Odd Vibes

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I should not have gotten the creeps at Kutna Hora. It’s a lovely old mining town with an amazing parish church – St. Barbara’s – and a nice cathedral. The old town is a bit vertical but well preserved, and the place has a lot of fascinating history. The day started sunny, a few showers rolled though, then the sun returned. But still…The odd feeling began inside St. Barbara’s. The church dominates the town, and belonged to the town, not the diosces. St. Barbara is one of the patrons of miners, and watches over those who work with explosives and are at risk of sudden death. She is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers invoked for healing and in times of dire emergency (thus the German name “The Fourteen Emergency Saints’). The church is world famous for the ornate roof line and the fan vaulting inside. The Bohemian Gothic went different directions from most, and in some ways nods to the English high Gothic and fan vaulting.

So far so good, but something inside the church felt a tiny bit off. When I got upstairs and poked around the bits and pieces of sculpture there for restoration, my hackles really went off, and one piece, originally painted red, made me back away and rejoin the group. Downstairs, I started looking at the capitols on the columns and found a green man, but also something else that I still can’t quite pin down. It felt good to get back out in the sunshine.

It was later, after visiting the mint museum, when Mom and Dad and I wandered off from the main group that it really struck me. We poked around the cathedral, then drifted out to look over the cliff down to the railroad and the old stream and walking trail, then up at St. Barbara’s. Something felt off. Was it the weather, my imagination, the setting, yes? I can’t say, but I just got a really disconcerting feeling of being watched, and of not wanting to go down to walk below St. Barbara’s hill.

To this day I don’t know what bothered me. But something did, enough so that as I type this, I can clearly see in my mind’s eye the valley, St. Barbara’s, and the town in between. I can feel the cold, damp metal of the overlook railing under my hand, and smell the wet and the damp plants. Clouds drift overhead, grey and white. Something… Something… The cathedral felt empty and cold, but not like the miners’ church. More something disused and left, hollow. Not malignant, or potentially malignant.

Kutna Hora should not have done that to me. There’s no grim history, no massacres, nothing like Kalkrise or other battlefields. Just… a presence, cold, watching.


9 thoughts on “Odd Vibes

  1. As a Calvinist, my knee jerk response is entirely too glib.

    That said, I’m reasonably certain that horrible things have happened in most spots that have had continuous human habitation for millennia. The remarkable thing isn’t that this type of thing happens, it’s that it’s so rare to actually experience.
    (Alternately, we’re fish who don’t notice water unless a major cataract draws our attention.)
    My knowledge of Bohemia’s history is vague at best, but I recall things about winter, wolves, premodern religions, isolated nobility behaving badly, Bronze and Iron Age mining being very hard on slaves, and more besides. (Without even getting into speculative supernatural evil.)

    • Interestingly, Kutna Hora’s mines only go back to the 900s, and serious prospecting and mining in the 1100s-1200s. And it was all done by free men.

  2. … adds to list of places NOT to visit.

    After one of the three high Celtic crosses at Clonmacnois essentially shouted at me, and I could pick which one, I began placing more credence in anecdotes such as this. There might be something to it, but we’re not sure what or how to observe or measure. I’ve visited a couple of very old, disused churches on the last trip where you could still feel the Presence patiently waiting in the structure, and so showed the proper respect. Just a feeling, but the kind of feeling when you entered a room and realized your grandaunt was napping in a chair – be polite.

    Am I correct that experiences like these provided grist for elements of the Powers trilogy and the Merchant series?

    • Yes. Although, after the Rammelsberg, the Polish salt mine was very mundane and ho-hum, with one little exception.

  3. You know, it’s always possible that someone human and alive was watching you. I mean, not the sculpture bit, but there are Incredibly Nosy People in the world. And you were a foreigner, and thus might have been interesting. And Americans have a rep, deserved or undeserved, for making off with bits of rock for souvenirs. If they had binocs or a telescope on you, they probably could have watched you all over a medieval town.

    But there — I am probably the least psychic person ever, and I watch way too much true crime.

    • It’s even possible that Something Was Going On, and you were just being watched as part of that. Like the time I went into a small town and walked down the main street, and the atmosphere was very strained somehow but I couldn’t see anything more going on than normal, for a weekday afternoon.

      It turned out that every cop in town (and several other towns) was concealed behind the doors and upstairs windows of various shops, observing some illegal gambling places. And I was just doing my shopping, and thus looking suspicious. I felt like I was being watched, and I was!

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