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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Thwarted Knight Haunts Russians in Malta

VALLETTA -- Spooky goings-on in Valletta's Russian Cultural Center may finally have an explanation -- the ghost of an English knight who died in Malta over 400 years ago.

The specter is that of Sir Oliver Starkey, the 16th-century Latin secretary of Grand Master Jean de La Valette of the Sovereign Military Order of St. John, better known as the Knights of Malta.

Elizavetta Zolina, director of the center housed in the knight's former home, a 16th-century building just a block from Starkey's burial place in the ornate St. John Cathedral, says the ghostly happenings began in 1993.

"We experienced noises as though there were lots of people in the building using cutlery, walking and talking. I used to think it was my neighbor holding parties but he said he never did," Zolina said.

Another sign of eerie events was a wall in the building. "This is the only wall left from the time when Starkey lived here, and no matter how many times it is painted white, it is black again within two or three weeks," said Zolina, a serious-minded professor of modern history in her 50s.

"One night, my husband was here alone and he was awakened by the dog barking and he felt someone breathing near his face," she said. "We never had this kind of experience during the day, it was only after 1 or 2 in the morning. I was not happy with what was going on. We were nervous and afraid."

The Zolinas lived like this until a friend from the National Archives mentioned Sir Oliver's will, which said he had left money for masses to be said regularly for the repose of his soul.

Zolina said her husband decided to pay for a mass once every three months, "and things immediately changed.

"Although manifestations continue, they are friendly now and I am not worried any more," she said.

Starkey died in March of1588, aged 65. He is the only knight who was not a grand master to be buried in the Co-Cathedral crypt, because of his close friendship with La Valette, the capital's founder.

"A friend read the text of Starkey's will and said he had left money for masses to be said regularly for the repose of his soul," she said.