Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Silent Night" - the legend about the origin of a Christmas carol

Since Christmas is coming soon I thought I’ll take you out of Vienna this time and we travel to the countryside to Oberndorf in Salzburg about three hundred kilometres west of Vienna.
And I’ll tell you

a legend about the origin of a Christmas carol – the carol “Silent Night”

We write the year 1818. Oberndorf which is located by the Salzach River was a small and insignificant village that time and home of shipbuilders and skippers.

It was the day of Christmas Eve in a cold winter; the village and the hills around were deeply covered with snow.

The local teacher Franz Gruber closed the school house. Slowly he trudged through the snow to meet his friend and priest of the village Father Joseph Mohr at the church Saint Nicholas.
The two young men had to make the final preparations for the Christmas Mass.

After a warm welcome Father Mohr told the teacher Franz Gruber who also served as organist and as the church’s choir master which hymns he had selected as part of the celebration.
Then the organist climbed up the stairs to the gallery where the organ was placed.
But he made a nasty discovery – mice had chewed through the bellows of the old organ. The instrument kept silent not even a sound was possible.

A Christmas Mass without music would be a very poor one.

Card on the occasion of 100th anniversary
of the carol Silent Night in 1918:
Joseph Mohr, Franz Gruber
and Oberndorf
The both went to the rectory, sat down in the warm parlour and considered what to do.

Suddenly the priest remembered that he had written a poem two years ago; a poem about the Christmas tale. He stood and went to his desk. He rummaged through the drawers of his writing table. Finally he grabbed a piece of paper and showed it to his friend Franz. Excited but in a low voice the priest asked Franz to set this six stanzas long poem to music. They removed their doubts that the words were in German and not in usual liturgical latin.
And soon it was clear. It would be a song for two voices, tenor and bass, and the accompanying instrument would be the priest’s guitar.

Highly inspired by the Christmas poem and influenced by the local folk music Franz Gruber wrote down a simple melody in a sprightly, dance-like rhythm within the following few hours. Already in the late afternoon he was able to practice the carol with the children’s choir.

So it came that on Christmas Eve in 1818 the carol “Silent Night” was sung the first time at Midnight Mass. Father Joseph Mohr sang the tenor voice and played the guitar; Franz Gruber sang the bass line and directed the choir.

The two young men saved the Christmas celebration for the people of Oberndorf not knowing that this carol would be known all over the world one day.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for including this legend in their 'FlashCast48 - Sherlock' !


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Devil's Sleigh Ride

On January 26th, 1667 it was proclaimed in Vienna that it was strictly forbidden to drive a sleigh after ten o’clock at night. This should keep the town safety and should assure that the inhabitants weren’t disturbed in their sleeping hours.

But still - there moved a sleigh with loud ringing and rattling through the streets between eleven and twelve o’clock every night. That sleigh made as much noise as a hundred sleighs would have made. And soon people knew – the coachman of that sleigh was the devil himself.

Winter in Vienna, Rudolf von Alt
People who had seen it reported that the devil in his bodily shape had a big head of a boar and that he spit out fire as if he had twelve storm lamps inside.

They also told that he had a woman at his side. On her head she wore a diadem which glowed red and was covered with golden lice and fleas. Instead of curly hair, ribbons and feather ornaments snakes and lizards crawled on the head of the devil’s companion. An ugly toad sat on her chest where a medallion is usually placed. And two big snakes gnawed at the upper part of her body.

Once a dutiful night-watchman dared to stop that sleigh and asked the devil to obey the law.

The satanic figure answered with a devilish laughter. Then the bogey blew at the poor man till the one dropped dead.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska
Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for including this curiosity in their 'FlashCast47 - Spielbergian Whimsy' !


Monday, December 5, 2011

Interlude #5: Krampus

Tonight I share a piece of Austrian folklore with you.
Tomorrow is December 6th and therefore the day of Saint Nicolas.

Saint Nicolas has a companion, a satanic figure called Krampus. While Nicolas gives presents to the good children, Krampus is the one who punishes the naughty ones.

Nikolaus and Krampus in Austria
Newspaper-illustration from 1896

And just as it is in real life the evil doesn't come alone - Krampusse usually occur in packs.

Today I know that these figures are just young men dressed up as Krampus to roam through the streets with their rusty chains and their bells. But when I was I child - imagine that - I met the real ones and this was quite frightening.
But we couldn't keep away from that procession - I wanted to see Saint Nicolas. Very close to my mother I stood in the line to get one of the golden colored walnuts from Saint Nicolas.

Anyway if you like to see how a pack of Krampusse behaves nowadays then please enjoy this clip shot in the 7th district of Vienna ...

If you like to get more historical information then please switch over to "The Vienna Review" and enjoy the nicely written article there: "Krampus? Who's that?"


Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Flying Ship

a story known as a curiosity of Vienna

* * *
      Vienna, June 24th, 1709 - It was very big tumult yesterday morning approximately at nine o'clock. Everyone was alerted, the streets were full of people and the ones who were not in the streets stood at their windows. Everyone was asking what to do but noone knew an answer. Some people ran around crying the last day would be near, others felt a big earthquake to come, and some supposed that a large army of enemy besiegers stood before the gates of Vienna.
Finally more and more arms showed towards the sky and one saw an indescribable amount of bigger and smaller birds flying around a very big bird and it looked like as if the flock had a fight with this very big bird.
Then this odd flock moved further down and closer to earth. It turned out that the alerged big bird was an object in the form of a ship with expanded sails. The people could figure out a man on the ship dressed like a monk who announced his arrival with several gun shots.
The air ship moved in circles several times. It was now obviously that the air rider was looking for a suitable place to land.
Passarola (Big Bird) from: Wienerische Diarium, 1709
Unfortunately an unexpected wind arose and prevented the man from his undertaking. It came even worse. The wind led him to the spire of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral; the sails got tangled up at the tower top, so that the machine got stuck in it.
This incident caused a recent uproar among the common people, who all ran to St. Stephen’s square now. It is reported that twenty people were crushed to death in the huge crowd.
The man arrested in the air wasn’t helped by the staring people, he cried for helping hands. But the air ship was so unluckily entangeled that it wasn’t reachable.
After a couple of hours the man in the ship lost his patience. He took a hammer and some other tools he had with him and started to demolate the tip of the spire. He worked till the uppermost part of the tip fell to the ground. Thus he came back into flight and after some panning around he skilfully brought his airship to a halt at a place near the Imperial Palace.
Protected by a company of soldiers – otherwise he possibly would have been scrunched by the crowd of people – the pilot was brought to the tavern “The black Eagle”. There he rested for a couple of hours.
Then he told his story. On June 22nd at six o’clock in the morning he left Lisbon in his newly-invented air machine in order to bring some letters to the here resident Portuguese ambassador.
His travel was a big challenge and he had many fights with eagles, storks, paradise birds and many other unknown birds. He said if he hadn’t had his two double hooks and the four shotguns with him he would have lost his life without any doubt.
* * *
Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for including this curiosity in their 'FlashCast45 - Just the Tip' !

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Devil and the Bowyer's Wife

In the 16th century there lived a bowyer in Vienna. His name was Kaspar Pergauer. His business went well and he was very satisfied with his daily doing. He could have been the happiest man on earth if there hadn’t been his wife Ursula.

Kaspar had married her because of her beauty and her money but his friends had warned him – she was well known for her sharp tongue. Well, after some years the beauty was gone, her money was spent and it turned out that she preferred to use her evil tongue to attack her husband.

She ranted and raved the whole day long; Kaspar had indeed a very hard life.

To escape his wife Kaspar went to the pub every evening. When he arrived home late at night Ursula awaited him with a shower of curses and at least with her rolling pin.

One evening after a big quarrel he left home and wandered aimlessly through the streets of Vienna. Finally he found himself at St. Peter's cemetery, exhausted he sat down on an old grave stone.

“Ah,” he sighed, “I can’t live with this wife anymore. May the devil take her!”

“Whom shall I take?" suddenly an eerie, sinister figure had appeared in front of the bowyer. "I'm there when you call me! What can I do for you?"

“Well,” Kaspar gave in, “you don’t have to take her necessarily. But maybe you can scare her a bit or teach her a better behaviour.” then he added depressed, “But I suppose even for you this shrew is a hard nut to crack.”

"That would be ridiculous if I weren’t be able to do this," boasted the devil. "But you know I don’t work for free."

For a moment the devil considered then Kaspar heard his conditions, "If I manage to change your wife to a tame lamb within the next three days, you may still enjoy your beautiful life here on earth for many years - but then when you die I get your soul. - If I can’t make it, which is all but impossible, then I don’t take your soul, no matter how you've lived your life, because then you have already paid the penalty of all your sins on earth at the side of your wife."

The bowyer agreed.

“And keep away from your house for the next three days!” the devil added before he disappeared. The good man nodded – he smiled relieved.


"Am Graben,Vienna 1609" - Jacob Hoefnagel
(St.Peter's Church on the right side)

The next morning the devil appeared in the person of Kaspar Pergauer in whose house.
He had decided to try it first of all in kindness.

Softly he leaned over the still sleeping Ursula in order to kiss her awake. She opened her eyes saw her alleged husband and started her rant immediately. She called him a vicious troublemaker who would spoil her life already at dawn. And in this way she continued to chatter the whole day long. The mouth of the gruff woman worked like a mill wheel; the puzzled devil couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
When her anger reached a particular level she had no shy to slap the stunned devil.
At the end of the day the devil had a black eye but not the bit of success in taming the bowyer’s wife.

On the second day the devil tried to talk sense with the woman.
He explained her what she did wrong that she shouldn’t curse and how a good wife should behave. She just listened – quietly. The devil thought already that this methode seemed to bring success.

But then at midday she flared up and shouted angrily, “Who do you think you are! You dare to teach me how to behave! I work hard for you every day and you just nag and criticize!” A load of reproaches hailed upon the allerged husband and in her fury she snatched the pot of hot soup from the stove and poured the boiling broth over the devil’s head. He screamed out loud; then he ran as fast as he could.

Having his breath back he said, “You scathing woman – tomorrow you will get know me!”

On the third day he came back to Ursula in his original form.
Ursula seemed truly astonished.

"I've tried in goodness and rigor to bring you to reason," he growled. "Now my patience has an end. From now on you are as gentle as a lamb, otherwise you get a nasty surprise!"

“Now my patience has an end,” imitated Ursula the devil’s words after she had picked up her courage again, “You threaten me? Now my patience has an end!”

Surprised by her reaction the devil flinched.

Now she grabbed him by his horns and tore them so strongly that one of the horns broke. The devil was completely/quite taken aback. Meanwhile Ursula had grabbed her rolling pin and hit the devil until he took leave of his senses.

That was even for the devil too much. Under hellish stench of sulfur he disappeared through the chimney.


Poor Kaspar Pergauer lived a long time; and with his wife at his side he paid for all his sins already on earth. When he died he got straight into heaven.

You can imagine that Ursula didn’t get into heaven after her death but she didn’t get into hell as well.
The devil strictly denied her entrance. So her restless soul is still wandering around in various forms; and from time to time you hear someone telling that he has met her.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for including this curiosity in their 'FlashCast46 - Inappropriate Exposure' !


