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The Unfortunate Priest And Dead Body






In a province of Prussia, a man being dead, was carried, as is
customary, into the church, the evening previous to the day of his
interment. It is usual to place the corpse in an open coffin; and a
priest, attended only by a boy of the choir, remains all night praying
by the side of the dead body, and on the following day the friends of
the deceased come to close up the coffin, and inter the corpse. On this
occasion, after the evening service had been performed, every one
retired from the church: and the priest, with the young chorister,
withdrew to supper; but soon returned, and the former commenced the
usual prayers. What was his astonishment, when he beheld the dead body
rise from the coffin, and advance towards him. Terrified in the extreme,
the priest flew to the font; and, conjuring the corpse to return to its
proper station, showered holy water on him in abundance. But the
obstinate and evil-minded spirit, disregarding the power of holy water,
seized the unfortunate priest, threw him to the ground, and soon, by
repeated blows, left him extended, without life, on the pavement. Having
committed this act of barbarity, he appeared to return quietly to his
coffin. On the following morning, the persons who came to prepare for
the funeral, found the priest murdered, and the corpse, as before, in
the coffin. Nothing could throw any light on this extraordinary event
but the testimony of the boy, who had concealed himself on the first
movement of the dead body, and who persisted in declaring, that he saw
from his hiding-place the priest killed by the corpse. Conjecture, and
endeavours to discover the truth, were alike vain, tormenting, and
fruitless. Many resources were tried; for it was not every one that
submitted themselves to the belief of a dead body rising to kill a
priest, and then quietly resigning itself to the place of its
consignment. Many years afterwards, a malefactor, condemned to death for
various crimes, and brought to the torture, confessed, that having (for
some unknown reason) conceived an implacable hatred against the priest
in question, he had formed the design of thus avenging himself. Having
found means to remain in the church, he seized the moment of the
priest's retiring to supper, withdrew the dead body from the coffin, and
placed himself in its stead, in the shroud and other appurtenances.
After executing the murder of the priest, he returned the corpse to its
place, and got unperceived out of the church, when the friends of the
deceased came in the morning to attend the funeral.





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