Ghosts, Grim Tales and Groningen
We know Groningen as a safe, friendly student town. But did you ever walk through the city and feel a shiver down your spine? Or hear a spooky screel when there’s no one around? That’s probably because hidden behind the beautiful architecture and the quaint houses lies centuries of dark history and scary myths. To celebrate Halloween I joined the Ghost Tour of Groningen organised by English-speaking theatre group Entropy to discover the dark side of Groningen.
The Clockmaker of the Martini Tower
Below the Martini Tower we were transported back to the 15th century, when the iconic tower’s clock was originally built. The clock was a work of art and the city councillors were incredibly proud of it. So proud in fact that, legend has it, they stabbed out the eyes of the clockmaker to stop him from recreating his work in any other city.
So distraught was the clockmaker that he decided to take revenge on the city that wronged him. Bribing the guards of the tower, he blindly climbed the stairs of the tower to the clock, unscrewed the innerworks of the clock and finally threw himself off the tower, killing both himself and the guard below.
But his vengeance didn’t finish there. Even from the afterlife he messed with the councillors; the story goes that he haunted every poor clockmaker who tried to fix his clock, whispering “don’t touch my clock” to the point that they would not finish the job out of pure terror. When, finally, one brave clockmaker managed to complete the story, the whole tower was destroyed in a shocking and devastating storm. To this day, the clock is known to go haywire in the night as the clockmaker reaps his revenge.
The Stately Family of the A-Kerkhof
Opposite from the graveyard of the A-Kerk stands an unsuspecting building that is now a dentist. But behind the quiet exterior lies a dark past. Legend goes that the building was once home to a very rich Groninger family for generations. The owners of the house always insisted on every employee leaving before it went dark, which they found awfully strange but, ahh well- no aftertime needed! However, one day two sister maids discovered the reason in the most gruesome way….
It was spring-cleaning time and the family had gone on holiday, leaving the house alone to the employees. As the sun was about to go down, the work was done with the exception of living room. Two sisters, Klara and Betsy, decided that bending the rules a little to finish the work on time for a day off was worth it, so they hung around for a little longer. Bad decision. As the sun set over pretty Groningen, Betsy heard a noise and went to investigate. To her horror, she discovered the paintings of the ancestors of the owners coming alive and walking, hauntingly, towards her. Of course, she turned and ran as fast as she could, but after she arrived at safety she realised her sister was no longer with her. When she finally found the courage to return to the scene with the police, there was no sign of the ancestors. There was, however, the body of poor Klara, her face distorted with terror.
Ever since that day, people walking past say they see the ghost of Klara, her hand pushed against the window. So, you’ve been warned, never walk across the graveyard of the A-Kerk after dark.
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Are you feeling terrified, or would you rather take the stories with a pinch of salt? Regardless of whether you believe in things that go bump in the night, one thing I think everyone will agree with is the amazing power of great storytellers. Entropy organise regular events that bring together some of the best creatives, actors and storytellers in Groningen for an international audience. Check out their website or their Facebook page to find out more about their awesome projects, including the Ghost Tour of Groningen which runs until the 22nd of December.