Spooky Places in Estonia
The title of one Goya’s etchings includes the statement, “The sleep of reason produces monsters.” While possibly true and strangely poetic, many other factors nurture dread, at least for horror movies.
A screenwriter with a twisted sense of fantasy helps, but an eerie location leads to greater horror. “The Shining” would not have been nearly so frightening without the Overlook Hotel and its haunted corridors. And what about “The Fog” without its lighthouse? Was the Elm Street house of horror just a location, or was it a character?
Estonia is replete with haunted places, and one of the eeriest is Viivikonna, a literal ghost town with fewer than 100 inhabitants. Situated in northeastern Estonia, Viivikonna was a mining town during the Soviet occupation and was built primarily by German POWs after World War II. This town of Stalinist-style buildings was finished by 1955, but its demise began soon thereafter when the nearby mine closed. With nowhere to work, people moved away and left one of the gloomiest places on earth: row upon row of sterile empty barracks and deserted and crumbling cookie-cutter houses.
Another sinister location in Estonia is Patarei Prison. The country’s most notorious jail, it was built as a fortress in the 19th century. At the end of World War I, however, Estonia needed a big prison, so the Patarei sea fortress was perfect. Today it remains exactly as it was when it closed, right down to the used surgical paraphernalia in the operating room. And the cells still house the reading material–including porn–the prisoners were reading when it closed. Life in Patarei from just after World War I until only a few years ago was as ghastly and terrifying as it gets. It’s a place still fraught with unease and foreboding, nearly too much even for a visit, so imagine what you can create with a talented cast, a choice script, and overtures of doom.
If your script requires ghosts, you’ll find them in one of Estonia’s many haunted houses. You should also save on casting costs as well, as you need only to roll the cameras and wait for the real things to enter the frame. There are even places the locals are reluctant to visit, including many manors, each with a legend of someone’s being brutally murdered in a bedroom or basement who makes frequent unearthly sounds to beg for their return to life so they can seek vengeance on the living for their murders.
If travel costs are a consideration, Tallinn Old Town–a UNESCO World Heritage site not too far from the international airport–is a compelling collection of twisting cobblestone lanes and structures from the middle ages. This classic medieval setting is a perfect accompaniment to horror.,
And if horror needs more inspiration–and seasoned filmmakers know it does–this ancient country abounds with it. In addition to ideal locations, you might also receive a cash rebate of up to 30% on eligible production costs if you film your chiller in Estonia.
Used photos: Szydlak, Heiko Kruusi, Location Unit,