This is an unusual fictional tale that blends historical facts about an enormous German building that began in 1872 as a Prussian barracks. The Celle Neues Rathaus is a surviving example of Gothic architecture about 200 miles west of Berlin. Although today it’s only a town hall, the building has an illustrious history and perhaps holds a dark secret.
In the same way that people are merely a sum of their experiences, some believe that buildings can absorb the energy emitted in their halls. Located in the Lower Saxony region of Germany’s heartland, Celle is a small and auspicious city. Tourists know it for its civic constructions exemplifying baroque and renaissance architecture. However, amongst this collection of Germanic public infrastructure, Celle Neues Rathaus (translating to “New Town Hall of Celle”), maintains an air of mystery.
Origins of the Celle Neues Rathaus?
Construction began in 1869 under Prussian governance and finished in 1872. The large brick building initially housed the 2nd Hanover Infantry Regiment No. 77. After 1919, the Reichswher (translating in English to “realm defense”) moved in. This was the precursor to the Wehrmacht of the 1930s. The edifice contained 300 rooms and could accommodate up to 1200 soldiers, with further accommodations for two hundred officers. Five additional underground levels enhanced the capacity of the ten-story building.
The Lower Levels of the Rathaus
The Town Hall’s history before the Second World War is relatively non-eventful. However, during Hitler’s rise to power and militarization of Germany as a whole, the Rathaus evolved into a military headquarter for the SS. It wasn’t until the site housed allied soldiers that the initial reports of paranormal encounters began after the war.
When the English and American forces made their final push through Germany, they discovered that the Nazis had flooded and sealed the lower floors of Celle Neues Rathaus with concrete. This was of notable interest to specialized allied units. They were aware that the Nazi regime had hidden valuable stolen artworks and precious artifacts in the last days of the war. Therefore, they thought priceless treasures might still exist in the building’s lower levels. Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks (the commanding officer on site), ordered a dive expedition to investigate the lower levels of the structure.
What Hides Below?
On April 15, 1945, the expedition produced one of the most vivid accounts of what Celle Neues Rathaus may have been hiding. Three divers went down at separate points, each of them tethered by a line. After thirty minutes under, only one man resurfaced. As told by the sole survivor of the original US Navy dive team, the harrowing experience rattled him to his core.
Upon entering the subterranean complex, the diver claimed that he saw many sigils etched into the walls of the first and second floors. These included pentagrams and other pagan occult symbols. If this wasn’t foreboding enough, reports indicate that when he swam into the third floor, the diver came across mutilated bodies strapped to chairs.
The state of these corpses was like nothing he had ever seen. He saw vivisected navels, missing limbs, and perhaps most horrifically, animal appendages attached to them. More specifically, some featured the heads of goats sewn or grafted onto the human bodies.
The Diver’s Account
When he finally emerged, he was ranting and raving like a mad man. It took hours for him to calm down, and he required sedation. Bear in mind that this man was an experienced diver; at the time, he was likely one of the most experienced in the world.
He told onlookers it was as if the mutilated bodies were moving in the flooded rooms, writhing in their chairs and trying to get out. The same diver also claimed that there was a dark form chasing him through the water during his ascent back to the surface. After this, the diver was never the same, flatly refusing to dive ever gain. In fact, he took a medical discharge not long after this event. The other two other divers’ bodies were never recovered, although the tether lines attached to them were.
Only a few days later, the rest of the British army arrived to formally occupy the zone. On April 21, Celle’s Rathaus was handed over to the British army. The commanding officer was relieved of his posting at the site. Soon after, the subterranean levels were resealed with concrete again.
Why Did the Nazis Seal the Lower Levels?
It is undeniable that in the final months of the war, the Nazis at Neues Rathaus made a concerted effort to hide and potentially destroy whatever was in the lower levels of the structure. Pagan and satanic symbols allude to something very far removed from any military headquarters’ normal operations. Beyond this, the presence of human remains in the lower floors is also of grave concern. If it’s true that they were mutilated, there are very few logical conclusions one can reach.
Practitioners of occult rituals that involve the summing or configuration of a dark spirit believe that the mutilation of a host body can make the transition for the spirit easier. Essentially, the wound inflicted in the wicked act allows the conjuration to possess or enter the body with less resistance. This particular element of the custom comes from ancient pagan beliefs that the body in good health is essentially a sealed vessel, safe from negative spirits or energy.
The Rathaus After WWII
As soon as Celle’s city was liberated, the structure served as rotating barracks for allied units moving through Germany and for those stationed in the Celle region. This remained the case after the war; English and American forces remained stationed in Germany for years due to the Cold War.
In Germany’s devastation, the country suffered from the physical scars of the allied bombing. It also faced severe economic collapse, and there was a significant refugee crisis. After WWII, the most massive movement of people in recorded history took place in Germany. Eleven million people were displaced, and Celle Neues Rathaus took in many of those people.
