Above is St. Florian’s Gate, right outside my hostel.
It’s almost Halloween and I realized I had never written about the Macabre Krakow walking tour I took in 2016 while visiting this beautiful city.
On my last night in Krakow, I was wet (it rained a LOT) and exhausted but after a meal (of pierogis, probably) and a change of clothes, I rallied and went to the meeting spot for the Macabre Krakow walking tour, my fourth and final (well, fifth if you count Auschwitz) one in Krakow before I was set off for Warsaw.
The meeting place was basically right outside my hostel – between the Barbican and St. Florian’s Gate. It was 8pm and dark out already. Most of the shops along Florianska Street were shutting down for the night, too.
I love a good horror movie. I’m part of a group of horror movie nerds on Facebook and one of my favorite things to do on a Friday night is have people over to watch a new horror movie. (Or an old one, whatever!) But I’m also a huge scaredy cat. I keep my eyes covered whenever there’s gore onscreen. So, I was admittedly nervous to walk around a medieval city at night learning about the ghosts that still haunted that medieval city.
Like the other walking tours I took, this was very much about the history of the city’s criminals, and not so much about actual ghosts and hauntings. As it’s described on the website, “Every city has its dark secrets and Kraków is not an exception. Come with us and we will tell you stories that are not told on any of our other trips…” and finished up with “And last but not least, you will hear the historically factual tales about brutal serial killers terrorizing Krakow in 20th century.”
Cool. The tour guide was a Polish guy likely in his mid-30’s who was very animated and obviously very into his job. Here are a couple of the stories he told:
The Executioner: I remember we learned a lot about the role of the executioner in the city. This was not a coveted position to hold, as it was bad luck to touch or be associated with the executioner, and it was a job that was usually inherited from your father, who inherited it from his father, and so on. It was bring-your-son-to-work-day starting at age 9 and by about age 21, you were expected to perform your first execution.
Pretty fucked up.
And what happens if an executioner didn’t have an heir? The city council would go pick a new executioner from the men currently sitting on death row. Ah, medieval times.
The Serial Killer: Karol Kot was one of Krakow’s most notorious serial killers from 1964 to 1966. He was known as the Vampyre of Krakow. He didn’t drink your blood though, he’d just kill you. We were led to the church where he hid to prey on one of his victims. Cheery.
the aforementioned church
The last thing we learned about was how to tie a professional knot to hang someone with. There was a real-life (not really, but he was dressed up) grim reaper-lookalike there with rope for a noose. Our tour guide told us a little bit about the hangings in the Rynek Główny (the city center).
The tour was really interesting and creepy. Luckily I had melatonin with me to put me out after I got back to my room. I searched on YouTube and found a couple of videos (including one about the hangman!) from the tour if you want to hear a few more creepy tales from Krakow’s past. It’s with the same tour guide I had, too! Gotta love the internet.
A couple of other creepy shots from the night: