Holy aspens and curative mud

At the site of the town, a sacred grove had been for centuries – a grove of aspens. However, whether it was the people who didn’t honour the gods properly or was it something wrong with the gods themselves, the result was the stormy sea that swept over the sacred grove in a thunderous roar and buried it. All of the people living there had to move somewhere else.
Only one man – the old Mana wizard, the priest of the grove was called back by the sacred grove. He went into water to touch the ground of the sacred grove with his feet. This touch made the old holy man feel new energy pouring into his body, making his heart beating faster, stretching his tired and crooked limbs. Now he ran quickly back to others to bring the message of great joy. Having heard the news, people repopulated the shore at the site of the sacred grove, where there was no grove anymore, yet its blissful influence had remained. Since then people from all over the world find here energy and recovery.

Old Nick harassing Haapsalu

Back in time there used to be a thick aspen forest somewhere on the seashore. Old Nick used to have a cosy place there. People tell that he had a nest and sons in the forest. When the lightning cracked, the devil would emerge from the forest together with his offspring and jump into the sea. He would soak in water till weather changed nice again. He would carry the sons into the nest and would go about harassing the people living in the neighbourhood.

Later, when the forest was destroyed and Haapsalu was built at the site of it, Old Nick moved to north – towards morning to find a new residence. Choosing a new place was not easy for the devil, which is apparent from his actions. In Oru parish on Vedra hill there used to be a big stone where animals took shelter from the hot sun. Even during the night in bad weather the horses stood by the stone. In one bright moon-lit night the horse shepherd saw a creature with very big horns sitting on top of the stone. He watched from there towards the new town and muttered: “Starting already with the church! I am going to teach these scoundrels a lesson!” Then he stepped down from the stone, grabbed the stone and threw it at the town. However, by doing it he fell himself down in such a bang that fire came out his mouth. The frightened horse shepherd ran into the village, woke up the people and shouted: “The monster will kill the town! The monster will kill the town!” Next day the site of the stone was inspected. Nothing else was seen there than just the trampled-on animal droppings. Droppings were soft and slippery causing Old Nick to fell down. The stone did not serve its purpose. Even today one can see the stone in Võnnusaare. A piece of the stone was slammed apart while falling down – it lies next to the stone.

Kalevipoeg punishing Haapsalu

It happened once that Kalevipoeg was in West-Nigula parish. From there he watches and sees: the castle is built in Haapsalu and the church next to it. And since he knew nothing about the construction, he got angry that no permission was asked from him. He decides to punish the builders and to destroy the buildings. He takes a giant stone from Pataka hill and aims at Haapsalu's tower. But behold! His foot slips on a slippery ground and the stone lacks the swing. It cannot reach the target but rather decides to fall on Võnnu Island to rest. The stone still rests there, a real giant, three cords high, five cords long, a couple of cords wide, with the broken away piece laying next to it.  

Kalevipoeg notices that Haapsalu's towers do not bow to the ground in front of him. He goes to check what happened to the stone. He strolls in such a force that ground shakes and the bay gets wavy. One can see the footprints today on the stones: one in Vauksimägi, the other in Tuulasmägi, the third in Vastelõugumägi, the fourth in Laheva village. The steps are around one verst apart from each other. Kalevipoeg finds the stone in Võnnu Island. Since the stone has broken apart and the edges are sharp, Kalevipoeg is afraid to hurt his hand while throwing. Given that there is no other suitable stone, he decides not to throw once more. He walks back from Võnnu Island and leaves Haapsalu’s castle and the church standing.

Legend of King’s Chamber

In 1351, King Magnus Smek Eriksson of Sweden came to Haapsalu to negotiate with the bishop. Luxurious rooms were prepared for the King in the south-western corner of the castle. However, suddenly an unexpected obstacle became apparent – the King was accompanied by the Queen. The rules of a monastery applied in Haapsalu castle and therefore no women were allowed to the canons’ residence. The rules stated word for word: “…and no woman’s foot shall cross the doorstep.” The trouble was big as the royal couple could not be left behind the gate. This could have been an international scandal. The learned canons thus convened to discuss the rules and find the way how to go around them. And they came up with the solution: the Queen was seated on the sedan chair and carried across the doorstep.  

