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The Source:

Astrid Paulsen & Ulrike Looft-Gaude :
"Die Schwarzen Führer - Hamburg - Schleswig-Holstein"
Eulen Verlag Harald Gläser, Freiburg i. Br., Germany, 1998

The Case

I have first read about this case in the above volume from the excellent series of "Schwarzen Führer" guide books. To be honest, it is not much of a story, but here it is:

The second wife of Count Peter Rantzau who had built Schloß Ahrensburg, is reported to have been a rather unpleasant character who treated her employees and farmers in a most disgraceful manner. We are told that she had been given the nicknames of "Tolle Margreth", according to another source AKA "Dull Margreth". I guess that in translation we could call her "Mad Maggie". One of the stories tells us how she once had a servant girl strapped to a hot stove so that the unfortunate girl burned to death. People were really scared of the Mad Countess, and after she had died they decided to put her in a very strong container and they put seven iron chains around it, to prevent Margreth's return from the dead. And then, many years later, when the crypt under the altar of the castle church was opened, the container was mysteriously found open, the lid had been taken off while all the chains were still intact. The story does not mention if the container was empty or not.

That - more or less - is the story as we can find it in "Die Schwarzen Führer". Further sources that I have seen do confirm that Margaretha did indeed have a very bad reputation because of the cruelty against her subjects.

The Date:

In my opinion, the story appears to have taken place after the death of Count Peter Rantzau, which according to one of my sources took place in the year of 1602. Unlike his wife, Peter Rantzau appears to have been a man with commendable convictions. He looked well after his subjects and some of his ideas were very social and well ahead of his time. Further information about the life and death of Margarethe Rantzau (born: von Siggen) would undoubtedly be useful. The date of her death will be the most important, for we can safely assume that her alleged ressurrection did not take place before that.

The Place:

Here then is a picture of Schloß Ahrensburg that I took on a sunny but very cold winter day. I had returned from Schleswig where I had all but frozen my fingers and toes in an attempt to check out some of the King Abel related locations. And when I had returned to Hamburg, I found that I still had half a day to wait before my airplane home would leave. I looked at the map and found that Ahrensburg was reasonably close to Hamburg. So I jumped into a taxi hoping to have a quick look at the church and the castle. Sadly, the traffic was really blocked up on account of a football match or something. So when I arrived in Ahrensburg I had about 10 minutes left before we had to try to make our way back to Hamburg. No chance to talk to people or do any further research or even visit the church and castle, but at least I had the chance to quickly take a couple of photos of the castle. After that the taxi driver raced me back to the airport where I made it just in time for my flight back home to Amsterdam.

According to most of my sources this "Wasserschloß Ahrensburg" dates back to 1595. There seems no doubt about the fact that the building of the house has indeed been ordered by Count Peter Rantzau, a high-ranked and wealthy aristocrat from Schleswig-Holstein. But I have already told you that. In 1795 the property was bought up by Herr Schimmelmann, a rich and obviously rather succesful businessman.

Here is a link to : Schloss Ahrensburg

Possible Follow-Up:

As to the container in which Margarethe's restless body was chained up, it is not clear to me as yet if this was a coffin or a stone sarcophagus such as we can see depicted in a picture of the church crypt that I have seen. A visit to the crypt should answer that question. I know for certain that the two ladies who wrote this particular "Schwarzen Führer" guide book, did not make up the story, so they must have found it mentioned some place else. Therefore, we can now go in search of their sources. A visit to Ahrensburg (preferably a little more longer than mine) might give you some further information about the story. You could check out Schloß Ahrensburg and see what information you can find there. Apparently it is also possible to visit the church and its crypt.

© 2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed 19 November 2009 - Link last checked 13 September 2008
Photograph "Schloß Ahrensburg" © 2003 by Rob Brautigam

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