Not surprisingly given its dark and brutal history, there are some extremely spooky places in Berlin — cemeteries, tunnels, bunkers and ghosts, to name but a few.
Normally, we tend to avoid things that frighten the life out of us. Unless, of course, we’re seeking a Halloween thrill or are simply keen to learn more about the twisted history that gives some places their eerie charm.
Here are 12 places in Berlin guaranteed to give you goosebumps.
Beelitz Heilstätten: One of the creepiest places in Berlin, if not all of Europe
None of the abandoned places for which Berlin is famous have a reputation as spooky as Beelitz Heilstätten (healing centre). With an eventful history dating back to 1890, this building complex started out as a tuberculosis clinic before becoming a military hospital for soldiers wounded in World War I and II.
Hospitals, however necessary they may be, are seldom places that people like to visit. And dilapidated hospitals with a provocative silence remind us of desperate fates and the fight to stay alive. You can almost hear the cries of former patients and injured soldiers as you move through the endless, dilapidated corridors and run-down treatment rooms of the Beelitz Sanatorium.
Visitors are not permitted to enter the 200-hectare building complex unsupervised, however. Those keen to take in the ghostly setting for themselves must book a guided tour, which includes a treetop walk along the aerial path overlooking the crumbling buildings.
- Beelitz Heilstätten Beelitz, Brandenburg, guided tours via Baum & Zeit, Torchlit tour through the old surgery €12.50 per person, Tel: 033 204/63 47 23, www.baumundzeit.de
The deserted corridors of Weißensee’s Children’s Hospital will give you goosebumps
The former Kinderkrankenhaus (children’s hospital) in Weißensee is another supremely eerie location in Berlin’s macabre collection. Opened in 1911, it was here that the high infant mortality rate of the time was fought. Even during the GDR, the building served as a children’s hospital — before ceasing operations for good in 1997.
Although it’s forbidden to enter the grounds, a walk around the building at dusk is probably enough to give you chills.
- Kinderkrankenhaus Weißensee Hansastrasse 178-180, Weißensee
In a crumbling monastery in Mitte, the bitter spirit of a monk lives on
Walk down Klosterstraße and you’ll meet the crumbling ruins of a gothic Franciscan monastery. Legend has it that one of its 14th-century inhabitants was named Father Roderich, a young nobleman who had once embarked on a sordid affair with a beautiful damsel. When their liaison was discovered, he was chased away, suffering a broken leg and permanent injury.
Broken-hearted and now with a limp, he entered the monastery. His character changed and he became angry — even inciting his brothers to murder. One day, a young man appeared at the monastery with whom Roderich got into an argument. He locked him in the cellar.
When he learned some time later that the stranger was his son, he hurried down to free him — but he was dead. Roderich, who then collapsed crying, was killed by an angry mob incensed by his cruel ways. He is said to haunt the church to this day.
- Klosterruine Berlin Klosterstraße 73a, Mitte, Mon-Sun 10am-6pm, Tel: 030/90 18 37 461, www.klosterruine.berlin
Tales of a shadowy ghost surround Schloss Tegel
The white towers of this historic building have loomed over Tegel Forest since 1558. Tales of a poltergeist have been circulating for almost as long. According to legend, things kicked off at the end of the 17th century when the owners of the castle started to notice mysterious happenings.
The crack of whips could be heard, glowing stones shot at the inhabitants, flames flared in the halls of the castle. Finally, the spirit took shape: sometimes as a dark, billowing mist, sometimes a huge shadowy figure.
After a long reign of terror, the ghost disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. But a few people claim to have seen it more recently — in the form of a mysterious flaming figure outside the castle gates.
- Schloss Tegel Adelheidallee 19, Tegel
Crumbling graves at Südwestkirchhof in Stahnsdorf
The Südwestkirchhof (southwest cemetery) in Stahnsdorf, Brandenburg, covers more than 200 hectares, making it the tenth largest cemetery in the world. Countless graves, tombs and crypts can be found here, in varying states of decay. Many gravestones are ramshackle and overgrown from the first half of the 20th century. The cemetery has existed since 1909.
Dotted throughout the cemetery are stone statues that seem to watch you as you pass by on mossy paths. Those of a fragile disposition should leave the cemetery before nightfall.
- Südwestkirchhof in Stahnsdorf Bahnhofstraße 2, Stahnsdorf, Potsdam-Mittelmark
Ghostly silence in the old listening station on Teufelsberg
At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, the US Army set up a listening station on Teufelsberg. How times change. In recent years, a plan to build a hotel on the site, including a spy museum and flats, failed due to resistance from environmentalists.
The old listening station is located in the middle of Grunewald. Around the abandoned site, not much can be heard after dark except the sounds of the forest. Unfortunately, visitors aren’t allowed to enter the spooky dome alone. Only official tours can be booked. A tip for horror fans: book the last tour of the day during winter, when the sun has already set.
