The Possessed People at Spandau

(See Angelus p. 414ff, chapter “Ein Bedenken, was von dem Zustande der Besessenen in Spandow und englischen Erscheinungen zu halten.” Braunschweig 1609 in its 4th edition. Möhsen, “Geschichte der Wissenschaft in der Mark Brandenburg”, p. 501.)

In the year 1594, the Devil had strange phantom fights with possessed people in Spandau, and made these utter strange words. It was said that he had scattered money, wreaths, needles, buttons, knives, rings, ribbons and other things, and whoever picked them up would become possessed by the Devil. He showed himself in all sorts of guises and did all sorts of strange things. For this reason, nobody wanted to walk in the streets in the evenings out of fear that they might get possessed. The victims stated that they frequently felt a cold wind blowing at them. This wind writhed like a snake until it reached the hearts. Then they instantly were bereft of their senses so that they would not know what they said and did.

Among the possessed, those who were affected in the strangest ways were: Gabriel Kummer, a hatter’s journeyman from the Duchy of Jägerndorf; Andreas Reiche, a smith of horseshoes and arms; and a maid named Katharina Richtern. Beyond these, thirty further persons were mentioned by name. These were both adult men and women as well as boys and young girls. The former also reported angelic apparitions. These all reported that an angel admonished them to go to the Inspector Magister Albert Colerus, and ask him to admonish his audience in turn with all due seriousness and earnestness to better their ways. In particular, they should abstain from their usual behaviors and splendid fashions, from gluttony and excessive drinking and so forth. Otherwise, terrible judgments would fall upon them. In particular, the hatter’s journeyman distinguished himself by the apparitions and visions of the angel Gabriel he reported. He heard a voice in the evening, and it called to him that he should open the church, ring the storm bell, and shout in the streets: “Repent, or woe! Woe to you, woe to myself!”

After he had been forbidden and prevented from opening the church and ringing the bells, he incited the people of the town to such an uproar that those ran around in the streets in great fear and dread for hours. The next day, he professed that he himself had been in great fear and trepidation while he shouted. These possessed people were led into the church daily, and communal prayers were said for them. It is said that the Spandau custom of ringing the bells at certain hours to this day derives from this incident.

In the following year, such communal prayers occurred in the whole country, as it was ordered by the authorities to pray against the Turks. Count Rochus zu Lynar wrote a letter concerning this incident to prince Joachim Friedrich on November 29th, 1594.(a) Finally, however, these infernal depredations - which lasted from September 15th until December 17th of 1594 - ended in the face of the ongoing God-blessed activities. The distinguished theologians of Berlin and Frankfurt also traveled to Spandau in order to investigate this incident. And they came to the conclusion that this was a truly devilish possession, which they elaborated on in their theological writings.(b)

(a) Printed in Dilschmann, “Diplomatische Geschichte und Beschreibung der Stadt Spandow”. Berlin 1785, p. 160ff.[15]

(b) Printed in Angelus, as above.

Source: Grässe, J. G. T. Sagenbuch des preussischen Staats. Erster Band. 1869, p. 87f.

Notes and commentary: Possessed Objects