A Nachzehrer is a sort of ghoul in the folklore of Northern Germany.
Nachzehrer translates afterwards (nach) devourer (zehrer).
The Nachzehrer was prominent in the northern region of Germany, including Silesia and Bavaria, and also with the Kashubes of Northern Europe.
The Nachzehrer is similar to the Slavic vampire in that it was known to be a recently deceased person who returned from the grave to attack family and village acquaintances. However, nachzehrer is not a blood-sucker. Instead, he lives off of the consumption of already dead bodies. Typically a Nachzehrer devours its family members upon waking. Its also been said that they devour themselves, including their funeral shroud, and the more of themselves they eat, the more of their family they physically drain. It is not unlikely that the idea of the dead eating themselves might have risen from bodies in open graves who had been partly eaten by scavengers like rats. It is characteristic of a Nachzehrer to lie in its grave with its thumb in its opposite hand, and its left eye open.
The Nachzehrer usually originated from an unusual death such as a person who died by suicide or accident. They were also associated with epidemic sickness, such as whenever a group of people died from the same disease, the person who died first was labeled to be the cause of the group's death. Another belief was that if a person's name was not removed from his burial clothing, that person would be a candidate for becoming a Nachzehrer.
It was the belief in Bavaria that the Nachzehrer could be created if an individual was born with a caul or second skin.
Some Kashubes believed that the Nachzehrer would leave its grave, shapeshifting into the form of a pig, and pay a visit to their family members to feast on their blood. In addition, the Nachzehrer was able to ascend to a church belfry to ring the bells, bringing death to anyone who hears them. Another lesser known ability of the Nachzehrer is the power it had to bring death by causing its shadow to fall upon someone. Those hunting the Nachzehrer in the graveyard would listen for grunting sounds that it would make while it munched on its grave clothes.
How to protect against a Nachzehrer
To protect themselves from the Nachzehrer, villagers would place clumps of earth under the vampire's chin, place a coin or stone in its mouth, or tie a handkerchief tightly around its neck. In other cases, the corpse would be beheaded, a spike would be driven through head to pin the corpse to the ground, or the tongue would be fixed into place.
How to kill a Nachzehrer
The official killing myth says you can kill a Nachzehrer by placing a coin in its mouth, and then axing off its head. It can be discerned from this that a mere coin in the mouth may result in paralysis as some myths say that a stake through a vampires heart does.
- Maberry, Jonathan. Vampire Universe. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp. Copyright (c)2006 by Jonathan Maberry.
- Maberry, Jonathan. The Vampire Slayer's Field Guide to the Undead. Canada: Strider Nolan Publishing, Inc. Copyright (c)2003 by Jonathan Maberry.