A forgotten house?

Overgrown letterbox and doorbell

There’s an old locked gateway on the Eisenbrand with its own bell and letterbox. The drive looks dark, overgrown with bushes and ivy. The house is not even visible from the road. You could easily walk past a dozen times without noticing it. If you were writing a ghost story set in Büderich, it would make a wonderful haunted house setting. Time to sharpen my pen again?


I was researching in some late medieval/c17th texts for another story when I came across a snippet which could almost have come from Chapter 1 of ‘The Devil’s Missal’ (in which an intersex monk plays an unusual role).

For those who struggle with the old German typeface (and old German language) I provide a transcription and translation below.

Zu Leyden hat sich verwichene Woche ein seltsamer und wuderlicher casus zugetragen: Nemlich eine Frau/ die vor diesen einen Man und 2 oder 3 Kinder dabey/ und selbst mit ihren Brüsten auch gesäuget hat/ nach der hand ihr Mann nacht Ost.Indien gefahren/ ist diese Frau ins Waysenhauß zu Leyden/ also ein Zuchtmeisterin über die Waysen-Mägdchens/bestellet/so hat sich zugetragen/daß von den grössesten und ältesten Wayse.Mägdchens von 16.17 bis 18 Jahren alt/ einige Zeit hero/wol 3.4. oder mehr seyn schwanger worden: Die Magdchens nach gehaltener Examination alle einmüthig bekand/ daß diese Zucht-Meisterin der Vater davon sey. Die Frau welche man geexaminieret und gevisitiret/ hat man befunden/ daß sie ein Hermaphrodit oder halb Mann und halb Frau ist; welch auch bekandt/ daß sie solches gethan/ ist darauff ins Spinnhauß zu Leyden gesetzt/ und wird ehestes Tages ihr der Proceß gemacht werden.

In Leiden in recent weeks a strange and wondrous case occurred: namely a woman, who hitherto had had a husband and 2 or 3 children whom she had nursed with her own breasts, her husband having now gone away to East India, was engaged as a female disciplinarian at the Leiden girls’ orphanage. She conducted herself in such a way that of the largest and oldest orphan-girls of 16, 17 to 18 years old, 3, 4 or more had become pregnant: On questioning the girls they unanimously stated that the female disciplinarian was the father. The woman was examined and questioned and was discovered to be a hermaphrodite or half-man half-woman; she admitted what she had done and was at once transferred to the spinning house in Leiden and in the next days will be sent for trial.

The Devil’s Progeny

“A brilliantly crafted occult mystery…utterly compelling…”

When Professor Holda Weisel receives an unexpected visit from her student, Lars Koch, she is shocked to learn that his father, the infamous TV talk show host, died two days earlier under unexplained circumstances. His death appears to be linked to old diaries written by his grandmother and great-grandmother, which he was reading at the time. Lars, a usually withdrawn and unlikeable loner with disturbing alt-right leanings, resolves to investigate the mystery.

With the aid of Holda and her husband Rupert, the town’s archivist, Lars begins to dig deeper into his murky family history, uncovering unsettling secrets at every turn. The reader is drawn into a world of prejudice, prostitution and malicious folklore set during the occupation of the Rhineland and up to World War II. As he explores further, Lars realises how these events link him inexorably to the far-right, anarchistic Reichsbürger movement – revealing he is directly in harm’s way. Yet this is only the beginning of his nightmare…

In this fast-moving mystery, Cathy Dobson combines evocative narrative, compelling characters and a breathtakingly audacious plot to create a story which will haunt the reader for a long time.

“Strong persuasive characters…brilliant historical settings…spellbinding.”

“A gripping storyline which startles at every turn. Absolutely enthralling.”

Out from November 25 2019

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