Monday, November 7, 2011

The Thirteenth Chime

It was in the middle of the 16th century in a tavern in Vienna when a hand full of young musicians had an enjoyable evening. Among these musicians was a well known conductor named Arnold de Bruck.

It was already nearly midnight when an old gypsy woman entered the tavern and offered her service as palm reader. She went from table to table, but nobody seemed to be interested.

Arnold De Bruck was in an excellent mood that evening and ready for some fooling. So he beckoned the gypsy over to his table.

“Tell me about my future”, he asked her and stretched out his hand for her to take.
The woman followed his offer eagerly.

“You have an interesting palm,” she said, “I see an eventful life; a lot of success in a circle of high personalities. I even see the Emperor in your life.”

Proudly de Bruck looked around to make sure that everyone around could hear the gypsy’s words.

”Your heart line is strong and uninterrupted,” she continued, “and your life line is telling me that …”

Abruptly she broke up her sentence and intended to leave.

“Hey, hey, stop!” de Bruck exclaimed and grabbed her sleeve, “You haven’t predicted my future yet! What has my life line told you?”

“I’ve seen the hour of your death,” she replied softly.

“And this is when?” he insisted.

“It is better you don’t know it.”

It had become silent in the tavern and everyone’s eyes were directed to de Bruck and the gypsy.

“But I do want to know,” the conductor urged.

"Well," the fortune teller looked again at the lines of de Bruck's palm.

"You will die not far from this tavern - soon - when the clock of St. Stephen strikes thirteen times."

For a moment it was so quiet that one could have heard the fall of a needle.
Then a thunderous laughter broke out.
"Ha-ha, when the clock strikes thirteen," snorted de Bruck. "This clock has to be invented! You’ve just proclaimed me immortality!"

Still laughing, he opened his wallet and gave the woman a gold coin.
The old looked sadly at the conductor, then she left the tavern and disappeared in the dark.

St.Stephen's Square, 1609

A couple of weeks later – Arnold de Bruck had already forgotten that boozy evening and the prediction of the gypsy – he visited the bell ringer of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
It was a beautiful day and because Arnold de Bruck loved the view over the roofs of Vienna they climbed up the tower up to the room where the bells hung.

At that moment the church clock began to strike to tell the Viennese that it’s twelve and time for lunch.

The conductor put his hands over his ears to protect his sensitive hearing. When the twelfth chime had faded away, he thought his friend had shouted something at him, and so turned around quickly.
Thereby his sword hit violently against the bell. – A thirteenth chime echoed through Vienna.

Suddenly he remembered the gypsy and her prophecy.
Full of panic he tried to silence the booming bell.
But he stumbled, lost his balance and fell into the depths. - Arnold de Bruck was dead.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for including the legend in their 'FlashCast 42 - Old Timey' !


Monday, October 31, 2011

The Heckthaler

Jörg von Rauhenstein was a drunkard and a gambler; he lived so long in the lap of luxury until the fortune he had inherited from his father was gone.

Without a coin in his pocket he moved to Vienna together with his wife and their child.

Ruefully he gave up his slovenly life; he found a job as armourer and soon the little family lived in modest prosperity.

But after a couple of years he succumbed to the temptation to drink and to roll the dices again.

Finally he lost his job and when his child got sick he even wasn’t able to pay a doctor.
The kid died; and soon after the child’s death his wife passed away due broken heart. – Both found their too early graves at St.Stephen’s cemetery.

But even their death couldn’t keep him away from his vice.

As beggar Jörg strolled through Vienna and asked for food and some coins.

One day he met the maid servant Burgl. She felt mercy with the poor guy and so she asked,
“Have you ever tried to find a Heckthaler?”

“What is a Heckthaler?” Jörg replied interested.

“It’s a very special coin,” the maid explained, “the one who owns a Heckthaler is never in financial need. This magical coin comes back to you every time you spend it.”

“What do I have to do to find such a coin?” Jörg inquired.

Burgl nodded to make clear she would give him the details,
“In a night to a Sunday at midnight you have to run around St. Stephen’s church three times. You have to start your run exactly with the first strike of the tower clock and the run has to be finished with the last, the twelfth strike. Then you’ll find a brand-new coin in your pocket – a Heckthaler.”

This sounded very inviting to Jörg and so he decided to try his luck.

Saint Stephen's Cathedral and the graveyard, c.1720
Long before midnight Jörg arrived at the cemetery which surrounded St. Stephen’s church.

It was an eerie night. The wind purred around the spire and the pale moon light drew strange shadows on the ground.
But despite the scary situation the fellow remained at the grave yard.

When the clock struck a quarter to midnight he made himself ready for his run; he didn’t even want to miss a second of the time.

At twelve the wheels of the clock creaked and the first stroke of the clock echoed through the night.

At that moment Jörg started into his fateful run.

Frantically he ran between the graves and tried to find the shortest way.

Suddenly - the first round was almost completed - he saw the figure of his dead father with a sorrowful and even alerting expression on his face. But although he was scared he continued his running.

At the end of the second round he noticed his deceased wife beckoning him to stop.
But Jörg ignored her warning and started into the third round.

He still had the two visions on his mind when he stumbled upon a little grave. He fell.

At this moment two little arms reached out of the grave, grabbed him by his clothes and held him so tightly that he couldn’t move anymore.

He tried hard to break away – but all in vain.

As the clock struck the twelfth time the unregenerate lost his life on the grave of his child.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for including the legend in their 'FlashCast 41 - My Arm Wound' !


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Ninth Pin or The Skittle Player of St.Stephen's Tower

In ancient times Vienna had a tower guard. He was located at the highest point of the town. This was that times St. Stephen’s Cathedral. He lived in a small apartment in the Tower of St. Stephen’s and watched over the houses of the town. His duty was to alert the citizens when a fire broke out.

