Friday night folklore: The Skeleton and the Man in Red

Here is spooky New year's Eve tale:

Once upon a time at one of Icelend’s farm churches, a whole skeleton of a man was found on the ground in the graveyard. The next time there was a burial, the pastor had it buried with the coffin, but not long afterwards it was again discovered above ground. The pastor made several  attempts to bury the skeleton, but it would always find its way back out. Eventually he gave up and had the skeleton transferred into the church and stored under one of the pews and there it stayed for a long time. 

One New Year’s Eve when the pastor was about to perform the nightly reading from the holy books, he realised that he had left his hymnal in the church after the last service. He spoke up and said “Is there someone here who is not afraid of the dark who is willing to fetch my hymnal from the church?”

One of the farm maids replied that she would do it and went and brought back the hymnal.
Then the pastor said to her: “I see you are not afraid of the dark, but you will not hear me praise your courage until fetch the skeleton from the church.”

She replied that this was an easy task and went and fetched the skeleton and carried it to the pastor.

Then he said: “That was brave of you, but now take it back.”

She started on her way, but as she was passing out the door of the house, the skeleton spoke up and said: “When you go into the church, it will be full of people and by the corner of the altar there will be a man clad in red with a red cap on his head. If you can get me back into his good graces you will never want for good luck.”

She continued to the church and saw that everything the skeleton had told her was true. The church was full of people, and she gave no indication of shock but walked into the church and up to the man in red and said to him with a serious voice: “Would you be so kind as to allow this skeleton to lie in peace in the ground from here on?”

“No,” he said, “that I cannot bring myself to do.”

“If you don’t,” she said, “may all the demons of Hell come after you and never leave you in peace or quiet.”

This deflated him somewhat and he said: “Since it is so very urgent, I shall henceforth leave the skeleton in peace.”

Then she took the skeleton to where it had been stored and put it back, the people moving back from the pew so she could do it.

The she started to leave, but when she was nearing the church door she heard the man in red say: “Look into my burning eye.”

She was convinced that if she were to look back she would never get out alive, so she lifted up the back of her skirt and said: “You look into my black arse.”

Then she continued calmly on her way back to the farmhouse and no-one could see that anything out of the way had happened. 

A few days later a man was to be buried in the graveyard, and the maid suggested to the pastor that this would be a good time to bury the skeleton. The pastor said it was no use, but she said it was such a small thing and he should try again. This he did, and this time the skeleton stayed buried.

After this the maid told the story of what had happened in the church, and received great praise for her actions. A short time later she was married to a promising young man and was always a solid and very lucky woman.

Copyright notice: The wording used to tell this folk-tale is under copyright. The story itself is not copyrighted. If you want to re-tell it, for a collection of folk-tales, incorporate it into fiction, use it in a school essay or any kind of publication, please tell it in your own words or give the proper attribution if you choose to use the wording unchanged.


Dorte H said…
Hehe. I heard a very similar story in a Danish church a year or two ago.

Happy New Year!

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