Dare you enter the house built by a ghost? Asks Michael Bird
Reputable 19th century scholar Bogdan Hasdeu was so shocked by the death of his 18 year-old daughter Iulia from tuberculosis, that he turned to the spirit world in an attempt to communicate with her ghost. Together with academics, artists and a bishop, Hasdeu attended seances where the Romanian cultural elite conversed with the dead through a medium. Convinced that his daughter was speaking to him, the scholar constructed a house to her memory at her instruction.
This miniature neogothic building with bizarre architectural details is now a museum on a pleasant residential street in Campina, Prahova county.
“Supposedly inspired by a divine force, Hasdeu would reach out his hand on a plain piece of paper and draw various shapes,” says Jenica Tabacu, curator of the museum. “He worked on improving the pictures until they resulted in a form which the spirits accepted.” This became the plan for the house.
Hasdeu was inspired by Victor Hugo who, during his exile in Jersey in the 1850s, conversed through ‘tapping tables’ with historic and fantastic figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Balaam’s Ass. Hugo’s own daughter Leopoldine, with whom the writer believed he had spoken through the tables, had died in tragic circumstances at the same age as Iulia Hasdeu.
Outside the castle are two stone thrones with seven supposed previous incarnations of Iulia, including the Marquis de Sade’s muse Charlotte Corday and Queen Elisabeth I. The entrance is bracketed by parallel mirrors intending to render the soul in a physical form. At the centre of the building is a dome with a giant scupture of Jesus opening his arms. Inside the room where séances took place, which was locked up during the Communist period, are murals of the Eye of God and Iulia, above a hole which runs between the wall to Hasdeu’s office. Tabacu believes Hasdeu constructed this passage as an aperture to allow a camera to take a picture of Iulia’s face using the spirit photography that was vogue in the late 1890s.
Under the management of the Local Council and Campina City Hall since 1999, the house is looking for further refurbishment to bring it back to its former glory. “We are considering a permanent exhibition where lights and shadows, the characters and the objects should offer the visitor the opportunity of experiencing completely special states of mind,” adds Tabacu.
Castelul Iulia Hasdeu,
199 Blvd Carol I, Campina, Prahova County