- Listening station on Teufelsberg Teufelsseechaussee 10, Wilmersdorf, guided tour €15 per person, www.teufelsberg-berlin.de
Restless spirits at the suicide cemetery in Grunewald
The reason why the cemetery in Grunewald Forest is known as Selbstmörderfriedhof (suicide cemetery) is a historical one: the small Friedhof is located in a clearing in Grunewald Forest, close to a bend in the Havel river. Again and again, drowned bodies floated to the shore there — many were suicides. At the time the cemetery was founded in around 1878, these poor souls were considered mortal sinners. The church refused to bury them.
Which is why the forest administration established this small cemetery. And it wasn’t only those who chose to end their life in the Havel — the bodies of other suicide victims were buried here from then on. Some purposely planned their demise near the cemetery. All the ‘unredeemed souls’, according to legend, became restless at twilight.
Today, reports of strange noises and shadows scurrying between the graves abound. In the summer of 2010, a local resident claims to have seen a dark figure rising like smoke from the Havel.
- Selbstmörderfriedhof Havelchaussee 92b, in Grunewald, Wilmersdorf
The eerie light of Brieselang Forest
Brieselang is a small municipality in Brandenburg. Since the 1980s, eerie tales have become woven through its forest: back then, strange lights were first seen among the trees at night.
The floating lights spooked the discoverer, and from then on, more and more accounts were given of white, red or green flickering lights through the trees at night. Some even thought they heard voices and sounds.
So the story goes, the sightings are connected to the death of a young girl who was murdered in the forest by Soviet soldiers in 1945. Legend has it that her spirit is haunting the forest. Or that of her father, who desperately searched for her with a torch. A Halloween destination for only the hardiest thrill-seekers.
- Brieselang Forest Brieselang, Brandenburg
Every forest in or around Berlin — when darkness falls
You don’t need the legend of a missing girl to be freaked out in the forest at night. Although anyone walking alone through the streets of Berlin in the dark is, in theory, exposed to more potential danger, it somehow feels infinitely safer on illuminated pavements.
When the last light between the trees starts to fade, it gets so dark that we can no longer see our own hand in front of our face. Factor in the deep silence of the forest, and things get pretty eerie.
If you opt for a torchlit walk through the forest, you should bear in mind that wild boars mate all year round and give birth to newborns even in autumn. So if you meet a sow with little ones, you should keep calm and give them a wide berth.
- Forests in Berlin e.g. Grunewald, Plänterwald, Düppeler Forst
Spooky tales from Schloss Köpenick
As beautiful as Schloss Köpenick may look from the outside, the baroque moated castle has its fair share of dark and grisly tales. The most famous concerns a young noblewoman who fell in love with a commoner.
During one of his secret visits, her liaison is said to have been discovered and cruelly punished: he was hung from a bridge pier and she was walled in alive in the castle dungeon. Since then, their souls wander restlessly, and many people claim to have heard their sighs or caught sight of a veil fluttering near the bridge.
Apart from the unhappy lovers, other spirits are also said to haunt Schloss Köpenick. Among them, a black dog with glowing eyes. To this day it is rumoured to appear suddenly in the dark — often at the bridge in the castle grounds.
- Schloss Köpenick Castle Island 1, Köpenick
The Messedamm Tunnel becomes an ominous place after sunset
Anyone who crosses the Messedamm Tunnel before sunset will probably encounter commuters or the odd barrel organ player. But the later it gets, the more sinister the subway somehow becomes. The bright orange 70s design starts to become highly unsettling.
Messedamm Tunnel could easily serve as the setting for a thriller. When you start hearing imaginary footsteps behind you — even though no one else is in the tunnel — get yourself to the exit quickly. Just don’t lose your nerve in the last few metres — the escalators are usually broken.
- Messedamm Tunnel Messedamm, Charlottenburg
A backdrop fit for a horror film: Ballhaus Grünau
In the early 1990s, the last dance took place in this once-grand ballroom. The art nouveau building must have looked magnificent when it opened in 1875. Today, the run-down ballroom in Grünau would be the perfect backdrop for a Hollywood horror. As dilapidated as it may now appear, the ornate features betray the building’s opulent past.
Entering the abandoned ballroom these days is strictly forbidden on safety grounds — no-one knows when masonry might start falling. Things could end badly.
- Ballhouse Grünau Regattastraße 167, Köpenick
Keen to know more about Berlin’s oddball attractions and hidden gems? Don’t miss a visit to the most unusual museums in Berlin. Or if old things in a sartorial sense are your bag, bag yourself a vintage outfit from one of Berlin’s best second-hand clothes shops.