A person dressed as a ghost, holding a lantern

5 Spooky German Ghost Stories to Amp Up the Horror

Halloween isn’t very popular in old Deutschland.

But that doesn’t mean ghosts, ghouls, gremlins, urban legends and grisly tales are scarce here. After all, this is the country of the Grimm Brothers, writers and collectors of some of the most gruesome and viscerally scary folk tales in western culture.

This is also a country with a medieval castle, an abbey, a monastery or fortress pretty much everywhere you look—and where there’s a medieval structure, there’s usually a creepy ghost story to go along with it.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your flashlight, huddle around the campfire and get ready for the spooky season with these five German ghost stories. We’ll also cover some key German horror vocabulary and provide a background of the spooky season in Germany.


The Best Spooky German Ghost Stories

1. Der Freischütz (The Marksman)

What’s the story?

A master marksman finds himself unable to catch any wild swine or deer in the dark autumn forests. One day, he’s approached by a mysterious peddler wrapped in a cloak that conceals his face. The peddler offers the marksman seven bullets, with one condition. The first six bullets will hit whatever the marksman wants them to hit, but the peddler will choose the trajectory of the seventh. The marksman agrees.

The marksman quickly earns himself a reputation as the best hunter in the village, as he brings home wild boar after wild boar. He catches the eye of the prettiest girl in town, and they fall in love.

But all too soon, the marksman uses up all six bullets, and when he shoots the seventh, it goes astray and hits his love in the chest, killing her.

The peddler appears to the distraught marksman and reveals himself as the devil. Live a pious life, repent of your hubris, and you will be reunited with the girl after your death, the devil tells the marksman. The marksman tries, but he is overcome by desire for another girl in the village, and he marries her instead.

One year to the day after his bullet pierced his original love’s chest, he is riding in the forest when he comes across a clearing where skeletons dance around cold flames. One of the skeletons, the girl’s, waltzes with him all night, and the next morning, the villagers find the marksman and his horse, dead, at the edge of the forest.

What’s the backstory?

Folktales about Freischütze were common in the 14th to the 16th century in Germany. The tale was first written down in “Das Gespensterbuch” (The Ghost Book), a collection of German ghost and folk stories compiled in the 1810s and published in five volumes. The story subsequently became the inspiration for an opera by Carl Maria von Weber.

Where can I find out more?

You can read the original Gespensterbuch here, although beware that it’s written in Fraktur, or old German text. You’ll be better off perusing the opera libretto here, or simply thinking about the tale the next time you’re traveling in Germany and find yourself wandering in an old, spooky forest.

2. Rattenfänger von Hameln (The Rat Catcher of Hameln)

What’s the story?

The people of Hameln, in lower Saxony, are dying from the plague sweeping through Europe. Desperate, they hire a pipe player to lure the town’s rats away with music, in hopes that doing so will save the town from sickness.

The piper does in fact save the town from the plague, but the ungrateful townsfolk refuse to pay him. In revenge, the piper plays his pipe to lure all the town’s children away. He pipes until they walk into the sea and drown.

What’s the backstory?

Versions of the Pied Piper can be found in many medieval sources, since the tale plays on medieval and early modern European fears about emigration and sickness. The Brothers Grimm, those famous German folklorists, set the tale down in one of their collections in the early 19th century, and the famous Goethe wrote a poem about the tale as well.

Where can I find out more?

Well, you can visit Hameln for historical recreations and atmospheric history. You can read the story here.

3. Anna Sydow, die Weiße Frau (The White Woman)

What’s the story?

Anna Sydow was the lover of the King of Brandenburg, Joachim II, in the 16th century. They lived a happy life together in the Grünewald outside Berlin. On his deathbed, Joachim asked his son to take care of Anna, and the son promised that he would.

But after Joachim died, the son threw Anna into Berlin’s Spandau Citadel, where she died. Anna is said to wander the halls of the citadel, unable to leave.

What’s the backstory?

These kinds of Weiße Frau (white lady) ghost stories are popular tales to tell about European castles, fortresses and monasteries. They almost always involve a wronged woman haunting a rural area, unable to leave. Indeed, Anna Sydow’s status as a restless mistress who cannot rest in the grave after the hurt perpetrated against her is a common one in European folklore. Just look at Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s wronged lover, who is said to haunt the Tower of London—where she was imprisoned.

Where can I find out more?

Visit the Zitadelle Spandau, of course! But failing that, you can read about Anna and her backstory here.

