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The Source:

Anthony Masters:
"The Natural History of the Vampire"
Ruper Hart-Davis, London, 1972

The Case

Anthony Masters appears to be quoting from Raymond Rudorff's "Monsters". Unfortunately I do not seem to have a copy of Rudorff's book, or in case I have one, I can not find it. Therefore, we will have to go by what Masters tells us. According to him:

"Clara Geisslerin was accused of prostitution in league with three devils who, bored by continuous murder, had dug hundreds of children out of their graves in order to drink their blood.".

According to, what seems to be quoted from Rudorff, Clara Geisslerin was an old woman who was accused of witchcraft. She was tortured in the most horrible manner, in order to get her to confess to ridiculous accusations like digging up the bodies of children to drink their blood. To put an end to her torture she finally confessed to all these crimes, but no sooner had she been taken off the rack, or she claimed to be innocent. So she was tortured again until she made the following confession:

"For the last forty years she had fornicated with countless devils that had visited her in the shape of cats, dogs, fleas and worms; that she had murdered over two hundred and forty people; had given birth to about seventeen children conceived by her devil lovers, had murdered them, eaten them and drunk their blood."

This time, Clara had no chance to retract her confession, because she died when she was taken off the rack.

We can also find material about this case in Rossell Hope Robbins' "The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology":

"The real torture was reserved for the question définitive, the Final Torture, which sought to make the witch reveal the names of the accomplices. The torture in 1597 of Clara Geissler of Gelnhausen, a 69-year-old widow, illustrates this aim. She resisted the thumbscrews, but when

'. . . her feet were crushed and her body stretched out to greater length, she screamed piteously and said all was true that they had demanded of her: she drank the blood of children whom she stole on her nightly flights, and she had murdered about sixty infants. She named twenty other women who had been with her at the sabbats, and said the wife of a late burgomaster presided over the flights and banquets.'

When released from the rack, Clara retracted her accusations and pleaded: "As to what she had said about others, she had no personal knowledge of them, but had reported rumors spread by other people." Clara was again tortured to admit the truth of her first denunciations. On release she recanted a second time; tortured a third time with "the utmost severity" for several hours, she admitted what the judges wanted. During the agony she collapsed and died under the torture. The judicial report concluded: "The devil would not let her reveal anything more and so wrung her neck." On August 23, 1597, her corpse was burned."

The Date:

Masters, quoting Rudorff, gives us the year of 1597. Rossell Hope Robbins is even more precise and gives us the exact date: August 23, 1597.

The Place:

We have been told that Clara Geisslerin was from Gelnhausen, a small town not very far from Frankfurt. It seems likely that Gelnhausen is also the place where she was supposed to have committed her crimes, and where her trial and torture took place.

Personal Comments:

Obviously, this is not the type of "vampire" that is the main subject of our studies. But it is interesting to see that "witches" were also accused of blood drinking. And it is interesting to find that, just like a vampire, the corpse of the "witch" is cremated.

Possible Follow-Up:

Undoubtedly there is much more information about this case that is just waiting to be found. Thousands of books have been written about the witchcraft superstition and about the unfortunate victims that have been executed or tortured to death. Apart from that, there is a wealth of original official papers that have survived. Gelnhausen itself is well worth a visit. Among other things, it features a tower, originally called Fratzenstein, which was used as a prison and which nowadays is better known as the "Hexenturm". A large number of "witches" have been executed in Gelnhausen. There are no less than two memorial plaques in memory of the victims. More information can be found on the Gelnhausen website:  www.gelnhausen.de.

© 2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed 19 November 2009
Photo "Town Square, Gelnhausen" - © 2002 by Rob Brautigam
Link last checked 22 September 2008

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