Paranormal Events Around Celle Neues Rathaus
During the Cold War, the building became a permanent barracks for NATO troops. Soldiers’ reports of paranormal phenomena around the site increased. An English infantryman named Stephan Dailey said that on his first night in the barracks, he awoke to the sounds and silhouettes of a formation of men marching past his window. This seemed like a regular event, as the NATO patrols roved throughout the base. However, it was not until the next day that he remembered his room was on the second floor with the window more than ten feet off the ground.
Dailey went on to serve in Celle for four years in the 1980s and experienced several bizarre occurrences during his time in the barracks. These included the sounds of jackboots in empty hallways or on the parade ground when most of the force was on leave. Additionally, sounds of hushed German voices in vacated or locked rooms were also not uncommon.
In a far more dramatic account, a private by the name of Martin Fox awoke abruptly one night to find his bed levitating eight feet of the ground. After he realized it was not a prank, he panicked. This caused the bed to come crashing down in a great racket. In another example, a sergeant major was out on the grounds one evening and watched the ghostly form of a German Panzer column move along a road next to him in complete silence.
Suicides and Medical Discharges Skyrocket
It was not uncommon for enlisted men to return to find their previously clean and secured rooms vandalized throughout this time. There were also often sightings of shadowy figures in hallways and corners. Some men even claim to have awoken to these entities standing over their beds at night. On the higher levels of the Rathaus, some rooms had pentagrams and odd symbols etched into the floors or walls. This is reminiscent of the motifs that the frightened diver described.
Eerie stories spread like wildfire among the soldiers. There were occasions when they dared recruits to stay a night in one of the rooms. Purportedly, some of those same men took their lives not long after. Suicide rates are typically high in the overseas military. Nonetheless, official documents noted that the barracks had an unexplainable spike in medical discharges during the eighties. Many of these resulted from psychological evaluations that determined the men were depressed, schizophrenic, or suffering from extreme acute anxiety conditions. As the medical examiner recorded, there seemed to be a dark, oppressive atmosphere over the site.
Undoubtedly, the events of Celle Neues Rathaus may seem unbelievable. The account of the dive from the end of the Second World War could have been a horrible, albeit, explainable accident. Perhaps fatigue from a long war and intense workload throughout the push through Germany overcame the diver.
Nazi forces often used large bodies of water to destroy evidence of war crimes or hide plundered treasures from earlier in the war. Therefore, it would have been these divers’ jobs to scour any large body of water. Beyond the general fatigue of the men, there are extreme dangers inherent in exploring underground spaces. This is especially true of confined and claustrophobic areas, such as the basement levels of the Rathaus. It is possible that the other two divers became trapped somewhere and perished in the murky depths. This is as likely as it is unfortunate.
When someone dives for extended periods, a person can experience the harmful effects of pressure and carbon dioxide in the blood. The diver who survived may have had this experience and imagined things that weren’t really there. This can actually cause the otherwise normal chemicals in the body to act as poisons. Consequently, the diver can suffer intense hallucinations or vertigo. The chemical process is called Nitrogen-Narcosis and is well documented by modern divers and doctors.
The Celle Massacre
Geographically, Celle is near the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In the process of transporting prisoners to this camp, they would have had to change lines at Celle. On April 8, 1945, about 3500 concentration camp inmates died in Celle on their way to Bergen-Belsen. While they were waiting on the train for inmates from other camps to join them, an Allied air raid hit the ammunition train that had stopped next to them and exploded.
A number of them died. While the surviving inmates fled into the town or woods, the SS opened fire on them. The rest were hunted like animals and killed. Perhaps this knowledge had a degrading effect on the men stationed at the Rathaus.
Sad Stories and a Persisting Legend
Post-war stories of Celle Neues Rathaus regarding hauntings and ethereal figures moving through the complex might have been little more than a legend to scare new arrivals. If one was to ask a soldier at any military base around the world, they would have at least one ghost story or legend to speak off. On a darker note, legitimate documents and reports verify the spike in men who committed suicide at Neues Rathaus.
The nature of the site’s location provides a solemn justification for the incidents. Additionally, the young men living there had just spent years fighting a war, enduring horrors beyond belief, and losing friends as often as enemies. However, by the mid-eighties, this is no longer a plausible explanation. Had the legends and real horrific events of earlier days at Celle Neues Rathaus ingrained so deeply into the area?
One sure way to put all speculation to bed would be to explore the underground levels. Strangely enough, (at least on record) this is an action that to this day has never been undertaken. The subterranean levels remain sealed and flooded.
Baxter, Keith. “German Occult Conspiracy (Celle Neues Rathaus),” October 24, 2018.
Gotter, Ana. “Nitrogen Narcosis: Definition, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.” Healthline Media, July 24, 2052.
While, Richard. “Celle Neues Rathaus – Ghostly Sightings Connected to Nazi Occult Rituals?” Bedtime Stories, July 2018.