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The Source:

Astrid Paulsen & Ulrike Looft-Gaude :
"Die Schwarzen Führer - Hamburg - Schleswig-Holstein"
Eulen Verlag Harald Gläser, Freiburg i. Br., Germany, 1998

The Case

I first read about this case in the above volume from the excellent series of "Schwarzen Führer" guide books. This is the story:

"At the end of the Gardens of Schloss Gottorf, near Schleswig is a spot that is being haunted by King Abel. This Danish king managed to get on the throne by arranging to have his brother killed. During his life Abel was such a passionate huntsman, that he had wished that he could hunt forever. After his death, Abel was buried in the Dom church of Schleswig. He found no rest in his grave and was haunting around at night. So they took his body to the Garden of Schloss Gottorf and buried it there with a stake through its heart. King Abel is said to still reappear from time to time in the shape of the Wild Hunter."

That - more or less - is the story as we can find it in "Die Schwarzen Führer".

And here then is a photo of Schloss Gottorf taken on a cold but sunny winter day.

Thanks to our Spanish correspondent Luis Lopez, I found that no one less than Augustus Hare (of Croglin Vampire fame) has also written about King Abel. I am giving you the relevant passage, by kind permission of Mr. Jon S. Page of the Augustus Hare Society.

"In the evenings these children will not venture outside the town, for over the marshes they say that the wild huntsman rides, followed by his demon hounds and blowing his magic horn. It is the spirit of Duke Abel the fratricide, who, in the fens, murdered his brother Eric VI. of Denmark, and who was afterwards lost there himself, falling from his horse, and being dragged down by the weight of his armour. To give rest to his wandering spirit, the clergy dug up his body and despatched it to Bremen, but there his vampire gave the canons no peace, so they sent the corpse back again, and now it lies once more in the marshes of Gottorp."

It is clear that there are a number of things in these two versions of the story that do not match up or even seem to contradict one another. So what is true and what is not ?

King Abel:

As he is a historical person of some importance, it was not very hard to find a few more personal details about King Abel. He was born in 1218. His father was King Valdemar II and his mother was Berengia of Portugal. In 1237, Duke Abel married Mechtild von Holstein who gave him 4 children. In 1241, Abel's brother Erik became King of Denmark. In 1250, Abel arranged the murder of his brother. King Erik was put in a boat that sailed down the Schlei. King Abel and his helpers chopped off Erik's head with an axe, and threw his body into the water after they had made it heavier with the help of stones and chains. After this treacherous fratricide, Abel became the new king. In 1252, King Abel was killed in a war against the Frisians. As described in the words of the poet Iven Kruse :

"König Abel leep na den Milderdamm,
 De Flucht, de schull em ni glücken;
 Dor stünn en Wagentimmermann,
 Hau Kopp un Kron em in Stücken!"

The Date:

We have an exact date for the death of King Abel. He was killed in a battle against the Frisians on June 29, 1252. It seems likely that his first burial and return from the grave must have taken place not very long after this date.

The Place:

There appears to be some confusion about the place where King Abel was buried for the first time. According to Paulsen & Looft-Gaude and other sources, he was buried "im Chor des Schleswiger Doms" where he was said to be wandering around at night. The St. Petri Dom Church of Schleswig dates back to the beginning of the 12th Century. The very large tower is a 19th Century addition.

According to Augustus Hare, this is what happened to Abel: "the clergy dug up his body and despatched it to Bremen". Even though this does not seem likely, we mention it here, because it is always worth investigating. In case you want to find out more about the remarkable Augustus Hare and his works, I can recommend you to visit the excellent website of The Augustus Hare Society.

Most sources seem to agree that King Abel's final resting place is situated somewhere at the end of the Gardens of Schloss Gottorf. The "Tiergarten" and the "Gehege" are both mentioned. And Schloss Gottorf itself now houses several interesting musea and can be found on the outside of the town of Schleswig, in the North of Germany.
Here is a link to Schloss Gottorf: http://www.schloss-gottorf.de/.
And here is a link to the town of Schleswig: http://www.schleswig.de/.

Possible Follow-Up:

I have found that the Dom Church of Schleswig and Schloss Gottorf both are places that are well worth a visit. On my visit to Schleswig I did find a number of books that mention the story of King Abel. And I also found lots of little bits and pieces about it on the internet. I am sure that there must be much more information about our vampire king that is simply waiting to be found. Now why don't you go and find it...

© 2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed 19 November 2009
Fragment by Augustus Hare reprinted by kind permission of the Augustus Hare Society.
Photographs from Gottorf und Schleswig © 2003 by Rob Brautigam
Links last checked 22 September 2008

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