But in quiet times when nothing happened it was quite a boring job.

So it came that the Viennese built a skittle alley for the amusement of the tower guard in a small room beside the guard’s parlour.
It was a small and low-ceilinged room and so the skittle alley was short; therefore the players stood with their back to the alley, bowed their head and had to roll the bowling ball between their legs.

But this didn’t matter; the young fellows from the neighbourhood loved to play with the tower guard on this extraordinary bowling alley.

Once there was a tower guard called Franz; he was a dissolute fellow, he loved to drink and his passion was the nine pin bowling. He was a master of this game; no matter where or when he was playing, he always hit all nine pins with one single throw. He won every time. But soon no one wanted to play with Franz anymore.

One evening in fall Franz played the skittles again alone till midnight.

Suddenly he heard a hollow voice out of the dark, “Still playing at such a time?”

A tall thin man with a grey cloak, the hood lowly pulled over his face, occurred in the light of the candles.

Cold shivers ran over Franz’s back, but soon he was the fearless guy again and answered boldly,
“Do you dare to play with me? I win every time!”

The Grey replied with a cheerful voice, “Me too. I never lose a game.”

Franz took the skittle ball and with a full swing he hurled it between his legs.

The skittles were blasted out and cheerfully he shouted, "All Nine! Match that if you can!"

But when he realigned the pins he hid one under his jacket and seemingly unnoticed he threw the pin out of the tower window.

“Not that way, my friend!” the Grey roared in a sinister voice.

Then the hooded man straightened up, he grew and grew, and spread his cloak.

Shuddering Franz saw the bare bones.

"I am the Death," it echoed through the little room, "and I always win - even when there are only eight pins, I make all nine. I just have to hit eight – plus one!"

The skeletal hand reached for the ball and threw it into the pins, so that they fell with heavy clatter. And instead of the ninth pin – Franz fell to the ground.

The next morning, the tower guard was found dead between the pins.

Since then, the tower guard Franz appears as a ghost at the bowling alley every night; he whimpers and whines, and still tries to find the ninth pin, because otherwise he can’t find salvation.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for including the legend in their 'FlashCast 40 - The Strange Love of Dr. Monstrous' !


Friday, August 12, 2011

The Talking Fish

The oldest preserved graveyard in Vienna is a Jewish cemetery located in the 9th district. It was created in the 16th century and between 1540 and 1783 the main burial site for members of Vienna’s Jewish community.

At that graveyard you find a secluded fish sculpture made of limestone.
Of course there exists a legend about this sculpture.


One day the Jew Simeon caught a big fat fish and was looking forward to the meal.

But at the kitchen table the fish lifted its head and cried out “Shema Yisrael”, those words one should say in the moment of death.

But it was too late, the head had been cut off and the fish died.

Quite surprised Simeon asked the Rabbi what to do. The Rabbi said it was probably a “Dybbuk”, a malicious possessing spirit believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person and so the fish should be buried.

So did Simeon and placed a gravestone in the form of a fish.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their 'FlashCast 31 - Gone Fishin'' !


Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Ghost Rider

Once upon a time a Viennese woman was in great need. One evening she decided to go with her child to the magical source known as Agnesbründl near a glade called the Jägerwiese deep in the forests of Vienna.

Agnes was a legendary fairy of the woods. She lived in a subterranean palace and was known as a generous helper when one was in financial need. And people knew that the best time to visit this magic place and to meet Agnes was around midnight.

Mother and child lay down near the wondrous source and while the woman hoped that Agnes would appear her child fell into sleep.

Suddenly the woman saw a tall man on a huge white horse coming out of the woods. The animal shone as bright as the sun, so that it was as light as day at that moment.

Without a sound the horseman galloped down the meadow. When he saw the woman and her child he stopped his horse and asked,”What are you looking for?”

Startled she replied, “Just wood.”

He moved his hand to show her some pieces of wood, “Take that one with you. It’s much better than any other wood you can find here!”

The woman followed his advice, but she took just a few pieces, because she noticed that it was almost rotten.

While she bent down to pick the wood the mysterious rider disappeared.

Quickly the woman took her child and hurried back home.

The next morning she wanted to take the pieces of wood out of her bag but when she looked at it she saw that it was pure gold.

Immediately she ran back to the place where she met the ghost rider but not even one single piece of the magical wood was there anymore.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their 'FlashCast 30 - Agnesbründl' !


Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Three Little Devils

In ancient times three little devils played their mischievous tricks on the Viennese in and around St. Stephen’s church.

They were called Luziferl, Spirifankerl and Springinkerl.
They teased the prayers, frightened the penitents, extinguished the candles and hid the craftsmen hammer and chisel.

Luziferl was the meanest and most dangerous among them. He was the one who was responsible for the death of the architect who worked at the Northtower of St. Stephen’s.

People were pursuing the evil Luziferl till they get hold of the demon.
Soon Spirifankerl and Springinkerl were caught too.

The Three Little Devils
The three evil spirits were put into a cage on the church wall from which they couldn’t escape any more.

For a long time they raged in the cage then they turned slowly into stone.

Today you can still see relics of the three little devils but with every day they vanish more and more.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their 'FlashCast 28 - Death of the Weebinax' !


Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Basilisk

What a big turmoil it was in the house of baker Garhibl in Schönlaterngasse 7 in the early morning of June 12th, 1212.

Kathrin the maid was sent to bring water from the well.
Now she stood there and babbled something about a monster at the base of the well with bestial stench; and she also mentioned very strange sounds.

Baker Garhibl was furious about the alleged imaginations of the girl. But even he couldn’t deny that there was an unpleasant smell in the air.

