Hans von Hackelberg

Hans von Hackelberg was a court forester in Braunschweig who, as some have claimed, was elevated to noble rank due to his good character traits and his scientific education. Though there was one Bohemund von Hackelberg who preceded him who did not have these traits, but who was also an impassioned huntsman. When he was appointed to the position of court forester, he also received the command to organize a great hunt based from Harzburg Castle. He rode there one day before the start of the hunt, and dreamed in the night that he would be killed by a boar. He thus decided not to participate in the hunt, and was encouraged in this resolution by his fellow hunters. But the hunt proceeded, and a gigantic boar was shot. The head of this monster supposedly weighed 75 pounds all by itself.

Everyone studied the kill and marveled at it, and Hackelberg was also curious upon hearing the news and approached it. He took the head of the boar in his hand in order to estimate its weight, and said: “So you are the creature that was supposed to take my life? But this has failed, and you shall no longer harm me.” Then he let the head drop again, and this caused a tusk to scratch his calf. But this minor wound worsened and worsened, and several physicians were called in order to help him recover, but to no avail.

Hackelberg attributed this to the ignorance of the physicians, and hoped to find better aid in Braunschweig. During the journey, which he embarked on by riding a donkey, he had to stay in Wülperode (where he allegedly had a hunting lodge) due the encroaching night. There, his condition worsened, and gangrene spread and ended his life. Before he expired, he wished that he could hunt until Judgement Day. His wish was fulfilled, and on the Fallstein and the entire region people can frequently hear the barking of dogs and the call “Hey! Ho!”, which is attributed to the Wild Huntsman. Another member of his hunting party is the Hooting Ursel in the form of an owl.

Even today, the grave of Hackelberg is shown in the garden of the Klöpperkrug pub near Wülperode. The grave is on a hill which only forms a very small elevation, and the gravestones are supposed to show engravings of Hackelberg, his donkey, and his dogs. Of the inscription, only the following is still readable: “domini 1681 den 13. Martii” (i.e. “March 13th of the year of the Lord 1681”), and this is allegedly the year of death of the Wild Huntsman Hackelberg. Furthermore, around the year 1850 the publican of the Klöpperkrug, Mr. Klöpper, was very willing to show strangers the alleged helmet of Hackelberg, as well as the donkey’s collar. This helmet supposedly looked rather similar to the current Prussian Pickelhaube helmet, except that instead of the latter’s pointy tip, it had an acorn on top. About thirteen years ago, two Hanoveranian officers allegedly opened Hackelberg’s grave, found the cranium, and took it with them. The publican of the Klöpperkrug opined that it is likely that the cranium is now stored in the museum in Hanover. The Klöpperkrug itself allegedly was Hackelberg’s hunting lodge in Wülperode, and was free from paying taxes until the Westphalian time.

We were also told that the Brunswickian court forester Hackelberg had met his death thanks to the boar in Uslar. There, he stipulated in his will that his gray horse should pull him to the spot where he should be buried, and his resting place should be wherever the horse would stop for the first time. This was not respected, and four bay horses were put in front of the mourning wagon. They pulled the hearse into a forest, but got stuck with it in a large swamp. Hackelberg’s gray had run alongside the train, like a dog, and when the bays were unable to pull the hearse out of the swamp, the gray was harnessed in front of the hearse. Now the wagon moved as if on its own towards the Moosberg hill in the Solling range. At the center of the hill, the gray stopped and would not move from the spot, no matter how much it was driven onwards. Thus, Hackelberg was buried at this location, but now no one knows where his grave can be found.

Once, a cowherd discovered the grave, and put his coat and hat on a stick above it. Then, he went into the closest village and told everyone that he had found the grave of Hackelberg. In response, all the farmers hurried there, but as they came to the grave, an owl sat on it. But the herder’s possessions were scattered far and wide; the hat and the stick were found on one side of the hill, and the coat on the other.

Boys in Solling frequently taunt Hackelberg and call: “Hey, hoy, piffle, paffle, piffle, paffle”. Then he throws meat at them and shouts:

“If you want to help with the hunting,

then you shall also help with the chewing!”


Source: Pröhle, H. Harzsagen zum Teil in der Mundart der Gebirgsbewohner. 1886, p. 71ff.