Is Belgium the Most Haunted Country on Earth?

Belgian civilians being executed by Germans during WW1

From the Eighty Years' War of the 16th and 17th centuries to the two World Wars of the 20th century, Belgium's history is stained with blood and conflict. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost on Begium's infamous battlefields throughout the ages; nearly 18,000 Belgian soldiers and civilians were killed during the Rape of Belgium during the German occupation of 1914, while thousands more perished on the Flanders Fields during World War I. Just a few decades later, Nazis would slaughter nearly 25,000 Belgian Jews. Historians estimate that World War II wiped out 1.05% of this European nation's total population.

With so much tragedy and destruction in Belgium's past, it is no surprise that Belgium has long been considered by many paranormal researchers as the most haunted country in the world.

Even before the Second World War, Belgium was known for its many haunted locations. Elliott O'Donnell, the legendary Irish paranormal investigator and author, said in 1915 that "Belgium, for its size, can testify to having seen more homicides, more deeds of cruelty and rapine than any other country in Europe... these include the evil acts of the black era of the Inquisition and many others committed in such secrecy that, were it not for the grim visitants from the other world, they would never be suspected of having taken place."

O'Donnell was in Belgium during the First World War, and spent a great deal of time collecting stories from the men fighting in the trenches. During the Battle of Mons in August of 1914, O'Donnell interviewed British soldiers who had reported seeing the figure of an old woman in a bonnet and bright blue skirt who repeatedly got in their line of fire.

British infantry in the trenches of Flanders

The Bulletproof Farm Woman

"At first we thought she was a Belgian farm woman," said one of the soldiers. "But when she continued to move about under a constant hail of bullets-- some of which must have hit her-- we realized she was nothing human."

The soldiers comments were overheard by a sergeant, who said, "So you see her too, boys? It's my mother, who died twelve years ago, in her eighty-second year. I believe she's come for me."

As soon as the sergeant finished his sentence he was struck and killed by shrapnel. The woman in the blue skirt never appeared again.

Bloody Bruges

Bruges as it looks today

Bruges, the capital city of the province of West Flanders, is considered by many to be the most haunted city in the most haunted country on earth. Paranormal researchers have long noticed a strange trend here; every year, during the second week of September, paranormal and psychic phenomena seem to hit peak levels.

Some have suspected that this annual spookstorm has its roots in the era of the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish occupied Bruges during this time and remnants of old tunnels and underground dungeons can still be seen beneath some of its buildings.

A Grand Inquisitor lived in a former hotel adjacent to the historic Van Schellen Cafe and guests have reported seeing the presence of a thin, swarthy man with a pointed beard and a long, waxed mustache. Several guests have attempted to photograph this strange man, only to discover that he vanishes into thin air before his image can be captured. Others who have stayed at the hotel in the early 20th century report waking up with strange bruises covering their bodies, and are occasionally kept awake by muffled, tortured screams.

Amazingly, in spite of being an important manufacturing and transportation hub, Bruges suffered virtually no damage during World War I. Perhaps the spirit world decided that Bruges had too many ghosts already.

The Rider of Dinant

The ruins of Dinant after WWI

On the River Meuse, approximately ninety kilometers southeast of Brussels, lies the charming and scenic city of Dinant. This area has been occupied since Neolithic times. By the year 870 the town already had a church and its own bishop, Saint Perpete. During the Middle Ages, Dinant was burned to the ground  during Li├Ęge Wars, and 800 villagers were drowned in the river. It is also the scene of the Battle of Dinant in 1914, which saw over 5,000 German and French soldiers killed and nearly 700 Belgian civilians massacred.

Of the man ghosts that are said to lurk here, the most famous is the Rider of Dinant. According to legend, the female rider appears in a green riding coat, guiding her white horse on the road from Louvain to Malines. "It is a spot long reputed haunted," stated Elliott O'Donnell in 1915, adding that the phantom has a habit of spooking horses and dogs in the vicinity.

He also related the story of two female artists who were drawn to a pond in the woods by their golden retriever, who had been behaving strangely. The dog directed their attention to a part of the pond, where they saw what looked like a large sack half submerged in the water. The sack was writhing wildly, as if someone was inside of it desperately attempting to get out.

Dinant as it appears today

One of the artists observed a white face scowling at them from behind the trees and this so frightened the women that they took off running. When they reached Dinant they related their experience to the landlady of their hotel.

"Ah, it is a good thing you did not stay longer, or you would have seen something worse," she said. "No one ever goes near that pond after dusk."

The landlady explained that an old house had once stood near the pond. Every one of its owners had died under mysterious circumstances.

The Clock That Strikes Thirteen

St. Rumbold's Cathedral, Mechelen

The city of Malines (also known as Mechelen) was bombed by the Germans on August 30, 1914. Since that time there have been countless reports of a peculiar ghost who is said to peer out of the upstairs window of a house next to the St. Rumbold's Cathedral. It is the ghost of a deformed child. Inhabitants of the house have claimed to have heard the voice of a mother calling out the name "Henry". Stranger still, this disembodied voice always seems to emanate from the chimney. And, every September, those near the house claim to be able to hear a clock striking thirteen.

With so much history and bloodshed packed into its 11,787 square miles, Belgium is a must-see destination for all paranormal enthusiasts. The wandering dead of Belgium have trampled the streets and lingered in belltowers for centuries and, chances are, they will continue to so so for centuries more.