“I’ll have a look,” said journeyman Heinrich. He took a torch; let him tie at a rope on which he could be hold by the baker and the other journeyman Hans.
Then he climbed down into the well.

Suddenly he screamed that it set someone’s tooth on edge.
The light from the torch was extinguished in the well. Baker Garhibl and Hans pulled him up quickly.

Heinrich was unconscious.
They opened his shirt and fanned fresh air to his face. Finally he awakened.

"A monster," he babbled. "Disgusting! ... The head of the cock ... the body of the toad ... a tail soooo long and scaly ... and it wears a crown of bright red stones ... and it stinks!"

Then he fainted again.

“In this case we must call the town magistrate,” baker Garhibl said to his folks and so he sent the maid Kathrin for the town magistrate Jakob von der Hülden.

It took about an hour, until the honourable Jakob von der Hülben, escorted by guards and a crowd of bystanders arrived at the baker’s house.

Gratefully and relieved the baker Garhible told him what had happened.

The town magistrate considered but he had no idea. There stepped a man out of the crowd – his name was Doctor Pollitzer, and it was known that he was well versed in all natural phenomena.

“I suppose it’s a basilik.” he said.

“A basilisk? What’s that?” Kathrin asked.

"When a rooster lays an egg," explained the man, "and the egg is hatched by a toad, and the offspring is reared by a snake, then the result is such a monster. Its breath stinks of decay and its vision is profoundly ugly. Who sees it, is doomed to death. No spear, no sword, not even fire can harm the basilisk."

The astonished crowd of people were horrified.

"Is there nothing which can destroy the monster?" Garhibl asked, already afraid that he had to give up his house.

"Hmm, yes, there is a possibility," replied the doctor. "One must dare to climb down with a mirror. When the beast is confronted with its own ugliness it will explode."

There was dead silence. Finally journeyman Hans said, “Let me try it,” he turned to the baker and continued, “and if I can make it would you allow me to marry your daughter Anna?”

Well, Garhibl knew that they both were in love but he couldn’t give his agreement so far because a journeyman wasn’t an adequate marriage for his daughter. But under these circumstances - so he nodded.

Quickly the wall mirror was brought out of the baker’s house. Hans was tied to a rope, Anna put a little wax in her fiancé’s ears; then the brave climbed down into the dark well, like a shield he held the mirror in front of him.

Suddenly the folks heard a horrible heartrending scream let out by the basilisk. And then a deafening bang.

“It’s dead!” Hans’ voice echoed out of the well.

Safely although a bit hard of hearing in spite of the earplugs Hans to the cheers of the crowd climbed out of the well.

Unfortunately Heinrich the journeyman who had seen the basilisk died the same day.

Garhibl and his folks filled the well with stones and earth.

And pretty soon the brave Hans married Anna.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their 'FlashCast 27 - Exploding Basilisk' !


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Mystery of Wind and Rain around St. Stephen’s Cathedral

You can imagine that the devil wasn’t pleased to see how the skilled and busy craftsmen constructed St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

So he made an alliance with the wind and the rain and asked them to hunt around the building. In that way he thought he could keep the workers away from their eagerly doing.

But cheerfully and with devout prayers the builders continued their work.

Angrily and without achieving his goal the devil moved back to hell.
But he forgot to take the wind and the rain with him.

St.Stephen's Square,1794

So since that time the both roar loudly lamenting around St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

Soon the Viennese had a little rhyme on their lips:

“Even when in the entire country the weather is fair
you can be sure that it’s windy or rainy at St. Stephen’s square.”

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their 'FlashCast 26 - Illegal Fireworks' !


Monday, July 18, 2011

Interlude #4: "The Harry Lime Theme"

I feel very proud to annonce that now the Viennese Legends have their own intro for FlashCast.

Jessica May, audio producer of the FlashPulp Crew, did a fantastic job and underlaid the words "Curious Tales of Vienna" with a short sequence of "The Third Man Theme" that let me feel very special.

Anyway suddenly I had the background story of this theme on my mind. I did a bit of research to complete my knowledge and so I can tell you know the following:

The Harry Lime Theme

It was in October 1948 during the shooting for "The Third Man" in Vienna when Director Carol Reed met Anton Karas the first time. Carol Reed was still searching for an adequate sound for the film. It should evoke the Viennese atmosphere but it shouldn't be a waltz.

That time Anton Karas earned his living with playing the zither at a Heuriger (some kind of wine bar typical for Vienna and the east of Austria) in the 19th district of Vienna.

It is not known where they actually met each other the first time but I think it's quite obvious that it was at the Heuriger where Karas played his zither. Some sources also confirm that.

It is said that Carol Reed was fascinated by the sound of the zither and the performances of Anton Karas.

Composing of the film music
"Slightly before the end of the shooting Carol Reed invited Anton Karas to the Hotel Astoria in Vienna and Karas was asked to play for the film crew hours and hours. Back to London Reed experimented with different pieces for a film music but nothing was satisfying and therefore he invited Anton Karas to London. Karas started composing the complete film music on June 1st, 1949, the recording was finished within 12 weeks. Karas composed and improved about 14 hours per day. Unfortunately he felt extremely homesick and was more than one time to go back to Vienna without finishing his work. But Reed didn't "surrender" and assisted him and kept him in London like a prisoner. When he finished recording the film music, a fire in the cutting room destroyed more than the half of the completed film material including the sound column. Anton Karas had to record the complete sound column once again. When the film was completed just one week before the scheduled premiere, Carol Reed and Anton Karas went to the Westminster Abbey to light thankful a candle!" source:

"This song was originally released in the U.K. in 1949, where it was 'The Harry Lime Theme.' Following its release in the U.S. in 1950 (see 1950 in music), "The Third Man Theme" spent eleven weeks at number one on Billboard's U.S. Best Sellers in Stores chart, from April 29 to July 8. Its success led to a trend in releasing film theme music as singles." source: wikipedia

"The Harry Lime Theme" was the first #1 in the USA for an Austrian.


