a story of dragons as nothing but a fairytale, it does give this haunted church quite a unique story to tell.
4) Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church in New York was built by paper manufacturer Edgar Bartow. Construction of the church began in 1844. He chose architect Minard LaFever to build him his dream along with the chapel and rectory,
There was a problem, though, as this church now sits on a cemetery that is notorious for paranormal activity. There have been reports of footsteps and lights turning on and off of their own accord. There have even been s few spirits spotted wandering about the grounds.
One spirit, a former clerk for the Parish was killed there in 1897. There are rumors that his blood and the blood of his killer can still be seen on the walls of the bell tower stairway. These other two most photogenic spectre are believed to be two of the former pastors who are now buried within the church's crypt.
It seems that not all scary churches inhabitants are that of evil or angry spirits at unrest. Could it be that these spectres are simply watching over a place they adored in life?
5) St. Marks Episcopal Church
St. Marks Episcopal Church in Wyoming was built during 1886-1888 and came with a story that will make your hair stand on end. It is said that two Swedish immigrants, who had been working on the bell tower construction, never returned, leaving the tower less than half-finished.
After their abrupt departure, several more workers were hired to finish the task though none of them kept the job for very long, all calming that spooky and strange goings-on were the cause of their departure.
A brilliant and somewhat unconventional idea was formed, offering the spirit their own room within the church. Oddly enough, this seemed to please the spirit, and work on the tower was finally completed.
Many years later, the two immigrants who had begun the bell tower construction returned and told the pastor that one of their fellow workers slipped and plummeted to his death. For fear of being sent back to Sweden, he had instead kept it a secret and sealed the body in a wall.
Could you imagine trying to live an everyday life knowing that you are the reason why this place of peace is a haunted church? This one ranks high on my list of all-time scary churches.
6) Aquia Episcopal Church
Aquia Episcopal Church has stood through three wars and seen its fair share of tragedies. Built in 1757, it is now 264 years old, and this church practically oozes history from its very bricks.
However historic and beautiful, this church has a secret hidden inside its walls. Sometime around the mid 18th century, a young woman running desperately away from a vicious gang of highwaymen discovered the church and hid in the belfry.
Unfortunately, the robbers found her and murdered her within the church, leaving her body behind to rot away. After the Revolutionary war, the church resumed its services, and her skeletal remains were finally discovered and laid to rest. Some churchgoers claimed she had beautiful golden hair that still shone as brightly as any living woman had. For many years before being replaced with concrete, you could still see the bloodstains on the belfry floor from this faithful night.
Today people tell tales of running footsteps being heard through the graveyard, the sounds of a violent fight for your life struggle being listened to with the church's walls, and even a woman with beautiful golden hair standing in the balcony window.
In the case of this haunted church, it feels as though a good ghost story is necessary because it has been standing proudly for 264 years.
7) Abbaye De Mortemer
Abbaye De Mortemer is nothing but ruins now hidden in Normandy's Forest of Lyan. Created in the 12th century out of flint and limestone, this is considered one of France's most haunted locations. By the 15th century, it had become a thriving community of hundreds of monks and became a significant religious building.
At the time of the French Revolution, though things had changed dramatically, the abbey had only four remaining monks living with its once-grand walls. With the revolution came a grave distrust of many religious institutions. This had a deadly outcome for these monks.
Accused of taking wealth for themselves, these brothers were hunted down and killed. In 1863 the abbey was bought by a rich man, and he moved his family into the only remaining building at the time.
The family lived in constant fear of ghostly lights, doors and windows opening and closing of their own accord, and oddly enough, a procession of spectral monks.
The remains of the abbey are also home to the White Lady. She is thought to be the ghost of Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry the l gliding amongst the abbey's ruins. It is feared that anyone who sees her can expect grave misfortune.
I could not imagine what it was like for this family living on the grounds of a haunted church. The things they described and what they must have gone through really do make this one of the top scary churches on this list.
8) St. Mary The Virgin Of The Wrong Way Church
Long since abandoned England's church of St. Mary the Virgin is known as the wrong way church. How can a church be the wrong way?
Built in 1350, this church was built with its alter facing away from the rising sun, meaning away from God.
Known for mysterious lights, black mists, and even the hooded figure of a monk, it has a long history of the strange and abnormal. Today it has become a sort of magnet for those who delve into dark magic.
In 1963 this ghostly place became the main target of graverobbers who dug up and scattered the bones of an apothecary's wife who died in 1770 in a manner that would suggest some occult ritual.
Because it was the target of damage and desecration, it led local authorities to remove the headstone and plow the area in order to disguise where the graveyard had been. I find this incredibly sad as any reminders that have survived to modern times should be left well enough alone.
The fact that the town felt it necessary to remove the graveyard and thus disturbing its inhabitants could very well be leading to the paranormal activity of this haunted church. I guess we will never know.
9) St. Andrew's On The Red
St Andrew's On The Red was built in 1849 in Winnipeg. It is one of the oldest and possibly most haunted churches in Canada. During the plague, bodies were left here, and these spirits are now said to haunt the area.
There have been reports of a man dressed all in black and a woman in white, and even a pair of red eyes. If you are thinking of going on a paranormal expedition to this Canadian mystery, a word of caution.
Those who have visited here and seen these spectators have reported heart-stopping nightmares the following night. All reported the gates of the cemetery rattling as if many hands were shaking it trying to get free of the grounds.
It makes for the perfect horror story and is considered one of Canada's scariest churches that leads to nightmares of rattling gates by ghostly hands. Sounds like a massive no from me.
10) St. Stephen's Church
This next church is located in my backyard. St. Stephen's church was built in 1883 in the municipality of Throne, Quebec. This beautiful little church is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, something one would not expect to see while taking a Sunday drive on a gravel road.
There is a legend that goes with this church, though. Late one night, a priest and nun were heading back to town after a late service as they approached a very steep hill (which many today are still nervous of).
Their horses were spooked by something in the woods, causing them to take off in a panic, the wagon was thrown, the priest and the nun both perished in the accident. It is now said that they haunted this small church and its grounds, trying to find peace. Many locals suspect that their bodies are buried somewhere on the now haunted church's grounds.
What makes this one of the most popular locally scary churches is that there is, for some unknown reason, a skull and crossbones on one of the tombs. The why remains unknown.
The next time you enter a church, will you feel at peace? Or will you wonder about the history or if there was anything in its history of a dark and twisty manner like both the haunted and scary churches mentioned above? I know I will.