This article is about the Fejer county I was born and raised in, one of it’s morass in particular: the village of Szabadbattyan (I intentionally kept the easy-to-pronounce Fejer in the title, Szabadbattyan would have scared you away. It’s pronounced sa-bahd-bah-tan more or less). This village is 10 kilometres away from my hometown but has such a different and more mystical athmosphere than the city, it looks like a horror tale village straight out of a Grimm collection.
I grew up in the city of Szekesfehervar (don’t worry, you don’t have to pronounce it; Feh-er-var in short), so I had little knowledge of the legends of the rural villages. But my fiancé was born in the aformentioned village, so on a long railroad trip he told me several folktales about the area. And I have just found out that I have a haunted castle just ten minutes carride away from me.
The gothic Kula-tower and surroundings
(Fun Fact: the name of the tower is originated in turkish, as the word ‘kula’ means tower in turkish but means pile of shit in hungarian, resulting in funny and/or obscene misunderstandings whenever someone mentions this tower.)
If you drive from Budapest, Hungary’s capital city to lake Balaton (has a famous party city, Siofok), you’ll go through Fehervar first, and the next village after Fehervar is Szabadbattyan. When reaching the village borders, you go through a bridge above the river Gaja. It may seem small and insignificant but it used to make the whole area a damp, impermeable swamp. In the middle ages, this village and this bridge meant the only safe way through the swamp, this is why the tower was built in the first place.
In scripts it was first mentioned in the XIIIth century as a residential tower, and from the XIVth century it functioned as a royal tax collecting place, where the travellers and merchants had to pay a fee to use the bridge.
No surprise this resulted in countless attempts to hack the system, inestimable amount of people tried to traverse the morass – and all of them died terrible death. Some were swallowed up by the marsh, some were attacked by wild animals, and the others were shot by the guards of the tower.
The original tower was destroyed during the Ottoman invasion, and a new watchtower was built upon the ruins of the old one. This tower had changed hands six times during the independence war against the Ottoman Empire – no wonder since it was the only way through the swamp. Once the soldiers simply lit up the tower alongside with everyone stationing inside.
Now we live more peaceful times, the tower is restaurated in gothic style and serves as a museum for archeological findings of the area.
Still, at night, when fog falls upon the land, you can hear faint voices echoing in the swamp.
Human remains are frequently found in the morass but not all of them are from the middle ages – some are pretty fresh. Noone knows who they were, where did they come from and what to do with them, so several skulls and bones were donated to the local school for educational purposes.
Passing a (haunted) marsh wasn’t an easy thing in 1944 either, especially not with a tank. Apart from Szabadbattyan vilage the only bridge crossing the swamp was several kilometers north at Pentele (which is now famed as the burial ground of the local maffia) but it was in such a bad condition it wouldn’t be able to sustain a tank’s weigth.
(History lesson: in the World War II there was a permanent frontline in this area. This means that the two parties couldn’t overcome each other, so the frontline stays in place, or moves only very little for months or even years. This resulted in completely destroying my hometown and the surrounding areas, and leaving live ammunition everywhere. Dangerous mines and warheads are found even today. Told’ya this place is like Sokovia.)
In 1945 the german army tried to march east towards the capital city, the russian forces, being pushed back east, blow up the bridge to make the crossing of the swamp impossible for the tanks. But not knowing (or not caring about) the danger a tank tried to cross the morass and sank immediately. Witnesses claim it happened so fast, that neither the weapons nor the personnel of the tank could be saved. Half of the veichle, including the door sank under the mud but it’s turret reached out like a hand begging for help. Faint knocking could be heard from inside the tank (just like in case of U.S.S. Arizona in the Pearl Harbour movie) but it was war: the platoon continued it’s offensive, and headed towards the nearest bridge kilometres away to north, leaving the tank in the morass.
Villagemen heard the knocking but wasn’t eager to save the life of the german invaders. Days and months passed, and the knocking didn’t stop; it echoed above the dump marsh even after the war has ended. Villagemen say the turret of the tank stayed there for decades, my fiancé’s father has actually seen it when being a kid. Today the area is a nature reserve, and one can still hear the story of the undead soldiers. They say if you wander deep enough in the swamp, you’ll find the monolithic turret and hear the knocking of the souls for whom the war has never ended.
Well, true or not, noone goes camping there.