Facts & History #2: Christ with a Toothache

Just a few facts as a late addition to the legend "Christ with a Toothache"

The legend is about a figure of Christ, a "Man of Sorrow" which is represented twice today.
In 1960 the original moved inside the Cathedral. On the outside you find a copy today.

wikipedia says about this Fixture on the outside walls,
"A figure of Christ ... affectionately known to the Viennese as "Christ with a Toothache", from the agonized expression of his face, various memorials from the time the area outside the cathedral was a cemetery and a recently-restored 15th century sundial, on a flying buttress at the southwest corner ... can be seen."

In the middle age it was a daily tradition to adorn such figures with fresh flowers. And it is fact that people used a piece of cloth to secure these flowers because it was and still is always windy around St.Stephens.

Unser Stephansdom


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Theophrastus Paracelsus and the Devil

It was in 1510 when Theophrastus Paracelsus lived in Vienna to study medicine.
He used to walk through the forests to collect all sorts of medical plants and herbs.

On one of those days – he was already on his way back to town he had a rest under a huge fir tree.

Suddenly he heard a groan and a heartrending voice crying, “Help me! Oh help me!”

Paracelsus jumped up, he looked around but he couldn’t find the caller.
“How can I help when I can’t see you?” Paracelsus said impatiently, “I don’t know where you are and I even don’t know who you are!”

“I am the evil,” the voice replied, “an exorcist squeezed me into a hole of this tree trunk and closed it with a plug. I can not get out! Free me, oh free me! I don’t want to stay here till the last day.”

“For my part you can remain trapped for an eternity; at least you can’t cause harm anymore.”

“Free me, oh free me,” lamented the devil, “I’ll give you everything you ask for; I’ll fulfill you all your wishes; and you even don’t have to give me your soul!”

For a moment Paracelsus thought about the devil’s offer then he replied, “So listen what I ask for. I want a drug which can cure every disease; and – I want a tincture which can turn everything I want into gold.”

“Very well then. Your wishes are fulfilled.”

Paracelsus took his pocket knife and scatched around the plug till he could pull it out easily.

A coal black spider crawled out of the tree trunk, which turned at the moment into a tall gaunt man with a red cloak, a sword and a hat with a red rooster feather.

“Come with me.” the devil said with grinning friendliness.

Paracelsus accepted the invite.

They stopped at a rock and the bad guy hit his sword forcefully against it.
The rock split and the devil went through the gaping hole. Soon he reappeared with two bottles.

“Here, the yellow liquid is the gold tincture, the other one is the miracle drug; both bottles will never be empty no matter how much you will use.”
The devil handed Paracelsus the bottles, ”So, and now I have to go to the exorcist, who brought me into this awkward situation.”

They walked back to the fir tree where Paracelsus freed the devil. The smart man used the time to think about how he could save the exorcist’s life.

Finally he said, “That exorcist must be a very clever guy and a master of the black arts. I mean he turned you into a spider and squeezed you in the hole of the tree trunk.”

“Pha,” the devil replied, “to turn into a spider is a very easy feat.”

“I bet the two bottles you just gave me that you can’t do this.” Paracelsus insisted.

“Okay – the bet is on!”

And in no time the devil was a black spider again and crawled into the hole of the fir tree.

Paracelsus reacted very quickly and closed the hole with the plug. Then he cut a cross in it to make the devil mute.

A couple of years later Paracelsus became one of the most famous physicians. He cured many patients with the miracle drug and helped many poor people with the gold tincture.

And the devil? - Well, if a lightning hasn’t split that fir tree I suppose the devil is still trapped inside.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their 'FlashCast 25 - Anonymous Donor' !


Friday, July 8, 2011

Christ with a Toothache

On the façade of St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a figure of Christ a so called “Man of Sorrow”.
The Viennese know this figure as “Christ with a Toothache”.
How it came to this name tells the following story.


Once upon a time three jolly fellows lived in Vienna. They often sat together and drank until late into the night and on their way home they used to play tricks on one or the other Viennese.

One night after the curfew of their favourite pub they strolled frolicsomely through the streets of Vienna. On their way they passed St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

In the lamplight they saw that the crown of thorns of the “Man of Sorrow” was adorned with fresh flowers. So that the wind couldn’t blow away those flowers they were tied with a cloth. This ranged from the vertex over the cheeks until under the chin where it was knotted.

It was Junker Diepold, somehow he was the leader of the troupe, who laughed, “Hey, this looks as if the Lord had a toothache! No wonder he definitely stands at a draughty place!”

For a while they continued joking. Finally they went to their homes.

But that night Junker Diepold couldn’t find a sleep. His cheeks began to burn and a short time later he got a very bad toothache.

He rubbed his cheeks, poked around in his teeth, rinsed his mouth with hard liquor – but nothing helped.

After the sleepless night he consulted a doctor. But that man couldn’t help him either. “Your teeth are fine,” the doctor said, “But it’s an odd thing – you are already the third patient today who’s complaining of a toothache without any particular reason.”

With these words Junker Diepold recognized that he was punished by the “Man of Sorrow” for his sarcastic remarks; and he decided to apologize immediately.

Ruefully and head bowed he tied a cloth around his head and went to “Man of Sorrow”.

Actually he was not surprised that he found his buddies there. He knelt down beside them and begged tearfully for forgiveness.

