Gantry 5

Mountains are something most enigmatic and you should believe me: the greatest mystery on earth are mountains. Or can you tell me why man is full of awe when facing Mount Kenya or Kilimandjaro, when looking at Fujiyama in Japan or Huang Shan, the magic summit of China, the Rocky Mountains or the Swiss Alps? They are respected and feared, because they belong only partly to earth. They touch and reach heaven and are as much part of it as they are of earth. But they continue and lead also into the inner substance of the underworld. Above and underneath fuse. Mountains are staircases from one world to the other, from out there into the inside. Mountains keep together the living and the dead. Mountains are the meeting place of gods and devils, of ancestors and ghosts, of gnomes and fairies.


But I wouldn't believe all that when I was a student. All such speculations were then just childish and rubbish to me, stories of uneducated people. Didn't I go to school to get over such magic and ghost nonsense in order to know better? And I wanted to prove it!


I come from the rough area of Napf Mountain with wild rivers and canyons, gullies and gorges, with haze and mist often on top, with lighthening and thunder, the area where you had the most cruel hailstorms in summer. Many lonely farmers who survived by charcoal burning or potatoe destillation lived scattered and isolated over the slopes together with gods and ghosts. Often when such a stranger to the rest of mankind died, he was found only long after when worms and birds had already eaten him up. Thus stories started to stew and steam. At my student time the rumor circulated that in an abandoned barn, after 'Napfpur' had deceased without last rites 30 years ago,  he would return every first Friday of the month to the stable  and  frighten people that passed by. Yet nobody could tell you who had ever passed by and who had ever been frightened. Nevertheless the first Friday of any month nobody would dare to take this footpath leading up to the summit where at my time just a bit below the top a popular open air dancing and leisure center was developed. I told my fellow-students this strange but for me ridiculous story  and all laughed and started to joke: "Let's go ghost hunting!"


In the fifties four of us decided to explore and destroy this popular humbug all and for ever. The first Friday of August during our vacation we walked up to this lonely ghost stable. It was organized like a scientific expedition. Around six o'clock in the afternoon we arrived with our rucksacks. As it is very common and traditional we began to play cards and boil water with some coffee in it. This coffee we kept hot in a thermos bottle. Beside stood a bottle of home destilled fruit water, in my language called 'Bätziwasser' or just plain 'Schnaps'. Men drink coffee with Schnaps and only with Schnaps. And coffee is only ready, fixed and drinkable when it is baptized with Schnaps. It's all important. In daily life Coffee Schnaps is part of our identity. People were convinced that no man would rest in peace without a Coffee Schnaps before death. It was believed and so it was.


We were playing cards - another significant act of identity in the Napf area. Up until recently it was the only entertainment people had beside their hard farm work. It was a warm and wonderful August evening and the mood unique. We played and played, two against two, we had already twelve games behind us and it was a draw shortly before midnight. We were inside the barn with some hay on the hayloft. Above us hanged two torches on a log.


Since the game had just finished we sent Klaus who had taken responsibility for coffee brewing to fill up our glasses. Outside was a little apart in a corner close to a wall or precipice that fall steeply down into a gully a fireplace of the former 'Napf-pur' with a stone table where our coffee and sugar, the thermos flask and the Schnaps bottle stood in reserve. Klaus came back with three glasses refilled with Kafi Schnaps. His own glass he had left outside on the stone table in the corner just before the abyss.


When Klaus entered it begann to strike 12 o'clock midnight down in the valley. We could hear it clearly. Since we were in an excellent mood we started boosting and laughing: "Now where are you, ghost?" and "Come on now, don't be afraid of us!" Yet silence. No strange sounds after the end of the striking of the church clock. "Come on!" "Söll emol cho!" But nothing...


Klaus said: "Let me go and get my coffee and then we play another round," and left...

From outside we heard him calling: "Is my glass inside?" And a short while after: "Heaven's sake, where is the Schnaps?" It sounded serious and we knew the question was no joke. We stood up, walked outside and moved towards Klaus who seemed struck by a stroke.


What had happened? Nobody could explain why all of a sudden a coffee-glass and half an empty bottle of Schnaps should disappear. Had someone passed by and stolen things? But it was impossible since we could easily follow by eyes the narrow footpath in the moonlight. Or had someone followed us and tried to pull our legs?

We decided to continue to play cards until three without coffee Schnaps. Nothing moved. Nothing happened. All quiet. Then we slept. The morning was marvelous again. Before we left we checked the whole environment again and again but found neither glass nor Schnaps.


When we returned to the valley we told people the story of the disappeared glass and bottle. For us it was the end of the story.


Totally astonished I was when I heard some years later from someone who didn't know me and had no idea of my part I had played in the expedition that the ghost of 'Napfpur'  had found

his peace. And he explained that the soul of the loner had to wait, just to wait and wait until someone came up with a Kafi Schnaps. Since the 'Napfpur' died alone and was eaten up in an undignified way and not properly buried he could not find peace until someone offered him a Kafi Schnaps. His unrest, his groaning and rumbling was nothing else then a request for a Coffee Schnaps to get peace. After more than 30 years his poor soul was released from begging for a Kafi Schnaps.



by Al Imfeld©, 9. 10. 1990