4. Maria Renata Singer von Mossau

What’s the story?

Maria Renata Singer von Mossau was a nun with a terrible secret. She joined a Bavarian convent in the mid-18th century, but the other nuns soon became possessed by convulsions and swore that the devil was taking control of them.

When officials searched the convent, they found strange robes and poisons in von Mossau’s room, and she confessed that she had sworn herself to Satan as a child. Von Mossau was beheaded and burned, convicted of heresy and witchcraft.

What’s the backstory?

Von Mossau was hardly the only woman who was accused of witchcraft in early modern Europe. These kinds of accusations were common in a society beset by anxiety about disease, religious wars and rapid change. Von Mossau was, however, one of the last women executed on this kind of charge in Germany.

Where can I find out more?

You can read all about Von Mossau here. Or think of her when you visit the Bavarian wilderness, or if you find yourself in Naples; she was said to favor Neapolitan methods of poisoning.

5. Die Gänsemagd (The Goose Girl)

What’s the story?

A queen sends her daughter and her daughter’s maid to a faraway kingdom so the daughter can marry a prince. En route, the maid forces the princess to switch places with her, and rides off on the princess’ precious talking horse, Falada. When they arrive at the castle, the false princess orders Falada killed, and the real princess is forced to work as a goose girl.

She begs the butcher who killed Falada to hang his skull over the city gates so she can still talk to him, and she puts a curse on a boy who taunts her while she’s herding geese. The king hears of this strange girl, and he asks her for her story. When he finds out the truth, he dresses the goose girl in royal garb, and punishes the false princess by rolling her around the city in a spiked barrel until she dies.

What’s the backstory?

The Goose Girl comes from—you guessed it—the Grimm Brothers’ folktale collections. Although it has a happy ending for the protagonist, it has a typically gruesome end for its antagonist (the false princess). The story, in various forms, has been adapted for film and television numerous times over the past century.

Where can I find out more?

Read the “Goose Girl” in German here.

German Horror Vocabulary

Learn these 20 spooky vocabulary words, and you’ll be telling ghost stories in German in no time.

The Ghost Der Geist
The Ghost Story Die Gespenstergeschichte / Geistergeschichte
The Costume Das Kostüm
The Haunted House Das Gespensterhaus / Geisterhaus
The Vampire Der Vampir
The Devil Der Teufel
The Folktale Das Volksmärchen
To Haunt / To Spook spuken
The Haunted Forest das Zauberwald
Spooky gruselig / unheimlich
The Witch die Hexe
The Curse der Fluch
The Cemetery der Friedhof
The Undead die Untoten
Black Magic der Schadenzauber
The Haunted Castle das Geisterschloss
The Ghoul Der Ghul
The Scary Story die Gruselgeschichte
The Monster das Monster
Supernatural übernatürlich

You can actually look up more descriptive vocabulary on FluentU and hear how native speakers use them naturally.

About German Spooky Season

Halloween is slowly becoming more popular in Germany

Although Halloween has its roots in ancient rites from the British Isles, the holiday as we know it today stems from North America. But like so many aspects of American culture, Halloween is slowly but surely seeping into Deutschland. Especially in a large, international city like Berlin, you can easily find Halloween costumes and children trick-or-treating.

And some people don’t like it

Not all Germans are happy about this American import. Der Spiegel reported back in 2013 that some Germans are angry that Halloween has arrived on their shores, citing a dilution of their culture as well as the annoying aspects of Halloween traditions, such as the trick portion of “trick or treat.”

Nevertheless, you don’t have to look far to find some German spookiness

But even though Halloween isn’t a native German holiday, you won’t have to look far to find spooky German tales. Ghost stories really do abound in this country of folktales, castles and dark forests.


As you can see, Germans don’t even need Halloween—they have enough creepy stories to last them the whole year.

So even if you live in a temperate climate, close your shutters tight, pretend that winter’s coming, imagine you’re huddled in a cottage high in the Bavarian Alps or a castle deep in the Black Forest, and sink into the creepiness of Germanic folktales and ghost stories.

And One More Thing...

Want to know the key to learning German effectively?

It's using the right content and tools, like FluentU has to offer! Browse hundreds of videos, take endless quizzes and master the German language faster than you've ever imagine!


Watching a fun video, but having trouble understanding it? FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.


You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don't know, you can add it to a vocabulary list.


And FluentU isn't just for watching videos. It's a complete platform for learning. It's designed to effectively teach you all the vocabulary from any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you're on.


The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you're learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe