AP PHOTOS: Czech 'ghost church' gets new life from tourism

LUKOVA, Czech Republic — A 14th-century church in the Czech Republic that was once in ruins is getting a new life from tourists who want to see the eerie visitors from beyond the grave.

In 2012, art student Jakub Hadrava used St. George's Church in the village of Lukova as his canvas for his senior arts thesis. He filled the Catholic church's pews with ghostly figures, made from plaster casts of live models draped in white cloth. The effect is chilling. He called the work "My Mind."

Word got out about the "ghost church" of the Czech Republic and in 2013 a videographer published a stylized YouTube video featuring creepy music and movie effects. It was a hit and has almost 200,000 views.

Curiosity about the installation has been building, and there is now a website and mentions on travel websites. The church is open to the public on Saturday afternoons, when around 150 people come to the "ghosts."

Petr Koukl, caretaker of the ghost church, says that most people have a positive reaction to the church's ghoulish guests.

But "it's also true . we had two or three visitors that refused to enter," he said. "They peeked through the door, but didn't enter because they didn't feel well about it."

The church fell into disrepair after World War II when the ethnic German parishioners were expelled by the Czechs. The church kept deteriorating through the late 1960s and was abandoned after pieces of the ceiling began to fall during a funeral.

The church, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of Prague, got a new roof in 2017 mainly from 600,000 koruna ($23,300) in donations that the spooky specters have brought in by visitors eager to take selfies and shoot video with them.

A Mass is held annually in April at the ghost church to celebrate St. George's Day. Pictures online show the pews are packed on that day with both the living and the "dead."

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