The Legend of Klaus Störtebeker: Headless Body Walk
Nikolaus Storzenbecher or more commonly known as Klaus Störtebeker, was the leader of a group of privateers known as The Victual Brothers. He was born in
Wismar around 1360. The name “Störtebeker” is only a nickname, meaning “Down The Hatch” in Old German, and refers to Stortebeker’s supposed ability to empty a four-liter mug of beer in one gulp. Like most of the pirates of his day, Stortebeker used to hide on Helgoland, an island North of Germany. Helgoland pirates captured merchant vessels for their livelihood, and caused great damage to Hamburg’s commerce. The damage done by the pirates soon was so great, that 1395 Margarete from Denmark and the German Hanse decided to make peace and take appropriate measures against the pirates.
During those actions against piracy a momentous accident happened in 1396: The fleets of
Denmark and the German Hanse took each other for the wanted pirates and decided to shoot first and then scrutinize the identity of the enemy. The great battle was won clearly by the German Hanse. The astonishment was great as they figured out the real identity of the foe. The shocked fleet captains retreated silently with their ships and what was left of them to their home ports.
1401 Klaus Störtebeker and 71 of his companions were caught near
by a treacherous trick: A fisherman, whom Störtebeker warranted protection and allowed him to sail beneath his high stern, turned out to be the enemy in disguise. The supposed fisherman pretended to cook a meal in the lee, but he melted lead instead. He then poured the liquid lead into the rudder eyelet and thus rendered the ship disabled. Helgoland Island
When the feared pirate Klaus Stortebeker faced his executioners, he struck a strange last minute deal: If, after his beheading, his headless body could walk, however many of his 70 captive men he made it past would be freed. It was agreed, and then he was executed.
Then, according to legend, his corpse got up and walked past eleven of his men, before the executioner tripped him. Deal or no deal, all of the pirates were murdered that day, their skulls impaled and displayed as a waring to others.
His skull was discovered in
Hamburg, in 1878, at a time when the city was rapidly expanding and many large warehouses were being built for the shipping industry. The skull had been on display in the museum since 1922.
The Legend of Klaus Störtebeker: Headless Body Walk Reviewed by Elvis G. on 6:30:00 AM Rating: