International Urban Legends: Germany

Oh yeah, the country that gave us the Brothers Grimm and a collection of folk tales that will last as long as this ball of rock keeps orbiting the Sun. Germany. And boy does Deutschland deliver the goods when it comes to urban legends.

The Rat Catcher of Hameln

The Pied Piper of Hameln

Germany is home to the Pied Piper.

Back in the days of the Plague, the people of Hameln are watching their fellow townsfolk fall one by one to the Black Death. So they engage the services of a pipe player to lure away the rats. They are hoping to save what is left of the town. The piper plays his tune. Surprisingly, the rats dutifully follow him out of town to pester and plague somewhere else.

The piper gets paid, the town is saved and its all a happy ending, right? Not so fast.

Because yes, as you have no doubtfully guessed, this is the story of the Pied Piper from the Brothers Grimm and it doesn’t have a happy ending. While the Piper did clear the town of rats, the villagers decided to stiff him on his payment for services rendered.

Which led to his playing a tune to lure all of the town’s children to their own deaths, drowning in the nearby sea. So, if you find yourself visiting the town that is home to this Grimm urban legend, always pay your bills.

The Marksman

If you are ever approached by a stranger with an offer too good to refuse… refuse it. A master hunter in old Germany found out the hard way what comes of making deals too good to be true.

The hunter, renowned for his marksmanship, hit upon a stretch where he couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn, much less the game he was actually shooting at. The hunter is approached in the forest by a peddler, his face concealed by a hooded cloak. The peddler gives the Hunter seven bullets that come with an odd proviso.

The first six bullets will hit whatever the Hunter is aiming to hit. But the seventh bullet will fly where the peddler desires. The Hunter accepts the offer and his next six shots bring down a wild boar every time. His reputation soars and he becomes the center of the universe of a girl in the village deemed the prettiest of them all. The Hunter has fame, fortune and love.

Payment Comes Due

Until the day arrives when he fires the seventh bullet. Instead of striking the boar he was aiming at, the bullet flies off in another direction – straight into the heart of the Hunter’s love. The peddler then reappears to the distraught Hunter and reveals his face. It is the Devil himself and he has another deal for the Hunter.

If the Hunter lives a pious life and repents his hubris he will be with his lost love forever in the afterlife. Yeah, you know he doesn’t. Oh, he tries. But he meets another girl and marries her instead of waiting to be reunited with his lost love.

One year after the tragic death of that first girl, the Hunter is out in the forests of Germany once again. He comes upon a macabre scene. Skeletons are dancing around a fire of cold flames. One of the skeletons is that of his dead love and she invites him to waltz with him through the night. The next morning the Hunter, and his horse, are found dead.

That too-good-to-be-true-deal you’re considering. Maybe a hard pass is the way to go, eh?

The White Woman

Ok, this lady gets around. She roamed all over the United States during our tour and here she is in Germany? At least we have a name to work with this time.

Anna Sydow was the paramour of Joachim II, a 16th century Brandenburg King. The couple lived a happy life in Grünewald, just outside Berlin. Joachim fell very ill and his dying instruction to his son was simple. See to it that Anna was well taken care of. Joachim’s son solemnly swore he would do just that.

And did he ever “take care of her”. As soon as Dad drew in his final breath, Sonny tossed Anna inside Spandau Citadel, a prison near Berlin. He left her in  there until she died.

Legend has it that Anna is seen and heard there even today. She wanders about the citadel, never able to leave it.


About the author

Richard Paolinelli