Peter Winkler of Ulm-Region Origin

Thanks for translation to Sheila Winkler!


 

Peter Winkler of Ulm-Region Origin*

“Around St. Martin’s Day in the year 1684, a nine-year-old orphan boy by the name of Peter Winkler left his grandfather in the village of his origin in the Ulm region and went to the village of Ballendorf. Here among fast friends, he amused himself with various games as was the custom. Eventually he returned to his grandfather but got lost for several hours in a huge, dense forest. There he became aware of a hunter pursuing a running deer endowed with prominent antlers, whereupon the pursuer shot and felled the wild animal in terrifying commotion, grasped it by its front hooves, dragged it through the thicket and hid it in a dense hedge. But it was said that this was the fierce hunter who performed such hunting scenes as an illusion.”

*German Legends. Published by Heinrich Pröhle with illustrations, annotations and index to the German legends. Ulrich Frank, 1863, p. 154.

Behind this saga of Peter Winkler emerges a true figure. Over the course of my genealogical research, I have become intensely occupied with his family and their descendants and wish, dear reader, to impart some small insight into his recorded history.

Peter Winkler was born Petrus Winckler on April 12, 1676 in Ballendorf. His father Johannes was the local shoemaker; his mother Ursula, née Eberhardt, came from Urspring.

 

Church register detail 2

 

Petrus was the fifth of eight children to this marriage. Shortly after the birth of the youngest daughter, the mother died and his father joined in marriage yet the same year with Judith Gruber. At this point in time, Petrus was four years old. This new marriage was blessed by the birth of another son before the father of the two boys likewise passed away. Little Petrus went on to live with his grandparents Hannß und Ursula Fink in Urspring.

A Visit at Grandmother’s: Louis Le Nain, ca. 1645-16483

During the Feast of St. Martin (November 11), [Petrus] made his way from Urspring to Ballendorf—about fourteen kilometers as the crow flies—to visit his family. The grandfather, Martin Winckler , had long before immigrated to Ballendorf and was a mercenary soldier and a day laborer there. Though termed a peasant farmer here, in other locations also a day-laborer, the soldier was not able to live off his small farm holding as well as the small herd of cattle available to him. He therefore made extra earnings as a day-laborer or handyman. As a rule, peasant farmers did not own horses and for that reason they were never trained in harness labor but were put to work in tenured service.

A fox trap in the forest: a dead fox in a trap which kills by releasing weight onto the victim. Etching by M. E. Ridinger after J. E. Ridinger.4

One may imagine a slender, nine-year-old boy who undertook the long way back home after visiting the relatives and became confused when reaching a fork in the road. Thinly clad on a November night alone in the forest, he sought his way home. And suddenly a shot rings out, a stag deer and a man tear past him through the underbrush.

He becomes witness to how the hunter overcomes the slain animal and conceals it. In today’s world, one would assume it could have been a poacher that he had caught in the act.

In popular belief of that era, it only could have concerned a “Wild Hunt,” a proper name for a genre of myth. Supernatural hunters or even the devil himself hunted across the heavens, seeking to take him [the hunter] with him. Whoever observed the wild hunters had to reckon with the worst, they signifying war, drought, illness or even one’s own death.

Der Höllische Proteus 1690 [The Infernal Proteus 1690], pp. 545-5486

Only the report of Erasmus Francisci in his book Der Höllische Proteus [The Diabolical Proteus]6 of 1690 reveals how horrified the child reacted to this scene and the fear with which it had to cope in the coming weeks:

The harmful hunter glance

 “The deadly glare at the hunter that shot from the legendary reptile’s metallic-gleaming eyes and those whom it looked upon as being compelled to die has long ago been set to poetry; although the actual creation of a reptile has once again only recently been attested to by some. I leave this to those versed in the ways of nature for further examination but portray here for the reader a different reptile, namely the historic dragon that corrupts the human race with the poison of sin. By mere looking upon his ugly apparition, one and the same can be deadly dangerous to one’s way of thinking and sanity and can be of mortal danger to the body’s well-being. Some who have gazed upon him in one of his assumed forms either dies of fright or loses his sanity. Of the many tales that attest to this, there follows here a new one to be told.

A stag is chased by four dogs through a river with three mounted huntsmen in the background. Etching by J. E. Ridinger.5

Around St. Martin’s Day in the year 1684, a nine-year-old orphan boy by the name of Peter Winkler, all alone upon asking for permission, left his grandfather in the village of his origin in the Ulm region and went to his place of birth, the village of Ballendorf, undoubtedly to visit his relatives there. Here he amused himself with various games. After satisfying his joy and delight over this, he intended returning home to his grandfather but made a wrong turn and lost his way for several hours in a huge, dense forest. There unexpectedly, he saw before him a deer, its antlers tossed back and in flight from a hunter and his rifle. The very same hunter shot at the wild animal and felled it but not without a terrifying crash, and, right before the boy, grasped it by its front hooves, dragged it through the thicket and hid it in a dense hedge. He emerged again from the hedge, leading his dog, and approached the boy, asking him if he wished to join him once again the next day on a hunt.

