In the city centre of Ghent there’s a stunning piece of 13th century Gothic architecture known as Geeraard de Duivelsteen or Geerard the Devil castle. The building was named after a knight who in all likelihood wasn’t as much as a villain as legend wants you to believe, but since I’m all about folklore this post will focus on the ruthless Geeraard encountered in folktales and not the historical figure this legend is based on.
Evil Geeraard wasn’t the kind of person you wanted to fall out with. According to the story he murdered his father as an adolescent in cold blood when his father wanted him to join the crusades. With his father out of the way he married and soon after a son was born, but as that son who was also called Geeraard grew the two started to hate each other vehemently. Father and son both fell in love with the same woman which caused a bitter rivalry between the two. After many violent arguments the older Geeraard decided to withdraw. Maybe he thought his son deserved a chance of happiness? Of course not! This is Geeraard we’re talking about, and his son wasn’t a fool either. He knew his father was plotting something.
His father wanted to see his son one last time before he would move to the countryside. In reality, his father had commanded some of his most faithful ruffians to overpower the younger Geeraard and drown him into the river. His son decided not to go and patiently waited underneath a nearby gate. After a while his father became impatient and left his own hiding spot to see whether the body of his son was already floating in the river. Either father and son looked very much alike, or Geeraard’s ruffians weren’t the cleverest because the next thing they did was drown their master in the river.
You would think the story ends here, but it doesn’t. As you have probably already guessed the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. The younger Geeraard woke up one day deciding that he would murder his wife and new-born son with an axe. Fortunately, both managed to escape. The years went by peacefully, until of course, Geeraard’s son (whose name I can’t find but I hope he wasn’t called Geeraard) grew up and went back to Ghent to slay his father.
To this day, it’s said the ghosts of both Geeraards are still chasing each other in the castle as soon as darkness falls. Considering their life stories, it can only be assumed that they haunt each other quite brutally.
Geeraard is also mentioned in a short piece of audio fiction produced by the Alternative Stories and Fake Realities Podcast which is based on several ghosts who are said to haunt Ghent. You can listen to the piece here.
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