Haunted houses, ghostly apparitions, demonic witches… Three stories to scare you in the Basque Country
Do you believe in ghosts, haunted places and demonic witches? The Basque Country is full of legends and scary stories. Here are three that will send shivers down your spine!
Villa Belza in Biarritz, a house haunted by ghosts
For some, it’s a fairytale castle; for others, it’s a haunted house. This is the Villa Belza, a neo-medieval manor house built into the cliffside in the 1880s by architect Alphonse Bertrand, who also designed the Grand Hôtel in Biarritz.
Situated between the Côte des Basques beach and the Port Vieux beach, the villa in Biarritz is the talk of the town. There are rumors that the house is haunted by ghosts, and plagued by paranormal phenomena: disturbing silhouettes at the windows, shutters slamming without the slightest breath of wind, and rumors of occult rites and black magic…
Its neo-Gothic keep, topped by a pepper-pot turret, gives it an eerie, mysterious appearance worthy of a horror film. Brrrrr… And if we tell you that Belza means “black” in Basque, do you believe us?
Louise, the ghost of Bidache castle
First wife ofAntoine II de Gramont, comte de Guiche and sovereign of Bidache, Louise de Roquelaure died in strange circumstances on November 9, 1610, beheaded for the crime of adultery. Since then, legend has it that the Countess’s ghost appears every year at the foot of the walls of Bidache castle, on the anniversary of her death. She would come to relive her last days and demand justice.
But that’s not all! The 13th-century Anglo-Norman chronicler Mathieu Paris reports that “pilgrims, merchants and locals could not pass near the castle at night without being robbed and even slaughtered by brigands”. Very cheerful! Following major restoration work, the ancient Basque fortress is now open to visitors. In summer, a local storyteller reveals the history of the Château des Gramont during a torchlit nocturnal tour.
The witches of Hendaye beach
In the Basque Country, it’s not just old houses that are the scene of paranormal phenomena. Popular belief has it thatHendaye beach is haunted by the ghosts of witches burnt at the stake during the reign ofHenry IV. They used to gather on the beach for Sabbath ceremonies after dark. To avenge the fate that befell them, they return to scare off any bathers who dare to take a midnight dip onHendaye beach. It is even said that all unexplained drownings are the macabre work of these witches from beyond the grave… Myth or reality?
What is certain, however, is that a major witch-hunt shook the Basque country in 1609. Hundreds of women suspected of witchcraft were tortured and burned alive at the stake, sometimes in their own homes. They were accused of holding black masses on the summit of the Rhune, in the Jaizkibel mountain or in the caves between Sare and Zugarramurdi.