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The Smoke- or Bunterman's Mountain - a haunted hill

Updated on December 12, 2016
Eva Weggelaar profile image

Eva Weggelaar is a writer and translator, especially interested in poetry and folklore. She also runs her own blog: Paradise is this Way.

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The Pedlar

It was many centuries ago and the few shops, which one now finds in the Veluwe, weren’t there in those days. People bought their wares from travelling salesmen, such as one can still see now, going from door to door; or brought what they needed from the nearest market.
Thus, long ago, there was a pedlar whom everyone knew. He visited the Veluwe every year, hawking stockings and other useful items. When he came to Nunspeet, he usually spent the night there, staying at the inn near the Brunen Enk1.
One day, he arrived there again, as was his habit. He had done good business and in the evening, when he was still talking with the landlord and –lady before going to bed, he spoke of it and so the landlord and his wife learned that he was carrying a lot of ready money. The pedlar exchanged some small coins for larger ones, which were easier to carry, and then they all retired for the night.

A Brutal Deed

Bunterman, the innkeeper, couldn’t sleep. The house was so silent that it made his head pound feverishly. The large amount of money residing under his roof seemed to cast of spell over him. It was as if a criminal power of attraction went out from it, which lured him irresistibly to the place where the pedlar and his moneybag were. Without waking his wife, without making a sound, he silently slid out of the bed box and listened,… listened. He didn’t hear a thing except the regular breathing of his wife and the thumping of his own heart.
He listened at the door of his guest’s room, and then he took up the billhook, lifted the handle of the door, stood still and listened again. Throughout the house, all was silent. Softly the door opened on well-oiled hinges and he carefully entered. He rummaged around the little room for a long time. And there, in the dark, by touch, something so terrible happened, too terrible to write down in detail. The horrifying silence was only broken by some stumbling noises and a few moans. Then silence settled over all things once again2.
But when the landlord crept out of the room, he carried a moneybag in one hand, and the other held the billhook, from which the drops fell onto the floor. He went to the stable to fetch a bucket of water and began to wash himself. Now his wife was woken by all that stumbling around and the husband told her in a few short, grumpy sentences what had happened.
Shaken and frightened she got out of bed and helped him mop and redd, until the morning came. Together they dragged the heavy and horribly mutilated body outside to bury him in the courtyard; but while they were doing that, a brewer’s man came to bring a keg of beer and witnessed their criminal activity.
With a handful of money and a stiff drink they bought the drayman’s silence.

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A Journey to Amsterdam, and Justice

A few years had passed, when one day the innkeeper and the drayman happened to go on a journey to Amsterdam with the skipper of Harderwijk.
On board, in the middle of the Zuiderzee, they fell out over some small matter. One word led to another and eventually the drayman accused Bunterman of having murdered the pedlar. The skipper and the other travellers listened in horror to the drayman’s story, while the landlord swore that it was all slander.
Nevertheless, when they arrived in Amsterdam the magistrate was alerted and both men were brought before the court.
During the hearing Bunterman held up his two first fingers and said: ‘May I burn forever if I have done such a thing’. That didn’t help him, as his guilt was proven. In his courtyard they dug up the pedlar’s basket, the empty moneybag and the body of the victim. They erected the gallows on the mountain and the innkeeper was hanged.

From that day on, the people of the area could sometimes see a flaming fire and rising smoke on the mountain, and they noted this as proof that Bunterman had been justly sentenced.

From Legends of the Veluwe/Veluwsche Sagen by Gust van de Wall Perné, published in 1910-1912 by Scheltens & Giltay and translated by Eva Weggelaar

The Smoking Mountain
The Smoking Mountain

Footnotes

1. Brunen Enk, ‘brunen’ is an early medieval word for brown, ‘enk’ means a raised, cultivated field.
2. The historian Van Heerde discovered that this old folktale is based on actual events that occured between 1675 and 1680.

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