The penitents were answered and the tooth pain disappeared even in the same hour.

The three fellows had their lesson.

But since that incident this “Man of Sorrow” is known as “Christ with a Toothache”.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their 'FlashCast 24 - Fade Haircut' !


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Interlude #3: The Danube in Vienna

Regarding to the latest legend post "The Danube Maiden" I thought I show you a few pictures and some information of the Danube in Vienna today.
I hope you'll enjoy!


Friday, July 1, 2011

The Danube Maiden

Many, many years ago the river Danube was split into several arms.
In this beautiful wild landscape the Viennese fishermen lived in their simple wooden huts.

When the Danube was frozen and the fishermen couldn’t do their work they sat together close to a warming oven and told their stories.

So it came on a cold evening that a young handsome fisherman listened to his old father who was talking about the Danube maiden.

He told his son about the glass palace at the bottom of the river where the maiden lived together with her father the Prince of the Danube and he also spoke about their desire to meet people, so he closed his story with the words,
“On warm evenings the beautiful maiden comes out of the depths and sings for the people. Her voice is so wonderful and clear that everyone is enchanted. But take care my dear son; it often happens that young men are so attracted by her sweet voice that they are lost forever.

The son saw his father’s sorrowful face, “Oh father, it’s just a tale. Don’t worry about me.”

In that moment a sudden illumination fills their room. In the doorway she stood; a petite body wearing a long shimmering white dress, her black hair was adorned with white water lilies. Both father and son stared at the kind face of the beauty.

“Don’t be afraid of me,” she said, “I won’t do you any harm. I’m just here to warn you. A strong southerly wind will melt the thick ice of the Danube very quickly and within a few days a big flood will carry away these huts here. Flee as fast as you can!”

Then the wondrous figure disappeared and all was dark as before.

Father and son warned their neighbours, then they packed the essentials and hurried to a save place.

Everything happened as the Danube maiden had predicted.

A few weeks later the water went back and the fishermen were able to return to their former dwelling places.
They built up their huts again; they were happy and grateful that they had been saved from their certain death.

Only the young fisherman couldn’t rejoice. He was longing for the beautiful creature of the Danube. As often as he could the dreamy and sad man sat on the banks of the river and looked into the flowing water. His father knew what that meant and so he tried hard to bring his son to other thoughts. - But all was in vain.

On a hot summer evening the young fisherman climbed in his boat and rowed with slow strokes in the middle of the river.

The next morning the fishermen found the empty boat and close beside they saw a crown of water lilies drifting on the river. His father knew that his son would never return.

Since that day the Danube maiden was never seen again.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their
'FlashCast 23 - The Legend Continues' !

Woodcut of Vienna 1493


Friday, June 24, 2011

Godfather Death

Once upon a time a very poor weaver named Paul Urssenbeck searched for a godfather for his twelfth child.
He asked every relative and every acquaintance but no one was wealthy enough to take the responsibility for the sponsorship.

On his way back home he had to walk through a piece of forest. His sorrows let him breathe heavily and with a sigh he spoke out loud, “Oh, I wish I could die.”

That moment he felt an ice-cold hand on his shoulder. He turned around and saw a tall spindly figure, “I am Death; you called me, what can I do for you?”

Suddenly the weaver was more interested in staying alive than in dying but respectfully he told the grim reaper about his trouble.

“Let me be godfather for your child. My christening present is neither gold nor silver, but I will confide you a secret that you can use for you.”

The weaver thought, “Better a godfather without gift than no godfather,” and so he agreed.

After the ceremony the black suited sponsor took the weaver aside, “The secret I’m telling you now is a chance for you to become famous and rich. Whenever a person is critically ill I am there. Of course no one can see me. When I stand at the foot the person will recover, but when I stand at the head the person must die. Now you have the gift to see me; and with this ability you can predict if a patient will live or die. Use this gift thoughtfully.”

This was in fact a precious secret, and soon the poor man had the chance to use it.

By and by the poor weaver became a well known and wealthy doctor. But the richer he was, the greedier he became.

One day he was called to the emperor’s treasurer Wilhelm Graf Auersperg. He saw Death standing at the ill man’s head; and so he said, “I’m so sorry. His Excellency will die.”

A fortune was offered to him for the try to heal this man. The temptation was too big and so the doctor couldn’t resist. For a moment he thought what he could do. Then he ordered four strong men and told them to turn the bed around.

Now Death stood at the foot, and so Graf Auersperg survived.

Urssenbeck looked at Death and he saw fury in his eyes.

With a very bad feeling the doctor took the money and hurried home.

Suddenly Death stood beside him. “What have you done? Instead of the man’s life you’ve just saved I have to take yours now.”

The doctor fell on his knees, “Have mercy…,” but Death had no mercy.

The next morning Urssenbeck’s dead body was found. He left an immense fortune and was buried at the cemetery of St. Stephen.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their 'FlashCast 21 - Positive Feedback' !

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Interlude #2: Exterior and interior scenes of St. Stephen's Cathedral

I just found these pictures of St. Stephen's Cathedral and thought I share them with you ...


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Facts & History #1: Around St. Stephen's Northtower

After the reading of  "The Legend around St.Stephen's Missing Tower" on 'FlashCast 020 - Flashers' JRD Skinner asked me about the story behind the stop.

I thought you might wonder too what actually happened ...


