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The Source:

Dieter Sturm & Klaus Völker:
"Von denen Vampiren oder Menschensaugern"
Carl Hanser Verlag, München, Germany, 1985

The Case:

I first read about this case in Sturm & Völker's book, in which it gets a short mention:

Around 1740, somewhere in Western Prussia, a number of members of the Wollschläger family, died one after the other in a short period of time. One of the deceased was suspected of being a vampire. The family gathered to decide on what action should be taken. It was decided to decapitate the corpse of the suspected vampire. A nephew of the vampire volunteered to do what had to be done. After he had chopped off the head of the corpse, he collected some of its blood in a glass. The family members all had to drink a little bit of this horrible fluid as a medicine against the vampire disease.

I found more about the case in a book by W.A.J. von Tettau & J.D.H. Temme: "Die Volkssagen Ostpreussens, Lithauens und Westpreussens" [1837]. Here we learn the name of the vampire's nephew: Joseph Wollschläger, who at a later age became governor of the district and who is said to have died at an advanced age in 1820. We also learn that the vampire was buried inside the Wollschläger family crypt in the Monastery of Jakobsdorf, and that it was left there with its head between its legs.

In his excellent "Vampires, Burial & Death" [1988], Paul Barber mentions an article written by Leo Gerschke in 1962, with the title "Vom Vampirglauben im alten WestPreussen". Leo Gerschke informs us that he had visited Jakobsdorf way back in 1916. On this occasion he had personally seen the body and head of the notorious vampire Wollschläger, which apparently were on display somewhere. In 1940, Mr. Gerschke returned to Jakobsdorf, this time bringing his camera with the intention of taking a couple of photographs of the vampire's remains. Much to his disappointment (not to mention ours) he found that the people of Jakobsdorf had decided to rebury the vampire's corpse and head no more than a couple of weeks before.

The Date:

Around 1740. An exact date would have been better of course, but the given date should be sufficient to help us get started.

The Place:

We have a little problem here. There is a village called Jakobsdorf not far to the SouthWest of Stralsund. And there is a village called Jakobsdorf a little to the NorthWest of Pritzwalk. Both villages are situated in the German part of Western Prussia. But things are never simple. There are other Jakobsdorfs. One of them seems promising. It is in Poland, somewhere in the neighbourhood of Konitz, a town that has now been renamed Chojnice. Undoubtedly this Jakobsdorf has also been given a Polish name, but don't ask me what it is. The reason why this place seems a likely candidate is the fact that the name Wollschläger used to be (maybe still is) one of the local family names.

Personal Comments:

This is an interesting case, which seems based on actual happenings. Supposing that Leo Gerschke's story is true, then the vampire's corpse must have been on display until 1940. Quite a few people must have seen it. There may be sketches or photographs. There may still be people who remember how or why and where the vampire's remains have been buried.

Reactions and further findings:

And then, much to my surprise, I received a message from Regina Gerschke, who happens to be Leo Gerschke's granddaughter. She did confirm that the Polish Jakobsdorf near Konitz (Chojnice) is indeed the Jakobsdorf that we are looking for. She also gave me further information about her grandfather. And, best of all, she did send me copies of Leo Gerschke's original typewritten manuscript including his own handwritten notes and corrections. Obviously it is going to take me some time to sort out this new material and follow up on some of the new information that I have been given. But as soon as I have done that, you can expect to learn much more about this interesting case.

© 2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed 19 November 2009

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