Aug 5, 2019
Pressure spirits are one of the most common types of supernatural entities in German folklore. We have encountered Drudes earlier, who (at least in that story) were willing to and capable of intruding into people’s homes. The “Aufhocker”, in contrast, tend to be roadside encounters - anyone who travels past their haunts risks having them jump on their backs and “ride” them to exhaustion. In the two stories presented here, the Aufhocker takes the form of an old woman, but they can take on many other forms besides in the stories.
The back-squatting spirit
Uncanny forces are said to be at work roughly in the middle between Plate and Schwerin, where the road leading to Schwerin is crossed by the cart path. Six years ago the house-painter T. walked back to the city after his daily work was done in Plate. Then he saw a figure coming to meet him at the crossroads. She was clothed in black, large and gaunt, with a bald plate and long white teeth she was constantly showing, as well as long, thin fingers. He considered whether he should address her or simply proceed on his way, and decided on the latter. But as soon as he took a few steps, the thing sat down on his basket with his painter’s tools. He dragged himself forward under the greatest effort. After he had taken about four hundred steps he reached a place where a path went off the road to the right. At this point the figure jumped off and pushed him a few steps forward. He didn’t dare to look back immediately because his head would have become stuck askew. When he finally did look back after some time, nothing could be seen.
 The “cart path” was called “Fahrweg” in Germany. There is a “Fährweg” in the south of Schwerin, but it ends to the west of the “Plater Straße”, which would be the logical location for travelers between Schwerin and Plate. A logical extension of the Fährweg would be the small, unnamed road that hits the “Am Consrader Berg” road, which turns into the Plater Straße further north. Thus, I suspect this story takes place in the area where the local Straßenmeisterei (road maintenance depot) is located today.
Commentary: This is an archetypal tale of an Aufhocker encounter - a lone traveler meets the spirit, which then jumps on his back with no explanation, just wearing them down by their weight and driving them to exhaustion. And then, some time later, they vanish into the night - and we never learn who they were or why they behaved in this manner.
The back-squatting woman
Three journeyman millers, who worked at the Faulenrost Mill, once went to the Zum Kruge pub in Rittermannshagen after work. When they were on the way home and reached a crossroads, one journeyman called out to the others: “Look, there is sitting someone!” The two other journeyman, who couldn’t see anything, asked their comrade - who was a Sunday Child - what he was seeing. “There’s an old woman sitting in the thorn bush!” he replied, and since he was a stout-hearted fellow he walked to the thorn bush in order to talk with the woman sitting there. But as soon as he reached the bush, the two others he had left behind heard a loud yell. Deeply frightened, they fled away. Their co-worker only reached the mill a few hours later. His entire body was wet and he was barely able to stand due to his exhaustion. The next morning he told his fellow journeymen that the old woman had immediately jumped on his back and caused him great hardship. Despite trying his best to shake her off, the old hag stuck to his back as if she had taken roots in him, and he was only able to get rid of her just before he reached the mill. From now on the journeyman was no longer able to get to Rittermannshagen in the evenings without challenge, for the old haunting woman sat on his back every time. In the end she even came to the mill and waited for him there, or she called to him to come out when he was milling flour at night. In the end, this was too much for the beleaguered journeyman miller. Thus he packed his bundle, took his wanderer’s staff, and traveled out into the world.
 Rittermannshagen is now part of the municipality of Faulenrost. It no longer seems to have a pub these days.
Commentary: While this is not explicitly sexual harassment, it comes close - and the stalking will be all too familiar to many victims of sexual harassment. The reversal of the usual gender dynamics might also be noteworthy - it’s worth remembering that traditionally, such tales were told by the older women of a household, who might have had experiences with stalkers of their own in the past.
A “Sunday Child” (“Sonntagskind”) - someone who was born on a Sunday - was generally believed to have some sort of second sight, seeing ghosts and spirits that were invisible to others. Personally, I cannot attest to seeing any ghosts - as far as I know…
The rank of “Journeyman” also requires some explanation - it was the “middle rank” in the German apprenticeship system that has persisted from the Middle Ages to the modern day (in slightly altered form). After young people completed their apprenticeship, it was expected that they would travel the land and learn more about their trade under different masters until they, too, could get the right to be called “Masters” of their trade. The “bundle” and the “wanderer’s staff” were recognizable symbols of their status, in addition to being useful tools.
Translation notes: Translating the original title of the story - originally “Die Aufhockerin” - was a bit of a challenge. “Aufhocker” is, of course, the “standard” name of this creature, but the “-hocker” (“stool”) implies the masculine. Thus, the suffix “-in” was added to make the word “feminine”, similar to how “male” profession titles can be altered into “female” forms: “Arzt” -> “Ärztin” (“doctor”), “Lehrer” -> “Lehrerin” (“teacher”), “Polizist” -> “Polizistin” (“police officer”). This makes it rather more difficult to use gender-neutral language in German than in English, and I will leave the modern-day efforts to this effect to your imagination - but suffice to say, the debates surrounding this topic tend to be… vigorous.
Thus, I felt it best to translate the meaning of the term “Aufhocker” instead of using the term itself.