Chained Man in Athens

An ancient story of a ghost in chains. Paranormal history.

When it comes to the paranormal, history is not always easily traced. Much of paranormal history is passed down via stories. They are beloved campfire stories, the stories whispered to younger siblings in the middle of the night. And in these modern days, more than any other kind of medium, these stories, when passed from person to person can change- especially when the teller wants to make the story scarier, or add in familiar details. 

Even the sudden emphasis of a shout at the climax of the story can change the meaning of the story itself entirely to the patient listener. This was a common thread for all of early human literature, for much of our relatively short total history. With modern times came the ability and will to take the time to write things down, to make permanent that which before this would have changed in detail and meaning as easily as the winds change. 

Despite the breadth of human error and change, however, some stories were so well and universally known that almost everyone in every culture that came across it, either by word of mouth or in the pages of a book generally agreed upon the details. These are rare, very special, and the story of the chained man in Ancient Athens is one of them.

This story was supposedly started by a man known as Pliny the Younger, who was a lawyer, author, and magistrate back in Ancient Rome. He is known to have written hundreds of letters, many of which are still around today and some of which offer the only record of day to day government in ancient rome, and some of which are of great historical value in relation to the eruption of Vesuvius, which Pliny the younger witnessed and in which he lost his uncle who had raised him.

According to his story, there was an older, uninhabited home in Athens where people had not lived in quite some time. Eventually, however, a renter was found for the home and people moved in- only to be chased out of the home by the spirit of a frail, bearded man bound in heavy chains, who would wail and rattle the chains, entreating the residents to release him from his bonds. 

The spectacle was so terrifying and misunderstood at the time, that the house developed a reputation and could not be rented out for a very long time. 

And all that time, the spirit was left alone in the house. Every time someone would come into the house, he would appear again, rattling, wailing and asking to be released. Eventually, however a bold young sceptic named Athenodorus stayed there, expecting to be able to disprove the rumours. Much to his surprise, that night and every night he stayed in the house he was tormented by the sound of the spirit’s chains.

One night, he plucked up his courage and followed the sound out of the house and down into the courtyard. The ghost appeared before him, his feet seemingly buried down into a spot in the ground. He wailed and asked to be released, vanishing after a few minutes. 

After the sun had risen, Athenodorus dug up the spot where the poor man had stood. 

He found there a decayed body bound in the same long chains he had seen on the spirit the night before. The corpse was released from its bonds, and given a public funeral in which the body was burned. At long last, the ghost was released and was able to move on.

Much like Demons and other spirits, people who are tortured in life or who are left with unfinished business can become bound to a certain place, stuck like a rusty hinge. By taking the time to find out what was wrong and take appropriate action, Athenodorus released the tortured spirit and relieved the haunting- or so the story goes.