The ghost ship in the rheinfalls of Schaffhausen
Deutsche Version

It was a hot and humid evening in summer, when far above the castle of Laufen a young fisherman was rowing on the Rhein. With a last row he maneuvered his boat onto the sandy bank of the river and rested himself into the boat, exhausted from the heat and the work of the day. Waiting for a friend, who would help him to carry home the catch of the day, he fell asleep.

As it happened, while the current of the river was rather weak at that point, it was still strong enough to shake the ship which was hold by the sand and finally, to drag it away. The fisherman didn't notice this. Laying on his side with the head in his arms he slumbered peacefully while his boat got caught by the main stream and now moving downstream rather fast.

The waters started to become more turbulent and in the distance, a deep thunder could be heard. It got stronger and stronger as the ship raced towards it. Now, the ship hit a rock. As the young man woke up from his sleep he clinged himself to the rail. Horrified he watched the whirling cloud of wild and spraying water mist and realized where he was. But the boat already fell -more than eighty feet - down into the roaring and foaming abyss.

The following seconds happened so fast that the terribly frightened man was not able to notice it in detail. Like passing through an icy hell of lashing spray, high water waves and racing whirls, he got smashed into a glaring brightness. The impact was so strong that his senses faded.

As he woke up, he found to his astonishment that the surroundings had changed completely. It was now peaceful, calm and clear. Green bushy shores greeted him from both sides. Turning his face, still not believing that he was saved, he noticed the white foam of the Rheinfalls behind him.

Later however when he finally realized what he had survived, he got overwhelmed by a strong happyness and he thought his chest would explode. Like mad he laughed and waved to the few man at the shore, who did not understand, how that unknown fisherman had come to this place of the Rhein. While to in their astonishment they had seen him appear near the falls, it did not come to their minds that he had been falling down the fall without having been swallowed by the whirling waters.

Their astonishment grew even more, when they heard from that completely wet young man who now landed what adventure he had passed. And as they were still unwilling to believe and because they behaved as if they had to deal with a crazy bluffer, the young man got into boastings.

He claimed that the whole thing had not been so terrible, that he had even proven that one could, with some luck of course, pass the Rheinfalls and that he, who had just made it once, would do it again if necessary. Because, so he told, if he could do it half asleep and in a dream, then he would manage it even better fully awake. People who listened to the fisherman, advised him not to try it again, but rather to thank God that he had helped him to survive the first time.

Only one of the men challenged the boastings of the young man by saying that one could easily say things like that and afterwards refrain from it. He however, miller Hilzel of Klein-Laufen, would bet one hundred Talers that the miraculously saved fisherman would no more repeat this adventure and that even if he would do so, he would not survive it.

At the end, the completely mixed-up fisherman felt taken by his honor. He shouted angrily that nobody could forbid him to show that he had the courage to do it. Already the next day, at noon, one would have to watch the waterfall. He would steer then his ship down the fall, right between the two rocks.

Evenso people tried to talk it out, it was in vain. He was already gone before one even knew who he was and where he lived. The next day however, the young man kept his promise. The people of Laufen who watched at the shore saw the ship of the young man shoot towards the Rheinfalls, tilt down at the border of the waterfall and disappear like a straw in the foaming and roaring waters. One never found his body. Only pieces of his ship were later recovered.

And since then, so the legend tells, one has quite many times seen during a full moon night a ghost ship inside the Rheinfalls. A shadow of a young man would stand inside and wave in desperation his hands at the abyss, only to disappear before falling. Nothing more would be seen afterwards, except of the wild, uplashing and blowing water veils, the gigantic boiling whirls in the deep and the quietly trembling rocks in the middle.


Source: "Rhein-Sagen, Geschichten entlang des Stromes"
Maternus Verlag Köln, translation from the German by Oliver Knill.