Alfhausen and the Alkenkrug Pub

Once, there were only eleven houses where the village of Alfhausen is located now. The people who inhabited it belonged to the church parish of Merzen. On every Sunday and holiday they walked across the heath towards the holy house of Merzen. But the way there was long, and the churchgoers always became glad when they came close to the barrows on this lonely stretch of land. Here, as the locals tell it, people once had started to build a church. But the Devil tore it down and placed a pub in its place. And this pub was what gladdened the churchgoers now. Here they stopped and refreshed themselves with a mug of beer provided by Alke, as the publican was called. He was a master at keeping his patrons rooted there. “I can only rely on you; we twelve stick together and belong together”, as he was fond of saying, and this flattered the farmers, and they were convinced to stay. And when one or the other of the guests replied to his badgering for another round of drinks that they needed to go now if they didn’t want to be late for church, the clever man always managed to console them that it was still early enough for sure. Thus, the churchgoers always stayed in the Alkenkrug for too long and arrived too late in Merzen on an almost regular basis. The pastor frequently berated the publican for his evil-minded behavior and warned him, but always futilely. He continued to act as he had always done.

Then, one day, God’s judgement fell upon him. His house, which stood on a small hill, sank into the Earth’s lap along with his barn, and in place of these buildings the two depressions formed, which can still be found at this place today.

Such an event made a great impression on the people of the surrounding areas, but especially on the former patrons of the Alkenkrug. So that they would no longer have to encounter the spot where the pub once stood, they now built a church of their own. And in order to show that they did not want to have anything in common with the godless publican any more, they called their settlement “Alfhausen” - “Eleven Houses”.

The construction of the Lord’s house was very difficult for the small community, in particular because the stones for the construction had to be carted from far away. Then, suddenly, a shiny gray horse appeared which dedicated its services to this holy cause. Day and night it carted stones to the site until the construction was complete, and then it vanished. No one could say where this faithful helper came from, and where it went. For a long time, the people of Alfhausen showed the stable into which the horse was led while the stones were unloaded.

It was just as well that the inhabitants of the “eleven houses” provided for a prayer house of their own. For if they had been forced to wander the old path to Merzen, then perhaps they would also have encountered the haunting of the sunken Alkenkrug, and perhaps the publican who had ensnared them so often in the past would now have harmed them as well. For he still dwelled at the location of his former trade. The shepherds of the region, who saw him from time to time, also claimed that if someone circled the Alkenkrug in the hour of the ghosts and called “Alke, come, do you want to go with me?”, then the latter would appear and pull the foolhardy person into the abyss with him.

One late evening, the farmer Grumfeld, whose house was not far from Alke’s Hollow, sat together in the pub with several other farmers. Everyone praised their own horses, and then Grumfeld said that he had a gray horse in which he was confident enough that he would dare circle the sunken pub and challenge Alke. The others took him at his word and bet him for the sum of nine pounds of silver, and the audacious man promised to attempt the daring ride in the next night.

The next day, Grumfeld and his horse headed towards the location which he intended to visit again soon after during the midnight hour. Here he began to indicate to his horse what would be expected of it. The smart animal indeed seemed to understand, for when its master mounted it, it carried him to his home in lightning-speed. Here the farmer also showed it the large entrance gate, which he intended to leave open during the following night. After that, he gave his horse the best food he had as a reward for the brave ride.

The next night arrived, and Grumfeld and his horse set off for their destination. When he reached the boundary of the water-filled depression, the hour of the ghosts had not quite arrived yet. It was a beautiful, star-lit night, and everything was quiet nearby. Then the rider heard the tower clocks strike twelve, first in Ueffeln, then in Merzen, and finally in Alfhausen. As soon as the last chime had ceased, he shouted:

“Alke, come, do you want to go with me?”

And from the depth a dreadful voice replied:

“One shoe I will lace up,

The other one I will slip into,

And then I shall get the Devil!”

How the farmer then spurred his horse! Like the lightning rushing through the air, like the arrow flying from the bow, in that manner they raced through the night - but Alke pursued them in the shape of a large, flaming pole. The spirit approached ever closer, but the hellish chase also got ever closer to the Grumfeld’s house. And just as the fiery pole was about to reach the horse, the horse raced through the lower door of the opened entrance gate, and horse and rider were saved. The glowing “pole”, however, rammed the pillar at the side of the great door so that the house shook, and it was still possible to see the burnt spot there for a long time.

The farmer had won the bet, but never again was someone able to convince him to undertake such a dangerous ride.

Source: Crone, W. Aus der Heimat. Sagen und sagenhafte Erzählungen des Kreises Bersenbrück. 1899, p. 16ff.