This legend associates with the legend of Haapsalu’s White Lady. Both legends mock the fake piety of the monastery’s inhabitants. The original versions of both legends have been written down by Carl Russwurm, and it is difficult to ascertain whether the legend is folkloric or is it mostly the product of Russwurm’s fantasy. Yet many Russwurm’s legends have a firm historical background.

Magnus Smek Eriksson (1316-1374), Jarl Birger’s nephew and the main character in the legend of King’s Chamber, was the King of Sweden in 1319-1363, ruling independently since 1332. He continued the colonisation of Finland’s territories and waged a fruitless war with Novgorod in 1348-1351. In early 1351, he made a stop in Riga, where on February 18 he summoned the town9s council and town’s citizens and promised to protect them against enemies. On the way back to Sweden he indeed stayed in Haapsalu, where on April 2 he gave Padise monastery the advowson over Finland’s Borga (Porvoo) church.  

Magnus has left the imprint in the history of Christianity in connection with Holy Birgitta. Birgitta Gudmarsson’s husband was, as we know, the King’s courtier and diplomat. The King’s patronage over the family continued even after the death of the family father, and he gave one of his castles in Vadstena to Brigitta. It also became the place where the Mother Church of the Order of Holy Brigitta was established, which also set the standard for Pirita monastery near Tallinn. Magnus Smerk Eriksson was overthrown by a group of noblemen who asked his nephew Albrecht of Mecklenburg to become the king. With the enthronement of Albrecht, the country was led by Germans who the new king promoted especially by providing them with the offices.

Kalev Jaago - Lääne Elu,24.04.1992, nr 33.

Drunken ox

Many years ago the Poles laid the siege to Haapsalu castle. Although the underground passage led from the castle to Uuemõisa, it was still difficult to obtain victuals as the land suffered from hunger and the siege continued already for the seventh year. Inhabitants decided then to use their cunningness. Out of the last pieces of hops they brewed a strong beer, gave it to the last remaining ox, who drank the beer as much as he could, and then led the ox by the walls of the castle. The drunken ox bellowed more than a herd of oxen could do. When the Poles heard the bellowing, they figured that the castle has still enough food supply and stopped the siege.


One knight had two sons who for a long had been in the war. For the younger one the war offered such fun that father could barely keep him at home, trying to attract him with money and treasures. When father was scolding him for his lavish and loose way of life, the son didn’t like it and bore a secret grudge against him.
Once the father went to hunt and the son was observing him. After a brief skirmish, he killed a respectable old man and buried his body in the forest. After a long search the body was found and the suspicion of murder fell upon the sons. The sons were summoned to the church in Haapsalu where they had to testify to their innocence. A hand on the dead body’s chest, both brothers swore that they didn’t kill the father. The younger one added that if he is guilty, he would not be able move away from the altar more than thirty steps. Although blood started to spill from the wounds of the body, the younger brother remained confident and left the church. Barely thirty steps away from the altar, he fell down as if struck by the lightning and confessed in a frightened state his guilt to the bishop. After doing so he died right away and was buried at the same spot.

Dead dog

Two brothers lived in Haapsalu. One was rich and greedy, yet the other one had to fight hunger by repairing shoes.  The latter once saw a grey little man in his dreams who came to him and showed one corner in the ruins, where one should dig to find a big treasure. The man considered it a joke and continued to work on shoes.

Next night the grey little man reappeared, shook him from the shoulder and led to the treasure. In the morning, the man went to his rich brother, told him about the dream and expressed his doubts about it. The rich brother further reassured the understanding that one shouldn’t believe a miserly dream. However, the rich brother went during the night to the mentioned place, started to dig and after much of the effort found a dead dog in the earth.

Believing that the poor brother wanted to mock him, the rich brother threw a dog’s body through the window into the poor brother’s room. Startled, the poor shoemaker woke up, but found solid gold lying on the floor.

Black dog

There are numerous treasures in Haapsalu castle guarded by a big black dog. Several brave men have been trying to get close to those treasures, but spirits have either blown off the light in their lanterns or ruined their courage with other spooky acts.
Some Swedish man came to Haapsalu in 1773, became a night watchman and came once at midnight to the castle garden. Here he saw a big black dog with flaming eyes big as plates sitting in a casket of money.

