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INVESTIGATIVE FILES JOE NICKELL

Germany: , Myths, and Mysteries

ocated in the heart of Europe, each write a ghost story" (Hindle 1992). has had a more pro- would subsequently Lfound impact on the history of write in her Author's Introduction that the continent than any other country. the two poets had discussed rumors of According to one source: "From animation experiments and speculation Charlemagne and the Holy Roman that "galvanism" () might rean- Empire to Otto von Bismarck's German imate a corpse. With such thoughts in Reich, Nazism and the rise and fall of mind, she retired after "the witching the Berlin Wall, no other nation has hour" but did not sleep. Instead, her molded Europe the way Germany has— imagination led her to see—"with shut for better or for worse" (Schulte-Peevers eyes, but acute mental vision"—"the pale et al. 2002, 17). Today, freed of its own student of unhallowed arts kneeling post-World-War-II division, Germany beside the thing he had put together." leads in the effort to unite Europe. She continued: "I saw the hideous phan- In October 2002, I made my second tasm of a man stretched out, and then, visit to Germany, this time to speak at on the working of some powerful the biannual symposium of the engine, show signs of life, and stir with European Council of Skeptical Organi- an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful zations and to conduct an investigations must it be; for supremely frightful would workshop for German skeptics at the be the effect of any human endeavor to Center for Inquiry-Europe in Rossdorf. mock the stupendous mechanism or the I was also able, with the untiring assis- Figure 1. Ruins of Castle atop Creator of the world" (Shelley 1831). tance of the centers Executive Director, Magnet Mountain. Mary does not state how she adopted Dr. Martin Mahner, to spend the taken its name from this ruined fortress the name for the remainder of the sixteen-day trip inves- (figure 1), which is otherwise linked to 's creator. However, Radu tigating a number of myths and legends, monster and bodysnatching tales. Florescu in his In Search of Frankenstein only a few of which, alas, can be dis- Most accounts of die fictional cre- (1975, 45-62) makes a convincing case cussed in this investigative travelogue. ation of Frankenstein's monster rely on that it was inspired by Burg Mary Shelley's own version of events. It Frankenstein (i.e., "castle of the ' was a dark and stormy night in 1816. She rock"). Located about seven kilometers The great monster story and pioneering (tJien Mary Godwin) and her future hus- from , the ruins are those of work of fiction, Mary Shelley's band, poet , were at a castle originally built on a smaller 1818 Frankenstein, may have the Swiss villa of another famous English scale about 1250. Florescu points out poet. , togeuSer with two oth- that Mary and her lover Shelley had Joe Nickell is CSICOP's Senior Research ers. They had been reading French trans- earlier visited the region, traveling Fellow and author of numerous investiga- lations of German ghost tales when by boat down the in 1814. tive books. Byron suddenly proclaimed, "We will They must surely have known they were

2 4 March/April 2003 SKEPTICAL INQUIRER in "Frankenstein country" and probably novel" (Johann 2002). Also, some of spied die castles distinctive double-towers Mary Shelley's admirers resent the silhouetted atop the mountain. implications of the evidence, that her It is even possible they visited the cas- use of a real-life model calls into ques- tle itself or, in any event, learned from tion her originality (Clerici 2002). their German traveling companions its However, great writers have frequently legends. These include the tale of Knight relied on sources while adapting them to Georg von Frankenstein and a - their creative purposes. like monster that had terrorized the If it is true that Dippel and Franken- vicinity. Sir Georg was a real person stein Castle were sources for Mary whose tomb in the nearby village of Shelley's novel, it seems fittingly ironic Nieder-Beerbach bears the date of his that in recent years "monsters" have death in 1531. Although he siew the returned to the castle. No, Martin creature—probably only a snake (die Manner and 1 saw no strange creatures exaggeration being attributable to his when we prowled the ruins and sur- popular identification with St. George rounding forest, but throughout the the dragon slayer)—it succeeded in region we did encounter posters and ads piercing his armor below the knee and so for spooky goings-on, emblazoned poisoning him (Florescu 1975, 53-69). "/burg Frankenstein." Other legends relating to Burg (Martin notes that Halloween—not a Frankenstein concern an alchemist, German tradition—was established by Johann Konrad Dippel (1673-1734). Americans, there still being American Although not a descendant of the Fran- army facilities in nearby Darmstadt.) kensteins, Dippel had been born in the castle and at university registered as a res- Alien Hybrid? Figure 2. Alleged "alien hybrid" in Saxony. ident of "Franckensteina." However, after In a cabinet in a small natural-history period of the world's history abnormal two years marked by "scandalous behav- museum in Waldenburg, Saxony, is a creatures or monstrosities, both human ior," he was forced to flee at night due to strange curio (figure 2) that one writer and animal, have existed from time to a "serious incident," rumored to have has termed "Germany's greatest mys- time and excited the wonder of involved bodysnatching from a local tery" (Hausdorf 2000). It is die fetus mankind." The births of monsters were cemetery. Subsequently, Dippel turned to of—well, that is the question: what is it? explained in superstitious, often super- and claimed to have discovered a Could it be—as some UFOIogists natural, terms. They might be thought secret formula by which he transmuted insist—an alien hybrid? to presage calamities and disasters, or be silver and mercury into pure gold. He also considered as evidence of Divine wrath. sought to produce an elixir of life, and to Known locally from its strange that end conducted experiments in distill- appearance as the "chicken man," the Some believed them the result of mating ing blood and the boiled residue of bones. fetus can be traced to the year 1735 with animals (Thompson 1968). when it was stillborn in the Saxonian A widespread popular notion was In his eventual medical thesis at the village of Taucha. It was to have been the that—along with birthmarks or other University of Leiden (1711) Dippel fourth child of Johanna Sophia defects—they were caused by some- focused on his previous chemical exper- Schmiedt, who was in the eighth month thing the mother saw or touched during iments and animal studies. He practiced of her pregnancy. She was twenty-eight her pregnancy (DeLys 1989). In fact, vivisection on animals and came to and her husband Andreas, "a hunch- in the case at hand, Mrs. Schmiedt's believe that the body was an inert mass back," ten years her senior. Two years patient history recorded her own animated by a spirit that could be trans- later, in 1737, Leipzig physician apparent explanation, that she previ- formed into another corpse to reanimate Gottlieb Friderici autopsied the pre- ously had had a very frightening it (Florescu 1975, 63-86). served fetus and published a report, encounter with a marten (an animal The parallels between Mary Shelley's illustrated with two copperplate engrav- related to the weasel). character, Victor Frankenstein, and ings and titled "Monstrum Humanum In mentioning diis, one writer sug- Konrad Dippel, the alchemist, are strik- Rarissimum" ("Most Rare Human gests that the recollected marten was only ing, as Florescu (1975, 86) observes. Monster") (Mullcr 1999; Monstrum a "cover memory" for an extraterrestrial Not everyone accepts the evidence, 1994; Ausscrirdisches 2002). encounter and that die deformed fetus however. One source cautions that the Dr. Friderici concluded that the term was an alien/human hybrid. Supposedly lack of substantiated information about "monster" was appropriate because of it resembles the small "grays" (Ausserir- Dippel's life "leaves much room for the fetus's divergence from normal disches 2002) but die comparison is doubt, and many of the traits attributed human anatomy. According to one trea- poor. For example, whereas that alleged to him may postdate Mary Shelley's tise on monsters, "From the earliest type of humanoid is portrayed with a

SKEPTICAL INQUIRER March/Apt.l 2003 25 large head, it lacks the bizarre bulbous Museologist Ulrike Budig was most January 30, 1933, they began to inflict growth of the fetus. And whereas the helpful, unlocking the cabinet's glass their Nazi ideology of racism and state grays have a "distinguishing characteris- doors so we could examine and photo- supremacy on targeted groups: especially tic: black, wraparound eyes" (Huyghe graph the specimen from various angles. Jews, but also Gypsies, homosexuals, the 1996), the fetus instead possesses "very We learned that genetic tests had mentally ill, dissenting clergymen, and round eye sockets" (Ausserirdisches 2002 been conducted by experts in Berlin and many others. These began to fill Dachau, [emphasis added]). Heidelberg (Monstrum 1994). They the first concentration camp, which was One source claims of the fetus that studied the chromosomes using Com- established March 20. "nothing in either its interior or exterior parative Genomic Hybridization, an The camp also became the site of hor- configuration corresponds to that which analytical method developed in 1993. rific medical experiments and execu- tions. So many prisoners died or were killed there that a crematorium was built to dispose of the corpses. When it proved inadequate, in 1942 a new building— One source claims of the fetus that "nothing in dubbed "Barracks X"—was constructed either its interior or exterior configuration with four double-chamber ovens (Distel 1972; Marcuse 2001; Memorial [2002]). corresponds to that which is considered to be A gas chamber at that facility is