Hans Puchsbaum was one of the architects of St. Stephen’s. He was born before 1390 and he died in 1454. (source: wikipedia )
"He probably became the leader of the lodge of Stephanskirche in 1439, but written sources mention him only in 1446." (source: Pannonian Renaissance )

The workshop was directed by Hans Puchspaum probably between 1439 and 1454. … In 1444 the plans for the northern tower were made, but the foundations were laid only in 1450. After another break, the construction was resumed in 1467 by Laurenz Spenyng, Puchspaum's successor. The church then became a bishopric cathedral. The building of the tower ceased in 1511.” (source: Pannonian Renaissance )

The foundation for a north tower was laid in 1450, and construction began under master
Lorenz Spenning, but its construction was abandoned when major work on the cathedral ceased in 1511.” (source: wikipedia )

St. Stephen's in 1502

The reasons for the stop:

Economic troubles at the end of the middle age, the approaching danger of the Turks (which finally led to the Siege of Vienna in 1529) and religious developments ( The Reformation ) were the very unspectacular reasons for the stop.

And of course with the end of the middle age the architectural style changed from Gothic to Renaissance.

"In 1578 the tower-stump was augmented with a renaissance cap, nicknamed the "water tower top" by the Viennese. The tower now stands at 68 meters tall (223 ft), roughly half the height of the south tower."
(source: wikipedia )


During the research I stumbled upon these little videos. I thought you might find them interesting.

Western façade 
North tower


I close the post with a preview: The next legend will be posted on Friday, June 24th.

Many thanks for your interest!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Legend around St. Stephen's Missing Tower

Once upon a time there lived a young man in Vienna, his name was Hans Puchsbaum. He was a very talented architect; he was very ambitious but not yet famous.
Hans was in love with a beautiful young woman; her name was Mary and she was the daughter of an honored and rich citizen.

That time St. Stephen’s was still under construction. The nave and the South tower were already completed. Only the North Tower which should mirror the one on the south side was not built yet.

The city council had given a contest to transfer the work to the ablest architect, who would complete the tower in the shortest time and at the cheapest cost.

So it came that Hans Puchsbaum applied for the job to build that tower. He thought when he could get fame and honor; he could acquire the hand of his beloved Mary.

Hans promised to build the tower within half the time of his competitors; and so – he got the job.

In the beginning everything worked well, but soon some troubles appeared; the materials were delivered too late, the calculations of the construction were not exactly enough, and too many days the builders had to stop their work in cause of bad weather.

Hans Puchsbaum recognized that he couldn’t finish the tower in the time he had promised.

One evening he stood lost in his thoughts in front of the church and looked up to the unfinished tower. Suddenly a little strange-looking man in a green suit stood on his side.
”Oh, what a pity,” the little man said, “things don’t look good for you, eh?”
Hans Puchsbaum told him about his sorrow.
”Ah, don’t worry; I can help you. And with my help you can still complete the tower in time. There is just one little thing I ask you to do.”

“What is it?” Hans Puchsbaum sounded very interested.

“You are not allowed to mention the name of God, Mother Mary’s name or any other name of a Saint. This is all I want.”

“Ha, of course, that’s a deal!” Hans said although he had noticed that he had just made a pact with the devil.

Since that day the North tower grew faster than ever before.
Hans Puchsbaum was happy; he saw his goal near; he could finish the tower in time and finally marry his beloved bride.

One beautiful day he stood high above on the scaffolding, he looked down on the square and watched the people moving. He smiled, “Just a few more days …”

In that moment he discovered his bride in the crowd. Full of joy he called her name, “Mary!”

Suddenly a hollow mocking laughter echoed through Vienna, the scaffolding started to sway and with an incredible noisiness the whole construction broke down and drew Hans Puchsbaum into the depths.

For a few moments a gigantic green figure with a grinning face was seen.

Then the people dared to remove the debris. But the dead body of Hans Puchsbaum couldn’t be found and remained disappeared.

The plan to build the North tower of St. Stephen’s was given up that day and was never taken up again.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their
'FlashCast 020 - Flashers' !


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Interlude #1: Welcome Mr. W.A.Mozart

Deeply involved in the myths of Viennese legends there was no way around to stumble upon the story of Mozart's Requiem.

I hope you like it as much as I do.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Linden Tree at St.Stephen's


It was in 1144 when it was planned to build a new rectory for the priests of St. Stephen’s church.

Reverend Eberhard and architect Falkner stood together and talked about the plans.

“We must remove the linden tree, I think that’s the best place for the building,” the architect said.

“Oh, please, there must be another way. I love that tree. This tree is like a dear friend of mine. The linden is as old as I am; and I don’t like to see the tree dying before me.”

So they changed the plans in a way that the linden tree could remain standing. And for the priests pleasure it even came better than it was already, because now he could see his beloved tree when he looked out of his window.

With the years the linden tree grew larger and more beautiful. The priest however was getting older, his hair was already white and he was getting tired.

One sunny day in fall Reverend Eberhard sat under his beloved linden tree as he did so many times before in his life. He was already seventy; he was plagued by a bad cough and he couldn’t sleep well anymore.
When he saw the leaves falling he saddened, “The falling leaves are like the remaining days of my life,” he looked at the tree, “Just one more time I want to see your blooming. Then I will agree to die.”

The winter came and the priest’s state of health became worse. Vienna was covered with snow; the linden tree was bare; and spring still far away.

One morning the priest knew that his death was near.
He could hardly breathe, and so he asked his servant to open the window.

”Reverend, it is very cold outside,” the servant said.

“Don’t care about that, I have to see … if the linden …”

The servant nodded and fulfilled the priest’s wish. Then he helped the ancient to the open window.

The both couldn’t believe what they saw – the linden tree was full of blossoms.

Reverend Eberhard smiled, then he lost his last power and he fell to the ground.

Suddenly a wind gust blew through the tree and drove the fragrant blossoms through the open window till the dead man was completely covered.

Copyright © 2011 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to JRD Skinner and the Flash Pulp Crew for putting the legend on their FlashCast 019 - Monster Lessons !