Nobody knows what were the watchman and the dog talking about or the content of the casket. Nevertheless, right after this event the watchman became a businessman, bought houses in the town and acquired such a trust that farmers brought their money for him to keep. Yet after a while he went to the forest and hanged himself.

Treasure seekers

Once during the evening time, two men came to the chief judge of Haapsalu. They were riding horseback, bells jingling and wearing unusual clothes, and asked permission to look for treasures with the help of the magic wand. Their wish was granted on the condition that they would carry out the entire work on their own initiative, but from the found gold they could keep only the half.

The men walked around and in the square in front of the castle the magic wand bent on the ground, and the men immediately started to dig. To avoid the deception, the town’s watchmen were sent to supervise. Soon it became dark and since nothing was found yet, everybody went home. Next morning the two men had disappeared. At the same time it was observed that in that opened pit there were traces of the iron box that should have been in there.

Swedish scholar

People remember that it was probably in 1894 when a Swedish scholar came to Haapsalu. The stranger had old plans of the castle with him. He hired a couple of workers and then started to dig in the castle. The Swede wanted to dig deep holes, which uncovered always underground vaultings and parts of the wall. In the end people started to be curious about the big number of secret underground passages and caves. The Swede replied to them that the castle has been built hollow as a honeycomb in the underground, one just has to know the location where to dig. In passing, the Swede also dug 7 meters west from the watchtower. There, too, he discovered mysterious passages and vaultings. The Swede let the workers dig until the discovery of the passages, then stopped the digging and started to investigate them by himself. In the end the hole was again filled with earth. People think that the Swede was looking for some kind of a treasure and probably found it too.   

Oak tree

In ancient times a big oak tree grew in Haapsalu castle, which during the course of years had become totally hollow from inside. People not only recognized its old age but also its mysterious power. On account of this, no branches were allowed to break from the tree and the land on its shadow was considered holy. What’s more, nobody dared to look into its hollow inside, although it was known that in earlier times even money was sacrificed there.

On one occasion, a military fleet was in Haapsalu and a high-ranking officer went for a walk in the castle. Suddenly a thunderous rain started and the man crawled into the oak tree’s cavity to find shelter. When the rain stopped and he wanted to come out, he stumbled on something made of metal. To his surprise, the officer found a tin box with numerous pieces  of gold in it. He took the money to the ship and later it was distributed to the soldiers.

Jacob De la Gardie

The owner of Haapsalu castle Jacob de la Gardie was an enterprising man, but all his actions he undertook were very slow, deliberate and calm. That is why Estonians gave him the name of “Lazy Jaak”.

One time the Count was in sauna when his adjutant came to report of the approaching enemy’s army. The Count turned calmly his side and replied: “Let them wait till I am out of sauna!” Without any hurry he washed himself and then, coming out of the sauna, he moved closer to the enemies, having taken with him a usual pillow and said while opening it: “Out, out, a horse and a man!” Feathers taken from the pillow flew into the wind and each one them changed into a horseman with a horse. In this way the enemy was soon defeated.

Once upon a time the Count didn’t have the army again. Since Old Nick was the Count’s ally, he climbed on the church’s roof and started to peel off wooden shingles. At each stroke the devil shouted: “A horse and a man!” The fallen shingles turned into horsemen and the Count won the battle. Old Nick demanded his share for such help and went repeatedly to the old soldier to get his soul. The Count lay in bed and asked his evil friend to wait till he is fully dressed. The devil promised to do that but also not to wait any longer either, as before he was being repeatedly tricked with such pretexts. “Good,” said the Count, “I will take care from now on that I will never be fully dressed!” From that day on, the Count always missed something in his dress, was it then a garter, a neckerchief or a boot. The devil visited him often but always had to return disappointed.
Only later the heavenly powers released the old man from the evil connection. The Count built a beautiful St. Jacob’s Church in Stockholm and prayed for long in front of the altar. In those occasions, one could clearly hear the rattle of the carriage and flames bursting from the stone floor. Probably it was Old Nick himself who did it, being irritated by the loss of his victim.

