A ways into the woods, off the road that runs northeast from Avabmuiza in the Zlekas parish of Latvia, is an abandoned graveyard. The place is long gone, but if you pass through the dense foliage, you will happen upon a strange, etched stone and the discarded pieces of a metal cross.
The nearby village too, is nearly empty, and the silence under the trees in the woods becomes all the more haunting if you know the legend behind the rock.
There are several versions of the story, but one goes like this. A child (“neither boy nor girl,” but somehow hermaphroditic) died, and was buried in the village cemetery. Whether the child was killed or died of natural causes goes unstated, but one is inclined to assume the former, as its spirit remained restless. Soon after the burial, the villagers were awakened in the night by a ceaseless screaming sound coming from the graveyard. A priest, called to put an end to the haunting, ordered that a stone with a carved cross be placed on the grave. Still, the screeching did not stop. It took 13 crosses, deeply clawed into the rock, for the howling to fade away.
Ghost stories, however fantastical, do come from somewhere. Although the stone has not been officially dated, the story, when considered in the historical sense, may point to a moment of religious transition. Latvia and the other Baltic states were among the last regions in Europe to be Christianized, and local mythology and pockets of Finnic paganism survived in the Latvian countryside until as late as the 17th century. The haunting of Avabmuiza may very well be considered an early Christian triumph over an unearthly kind of magic.
Know Before You Go
Located inside the wood before the village not far from the road.