Budapest’s palace is a glittering wonder of fairy-tale proportions, but what lies underneath has inspired nightmares for centuries.
In an act of intrepid stupidity, I walked into this dripping maze of darkness into the lair of one of the world’s most notorious villains.
From the outside everything was quite cute and welcoming, but of course they said the same thing about the serial killer Ted Bundy.
All I knew was that I was going into a cool underground maze. The antechamber was a little dank, but hardly scary enough for a bad-ass lady traveler like me. And then I read the plaques on the wall. They said something like: The notorious psychopath Dracula was held captive in this dungeon for fifteen years. Have fun!
Even more freaky is when I went to pay my entrance fee and the girl behind the counter says, “We’re having some technical issues with the lighting today, you can go on in for free.”
Ah sh*t, I thought. We all know nothing comes for free. But this was supposed to be one of the coolest sites in Budapest – I couldn’t walk away. Still, I was perplexed. If this was one of the best sites, why was the place completely empty except for me? The town square nearby was swarming with tourists. Reason was not about to chase me away so I shouted, I’m from New York, bitch! in my head and forged ahead into an only slightly more sinister looking hall.
Oh, this is all they’ve got? I thought. I can handle this. Especially when I ran into into these weird opera scenes behind bars. They were bizarre, but no big deal.
Then I got to a corridor that looked like this. Keep in mind that my flash lit this up – in reality it was pitch black and I still hadn’t seen any other human beings. For a few moments I danced in a little circle trying to psych myself up. This is a tourist attraction, I thought. Nothing is going to happen to me down here.
So I turned the flash light function on my phone and plunged in. The words I read on the most recent wall plaque played on loop in my mind. It went something like:
This is the maze of darkness. Guests have reported seeing ghosts, strange mists and other unexplained phenomenon.
It didn’t help that I could hear haunting opera music seeping through the walls. So I started running a little bit. I wanted to be brave, but not completely stupid. And then I felt a drop of water on my head.
Wait a second! What kind of m*ther f*using tourist attraction let’s itself go like this? Disney would never have dripping water from the ceiling. What else is lax around here? Security?
If I were a psychopath this is exactly where I’d wait for some dumb tourist girl to come in here thinking she was in Euro Disney. Euro Disney ain’t free, Cinderella!
So yeah, at this point I was in a full out panic running in the dark with nothing but a cell phone.
Finally I get to the end of a path and see this sh*t!
For real, I had to talk myself down. So I envisioned all the employees at the place watching me on video laughing their butts off. Nevermind that I hadn’t seen a single camera and that they’d all have to be water proof. Ignoring logic got me into this mess and it was going to get me out.
With my heart pounding out of my chest, I emerged into a room with real light and a group of people speaking a language I could not understand. No matter, at that point I would have given up my U.S. passport and converted religions not to be alone.
First I just tagged behind them silently, which was great for rooms like this.
Yes, that’s Dracula’s grave. One of the guys in the group kept yelling boo, which of course had me wondering if they were a serial killer group just waiting for a stupid American girl to tag along before they slit her throat in some ritual worship. I wish I was making this up.
But then I realized they were just as afraid as I was. One of the ladies spoke English and told me they were from Croatia. With them I felt bold enough to start taking pictures of creepy stuff, but I damn near got whiplash from looking over my shoulder so many times.
In the end I made it out alive to tell the tale. We can’t say the same for Dracula.
Are they serious? Why yes, yes they were.