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Elsau



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The Source:

Werner Wild :
"Unter Adler und Fuchs begraben – Ein aufsehenerregendes Frauengrab des 9. Jahrhunderts in Elsau, Kanton Zürich. Mit einem Beitrag von Elisabeth Langenegger"
in: "Mittelalter - Moyen Age – Medioevo – Temp medieval", 11. Jahrgang 2006, Heft 1.

The Case:

In 2003 some archaeological research took place outside the church of Elsau. A couple of graves was found. In one of them was the skeleton of a woman. It was found that the grave had been reopened between 1 and 6 years after the first burial. Before it was closed again, changes had been made to the corpse. Various parts of her body were not in the place where we would expect them to be. Some of them could possibly be explained as having been caused by rodents or by flooding of the grave. But others seemed to have been caused by human intervention: the skull and jawbone were in a rather strange position, the lower part of the legs were unusually close together, and there were cutting marks on some of the leg bones. Before the grave was covered with stones the clawed foot of a sea-eagle had been placed on the skull. And the foot of a fox had been placed near the knees.

The Date:

The grave is reported to date back to the 9th Century.

The Place:

Elsau can be found in the North of Switzerland. somewhere between Winterthur and the Bodensee.

Personal Comments:

I know, I know... I prefer a well-documented story of what has actually happened. Those old skeletons are not my favourite. Unless they have been nailed down, or there is a stake, or their chopped off head is in an unusual position, they always leave room for doubt. But this one has been listed (albeit with a questionmark) in Hagen Schaub's vampire book. And the experts who wrote our source material also ask themselves the question if the re-opening of the grave and the unusual objects were meant to prevent the woman's return as a Wiedergängerin.

Now this eagle and fox kept going around inside my head. Somehow this sounded familiar. So at first I thought that maybe I had once visited a pub called "The Fox and the Eagle" or something. But then I suddenly remembered the old fable by Aesop. In case you do not know it, it is about an eagle and a fox who eat up each other's children. Starting from this fable, it would be easy to build a complete horror story around the dead woman, but I will stick to the facts and leave that sort of fantasies to others.

Possible Follow-Up:

Go read the condensed version in Schraub's "Vampire - dem Mythos auf der Spur". Or go straight to the source and read the article in "Mittelalter - Moyen Age – Medioevo – Temp medieval". It has all the information and plenty of maps and photographs.

© 2011 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed December 2011

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