Last week Sanja and I got locked up in prison. Its wasn’t because we were arrested, we chose to go there. It was a bit cold though, as the prison is over 700 years old. This building isn’t actually a working prison, but now functions as a museum called Museum de Gevangenpoort in Den Haag. Sanja and I took the tour of the prison and museum. It was everything I thought an old prison would be, huge crossbars on the windows, small bleak cells, and thick walls covered in writing. There is a good chance this was on a an episode of International Ghost Hunters. (So maybe ghost shows are a guility pleasure) They also took us into the holding cell for the upper class as well as the torture chamber.
Gevangenpoort’s most famous captive was Cornelis de Witt, a high-ranking politician, who was charged with plotting to kill the King. After brutal interrogation by torture he refused to admit to the crimes charged against him. Eventually he was released due to the lack of proof or confession. The public took matters into their own hands and brutally killed him and his brother just steps outside the prison. The following is a recorded account of a witness:
“every one of the miscreants, emboldened by his [Johan’s] fall, wanted to fire his gun at him, or strike him with blows of the sledge-hammer, or stab him with a knife or swords, every one wanted to draw a drop of blood from the fallen hero, and tear off a shred from his garments.
And after having mangled, and torn, and completely stripped the two brothers, the mob dragged their naked and bloody bodies to an extemporised gibbet, where amateur executioners hung them up by the feet.
Then came the most dastardly scoundrels of all, who not having dared to strike the living flesh, cut the dead in pieces, and then went about the town selling small slices of the bodies of John and Cornelius at ten sous a piece.”
The tour was fascinating even though I didn’t understand more than 20% of what the tour guide was saying. It was like walking through a movie set, only this time it was real. I was also given an english guidebook from the sympathetic tour operators, and continued to geek out at home and further researched the prison and the story of Cornelis.