Countess Caroline Goëss was a mean and absolute unpleasant character. She owned Gradisch Castle at the beginning of the 19th century.
It likely originated as a fortress in the line of fire from which steeples to towers signalled danger in the Middle Ages. It later became a charming and elegant abode on a human scale. Full of light and warmth, it was welcoming and cheerful – the exact opposite of Countess Caroline.
Her ugliness was so damning that none of her numerous portraits, though flattering, could disguise it. Extremely intelligent yet thick-spirited and lacking any vivacity or allure, she was so unsightly that no one paid her any attention nor took her opinions into account. And yet, it was she who kept the house running with the immense fortune she brought with her dowry.
Her husband, whom she considered an imbecile, forgot that fact. Her children mocked her to the point of defiance. When she bequeathed her favourite object, a silver onion, to her favourite child, it was given to another upon her death.
Having been unsuccessful in being remarked by her contemporaries, Countess Caroline would try to gain recognition with her descendants.
The current owner’s father-in-law, then a newlywed, was reading in the library one night when he suddenly heard an unexpected ticking. A pocket watch strangely left on a shelf had started working. Astonished, Count Goëss took it and kept it with him. It stopped several hours later.
Having brought it to the watchmaker in Graz, he was told that several essential parts of the watch were missing and that it was entirely impossible for it to have been working recently. Count Goëss did not make the connection between the watch and its former owner, his ancestor Caroline, nor with the document he was reading when it started working, the same Caroline’s last will and testament. The same thing would happen again.
One night, Countess Goëss felt a light object fall as though from the ceiling. It was a thin chain to which a tiny golden key was attached, the winder of the silver onion. Again, Countess Goëss did not make the connection with Caroline. This angered Caroline. A few years later, Count Goëss found himself in the library, reading Caroline’s will again. Suddenly, he jumped, having heard an explosion. He had six sons who were a little too lively and imagined it to be some mischief on their part. But no, they were all innocently asleep in their rooms. He searched the library, and on one of the shelves, he found the silver onion, which had burst into pieces. The pieces remain to this day in the family safe, yet Countess Caroline herself is still of no interest to its members.
So, she continued to appear, just like her co-ghost from the second floor. « I can’t describe him exactly, but I know he is called Ignatius, » declared Maresi, Count Goëss ‘ daughter, one day after she had dreamt of a ghost in the house. « But that’s Alte Natz, old Ignatius, » her father retorted. Ignatius, or Natz, was the « custodian » of the house, the doorman charged with the keys that locked and unlocked the castle’s doors.
He had an illegitimate daughter who, in turn, had her own. So, old Natz, having forgotten his own fault, had cursed her. When he was near death, he went to Count Goëss with a bag of gold pieces bearing the image of Francois-Joseph, the treasure he had amassed throughout his life of labour. « I do not want my daughter to inherit this. If you please, Excellence, have these coins melted for a bell for the village church so that each time it rings, my daughter shall be reminded of her sin. »
Obviously, Count Goëss didn’t fulfil his vow and gave the daughter her inheritance, but old Natz, who died with a begrudging heart, continued to appear at Gradisch. He would move the heaviest furniture in one of Count Goëss ‘ daughter-in-law’s bedrooms while she was taking a bath in the adjoining room.
Each November 1st, he also had the habit of mixing up the chairs in one of the second-floor lounges, making such a racket that Count Goëss ‘ sons, asleep below, thought he was having a party. Gradisch’s current owner, Countess Maidi Goëss, knows the old Natz well.
As ugly as Countess Caroline had been, Countess Maidi, having reached the age of a grandmother, kept her admirable beauty, complemented with elegance, courtesy, and human warmth. Her qualities did not stop the old Natz, who regularly lit the second-floor lounge. When Countess Maidi would return from dinner nearby, she would see the lights, jump in her car, run up the stairs, and make it to the second floor only to find everything turned off and no one there. « I’ve seen the phenomenon more times than I could tell you. »
Countess Maidi much preferred the ghost who was usually confined to the first floor. He answered to the sweet name of August Paradise, « which in Austrian means, as much paradise as tomato ». A master hunter of the province, and an imperial governor of the town of Klagenfurt, he built the admirable Landhaus, the House of States, which is still admired by tourists today. It was he who transformed Gradisch and turned it into a delightful summer castle. He wished nothing but goodwill for the Goëss ‘ who acquired it a century after him in 1680.
One night, Countess Maidi’s sister-in-law saw him distinctly enter her room, pass by her bed wishing her a good evening as polite as could be, and then lean over the crib where her newborn baby slept and watched him tenderly before disappearing. It probably took all of August Paradise’s protection for Gradisch not to leave the Goëss ‘.
Countess Maidi knows something about it: « My mother-in-law saw her sister-in-law, dead several years since, appear in front of her bed one night. She rediscovered her youth, her beauty, and her elegance in this apparition. She was as anyone would want to be after their death. In a solemn tone, she repeated several times to my mother-in-law, « Pray a lot for this castle to remain in the family. »
She wasn’t wrong to ask, for, soon after, Countess Maidi’s father-in-law and then-husband would pass away. Two estates complicated by the existence of ten heirs ensued. The prayers, the ghosts, and Countess Maidi’s energy would enable her to overcome obstacles, and it was thanks to them that the Goëss family continues to live in and cherish their beloved Gradisch.