The legend was well known throughout Germany in 16th century. The tale originates when a shoemaker committed suicide for reasons unknown on September 20, 1591. The family was shocked by his actions and as suicides brought shame to the entire family in these times, the family took desperate measures to cover up the fact that the shoemaker has sliced his own throat. The family told friends and family that the man had died from a stroke and took special measures to avoid visitations. An old woman was hired to work on the corpse in order to hide the shameful scars of his actions. Upon her success the priest and other family members were then allowed to view the corpse. Three days later he was given a proper funeral and burial.
Not long after his burial, rumors of his demise began to fill the streets. The family was fearful that the rumors would reach the ears of the city council which would surely have the body exhumed and reburied on unhallowed ground. With every confrontation the family would swear that the man had injured himself during the course of the stroke, and that’s where the scar on his neck had been derived from.
Though the family continued to deny the true cause of the shoemakers demise, reports began to circulate that the man had been seen on several occasions. Reports of attacks begin to arise, Men and women alike would report that they had been attacked by the shoemaker and would show visible wounds where the assailant had restrained them while he fed on them. Finally after reports began to accumulate for 8 months, the city council ordered the body of the shoemaker be exhumed.
On April 18, 1592 the body was dug up. When the coffin was opened; city officials made note of no decay. The body was not stiff, there was no obscene odor, in fact the body was quite plump though the self inflicted wound on his neck remained and in fact was gaping and red with fresh blood. The body remained unburied for quite some time and was guarded around the clock for the townspeople to quench their curiosity. Curiously, the attacks had not stopped. It was then decided that the corpse would be buried under the gallows. This only made the attacks intensify.
On May 7th the shoemakers’ body was exhumed again. This time the city council had his head, heart, arms and legs removed and burned. The ashes were them gathered, put into a burlap sack and thrown into the river. At this point the attacks were ended, at least until his wife died shortly after his demise.
Reports of attacks began to circulate once more. The wife was immediately exhumed and met with the same fate as her husband.