      The lad was frightened by such appalling, accursed and unexpected company that the deer, the hunter and the hunting dog instilled in him. He grew fearful and apprehensive to the point where he commenced screaming in terrifying manner and finally, in deepest distress and having once again found his way, reached home. There, trembling and babbling, he complained to his family of what he had encountered and remained shattered and confused for eight days.

      After passage of those eight days, the evil in his face and the fear infecting him truly broke out: losing his ability to speak, being overcome by convulsions, clamping shut and distorting his mouth in a very odd way, his entire body tossing and convulsing about, making a defiant and gruesomely perverted face, giving threatening looks with his eyes together with dreadful gestures. This along with all sorts of happenstances that arose. This was the condition that plagued him for two entire months to the great dismay of all those around him, and the medications prescribed by a neighboring doctor were not helping. For that reason, the pastor of Urspring, who faithfully stood by him with spiritual means, and the administrator of Ballendorf brought this deplorable case to the Ulm City Council, seeking help from the same. Whereupon, the boy was taken to the local hospital and placed under the care of Doctor Eberhard Gockelii. He recognized that the evil in this boy stemmed originally from a mysterious larval form—from natural causes all the same—that he prudently and with delight uncovered during stringent observation. Whereto he prescribed all kinds of counter medications and, with God’s help, restored the health as well as sanity of the body after about one and one-half months.

      That however, against all nature, such hunter had to be the detestable devil did not of itself raise the general consternation or fear of the boy to take note. On the contrary, one could nonetheless easily surmise that one had neither witnessed nor recalled experiencing a hunter or a slain deer.

      It is the question whether the boy, after having been with relatives and among his equals, committed knavery and also some cursing and swearing. One takes measure of that in this year of the ill-raised and reprobate youth all too often and hears of it everywhere. What evil and wicked childrearing is spread by the God-ordained and unbridled might of Satan, fearful that, in addition to other reasons that move our righteous God, all trees around us are turned into flogging rods.”

(a) Quæ inter Anni 4ti. Decad. 4. Observationes Observatio 27 est.

Johann Wilhelm Cordes: Die Wilde Jagd [The Wild Hunt] — a scene from the painting 1856/1857 7

And once again this story is seized upon, albeit in (1822), to illustrate superstition that was mixed into real history for the sake of illustration. Georg Konrad Horst, Grand Ducal Member of the Ecclesiastical Council8, clearly goes up against Eberhardus Gockelius (1636-1703)9, the quoted princely Württemberger personal physician and professor at the Academia Caesareo-Leopoldina Naturae Curiosorum in Ulm:

„In 1684 around the time of St. Martin’s Day, Peter Winkler, a fatherless, motherless orphan of nine years, all alone and with the consent and approval of his grandfather to leave the village of Urspring/Ulm District, went to visit his kinsman in the neighboring village of Ballendorf, his hometown, to make merry and to celebrate St. Martin’s Eve. But intending to return home or to simply move on, he wandered about for more than an hour in confusion in the dense and huge forest where he unexpectedly encountered a hunter—or rather a woodland bogeyman in the guise of a hunter—dragging poles behind him on which rested the weight of a once fleet deer, the same brought down but not without the gruesome crack and roar of a firearm, a seizing of the said deer on the run past the boy, a dragging of the animal into the brush and then hiding it there.

      With that accomplished and emerging from the brush, leading his dog and approaching the boy, he laughingly inquired of the lad if he wanted to experience the hunt again sometime soon, at which the entire shocking event and scene (indeed, one can lose his mind) filled the more mindful boy with horror and dread such that he let out a fierce scream and, after finally finding his way again, reached home once more where he sat completely stupefied more than eight days while relating to his family members what he had encountered in the forest.        

      After eight days, the evil from the terror and fright instilled within the boy manifested itself in his inability to speak, his coming down with horrible gout, his mouth and jaws gaping wide open and crooked, the lips pulled quite oddly and capriciously, his body tossing from one side to another, his limbs trembling, making of a ghastly and angry face with wrathful eyes and such frightening behavior and other heinous incidents and symptoms over two full months as viewed with utter dismay by those around him such that it could have moved a stone to pity, the distress being almost indescribable.

            A local physician prescribed remedies for the said affliction but they never attained their intended purpose. On that account, the esteemed pastor of Urspring, having endeavored relieving the poor boy with soothing words of consolation and through prayer, now, along with the bailiff of Ballendorf and both in search of official assistance, reported this miserable occurrence to the Right Noble Magistrate of the city of Ulm. Thereupon the closely watched boy was sent to the Ulm hospital to me personally as the friend-to-all-physicians and was admitted. I then examined the same on January 10, 1685, he being entirely speechless but still able to hear and comprehend, his crossed feet unbendable and pulled upward against his body, the same inertness for his tongue that he was unable to extend and arriving with a very high body fever. Accordingly, to affect a more expeditious cure of this [evil] and almost unheard-of condition, I immediately asked about the causes. Learning of the above-related circumstances and being aware of what I saw, this condition arose for outward as well as internal reasons, in part magical, sorcerous and satanic but also from natural causes. The external cause is shamanist, occult and satanic as observed by the boy in the appearance of the deer, the hunter and his dog and probably no less than as devils, ghosts, illusions and as apparitions of the devil and even more so inasmuch that the experience attests that the same spirits make an appearance in broad daylight in woods and wilderness where they linger as a group in amusement, frightening, impairing or even killing passing travelers either with their grotesque and ghastly appearance or the breathing out of a poisonous, pestilence ridden breath or merely by murdering them. Whether daytime ghosts or bogeymen, they are respectively called daytime cats (Jatricus Deber) or night cats (Keteb).”9