still the human" but that is a ridiculous exaggeration. subject of controversy. Holocaust "revisionists" like David Irving have denied the existence of a gas chamber at Dachau. Irving declared that is considered to be human" (Monstrum This showed that the fetus was female those at Auschwitz and elsewhere were 2002), but that is a ridiculous exaggera- due to the presence of two X chromo- fakes, "just as the Americans built the tion. Not only does it have an essentially somes. More importantly, the dummies in Dachau" (quoted in Evans human body structure (a head atop a discovered that large parts of chromo- 2001). The official view of the Dachau cylindrical trunk, with arms attached to some 17 were missing and concluded memorial itself is expressed by a sign the shoulders and legs extending from that a genetic loss of that amount must on site, rendered in five languages: the hips), but the interior was found to be seen as the cause of the rare deforma- "Gas chamber[:] disguised as a 'shower contain such organs as a heart, liver, and tion. Because no other case of this par- room'—never used as a gas chamber." lungs, according to Dr. Friderici's ticular chromosome-17 anomaly is Others have stated that the chamber was autopsy results. known, it is assumed that the result is indeed used. The anatomy is also characterized lethal, meaning that such embryos nor- The issue impacts the paranormal by a vertebrate skeletal structure, mally die at an early stage. Only in this when ghost-monger Dennis William although the lower-arm and -leg bones unique instance, however, a further Hauck (2000) reports ghost sightings did not each become differentiated into development of the embryo took place with regard to gas chambers at Dachau. two separate bones; the cranium had, until the third trimester of the pregnan- "German historians insist these were in effect, burst open, and some of the cy (Muller 1999). used for disinfectant purposes," he skull bones (e.g., the upper jawbone) Dr. Dietmar Muller (1999), writing writes, "but the paranormal evidence were missing. in the museum's official guidebook, seems to contradict these claims." (More Fringe paranormalists attribute the observes sagely tliat, as occurred with on this presendy.) "Several reports," he abnormalities to the purported hybrid- folk of the eighteenth century, such de- continues, "of disembodied screaming, ization. One Internet source bizarrely formations have also inspired the fan- voices shouting 'gas,' and naked running claims to have received inside informa- tasies of some modern people. In this apparitions originate from these shower tion on the matter from "the instance, he notes, "UFOlogists" have stalls." He specifies no source for these Cassiopaeans," allegedly channeled brought "aliens" into play, thus giving reports, other than appending a general extraterrestrial entities. "They" ex- the museum specimen an unfortunate bibliography of ghost-promoting books plained the fetus as "hybridized concep- notoriety. However, he concludes that and Internet sources. In any event, there tion/gestate" and averred: "It was not an the scientific studies clearly prove that is considerable evidence diat apparitions experiment. It was the result of Reptoid this specimen consists of human DNA. are a product of the experiencers' own 'rape'" (Monstrum 2002). psychological and cultural expectations Actually the "Cassiopaeans" are out Dachau (Nickell 2001), evidence diat it is peo- of touch with reality. Visiting the Although closed more than half a century ple—not places—that are "haunted." museum with Martin Mahner, who has a ago, die name Dachau still evokes horror. Hauck reproduces a photo taken by doctorate in zoology, I was able to learn After Adolf Hider and his National- an American tourist that, he states, the true facts about the "chicken man." Socialists seized control of Germany on "appears to show a ghosdy figure

2 6 March/April 2003 SKEPTICAL INQUIRER running out of the showers." Actually, opposite side, leading to another room Although I neither saw, heard, nor all I can see is a fuzzy, light area like oth- that in turn leads to the ovens. photographed any apparitions at the ers that can result from any of several According to Harold Marcuse in his crematorium or anywhere else at mundane causes (Nickell 1994). Indeed, Legacies of Dachau (2001), the gas cham- Dachau, I am not surprised that others elsewhere in his book Hauck exhibits ber was indeed made functional, although believe they have. Knowledge of the photos that, in my opinion, result not only "trial gassings" were actually con- horrors there can easily inspire images from ghosts but from glitches. These ducted there. Until Dachau was liberated of the past—"ghosts" that, which to include some attributable to me cam- by American soldiers on April 29, 1945, many are deeply poignant metaphors, era's wrist strap (even one with its telltale large-scale exterminations continued to to others may actually seem to erupt loop! [p. 110]), an encroaching finger- be carried out at the Vemichtungslager {ex- into