East ghost, west ghost: spooky walks in Sweden

East ghost, west ghost: spooky walks in Sweden
As the days shorten, candles are lit, cinnamon buns are munched and we all run the risk of overdosing on autumnal cosiness, Matt O’Leary recommends a trip to the spookier side of life with a chain-rattling, cobweb-blowing ghost walk.

Walking tours in the shadow of the spirits are becoming increasingly popular in Stockholm and Gothenburg, and both cities have an abundance of richly historical horrors on which to draw.

The Stockholm Ghost Walk Company

This organization was founded a few years ago by English ghost enthusiast Anthony Heads, and is now owned and run by Stockholm resident Peter Segelström. The intention, according to the founders, was to get a grasp of what a city’s real history is: not the clean, light, municipal museum version, but the ins and outs of “the myths, the legends, the folklore. The things the travel agencies skirt over; the medieval executions, the haunted hotels, [and] the shady secrets.”

The walks take place in Gamla Stan and maintain a fine sense of theatre – your clobbered-up guide leads walks in either English or Swedish, and delves into the dark alleys and dusty corners of the old yet very well-trodden part of town.

“We walk our way through courtyards, alleyways and narrow streets, talking about ghosts, poltergeists, murders, mass murders and diseases,” says Segelström.

Such intriguingly gruesome topics provide an excellent hook into delivering the main intention of the walk – to imbue attendees with a real sense of the history of the city.

The walks cover a time period stretching from 1252, and the founding of Stockholm as we know it, up until the present day. Walkers descend into supposedly haunted locations and are invited to try and sense supernatural presences themselves.

Segelström names Queen Christina (1626 – 1689) as his own favourite spook: she dressed in “an old black dress, like an old-fashioned dress, with a veil hanging down over her face”; he has never seen her himself, but has felt her presence. “At least,” he says, “we think it was her.”

The company caters for around 40-50 people per week, and continues touring throughout the winter. Walks with The Stockholm Ghost Walk Company generally last 90 minutes and can be booked through their website: www.stockholmghostwalk.se

A couple of other ghost walks exist in Stockholm, another popular option being the walking tour offered by Mike the Poet: walks can also be booked through his website, at www.mikethepoet.com.

Walks in the West

Gothenburg is not short of ghost stories either, and one of the most well-established spökvandring (ghost walk) events in the city is run by Comedia Productions, in association with The Oddman Smith Solution – walks need to be booked in advance and aren’t scheduled throughout winter, but can be requested. Enquiries for English-speaking walks can be submitted through The Oddman Smith Solution website: www.oddmansmith.com

As tends to be common, the walks again deal with history in a theatrical guise. Your guide will introduce you to various characters from the past – or, as they themselves put it, the “past past” far back from modern history.

The costumed guide leads you towards characters such as a washerwoman and some of the type of people who left Sweden for new lands in the Americas. These characters all tell their own stories – and the stories of the city’s ghosts.

The walks start at Gustav Adolfs Torg, in the shadow of the imperious statue of Gustav II Adolf himself, and head over to Kronhuset.

Sigurd Ödman, of The Oddman Smith Solution, tells us: “The public is met by the king. He gives a quick summary of how the city was founded, his achievements and his death. They are then introduced to other characters who tell stories of illnesses and sicknesses, of torture and of hangings, where children were encouraged to come along and watch to make sure that they turned out to be good people.”

The eerie stories, and tales of prostitutes, torture and murder, mean that the walks are generally recommended for children over 12 and adults.

Ödman also concedes that, while he himself hasn’t witnessed any unearthly apparitions, there sometimes is a strange feeling on the walks: “You feel things, and think to yourself, ‘was that a wind, or what?’ Kronhuset used to be a burial ground; there’s a lot of history there.”