Sunday, October 28, 2012

A ghostly procession

With Hallowe'en at hand, a person's thoughts turn to all things creepy. Well, mine do, anyway. So I'm posting a link to one of the creepiest things I know of: the Blankenheim Geisterzug ("ghost parade").

Blankenheim is a small German town about 20km from Bad Münstereifel (Bad Münstereifel was my home from 2001 to 2008 and the setting of two of my books, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden and Wish Me Dead). Like other towns and villages in the region, Blankenheim has a "normal" Karneval celebration around February every year. Unusually, it also has a ghostly Karneval procession too.
The Geisterzug consists of residents of the town dressed as ghosts - only not any old ghosts, and other eldritch creatures such as vampires, ghouls and zombies are not allowed. The ghost costume is made by wearing a sheet with ears (or perhaps they are horns) knotted into it, for a distinctive effect which you can see in the video. The "ghosts" proceed through the narrow streets of Blankenheim in a zigzagging dance to the strains of Juh jah, Kribbel en der Botz, a local Karneval song (Kribbel en der Botz means something along the lines of ants in your pants). This is the music you can hear playing in the film. 
The ghosts are accompanied by witches with fearsome papier maché masks and carrying brooms with which they menace the spectators; some people think that this is connected to an older ritual of driving out evil spirits at the end of winter. There is also a "head ghost" who unlike the others has wings, and rides on a horse, and a devil. During the procession the electrical lights in the town are extinguished and torches are carried.
I have attended the Geisterzug twice and it made a very strong impression on me. It reminds me somewhat of the sinister procession in The Wicker Man (original version)! There are other (and bigger) ghost parades in other places, but this one is peculiarly atmospheric, given the backdrop of Blankenheim itself, with its cobbled streets and half-timbered houses. Very creepy!   

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