It's a wet, dreary #FolkloreThursday, so let me tell you about one of the most interesting guys you've ever heard of. A bloke who straddled the world of science and folklore, fact and fiction. A scholar of the haunted and the weird. His name? Justinus Kerner. THREAD 1/
Southern Germany is a place of myth and legend. Perhaps it's the landscape, perhaps it's the distance from the commercial centres from the north, perhaps it's just a land apart. Wuerttemberg, the region surrounding Stuttgart, is especially so. /2
Nearly every valley, every peak, every forest in Wuerttemberg has its legends, its hauntings, its supposed secrets. In the early 19th century, they persisted in a way that they simply do not do now. This was the world Justinus Kerner was born into in 1786. /3
Justinus, of relatively modest means, was lucky to get a scholarship to the University of Tuebingen, and studied as a doctor. After he graduated, he worked as a rural doctor, serving the people of the region - and collecting their stories as he went. /4
Now, Wuerttemberg in the 19th century wasn't exactly well-served in terms of medical care, and Justinus had a wide patch, so to speak. There were few specialists in his era too, so he was called for all sorts of cases, from simple illness, to perplexing, even strange cases. /5
One such case, that he would write down, involved the 'Maid of Orlach' from 1831. This was an early documented case of a 'poltergeist' and 'demonic possession' - a young dairy maid was said to have been tormented by the long-dead spirits of a nun and a monk. /6
For several week, this young girl, by the name of Magdalene Grombach, appeared to be fought over by the ghosts, who had lived several centuries before and knew one another. Her health suffered terribly. Eventually, the two appeared to reconcile and she made a full recovery. /7
We'd probably describe the case quite differently - in many ways, this resembles any one of a number of dissociative mental illnesses - by Justinus dutifully recorded the goings on, and attempted to use what he knew, including hynoptism, to draw out his answers. /8
It wasn't as if he wasn't a scientifically-minded fellow. He was one of the first to accurately describe botulism and its effects, and throughout his life he published scientific papers. However, the strange and the secret had a tight grip over him. /9
In 1815 he got the post of medical officer - or chief regional doctor - for the region surrounding the town of Weinsberg, near Heilbronn, and from there he set out to make his home a place where he could fully explore the 'secret' world. /10
Kerner's publications - & a body of poetry, in which he documented the folk tales and traditions of the area - made his home at Weinsberg a bit of a local tourist attraction, bringing celebrities, even royalty, to his door. People would gift him books, 'occult' tomes. /11
Justinus' house completely reflected his interests - windchimes hung in the windows, creating ethereal melodies. Pictures and prints covered the walls. Books and folk art littered available surfaces. It was if his brain was spilling out around him. /12
Perhaps Kerner's most celebrated case involved Frederike Hauffe, the 'Seeress of Prevorst', who claimed to have visions in her sleep that allowed her to predict the future. He documented several visions, and again experimented with hynotism when she stayed at his house. /13
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