The locals believed for centuries that they were formed when devils fought for supremacy. In fact their origins are much more down to earth – literally. Take a trip to devil’s town, a peculiar place if ever there was one. Devil’s Town or Đavolja Varoš as it is known in Serbian, can be found on the southern slopes of the Radan Mountains.
The area is steeped in European folklore and it is little surprise that for centuries these naturally occurring erosions were looked upon with fear and suspicion. The Devil’s Town is a series of hundreds of stone pyramids and is located in the watershed between the equally frighteningly named Devil’s Gully and Hell’s Gully.
Over the years the water erosion has shaped the andesiste and volcanic tufa (a terrestrial sedimentary rock) in to over two hundred pyramids. These range in size hugely – some are a mere two meters in height while others tower at fifteen meters. What makes the towers (or pyramids as they are sometimes known) stand the test of time are the andesite blocks (the most common volcanic rock after basalt) which help to make the structures. This solid stone forms a protective cap and the earth below it erodes slowly – that which is not protected by andesite is washed away leaving behind the towers.
Even with the andesite blocks protecting them, however, the life of the pyramids is never too long. They disintegrate fairly quickly (that, however, can be hundreds of years) but also – because of the water erosion – they are formed very quickly. Hundreds of years may seem like a long time but geologically speaking it is the blink of an eye. The changing landscape is how the place gets its name – the locals believed that devil’s were fighting it out.
One local legend has it that many centuries ago the area was inhabited by a humble but religious people. Their presence annoyed the devil so he created the waters around the town to make the people forget their immediate ancestry. They drank the water and sure enough, soon a marriage between a brother and sister had been arranged. The plan was interrupted by a fairy who – so it is said – still keeps the area under her protection. She tried to reason with the wedding party but they would not have any of it. So, the fairy prayed to god who answered her prayer and turned bride, groom and all of the wedding guests to stone.
The spookiness of the place does not stop there, however. The place creates it own acoustic phenomena – the wind which whistles between the pyramids creates howls, cries and squeaks which have perturbed the local Serbs for centuries. Imagine spending a night in this place and hearing the weird noises created by the pyramids – this was surely a place to be avoided over the centuries. The wedding guests were possibly thought to be attempting escape from their stony prison.
To compound things even further the Devil’s Town is situated near the weirdly named village of Djake. The name itself comes from the Turkish ‘gjak’ – blood. Even the creators of the Hammer Horror films would surely have hesitated before putting such macabre back stories in to one of their films.
Many of the pyramids have a longer life span because of an accident of nature. They have larger blocks of andesite in their makeup and in these cases the pyramid lasts a lot longer. The local water, as well, has its own peculiarities. In one local well the water is naturally mineralized (some minerals are present up to a thousand times more than normal) and is used in the traditional medicines of the area. Another, the Devil’s Well, is mineralized to the extent that its waters are red. This color is naturally associated with blood and is something else that has added to the mythology of the area.
The pyramids themselves are often colored remarkably differently, which gives the entire scene a wholly surreal look. With the moldering remains of two medieval churches also in the area it is something of a surprise that this place has never appeared as the location for a horror movie. The Devil’s Town has undoubtedly contributed to the rich folklore of the area and it is little wonder that the myths of the Serbs are so full of nightmarish devils fighting it out.