Haunted houses: Spooked out in Mdina

Paul Cocks went on a ghost tour of Mdina to try and discover why these tours were gaining such a following, although he could not bring himself to go alone.

The tour last nearly three hours and it proved to be exciting and informative
The tour last nearly three hours and it proved to be exciting and informative

It is a concept that has been popular abroad for many years and it has also started garnering popularity in Malta as well. The idea of following a trail of haunted houses, palaces, fields and derelict buildings attracts many Maltese and foreign visitors alike, so much so that companies are being set up to organise scheduled tours of some of the most haunted hot-spots in Malta.

Dylan Seychell, founder and CEO of Colour My Travel, said that his company offered a number of ghost tours around Valletta, Mdina and Birgu on a weekly basis and that these were, most often than not, fully booked in advance.

He said that although many Maltese were familiar with a lot of local popular ghost and haunting stories, most had never actually visited the various buildings and sites.

“These tours serve to bring the myth and folklore to life, and allow you to revisit the stories on the actual sites where they are supposed to have occurred,” he said.

It actually sounded very interesting, so I convinced Chris, our photographer, to join me on a ghost tour of Mdina, albeit against both our better judgements.

Joining us on our tour where around 25 or 30 other people; unlike us, they had all brought along a good supply of water and a decent flashlight.

We all met our tour guide, Matt, at the entrance to Mdina where he gave everyone a lit candle to hold. Some minutes after 8pm, we set off into the silent city, already a foreboding place at night with its dark alleyways and eerie courtyards.

Our first stop on the tour was the Vilhena Palace, just inside the city’s main entrance, and next to the Mdina Dungeons entrance.

Matt explained that a young woman living in Mdina was said to have a killed a knight who had attacked her. She was immediately sent to death but was granted one wish before she was to be beheaded. As her last wish, she chose to marry her betrothed, but was then executed and beheaded.

“Many visitors to Mdina, viewing photos taken of this palace, have reported the presence of a white figure in some of their photos,” Matt said. “This headless figure appears to be wearing white because the girl was still wearing her wedding dress when she was executed.”

That set the tone for the rest of the tour around Mdina, as we followed Matt to St Agatha’s chapel, where he explained that the saint was supposed to have appeared to a woman, warning her of an imminent attack by the Turks, thus allowing the knights to prepare in advance.

On to the square in front of the Cathedral, where Matt recounted a number of stories about ghosts said to appear in the area. As he talked of figures spotted on rooftops, we all started glancing up and about, trying to make it if the dark silhouettes we could see where balustrades, plant boxes or, something else?

We then boarded a tour bus, provided by the company, and were taken to Tal-Virtu’, where we stepped out into the creepy pitch-black nothingness in front of the Tal-Virtu’ chapel.

From there we headed to Verdala Palace, where Matt recounted the story of the Blue Lady that is said to still haunt the beautiful residence to this very day.

We were then taken to Buskett, and led on foot down into the heart of the former hunting grounds. The flashlights and candles came in real handy, as there was not any other light to be seen.

Back on to our coach and we then headed to Ta’ Brija cemetery outside of Siggiewi, where we were even shown human bones scattered around the field used in the past as a burial place for victims of the black death.

The tour last nearly three hours and it proved to be exciting and informative. It delivered all the suspense we had been promised, thanks to Matt’s obvious knowledge and his clear delivery.

No, these tours will not scare you out of your wits, nor will they leave you a frightened shell of your former self. But they do allow visitors a glimpse into some of Malta’s most popular lore.

That they get your heart beating somewhat faster is an added bonus. In the dark, quiet alleyways of Mdina, and the mysterious areas in the surrounding countryside, your heart beating is very often all you will hear.

And for me, that was perfectly fine.