reality. tip (p. 130), and the like, in each termination camps) like Treblinka. instance bouncing back the flash to cre- 's Footprint ate a white, ghostlike form. Munich's iwiu-iowcicd fiuuciikiiil,c Even when such anecdotal and pho- ("church of Our Lady")—erected in tographic "evidence" is not immediately 1468-1488—has a curious legend. It explainable, it still only represents the stems from an impression in the foyer's logical fallacy called "arguing from igno- pavement that is said to be Der rance," since a conclusion cannot be Teufelstritt, "the Devil's step." drawn from an unknown. Supposedly the architect, Jorg von Moreover, if ghosts did exist, Dachau Halspach, made a pact with Satan who should actually be crowded with them agreed to supply money for the church's because, even setting aside the question construction so long as it was built with- of gas chambers, huge numbers perished out a single window in view; otherwise there under the most horrendous condi- the builder would forfeit his soul. When tions (Distel 1972). the church was completed, the architect The presence and use of gas chambers led the devil to a place where he could arc matters best left to real evidence. On view the well-lit nave, yet where no win- exhibit at Dachau is a copy of a letter, dows could be seen due to their being dated August 9, 1942, from Dr. Sigmund hidden by the great pillars. Furious, the Rascher to the Reichsfuhrer (Hitler). devil stamped his foot, "leaving his Translated, it reads in pan: "As you know, black hoofed footprint in the pavement" in the concentration camp Dachau the (McLachan2001). same facilities are being built as in Linz Actually the imprint (see figure 4) is [Austria]. Since the 'invalid transports' Figure 3. Gas chamber (labeled "shower bath") not a hoofed one at all, but rather end up in certain chambers anyway, I am at Dachau. "a footprint of a human being" as it is asking whether in these chambers the Nevertheless, as indicated, great correctly described in a church flyer effect of our various war gasses couldn't numbers of Dachau's dead were cre- ("Black" n.d.). be tested on the persons to be destined mated at "Barracks X." Paul Kurtz One could write an entire treatise on for such purpose anyway?" (1988), CSICOP's chairman who was a footprints in stone. In addition to those There was a single gas chamber at barely eighteen-year-old American GI in of fairies are footprints of various holy Dachau, built as pan of the new 1942 World War II. arrived at Dachau just persons including die Buddha, Christ, crematorium ("Barracks X") which days after it was liberated. "When I first angels. Christian saints, and others, Martin Mahner and I visited. The con- visited Dachau, I stood in the pit where notably the Devil (e.g., Thompson fusion of Hauck and others as to there the ashes and bones of thousands of vic- 1955, I: 178-179). Of these, some may having been several such facilities results tims were strewn," he writes. "I saw the have been the effect of imagination from confusion caused by the presence high piles of clothing and shoes that had applied to natural markings in rock, of several nearby disinfection chambers; been seized from the victims." There, while others may have been pious frauds. they were used to fumigate clothing to and later at Buchenwald and elsewhere, As to the folktale of the Teufclstritt, kill lice (Marcuse 2001). he spoke with "victims of the Nazi it exists in a number of variants (as folk- Over the gas chamber entranceway is scourge, who had suffered die torments lorists say) that give evidence of the oral the old lettering, "BRAUSEBAD" of the extermination camps, and who tradition behind it. ("shower bath"). As shown in figure 3, with muted whispers recounted the talcs The greatest divergence in the varied the door has heavy steel construction, a of horror: men, women, and children tales is whether Satan stamped his foot flange for ainightness, and external herded into cattle cars, starved and in anger or out of triumph and glee. The locking handles—all unnecessary for a beaten, driven into gas chambers, and latter versions, including die church's mere shower. A similar door is on die then reduced to ashes." own flyer, tend to omit any interaction

SKEPTICAL INQUIRER March/April 2003 27 between builder and devil and instead genuine, stating that the floor had been The black foocprim. N.d. River from Frauen- kirche, Munich, Germany. have Satan sneaking a view of the newly restored and that the Teufelstritt was Budig, Ulrike. el al. eds. 1999. Naturalien- built church. Standing on the spot from merely a reconstruction. kabineit Waldenburg. Waldenburg, Saxony, which no windows can be seen and The church warden was uncertain Germany: Heimaimuseum und Naturalicnk- abinctr. thinking that a windowless building is whether or not the "original" footprint Clerici. Paul. 2002. Florescu book looks at history laughable, "in triumphal happiness he had been destroyed or perhaps was behind Frankenstein. Online at www.bc.edu/ bc_org/rvp/pubaf/chronicle/v5/031 /florescu. stamped into the floor, where he left this in a museum or storage somewhere. html. footprint in the ground." But as he took However, the other evidence of a post- DeLys. Claudia. 