Monster Monday: Nachzehrer

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Nachzehrer.

Scene from F.R. Murnau's Nosferatu
Scene from F.R. Murnau’s Nosferatu

A nachzehrer is a creature in German folklore similar to a vampire but with notable differences. A nachzehrer does not typically drink blood. Rather it eats the bodies of the dead. It is often associated with plague and disease. In some legends, it can shapeshift into a pig and can kill with its shadow. It will generally target its family members first, and sometimes it will eat parts of itself. Those hunting a nachzehrer will go to the graveyard and listen for munching sounds.

A person who commits suicide or dies in an accident is likely to become a nachzehrer. Also, the first person to die in a plague is usually thought to come back as one. To destroy a nachzehrer a coin must be placed in its mouth and the body decapitated.

The word nachzehrer comes from two German words: nach, meaning after, and zehrer, meaning devourer. Thus, “one who devours after death.”

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