The rapping spirit of DibbesdorfLower Saxony
By Dr. Kerner
Translated from the German by Alfred Pireaux
The story of the rapping spirit of Dibbesdorf, besides its humorous side, contains an instructive part,
as indicated in the old documents published in 1811 by Priest Capelle.
On December 2nd, 1761 at six o’clock at night a kind of hammering sound, apparently coming from
the floor, was heard from Antony Kettelhut’s room. Thinking that it was his server who wanted to have fun with the maid that was in the spinsters’ room, he went out prepared to throw a bucket of
water on the mischievous man’s head but he found nobody outside. An hour later the noise started
again and he thought that it was a rat making the noise. The next day he examined the walls, the
ceiling, and the floor, but did not finding any evidence of rats.
The noise was heard again in the evening. After this, the house was considered too dangerous to live
in. In addition, the servants no longer wanted to stay in the room while performing their work.
Soon after the noise stopped, it reappeared again one-hundred feet away, in Luis Kettelhut’s house,
Antony’s brother, with increased intensity and strength. The rapping focused in one corner of the
The villagers then became suspicious, so much so that the burgomaster communicated what had
occurred to the authorities. In the beginning the authorities did not want to get involved in a subject
considered so ridiculous. However, in time and under the constant pressure from the residents, on
January 6th, 1762, the burgomaster traveled to Dibbesdorf to examine the facts. The walls and
ceiling were demolished but it did not yield anything. The Kettelhut family swore that they had
nothing to do with the strange phenomenon.
Up until then nobody had communicated with the “rapper” yet. One day this person from Naggam
- Rapping spirit, are you still there?
A knock was heard.
- Can you tell us your name?
Several names were said but the spirit only knocked when the name of the speaker was
- How many buttons are there in my shirt?
Thirty-six raps were heard. The buttons were counted, yielding the exact number 36.
Thereafter the story of the “rapping” spirit spread around the region and every afternoon
hundreds of Brusnwick residents used to go to Dibbesdorf, as well as some English men and
curious foreigners. The crowd grew so much that the local police were incapable of containing
it. The peasants had to support the guard at night and were forced to establish check-in lines to
Such a swarm of people seemed to have motivated the spirit to produce even more extraordinary
manifestations, progressing towards communications, which attested to his intelligence. He was
never mistaken in his answers. People asked about the number and color of the horses that were
parked in front of the house; he would respond exactly. A book would be open by chance on a
given page; a finger pointed to a part of a musical piece, requesting the designated part number,
sometimes unknown to the interlocutor, followed by a series of raps perfectly indicating the
requested answer. The spirit would not be long; the answer would be given immediately after
the question was made. He also indicated the number of persons in the room, how many were
outside; designated the color of the hair, of the clothes, the position and profession of the
One day there was a man from Hettin among the curious crowd, completely unknown to the
Dibbesdorf locals; he had moved a short time ago to Brusnwick. He asked the rapping spirit
about his place of birth and, wishing to induce error, he cited a large number of cities. When
mentioning Hettin a rap was heard. A smart burgeon, attempting to get the “rapper” to make an
error, enquired about the amount of coins he had in his pocket. The “rapper” made the exact
number of raps that equaled the coins: 681. A pastry-cook was told how many cookies he had made in the morning; to a shop owner how many meters of ribbon he had sold the day before
and to another one the exact amount he had received through the mail a couple of days earlier.
He was playful. Whenever he was requested he played a tune with a deafening sound.
In the evenings, during meals and after “Grace” he would rap the Amen. That sign of devotion
did not impede a sacristan to dress up with the exorcist outfit trying to expel the spirit; that plot
The spirit was afraid of nobody. He was very honest in his answers to the regent, the Duke
Charles, and his brother Ferdinand and other simple persons of inferior condition.
The case then became more serious. The Duke assigned a doctor and some attorneys to examine
the facts. The scholars explained that the raps were due to an underground source. An eight feet
deep well was excavated and water was naturally found, as Dibbesdorf is located at the bottom
of a valley. The water gushed out, inundated the room but the spirit continued to rap in the usual
spot. Then scientists thought that they were victims of some sort of mystification and gave the
servant the honor of changing place with that spirit who was so well informed.
His intention, they said, was to bewitch the maid. Every resident of the village was invited to
stay home on a given and predetermined day; the server was kept under their vigilant eyes, as he
was the culprit according to the wise men. But the spirit again answered all questions. The
servant was released once his innocence was established. But justice wanted an author to the
wrongdoing and accused the Kettelhut couple for the noise they were complaining about,
although they were benevolent people, honest and irreproachable on all aspects and had being
the first ones to seek the authorities, since the onset of the manifestations. Under threats and
promises, they forced a young lady to testify against her masters. As a consequence they were
arrested, despite the posterior contradiction and a formal declaration, attesting as false her first
confession that was forcibly taken by the judges. Since the spirit still rapped, the Kettelhut
couple stayed in prison for three months, being freed after that period without compensation,
although the members of the commission summarized their report as follows: “All efforts to
discover the cause of the noises rendered unsuccessful. Future will perhaps teach us about that.”
- Future has not taught anything yet.
The rapping spirit continued from the beginning of December until March, when it was no
longer heard. The already incriminated servant was once more thought to be the author of all
those mockeries. But how could he have avoided all traps arranged by the Dukes, doctors,
judges and so many others who interrogated him?”
OBSERVATION: If we pay attention to the date when such things happened and compare them
to those that take place in our days, we find perfect identity in the mode of manifestation and
even in the nature of the questions and answers. Neither America nor our times have discovered
the rapping spirits, nor have they discovered the others, as we will demonstrate by several
authentic and more or less aged facts. There is, however, between the present phenomena and
the old ones a capital difference: it is the fact that the old ones were almost all spontaneous
whereas ours are produced almost by the will of certain special mediums. This circumstance
allowed them to be better studied and their causes better investigated. The judges’ conclusion
that “the future will perhaps teach us about that” would not be followed by the authors’ remarks:
“future has not taught anything yet”. If the author were alive today he would know, on the
contrary, that the future taught everything and that our modern justice, better clarified than that
of a century ago, would not make the same mistakes with respect to the spiritist manifestations,
mistakes that remind the Middle Ages. Our own scholars have already penetrated into the
mysteries of nature so as not to play games with unknown causes. They are wise enough and do
not expose themselves, like their predecessors, to be contradicted by posterity, in detriment of
their own reputation. If something shows up in the horizon they no longer rush to proclaim: “This is nothing”, afraid that it might be a ship. If they cannot see it, they go quiet and wait.
Such is the true wisdom.