Folklore: the Ghosts of Trakai Castle: Stories of the Castle Watchman Once, on a summer evening the sky was covered with dark clouds and the wind became strong. It also began to rain. Antanas heard some creaks and grinding in the castle courtyard. He came out into the yard and saw that the gates to the yard were open, that they were creaking loudly. He was greatly surprised at what he saw because he remembered quite well that he had closed and locked the gates. He had a feeling of uneasiness in his heart and decided to also check the main entrance gates to the castle. Coming to those gates, he saw that they were also open and the wind swung them from one side to the other. Antanas felt disturbed because he remembered locking all the gates. There was no reason to leave the gates open for the entire night. He took the key out of his pocket, put it into the keyhole and tried to lock the gates. But something didn’t seem right to him. He lifted his head, and in front of him on the foaming waves he saw a white fluorescence. He came out of the castle in order to see better and walked to the very shore. There he was struck by terror. The white fluorescence slowly changed into a giant head of a knight enclosed in a helmet. The head didn’t float on the dark waves of the lake but seemed to be suspended above them. Antanas tried to turn and run back, but his legs didn’t move. It was as if they were tied to the ground. And then he saw another fluorescence. It was a white column of light coming out of the southwestern tower of the castle. In this light he could clearly make out the outline of another knight. In place of the face, the
knight had a white blank spot. He wore a long garment and held a raised sword pointing in the direction of the lake. “It must be Grand Duke Vytautas,” figured Antanas because he had seen a similar image at the exhibition of the castle’s museum. But the column of light started to fade and the figure of the knight very gracefully and slowly descended on the defensive wall, then on the ground, and finally passed through the gates into the castle. Gradually the terror, by which the watchman had been taken, disappeared somewhat and curiosity took the upper hand. He decided to follow the apparition. Antanas saw that the figure of Vytautas passed slowly into one of the openings of the same tower and disappeared. He didn’t have enough courage to follow the ghost into the tower. Suddenly he felt very sleepy. He could hardly reach the Grand Hall, his usual place of stay, when he fell asleep in the wet raincoat which he hadn’t taken off. At dawn Antanas was awakened by noises and knocking coming from the yard. The cleaners had arrived with their buckets and brooms to tidy up the castle, he thought. But how did they enter the castle if all the gates were locked? Then he remembered what had happened the night before. At first he dismissed it all as only a dream, but the wet raincoat told him otherwise. The watchman made up his mind to go to the yard and look around the southwestern tower. The storm had calmed down and the rain had stopped. There were puddles on the ground and the sky was bright and blue and the sun was shining gently. There was nothing special inside the tower, there were no signs of the strange events of the previous night. The gates were unlocked as he had left them, and the key was still in the lock. This made it easy for the cleaners to get in, Antanas reasoned. The watchman went up to the lake’s shore. The water of the lake was a bit waved and there were white foams in the distance resembling heads of knights. As he turned to go back, suddenly Antanas saw a familiar thing in the reeds. It was his cap which he somehow must have dropped the night before in the dense of the reeds. The cap was all wet and Antanas put it into the pocket of his raincoat. This was the only time in his life that Antanas saw the hovering head of the knight over the water. A fellow worker also saw the head once during a storm. But to Antanas, once in a lifetime was enough. He thought that perhaps Grand Duke Vytautas had beheaded his greatest enemy, a crusader knight, and had thrown his head into the waters of Lake Galve. T hat’s why the lake is named Galve (“The Head”). And the knight’s head, as if seeking
revenge, emerges menacing from the bottom of the lake during a storm and faces the castle. The watchman saw the Grand Duke’s ghost several other times. Once it was in autumn when a thick fog covered the lake and engulfed the castle. Vytautas again appeared in a column of light above the southwestern tower, gracefully landed on the ground, hovered through the gates which appeared not to be locked, and slowly disappeared into the same tower. It is said that Vytautas’ ghost was seen above the tower not only by Antanas, but also by other residents of Trakai. So the legend was born that if in a bright full-moon night you sat on the other shore of the lake, opposite the castle, you might see Grand Duke Vytautas over the tower before dawn. One who is lucky enough to see the Grand Duke’s ghost will have good luck throughout the year.