Did a German secret society resort to human sacrifice to stem the tide of the First World War in Germany’s favour? Was the builder of a house that became known as The Round House a member of this order? Were human remains found, and was there a geoglyph in the shape of the supreme god of Nordic mythology carefully hidden in the landscape around this enigmatic edifice? Does the landscape itself offer more clues pointing to a carefully constructed occult geography? Was all of this known in certain select circles and was that the reason that the house was destroyed in 1967?
These questions and many others haunt a rural village in the Netherlands. The mystery has been known for some time by a select group of journalists and writers who were in possession of the same, fragmentary source. Last year, the situation changed with the publication of a book that has left me with more questions than answers. Titled De Geschiedenis van Het Ronde Huis, Mysteries Ontrafeld… (The History of The Round House, Mysteries unravelled…), the book is the result of a study by an anonymous ‘working group’, consisting of seven persons. Sixty-five year old former bank employee Hans Schalkwijk is one of them. He is listed as the unofficial ‘author’ of the book and acts as spokesperson for this group. He became interested in the mystery over forty years ago.
In the book the group claims it has spent a considerable amount of time, decades in fact, investigating the mystery of the Round House. It has built up a comprehensive archive on the case, it further claims, yet the book is unreferenced and much of the testimony in the book is by anonymous sources. I have not seen the archive. I only know it from Schalkwijk’s description, so I don’t know what it contains. Since the claims are so wild and there is no documentary evidence, the book has only led to more controversy, with fierce proponents and opponents. After a short flurry of minor interest, the national media have dropped the case.
But let us first examine the strange story of the mystery of the Round House itself.
A local hermit by the name of Johan Montenberg begins to tell a strange story to Schalkwijk, who he meets in 1972. Montenberg is a distrustful man. He doesn’t tell the story in one breath, but rather, by bits and pieces, by hints here and there, and by rambling letters to various persons, over a longer period of time.
What he hints at is hair-raising and unbelievable. A tale unfolds of secret rituals, a German occult order, and the abduction of young girls for human sacrifice. Mention is made of subterranean passages and a lime pit where the bodies of the hapless victims are disposed of. As recent as 2011, a local weekly states that human remains were found in 1916 and the corpse of a young girl in 1917. A police investigation at around 1924 is said to have been halted on ‘orders of superiors’. All of this is said to have occurred before, during and after the First World War. In that war the Netherlands had a neutral status.
On these points though Schalkwijk is adamant. “There was no corpse found in 1924, no human remains were dug up. There is no system of underground passageways. I found absolutely no evidence”. Schalkwijk’s words were printed in a Dutch newspaper five months ago. Yet he remains convinced that around the time of the First World War a pagan-Germanic order existed that practiced occult warfare.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Europe was literally riddled with secret societies and occult orders, and Germany was no exception. Ariosophy, theosophy, anthroposophy and countless of other, lesser known sects, cults and orders flocked the streets. There was for instance the O.T.O. that came into existence between 1895 and 1904. Others were the Germanenorden, founded in 1912 in Berlin and having a swastika as its symbol. From it ultimately sprang forth the Thule Gesellschaft, formally founded in 1918. There were many more virulent antisemitic and Volkische orders. Political murders, especially after the defeat of Germany in the First World War were the order of the day. But no evidence has ever come to light of instances of human sacrifice in these German-Austrian occult circles, which makes the claims surrounding the Round House especially hard to believe.
At the centre of the dark mystery stands a wealthy Dutchman, Frank van Vloten (1858 – 1930), who has a reputation for eccentricity. Some stories claim he always dressed in black, rode a black horse and was known as ‘the black devil’. In 1906 Van Vloten begins the construction of a curious building. It is a circular shaped stone house of three stories and a flat roof on his large estate near Nunspeet, a little Dutch town in a wooded area called the Veluwe. A private pony tram on a Decauville track delivers guests from the local train station to the building that quickly acquires the name The Round House.
Strange rumours begin to swirl around it although it is hard to say when this exactly started. It is said that a woman, dressed entirely in black, now and then visits the house. On certain occasions, it is claimed, she brings a number of young girls, veiled and also dressed in black with the private horse carriage. The children arrive, but are never seen leaving. It is said that some of the labourers who work for Van Vloten know what happens with these girls, but keep their mouths tightly shut out of fear of reprisals. When these rumours begin to emerge in the local Nunspeet newspaper in 1976, they are rebuffed and delegated to the realms of fantasy by others who visited the Round House in their childhoods. It is later claimed that the reporter who wrote the 1976 story immigrated to Canada because of serious threats made to his life.
