Special Report

Real Places Behind Famously Frightening Stories

Discover old haunts that inspired thrills and chills in fiction and film

Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. (Kevin Fleming / Corbis)

"An Apparition in the Engineers' Castle," in The Sealed Angel, by Nikolai Leskov

The Mikhailovsky Castle
(Inga Leksina / Alamy)

Mikhailovsky Castle, St. Petersburg, Russia

“Buildings have reputations just as people do,” Leskov wrote in 1882. To prove his point, the Russian writer set his ghost story in one of St. Petersburg’s most infamous landmarks: Mikhailovsky (St. Michael’s) Castle. The Italian Renaissance-style castle was built between 1796 and 1801 for Emperor Paul I, a paranoid fellow who believed he’d be safe inside such a fortress from his enemies. But 40 days after he moved in, Paul was killed in his bedroom--the victim of a plot hatched by his own son.

Mikhailovsky gradually became a school for military engineers, who spun yarns about ghostly goings-on in the castle (such as the one Leskov recounted of a shrouded figure whose nocturnal appearances scared several students). Today, the castle is part of the Russian Museum.


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