he Eighth was responsible for the acquisition of
one of the Phantom's many secret hideouts around the globe. It is in the ruins
of an ancient castle, hidden amidst the high peaks and thick forests somewhere
in the Central European country of Koquania. This country is mostly rural and
sparsely populated, and its natives, a suspicious, hostile people, have a
strong traditional belief in the supernatural. The castle itself is a ruin
because of the Eighth's encounter there with Hanta the Witch.
In 1675, the Eighth Phantom assaulted the castle at the request of his
friend the Ottoman Sultan Abu Mahoud. Koquania had become a treacherous spot
on the caravan route to the western markets, where the traveling merchants
were seized by what were described as "blood-drinking demons" who
plundered their goods, forcing the merchants to pay tribute to the owner of
the castle. The Eighth discovered that the owner was Hanta the Witch.
The Phantom's attack on the castle was frightening ordeal. He fought his
way through waves of the witch's "demons", then had to swim a moat
populated by tentacled creatures, and dodge molten lead poured down from the
high castle walls. He battled hordes more of the "demons" within the
castle, eventually fighting his way to the center, where he discovered that
Hanta the Witch was, in fact, the beautiful Queen Heloise, ruler of Koquania.
She pretended to be a witch to cast fear into the hearts of the passing
merchants and surrounding villagers. Her "demons," were really men
in frightful masks, who acted as her guards and collected her
"taxes" by plundering the caravans.
Heloise was looking for a strong man to help command her army and share her
throne, and the Phantom's assault on her castle convinced her that The Ghost
Who Walks was the man. The Eighth refused her proposal of marriage because,
among other things, he still believed her to be a witch. She drugged him and
imprisoned him in a cell down among the twisted passages of the lower castle.
She visited him daily and continued to profess her love for him, and cried
when he wouldn't believe that she was not a witch.
He escaped from his cell, broke into an arsenal room and set alight the
fuse of a large charge of gunpowder. As he was escaping, he encountered
Heloise, again with tears in her eyes. As the explosions began blowing up much
of the castle, she fainted, and he grabbed her and leapt from the castle wall
over the moat to safety.
As they descended the steep mountain, they were forced to seek shelter from
a raging storm in a cave, where they stayed for three days and three nights.
The Phantom fell in love with her, realizing that she couldn't be a witch
because, as everyone in the 17th century knew, witches can't cry!
Together they made the long journey back to the Deep Woods, where they were
married, a wedding attended by the Sultan Abu Mahoud.
Today, this castle is used by the Phantom as a secret hideout, one of two
castle ruins that serve him when he has occasion to be in Central Europe.* He
keeps a radio transmitter in a room in the lower castle. Still down further in
the maze-like tunnels of the castle's cellar is the cell where the Eighth was
once imprisoned, where the Phantom now has a sparsely furnished place to sleep
on the rare occasions when circumstances require him to stay in the castle.
* He also has hideouts in Paris underneath Notre Dame cathedral, in Rome down
in the catacombs, and in New Mexico on a remote mesa known as Walker's Table,
which was discovered by the
First Phantom's father, Kit Walker, and his Indian friend Caribo at the
very end of the 15th century.