Tuesday Terror! The Burgomaster in Bottle by Erckmann-Chatrian

The Demon Drink!

The medical experts seem to give us conflicting advice about the benefits or dangers of tippling red wine on an almost weekly basis. This little tale should help to settle the matter once and for all…

The Burgomaster in Bottle
by Erckmann-Chatrian

Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian

I have always professed the highest esteem, and even a sort of veneration for the Rhine’s noble wine; it sparkles like champagne, it warms one like Burgundy, it soothes the throat like Bordeaux, it fires the imagination like the juice of the Spanish grape, it makes us tender and kind like lachryma-christi; and last, but not least, it helps us to dream – it unfolds the extensive field of fancy before our eyes.

Our narrator Ludwig is travelling through the vineyards of the Rheingau region, sampling the various wines produced there, when he meets up with an old friend, Hippel, who is doing the same. Feeling that companionship will add to their enjoyment, they join up and travel on together. One night, they stop at an inn and, finding it closed, peer through the window, where they see an old woman, asleep…

….“Hallo!” cried my comrade; “open the door, mother!”
….The old woman started, got up and came to the window, and pressed her shrunken face against the panes. You would have taken it for one of those old Flemish portraits in which ochre and bistre predominate.

Rheingau region

The woman welcomes them and produces a fine supper, including several bottles of local wine. First she offers them red…

We tasted it; it was a strong rough wine. I cannot describe the peculiar flavour it possessed – a mixture of vervain and cypress leaves! I drank a few drops, and my soul became profoundly sad. But Hippel, on the contrary, smacked his lips with an air of satisfaction.

Ludwig sticks to the white wine, but Hippel drinks deeply of the red. Finally, at one in the morning, they make their way to bed, Hippel staggering slightly. Ludwig finds himself wakeful but Hippel falls asleep immediately and begins to dream…

His face was red, his mouth half-open, I could see the blood pulsating in his temples, and his lips moved as if he wanted to speak. I stood for some time motionless by his side; I tried to see into the depths of his soul, but sleep is an impenetrable mystery; like death, it keeps its secrets.

Gradually Hippel becomes more disturbed and seems terrified, so Ludwig wakes him, and Hippel tells his dream. He had dreamt that he was a local burgomaster – a mean and miserly man, the opposite of Hippel’s gregarious and generous self. In the dream, the burgomaster died but Hippel dreamt that his soul stayed near the body, and that Hippel himself was that soul. He dreamt the villagers found the body…

….“Upon my word,” said the clerk. “between ourselves, he is no great loss to the parish. He was a miser and an ass, and he knew nothing whatever.”
….“Yes,” added the magistrate, “and yet he found fault with everything.”
….“Not very surprising either,” said another, “fools always think themselves clever.”

They take the body off to bury it, the soul/Hippel following sadly behind…

As a dream, this was bad enough, but the next day as Hippel and Ludwig travel on, suddenly Hippel begins to recognise the scenery as that of his dream. They find themselves in the village he saw and indeed, the burgomaster there had died a few years before just as Hippel dreamt! Still Hippel is haunted by the terror and sadness of the dream, and seems to believe that in some way he truly is the burgomaster’s soul. Ludwig suggests they must visit the grave to free him from the impressions he has been left with…

“No!” he exclaimed – “no, never! Do you want to see me in Satan’s clutches? I stand upon my own tombstone! It is against every law in nature. Ludwig, you cannot mean it?”

But Ludwig insists…

* * * * *

I’ve only read a few of the stories in this collection so far, but am thoroughly enjoying them. They don’t stick to one particular aspect of horror – there are touches of Gothic in some, hints of mad science in others, but there are also fairly light-hearted traditional hauntings like this one and darker, more Satanic tales. They are very well written, although sometimes the rather archaic style can take a bit of concentration. So far, none have involved anything too gory or gruesome for my moderate tastes.

This one is an excellent little story with a great mixture of mild horror and humour. The ending has a touch of the macabre but counterbalanced by an amusing and, in my experience, entirely original way of trying to rid oneself of a ghostly possession! The moral of the story isn’t so much to avoid the perils of wine-bibbing, but rather to be aware of where the grapes might have come from…

(The porpentine had a little too much wine…)

Fretful Porpentine rating:  😱 😱 😱

Overall story rating:           😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

NB The collection The Invisible Eye was provided for review by the publisher, Collins Chillers.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

22 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The Burgomaster in Bottle by Erckmann-Chatrian

  1. Wait, what? Red wine is dangerous? Perish the thought! Next you’ll be telling me not to eat chocolate! 😉 This does sound like a good read, FictionFan. And I know just what you mean about horror stories that don’t get overly gruesome. Even if this one wasn’t as chilling as some of the others have been, it still sounds like a good read. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Goodness, if any of these stories suggest chocolate is haunted, I shall burn the book!!! These older stories are rarely gruesome, which is why I enjoy them more than modern horror. Apart from anything else it forces them to come up with something a bit more imaginative, for which the porpy and I are exceedingly grateful…

    • It makes me want to go to sleep on a branch too – though I’m not sure my sense of balance is as good as the porpy’s! Apparently they worked together for about forty years and produced a phenomenal amount of stuff – historical fiction, mostly, I think. But sadly they had a major falling out and Chatrian claimed copyright of all their work. Erckmann sued and won damages and they never spoke again. Chatrian died very soon after and although Erckmann lived on for another nine years he never produced anything good again. All from the intro of this collection. Sad, isn’t it?

    • Haha – that’s what too much red wine does to you! 😉 Thank you! I enjoy entertaining light-hearted horror just as much as the shivery kind. So far, the collection has had a good mix. 😀

    • He’s having a rough time this year – all this drinking and partying! Yes, I love the writing in these stories – they create real visual images with their words. Good stuff!

  2. I feel like in America people will drink any wine, and all the wine, by the bottle no less. I’ve mentioned this on Twitter before, but I get so tired of people wanting to drink a bottle of wine for nearly any reason: they are a mother, they went to work all day, their boyfriend made them sad, etc. It’s not that I’m against drinking, but I am against the idea of drinking to soothe any and every feeling, almost like being alive is just too much. Now I’m getting an idea for a story….. 🤔

    • Haha – I know, but they probably don’t actually do it. Like me with my chocolate – if I ate as much chocolate as I’m always threatening to do, there would be a world shortage! Oh, what a horrible thought – I must have a bottle or two or wine to calm me down… 😉

  3. Oh well, I don’t drink wine anyway. In fact, I barely drink alcohol at all. Why bother, it makes it difficult to read, and if I’m going to be consuming extra calories, they might as well be in the form of chocolate….

    • Haha – I’m with you! I’d far rather have chocolate than wine any day – especially after reading this! So far I haven’t come across a story about haunted chocolate…

Please leave a comment - I'd love to know who's visiting and what you think...of the post, of the book, of the blog, of life, of chocolate...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.