"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Precolitsch; Or, When Hungarian Gypsies Say There is Trouble Ahead, Believe Them

The “Precolitsch” (or “Prikulics”) is among the more unpleasant figures in Eastern European folklore.  This being--sort of a cross between Bigfoot and a werewolf--is said to live in the Wallachian Mountains.  It is of a great size, possesses the capability to assume various forms, and is of a truly terrifying strength.  And it has no fondness for humans.

Although the Precolitsch is regarded as a mythological creature, there is at least one account claiming it made an all-too-real appearance.  This strange tale--which sounds like a horror movie cliche, but is given as literal fact--was related by Philip Macleod in the September 1913 issue of “Occult Review.”  Macleod stated that this story--which he paraphrased--originally appeared in “a German psychological publication" about sixty years earlier.  The account was written by a Hungarian doctor who heard the tale directly from the army officer directly involved with the incident.  Although this original publication apparently used the officer’s real name, Macleod, for whatever reason, gave him the pseudonym of “Muller.”

At the time our story opens, Muller was an Ensign in the Austro-Hungarian army.  He was stationed at the Pass of Temesn in Transylvania, where he commanded some forty men.  The pass was a long ravine, about fifty yards wide, surrounded on both sides by rocky precipices.  A gated wall had been built across it.  Inside the wall were the buildings occupied by the commanding officer, his men, and other officials.  Two sentries were always posted outside the wall, one by the gate, and the other a bit farther out.

One morning shortly before Christmas, one of the soldiers, a Hungarian gypsy, came before Muller and asked to be granted an unusual favor.  He was scheduled to stand guard that night from 10 p.m. to midnight, at the outermost post from the wall.  He pleaded with Muller that some other soldier be assigned to take his place.  He said that he would most willingly do an extra turn as a guard, if he could just be spared having to do it that night.

Muller naturally asked the soldier his reason for such a strange request.  The man replied that he had been born on “New Sunday,” [the second Sunday after Easter] which gave him the blessing (or curse, depending on your viewpoint) of “second-sight.”  As a result, he knew that if he went out on guard duty that night, something dreadful would happen to him.  After midnight, his danger would be over.  He again begged most earnestly to have his turn as guard reassigned.

Muller was so impressed by the soldier’s obvious sincerity and desperation that his first instinct was to grant his request, particularly as the man had an otherwise faultless service record.  However, he concluded that acceding to such an eccentric supplication would set a bad precedent, one that might ultimately be detrimental to army discipline.  He delivered a brief lecture on the folly of trusting in superstition, and ordered the soldier to mount the outer guard that night.  Muller reassuringly reminded him that the other guard would have him constantly in his sight, so he, as well as the rest of the company, could instantly come to the rescue if required.

That evening, Muller went to the Quarantine Superintendent’s quarters for a game of chess.  At about 9:30, their game was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a man’s face outside the window.  The man had a strange, wild look on his face, and stared at them with an expression of what seemed like “mockery or derision.”  He seemed to be wrapped in a white cloak which was common wear for the local peasantry.  After a moment, the man turned from the window and slowly walked off.

Muller and his friend dashed outside to investigate.  It was a clear, moonlit night, which enabled them to see the man pass along the wall, until he reached a small recess in the structure.  He turned into it.  However, when the two soldiers reached the recess, they found it was empty.  Not knowing what else to do, the pair gave each other quizzical looks, shrugged, and went back to chess.

Shortly after 10 p.m., the game was again disrupted, this time by the sound of two shots, followed by strange noises and shouting.  The two men, as well as the rest of the soldiers, immediately dashed outside.  They found the inner sentry standing in a state of shock, gripping his smoking gun and staring towards the spot where the gypsy was standing guard.

Except…the gypsy was no longer there.

Muller ran to the place where the soldier had been standing.  All he found was the man’s gun lying in the snow, with the barrel bent into a semi-circle.  Also in the snow were tracks of the soldier’s shoes, along with other, shapeless footprints.

They found the soldier thirty paces away, lying below the crest of a slope.  He was unconscious, and moaning in agony.  He was carried to their hospital, where they found that his entire body had been burned black, particularly the face and chest.  He never regained consciousness, and continued his piteous moans and cries until he died the next day.

The other sentry stated that, knowing of his comrade’s apprehension, he had never taken his eyes off him.  The moonlight allowed him to see the gypsy quite clearly.  Then he suddenly saw a black shape standing in the snow a short distance away.  It seemed more animal than human.  The creature began moving toward the outer sentry.  The soldier fired at the figure.  Before the inner sentry could reach him, the Thing grabbed the gypsy, and both instantly disappeared.

And that, as they say, was that.  No one ever learned anything more about the gypsy’s weird and terrible death.  And Muller was left with a lifelong regret that he had not taken the soldier’s “superstition” more seriously.


  1. It looks like the Pass of Temesn may be the Timiș-Cerna Gap which the E70 highway passes through today. In this 19th century, this would have been near where the Austria-Hungarian, Romanian, and Serbian borders meet.

  2. A good story, though it came third hand, or is it fourth hand? I would have granted the soldier's request. Any second or third request by others could have been met with a stern refusal. But then I probably would not have made a good army officer...


Comments are moderated. Because no one gets to be rude and obnoxious around here except the author of this blog.