1989. What's So Lucky About a a further step, he saw the many win- 1620 creation still demonstrates that Four-leaf Clover? New York: Bell Pub!. Co., 219-220. dows: "Out of an anger he changed the Teufelstritt and its attendant legend Distel, Barbara. 1972. Dachau Concentration himself into a great wind and hoped he are apocryphal. Camp. N.p.: Comiii International de could blow die building down. Dachau. Evans, Richard J. 2001. Lying About Hitler. But he failed; and since that cime there is always a wind blowing New York: Basic Books, 124-125. Florescu, Radu. 1975. In Search of around the towers" ("Black" n.d.). Frankenstein. Boston: New York Despite die variations, all of Graphic Society. Die Frauenkirche in Miinchen. 1999. the accounts focus on the concept Regensburg, Germany: Schncll & of a vantage point from which Steiner.Hauck. Dennis William. 2000. none of the huge windows can be The International Directory of Haunted Places. New York: Penguin, 114. seen. This is a very real effect, but Hausdorf. Hartwig. 2000. Monstrum human- only if we ignore the great stained- um nuissimum. Fate, February, 28—32. Hindlc, , ed. 1992. Introduction glass window on the opposite end to Shelley 1831. of the church. While that is a Huyghc, Patrick. 1996. Wx Held Guide to replacement (the church was Extraterrestrials. New York: Avon largely destroyed during World Books, 13-16. Johann Konrad Dippcl. 2002. Online at War II bombings but later under- www.english.upcnn.edu/-jlynch/Fran went years of restoration), unfor- k/People/dippcl.html. Kurtz, Paul. 1988. Forbidden Fruit: The tunately for the legend makers Ethics of Humanism. Buffalo: there was a window there at die Figure 4. "The Devil's footprint" in the foyer pavement Books, 249. time of the church's completion in a Munich cathedral. Marcuse, Harold. 2001. Legacies of DOCIMU. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University 1488. The legend of the non-visible win- Press, 37-46, 185. dows must therefore have originated A possibly innocent explanation is McLachan, Gordon. 2001. The Rough Guide to after 1620 when the window was that the original footprint was put there Germany : Rough Guides Ltd., 75. blocked by a baroque high altar (remain- by a stone mason when the floor was Memorial site concentration camp Dachau. ing so until 1858 [Die Frauenkirche reportedly redone in 1671 (Schmeer- [2002]. Dachau brochure. Monstrum humanum. 1994. Drr Spiegel, 27 1999, 10]), thus completing the illusion Sturm 1998). It could have been placed (July 4). 165. of no windows. merely to mark die spot from which Monstrum humanum rarissimum. 2002. Online Moreover, examining the Frauen- churchgoers could observe what was, at http://cassiopaea.xmystic.com/en/cass/ after all, an intriguing little illusion. monster.htm. kirche's legendary footprint, I con- Muller, Dietmar. 1999. "Monstrum humanum"— cluded that it was itself incompatible Then, after that purpose was no longer Die anatomische Sammlung. In Budig et al. with its accompanying folktale. remembered, die legend could have 1999,91-98. been coined—by that notorious legend- Nickel!. Joe. 1994. Camera Clues: A Handbook for Whereas the foyer's pavement is a Photographic Investigation. Lexington, Ky.: checkerboard pattern of red and gray maker, Anonymous. University Press of Kentucky, 146-159. marble, the imprint is not in one of . 2001. Phantoms, frauds, or ? Acknowledgments Chapter 10 of James Houran and Rcnsc those paving stones. Instead (as shown Lange, eds., Hauntings and Poltergeists. in figure 4) it is in a smaller inset Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 214-223. square—apparently made of concrete Many additional people made my trip possi- Schmeer-Sturm, Marie-Louise. 1998. Die ble, especially Paul Kurtz, Barry Karr. and Schwarzen Fiihrer. Munchen. Oberbayern. and covered over (except for the foot- Amardeo Sarma. I am also grateful to Tim Freiburg, Germany: Eulcn Vcrlag. print) with a hard, mustard-colored Binga and Ranjit Sandhu for, respectively, re- Schultc-Peevers, Andrea, ct al. 2002. Germany material that has suffered some cracking search assistance and word processing, and London: Lonely Planet Publications. and breaking. others, alas, too numerous to mention. Shelley. Mary. 1831. Frankenstein; or. the Modern Prometheus, third edition (orig. publ. 1818). The next morning, while I exam- Reprinted London: Penguin Books. 1992. ined and photographed the spot more References Thompson, CJ.S. 1968. Giants. Dumf and Other extensively, Martin was able to strike up Oddities. New York: Gtadd Press, 17-24. Ausscrirdischcs Icbcn—Monstrum humanum Thompson. Stith. 1955. Motif-Index of Folk- a conversation widi the church warden. rarissimum. 2002. Online ai hup://acolina. Literature. 6 vols. Bloomington: Indiana He admitted that die imprint was not grenzwi5scn.de/con1cnt/scti/huhnm.htm. University Press.

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