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Hans Jagenteufel

Source: Folk-lore And Legends: German

It is commonly believed that if any person is guilty of a crime for
which he deserves to lose his head, he will, if he escape punishment
during his lifetime, be condemned after his death to wander about with
his head under his arm.

In the year 1644 a woman of Dresden went out early one Sunday morning
into a neighbouring wood for the purpose of collecting acorns. In an
open space, at a spot not very far from the place which is called the
Lost Water, she heard somebody blow a very strong blast upon a
hunting-horn, and immediately afterwards a heavy fall succeeded, as
though a large tree had fallen to the ground. The woman was greatly
alarmed, and concealed her little bag of acorns among the grass.
Shortly afterwards the horn was blown a second time, and on looking
round she saw a man without a head, dressed in a long grey cloak, and
riding upon a grey horse. He was booted and spurred, and had a
bugle-horn hanging at his back.

As he rode past her very quietly she regained her courage, went on
gathering the acorns, and when evening came returned home undisturbed.

Nine days afterwards, the woman returned to that spot for the purpose
of again collecting the acorns, and as she sat down by the
Forsterberg, peeling an apple, she heard behind her a voice calling
out to her--

"Have you taken a whole sack of acorns and nobody tried to punish you
for doing so?"

"No," said she. "The foresters are very kind to the poor, and they
have done nothing to me--the Lord have mercy on my sins!"

With these words she turned about, and there stood he of the grey
cloak, but this time he was without his horse, and carried his head,
which was covered with curling brown hair, under his arm.

The woman shrank from him in alarm, but the spirit said--

"Ye do well to pray to God to forgive you your sins, it was never my
good lot to do so."

Thereupon he related to her how that he had lived about one hundred
and thirty years before, and was called Hans Jagenteufel, as his
father had been before him, and how his father had often besought him
not to be too hard upon poor people, how he had paid no regard to the
advice his father had given him, but had passed his time in drinking
and carousing, and in all manner of wickedness, for which he was now
condemned to wander about the world as an evil spirit.

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