Your Guide to the Ghosts of Malta
The Rock Everybody Wanted
The first people arrived in 5,200 B.C. They were farmers from Sicily and shaped an advanced Stone Age community that built temples and underground chambers. The local Maltese watched many foreign powers fight over—and control—their territory. Malta's position made it strategically valuable as a naval base and over the centuries it changed hands, sometimes violently, between the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Sicilians, Normans, Spanish, French, and British. Even the Order of St. John, a group of Knights, once owned Malta. Seven millennia of battles and private lives, it is no wonder that the region is packed with ghostly echoes.
Author's boo: As much as I want to swim over to Malta, the distance is rather great. Instead, I settled for some fascinating research. Thus, the following stories should be viewed as Malta's ghost lore and not as hauntings proved by myself. Thank goodness. Because it gets hairy.
Saint John's Co-Cathedral
The Priest Who Completed His Duties
If you love cathedrals with such high ceilings and art everywhere that you'll strain your neck looking, then Saint John's Co-Cathedral is perfect. Raised by the Knights, between 1572 – 1577, the limestone wonder was decorated in the Baroque style.
Some time in the past, the caretaker prepared the necessities for an upcoming Mass. The monsignor, who was to perform the service that morning, did not respond when the caretaker said hello. The priest conducted mass as usual but afterwards, still appeared to be in a distracted mood. He spoke to nobody except to ask the caretaker to return the next morning. This continued for two days. On the third, the man once again greeted another priest. During their conversation, the caretaker was notified of another priest's death four days before—the very monsignor who had been holding Mass the last three days.
There are two different endings to the story. In one, the next day came and the caretaker accompanied another priest assigned to do the morning service. The ghost blocked their way. When asked why it was still hanging around, the newly deceased priest claimed that he passed away before doing the three Masses he was supposed to and that he wanted to perform his last the following day. The second story concludes when the dead priest is allowed to conduct three more services until another replacement was found.
The Black Knight
Unsurprisingly, a Knight remained behind on Malta. Somewhat undead, he allegedly made his first appearance after World War I. Among the first witnesses were Englishmen and Maltese who worked to fix the island's war damage. They described him as a Saint John's knight, since he wore the full armour of the Order. He appeared wherever the men worked, appearing to supervise the restoration efforts. The apparition disappeared after a damaged crypt was found and restored. Some believed that perhaps the disrespect vandals had shown the knight's final resting place was the reason why he could not rest. In 1980, the ghost returned. As the story goes, an examination of the crypt revealed that it had been desecrated again. There is some speculation that he was none other than Grand Master Manoel de Velhina.
Katerina's Last Wish
A tragic tale involves a girl called Katerina who lived in Mdina. One day, she was attacked by a Knight. During the assault, she managed to kill him. Despite that it was probably self-defence, the girl was sentenced to death. It was decided that she would be beheaded. Before the sentence was carried out, Katerina was allowed one last wish and she asked to marry. At times, her ghost is referred to as the “headless bride” and rumours abound about visitors finding her in their holiday photographs. Without her head. The story has a dark twist. In some versions of the legend, Katerina appears to jilted men or those who lost their wives. She encourages them to die and then stay with her in the afterlife.
St Ursula Street
The Sisters of Dolphin House
When the British controlled Malta, two sailors got tipsy and at one point, ended up in the streets. They found a lovely woman alone. Unlike the story about Katerina, they were quite helpful to her situation. She explained that she needed help to get back into her apartment, since she'd locked herself out. Being the gentlemen that they were, although drunk and probably taken by her beauty, they agreed.
The sailors followed her to St Ursula Street and after some wrangling, managed to open her door. The men were surprised to see that it was a home belonging to a wealthy woman, beautifully decorated and rich. They apparently accepted an invitation, since the men were said to have stayed for a while. However, despite her looks and the ornate surroundings, the sailors grew increasingly uncomfortable and eventually decided to leave.
On their way back, one sailor discovered he had left a valued possession behind (silver cigarette case) but postponed returning to St Ursula Street until the next morning. To his horror, the affluent building, named Blue Dolphin House, was in tatters. When questioned, neighbours said the building was abandoned but haunted by a pair of sisters. Another ending describes the sailor entering the woman's home, only to find that the luxury of the previous night had been replaced by tatters and dust. His silver case was on one of the tables.
It seems that phantom hitchhikers are everywhere. Malta's most famous is a teenage girl who appears on a road between Salina and Naxxar. According to the stories, she looks like a real person in trouble. The girl stumbles, looks desperate and makes gestures as if to flag down cars. Drivers who pull over got a good scare. Whenever they approached her to find out what was wrong, she'd disappear into thin air. But those who do not stop and choose to drive past the teenager, receive an even bigger shock. Not happy with being ignored in her moment of need, she suddenly appears in the back seat. And everybody knows there is nothing worse than looking in the mirror and seeing a person staring back. Somebody you never stopped to pick up.
More Bumps in the Night
- The Splendid Hotel in Strait Street was once a brothel. A prostitute was apparently murdered by a client in one of the bathrooms. She wanders the corridors and some people claim to see furniture moving violently, as if thrown.
- When the Grand Master De Rohan, of the Saint John's Order, informed his niece that she was promised to a man, she wasn't happy. She rejected the suitor, who responded by locking her in a room at Verdala palace. She fell to her death while trying to escape through a window. She's become the local Lady in Blue, known for her blue dress, appearing in mirrors and standing dangerously close to the edge of the palace's balconies.
- Another female spirit connected to a Grand Master, this time de Vilhena (the Black Knight), can be heard at the Manoel Theater. Once his mistress, she sings lullabies while actors do rehearsals.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Jana Louise Smit