What became of Petrus Winckler still escapes my knowledge for the time being. His brother Martinus remained in Ballendorf, learned the tailor trade and established a family. Brother Georg sought his fortune as a day laborer in Niederstotzingen. His offspring there established a large clan and one of them, Matthias Winkler (1784-1847) emigrated to Bessarabia.

His most famous descendant was Pastor Immanuel Winkler, (1886-1932). Among other things, he published the calendar for the German colonists in Russia. Politically, he called led a very busy life.10

There’s a lot to be said about him, but here we rememberance of the little Peter Winckler.

 


  1. wikimedia: edited detail from a map by Johann Baptist Homann, 1710-1750 public domain; Detailled map of the territory of the Free Imperial City of Ulm. Published by Johann Baptist Homann or his heirs, c. 1710-1750.
  2. Detail from a church register Mischbuch Ballendorf 1667-1831vol. 2 p. 19
  3. wikimedia: Besuch bei der Großmutter, Hermitage, St. Petersburg public domain
  4. wikimedia: edited detail from A fox-trap in the forest: a dead fox in a trap which kills by releasing weights on to the victim. Etching by M.E. Ridinger after J.E. Ridinger.
      This data from Wellcome Images, Wellcome Library, London; Library reference: ICV No 21394; Photo number: V0020981
    Full Bibliographic Record: http://catalogue.wellcomelibrary.org/record=b1197121
    http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/96/e3/e1b73957989007c6c8762c53e930.jpg
    Gallery: http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/V0020981.html
      licensed under Creative-Commons-Lizenz „Namensnennung 4.0 international“
  5. wikimedia: After Thienemann (No. 65): »2 Blatt Hirsch- + Schweinsjagd (klein)«, Blatt 1, „Wie der Hirsch durch seuchtes Wasser mit par force Hunden forciret wird.“
    A stag is chased by four dogs through a river with three mounted huntsmen in the background. Etching by J.E. Ridinger.
      This data from Wellcome Images, Wellcome Library, London; Library reference: ICV No 21394; Photo number: V0020981
    Full Bibliographic Record: http://catalogue.wellcomelibrary.org/record=b1197178
    http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/96/e3/e1b73957989007c6c8762c53e930.jpg
    Gallery: http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/V0021030.html
      licensed under Creative-Commons-Lizenz „Namensnennung 4.0 international“
  6. googlebooks, public domain; Der Höllische Proteus, oder Tausendkünstige Versteller, vermittelst Erzehlung der vielfältigen Bild-Verwechslungen Erscheinender Gespenster, Werffender und poltrender Geister, gespenstischer Vorzeichen der Todes-Fälle, Wie auch Andrer abentheurlicher Händel, arglistiger Possen, und seltsamer Aufzüge dieses verdammten Schauspielers, und, Von theils Gelehrten, für den menschlichen Lebens-Geist irrig-angesehenen Betriegers, (nebenst vorberichtlichem Grund-Beweis der Gewissheit, daß es würcklich Gespenster gebe), Endter, Nürnberg 1690
  7. googlebooks, public domain; Der Höllische Proteus, oder Tausendkünstige Versteller, vermittelst Erzehlung der vielfältigen Bild-Verwechslungen Erscheinender Gespenster, Werffender und poltrender Geister, gespenstischer Vorzeichen der Todes-Fälle, Wie auch Andrer abentheurlicher Händel, arglistiger Possen, und seltsamer Aufzüge dieses verdammten Schauspielers, und, Von theils Gelehrten, für den menschlichen Lebens-Geist irrig-angesehenen Betriegers, (nebenst vorberichtlichem Grund-Beweis der Gewissheit, daß es würcklich Gespenster gebe), Endter, Nürnberg 1690
  8. googlebooks, public domain: Zauber-Bibliothek, oder von Zauberei, Theurgie und Mantik, Zauberern, Hexen und Hexenprocessen, Dämonen, Gespenstern und Geistererscheinungen Zur Beförderung einer rein geschichtlichen, von Aberglauben und Unglauben freien Beurtheilung dieser Gegenstände, vol 3-4 from Georg Conrad Horst 1822, p. 256ff
  9. Tractatus Polyhistoricus Magico-Medicus Curiosus: Oder Ein kurtzer, mit vielen verwunderlichen Historien untermengter Bericht von dem Beschreyen und Verzaubern, Auch denen daraus entspringenden Kranckheiten und zauberischen Schäden … Gockel, Eberhard; Franckfurt ; Leipzig : Hagen, 1717, p. 78ff
  10. Immanuel Winkler auf wikipedia

 

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