Prague is a city filled with hidden gems, many of which harbor dark secrets. One such site is that of Dům U Zlaté Studně or the ‘The House at the Golden Well.’ Today the building stands as a proud example of Prague’s rich cultural and artistic history, with its magnificent gardens and intricate frescoes. However, according to local legend, it is also the final resting place for one of the tragic young maids who once served there.
It was said that the well within the courtyard held a secret fortune which had been buried there long before. Some believed it to be gold hidden by the previous occupants who were forced out from the city by the plague. Others say that it was placed there by thieves who were caught and executed before they had the chance to return or reveal its location. Whatever the truth, the story was so attractive to one young maid, by the name of Lubomíra, that she was determined to uncover the truth.
Lubomíra had aspirations and often talked about her dreams of leaving the service of the house and marrying a wealthy gentleman. She would sit up in her room talking with the other maids about how she would set out one night, while the house was quiet and steal a dress from the mistress. With it, she would trick a young gentleman into believing that she was a lady of nobility and marry him. The other girls laughed at her, but she was not dismayed.
One evening, when Lubomíra and two of the other young maids, had their monthly evening away from their household tasks, they went out to the local inn. While there, Lubomíra heard a group of elderly gentlemen discussing a hidden treasure somewhere in the area. She was intrigued and began to listen more intently.
To her amazement, one of the gentlemen described the very house where she worked and, in great detail, depicted the courtyard with its frescoes and amazing array of flowers. There, he said, in the middle of the grounds, stands a well, within which a great treasure lies hidden. Lubomíra was astonished and from that moment on she was determined to get to the bottom of the gentleman’s story. After all, if she could acquire the treasure, she would not have to work anymore. Better still, she could marry an eligible bachelor and live the life she had always wanted.
Lubomíra decided to keep the story a secret, just in case it turned out to be true. She wanted the treasure for herself. That night, once she got home, she began to plan how she would get it.
One night, while the family of the house slept, Lubomira tiptoed downstairs and out into the courtyard. It was a freezing cold February night, and the ground lay thick with snow. Young Lubomíra hesitated, realizing that if the snow stopped, her footsteps would be visible the next morning. However, the snow was still falling heavily, and so she decided to take her chances.
As she entered into the open space within the courtyard walls, the cold wind sent such a chill through her that she lost her breath. When finally she was able to regain her composure she let out such a gasp that several birds that had been nestled within the leaves of the bushes surrounding the garden flew off in a panic.
Lubomira stood still, trying to make as little noise as possible, listening to see if the racket had awoken the family. She looked up to the window of the master bedroom, and all seemed calm. She rubbed her hands together and continued on her way.
By now, she was losing all sense in her feet and hands, but still, she continued. Once there, she huddled herself up against the stone wall surrounding the well and drew out a box of matches. Shakily she tried to strike the first one, but it was to no avail. The wind was increasing, and with it came more snow. She felt herself becoming more and more frustrated as match after match failed to light. Finally, she managed to light one and holding it carefully in one hand and sheltering it with the other, she stood up and hovered over the well’s edge. It was no use; the light was not strong enough.
As she held it there, trying to peer down into the darkness below, the flame licked her fingers and, had it not been for the cold restricting her voice, she would have screamed. However, the burn was enough to cause her to drop the match into the well. She watched it as it fell. Down it went, further and further and as it neared the bottom, she thought she spied a glint. “Could it be?” she thought to herself.
Once again, young Lubomíra managed to light a match and this time she flung it deliberately into the well, keeping her eyes fixed on the same spot. “There it is again,” she said to herself.
In her excitement, Lubomíra had quite forgotten about the cold and instead tried to get closer and closer, to make out what it was that was causing the flash of light.
She pressed her palms on the stone wall and pulled herself up so that she could hang her head inside. She decided to use the shelter of the well to strike the final match. “This is it.” She thought, “one good cast and I’ll be able to see what’s inside.” she stuck the final match and watched as lit up the inner walls of the well. The whoosh of the flame echoed around her, and the smell of smoke rose into her nostrils. She cradled the match just as before and then, after saying a quick prayer she lifted her hand and cast the match down.
Away it went, and as it did so, Lubomíra tried to get closer and closer. She slid her chest over the stone wall as far as she could, all the while using her legs to keep herself balanced. “Just a little further” she coaxed, mustering all of her strength together to get a little further over, and just as she did so she saw the glint of light.
The match revealed what appeared to be a small stone sticking out near the bottom of the well and behind it were what looked like gold coins. Lubomíra was overjoyed at the sight and realized that the rumors had been true. Now she could go back to the house and plot how to get to the bottom.
She went to get up but all of a sudden the chill of the night flashed through her, and she realized with horror that she couldn’t move. The cold had made her too weak. She tried to scream for help, but no words came out. All she could sense was the dreaded feeling of slipping. As she panicked, she saw the darkness of the well rise up around her until finally she was taken into the icy water below.
The next morning, the garden lay under a blanket of soft white snow and not a trace of the young maid’s footsteps could be seen. When it came time for the servants to do their daily chores, there was no sign of Lubomíra.
The maids laughed and said that she must finally have run away to find herself a gentleman and no one in the house seemed worried. The master listened as each of the girls recanted how she had often talked of leaving and he took them at their word and, believing that she had simply run away, no one ever looked for her.
Several years passed in which young Lubomíra slept at the bottom of the well, until one evening, when the master came out into the courtyard and noticed a strange noise coming from its depths. As he got closer, he believed he could hear the faint sound of a voice, gasping for air. He immediately called his staff together and asked that they bring a rope so that the smallest person could be lowered into the well to assess the source of the noise.
The only person light enough to go down was the young stable hand by the name of Jan. The servants tied the rope around his waist, and he climbed in. They lowered him down bit by bit, further and further, until they could no longer see him.
The master of the House at the Golden Well, called out to him and asked: “What can you see down there?”. The boy’s reply echoed back up the well. “Nothing, it’s too dark, but there’s something down here.” The master told the boy to bring up what he could. With that Jan felt around until he hit upon what appeared to be a broken pot. He grasped it with both hands and pulled with all his might until finally, it came free.
“I’ve got something!” he cried “Pull me up.” The servants rallied round, and after a lot of effort, they pulled the boy from the well. They were all so exhausted that no one noticed what was in the boy’s hands except for the mistress who had come out to look on at the events. She let out a piercing scream at the sight, and every member of the household became fixed on the young lad’s trophy.
Several of the maids fainted, while Jan stood deathly still. In his hands, he held an upturned skull filled with gold coins. A moment of realization flashed across the faces of the household as they looked into young Lubomíra’s hallowed remains.
The master later had the rest of Lubomíra’s remains removed and buried, the gold safely stored away and the well covered up.
Today, people say that on Winters’ evenings, near the well, you can still hear Lubomíra’s cries as her soul searches for her lost gold.