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The Restless Ghost of Wroclaw

27th February 2017

Anomalistic Psychology Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London, London SE14 6NW

In September 1591, a prosperous Wroclaw shoemaker killed himself by cutting his own throat. To avoid the shame associated with suicide and to ensure he received a religious burial, his family concealed the damning evidence.

But the shoemaker did not rest in his grave. The whole town was disturbed by his ghost which made noises, appeared to some, and oppressed others. The Council was convened and the man’s corpse was exhumed and examined; what they found shocked the whole community.

In this talk, we will conduct an historical paranormal investigation to look at the many factors which have led to perfectly sane, intelligent people coming to believe that there was a mischievous and dangerous ghost in their midst, including:

– The history of the Wroclaw and its many historical and cultural infuences
– The context of sixteenth century religious and folkloric belief
– The historic understanding of biology and bodily decay
– The social psychology of scapegoating behaviour and ritual
– The similarity between many varieties of supernatural revenant folklore across Europe, some of which persists to this day.