Emperor Alexander III in Haapsalu

Alexander III, already when being an heir to a throne, came each summer with his family to Haapsalu to have a mudbath. He lived in De la Gardie’s castle, and drink tea opposite to it – in the tree shades on the hillock under the walls of the Episcopal castle. He knew even little Estonian. He was a kind man but in the end started to drink too much. He supported the poor of Haapsalu and reconstructed the castle’s church. During the reconstruction, a skeleton of a women emerged from the wall, black silk kerchief around the head – probably immured alive.  In Haapsalu, Alexander III organized frequent outings with his family to forests and to islands. The children were riding little donkeys who screamed as hell. The boys – the later emperor Nicholas II and his brothers were very lively and naughty: they threw servants’ brooms and shovels into the pond, crawled under the dining table and ripped the guests’ coat buttons off. Once the emperor was riding with his family in the forest behind Uuemõisa and bought sour milk from the farmhand’s wife. On the way back riding across the road ditch, the carriage shook the sour milk from the jug on the carriage driver’s lap and splashed it all over the emperor’s family, who then laughed himself almost sick.

"Vaba Maa", 1932


For almost a week Haapsalu is full of rumours as if some ghost-like creature would hide in the ruins of the castle. And this rumour spreads not only among the old superstitious women but also the more intelligent layer seems to believe the existence of something unnatural. The story originated from children who in the twilight sleighed down from the rampart in the castle garden. Suddenly a creature with red trousers, blue shirt and the cardboard mask with horns emerged from the cellar underneath the castle’s ruins. The “ghost” approached the children. They ran away except one, a daughter of some S., who was petrified by horror. The “ghost” grabbed her hat and disappeared to bushes. The “ghost” took the same way also in the following evening. From now on, no children dared to go sleighing on the castle hill. The news reached also police who organized a search in the castle and the passages under the rampart. The “ghost” was not found, but an old blue polo shirt was found in the castle tower together with bread and sausage wrappings. Local jokers then circulated the anecdote as if the castle’s ghost was just a usual spook, who since the Great Northern War used to live in the passages under Narva, but now, seeing its mayor walking in rubber boots in the underground passages, frightened himself sick and came to cure his health with Haapsalu’s mud. According to the other story, the ghost was supposed to be a bachelor, who, afraid of the tax imposed on bachelors, came to propose to the White Lady of Haapsalu and now waits for her appearance in August.

"Maa Hääl", 22.01.1936

Frankenstein haunts

In Haapsalu a weird mass psychosis broke out, which was so contagious that it conquered the whole town in a short time. Namely, hearsay is moving around in the town that some weird ghost has been seen in the castle garden. /…/ The first variation of the ghost story told about the schoolchildren playing in the castle garden in one evening, when a dreadful man came to them and started to chase the children with appalling voice. The children barely escaped the ghost. The later ghosts are already more full of fantasy. Thus an elderly woman allegedly saw a skeleton that was jumping above the castle’s gate while having silk trousers on. Soon it was told in town that a ghost must have eaten one 2-year old kid in the castle garden. When people later looked for the kid, only a couple of blue intestines were found. According to another variation, the ghost could escape when searched for, but in one castle’s tower a bowl with pea soup and a polo shirt was found belonging to the ghost. These variations in their horrific form are mostly common among children and elderly people. However, more composed people have their own variations. Namely, some insane person would hide in the castle garden, who had escaped from Seevald. According to the other story, it was allegedly a man whose wife was in Haapsalu’s prison. The woman would allegedly be soon freed and now the man waits for her in the castle garden.

/…/ The commissar explained that the police heard of the ghost stories for the first time last Thursday. Then children came to the postal constable at Karja Street and told about a ghost they had seen in castle garden. The constable went right away to the castle but found nothing. Nevertheless, since the ghost stories started to spread even more, the commissar sent the constable with police officers to the castle garden who searched through all caves and corners. But nothing was found. The police have been trying to find out who had seen the ghost and started the story, but upon the query, everybody says it was some of the acquaintances who had seen the ghost. /…/

"Päevaleht", 21.01.1936