The book also cites an anonymous, handwritten account in a notebook. It is said to have been written by a man who hunted regularly during the First World War in the woods around the Round House. Read aloud to one of the researchers in 2006, it states in detail what happened:
“Had a conversation with H. in regards to the rumours about the Round House… He finally confirmed that German rituals took place on the grounds of the Round House. First in the house and then outside. Always at full moon. The girls, usually a number of about six, were given a drug to drink and were thus put in a state of hypnosis… At one of the small ponds, a sacrificial stone was placed on a pedestal. Next to it in an inclination in the ground a fire burned… The priest with a hood with two holes for the eyes killed the girl with a sword. It is not known who this man is. The group went back to the Round House and the priest stayed behind and disposed of the body…”
Other accounts surface over the years, such as this one by a by now deceased, local artist-painter:
“We were so poor, that I used to hunt a rabbit in the woods… One night I was at it again. At the pond I heard voices and saw a light gleaming. I hid behind a tree to have a look. At the bank of the pond there were a number of girls with oil lamps. They were standing in a half circle, facing the pond. Twelve to fifteen girls, probably twenty years old. In front of them was a woman facing them. A sturdy woman of about 40 years old. The girls wore white blouses and dark skirts, possibly red in colour. On their heads they wore some kind of hood. In fact more a band round the head with on their foreheads something glistening. Around their waits something that looked like a little apron or bag. The older woman wore a long, dark dress, possibly red in colour too. Something glistening was hanging on her chest. I think a chain or something. All the girls and the woman put up their right hand with two fingers in the air. It seemed like an oath taking. The older woman said something, after which the girls repeated it. Afterwards the woman threw something over her shoulder in the pond, perhaps a stone or a coin. Then the girls began to sing softly. During the singing a number of men approached the girls. They must have been standing farther away in the dark. I became frightened and left immediately.”
How much of these weird tales without any possibility of checking should we believe? That is the main gripe of the opponents and I can’t blame them. I have talked to Schalkwijk and asked him if he or the group he represents had any documentary, verifiable evidence for the existence of that German occult order. His reply was that he had three oral sources but no documentary evidence.
We will take a critical look at the problem of references in a further instalment. But first we need to hear what else Schalkwijk and his group have to say, as the story gets even stranger. They claim that there is, or rather was, evidence as to the occult nature of Van Vloten and his order. It is not found in archives, but in the landscape around the Round House.
Did a German secret society resort to human sacrifice to stem the tide of the First World War in Germany’s favour? Was the builder of a house that became known as The Round House a member of this order? Were human remains found, and were the outlines of a giant Wodan, the supreme god of Nordic mythology, carefully hidden in the landscape around this enigmatic edifice? Was the area surrounding the house witness to bizarre rituals? A shadowy group of investigators claims so.
Around the 1900’s, the exact date or year is shrouded in uncertainty, wealthy estate owner Frank Van Vloten suddenly starts with a series of extensive landscape and garden projects on his estate. The labourers who work for him do not understand why, as almost everything they are ordered to do to makes no sense from an agricultural point of view. On the surface, there seems to be no logical plan behind the work. ‘But there was work, and therefore food on the table’, is the consensus among the labourers.
The working group investigating the mysteries that swirl around the house is set on the trail of looking at the landscape surrounding the Round House instead of delving through what archives remain, by a chance discovery. They find what they see as a clue in the files of a former SS affiliated archaeologist. Before World War II, the archaeologist had done some excavation work at the Mythstee. This is a spot in the vicinity of the Round House, since long rumoured to have been an ancient Germanic place of worship.
The former SS affiliated archaeologist, Frans Christiaan Bursch (1903-1981), seen above in the comfort of his study in the 1930′s, has a chequered past, to say the least. During the Second World War, from 1940 to 1945, Bursch became a member of the N.S.B., a Dutch pro-Nazi organisation. 1943 finds him at the Ukraine, involved in excavations with the use of slave labour. Notwithstanding his N.S.B. membership and his affiliation to Heinrich Himmler’s occult research institute Ahnenerbe, he escapes any consequences after the end of the war in 1945. Until his death in 1981, he is a teacher in classical languages. Bursch, as might be expected from someone who had the dark overlord as his master, saw ancient German ruins and remains everywhere. In how far Bursch was working on a theory involving a giant pictogram and a geoglyph in the vicinity of the Mythstee, is hard to say. His remaining archive offers no further clue, and his post-war book makes no mention of it.
The Mythstee, another source points out, is a place of evil. He recounts vague rumours that ghosts and other strange creatures were frequently seen there. “Dark and bloody rituals said to have been conducted at the Mythstee and for a long time there were those that claimed that the famous Varus Battle took place there, and not somewhere in Germany. Wild German hordes whipped into frenzy by their druids sacrificed the vanquished Romans on the earthen walls of the Mythstee. This was the cause that the Pan-Germanic movement had a more than usual interest in that particular spot, as it was also placed on a ‘Heilige Lijn’, the German equivalent of a ley-line. This line allegedly was restored in 1891 by the Alldeutscher Verein. That was the motive for the construction of the Round House and its inhabitant, Frank van Vloten, was placed there under orders of the Pangermanic movement.” Modern archaeology though has established that the Mythstee is a curious, but natural formation.
What the working group finds in the files of the deceased archaeologist on the Mythstee is a depiction of the Giant of Cerne Abbas. Wondering about the presence of this seemingly unrelated image in that file, the question arises: would it be possible that the landscape surrounding The Round House might have hidden a similar figure?
In the light of this theory, the extensive work done on the estate begins to make sense. The landscaping, the planting or removing or relocation of bushes, the digging of certain ditches and paths and the creation of artificial hills all serve to create, in deepest secret, a giant figure of Wodan, only to be seen from the sky, with the Round House in its centre. For that is Wodan’s remaining eye.
Schalkwijk , the spokesman for the anonymous group investigating this mysterious house, claims that he and his group investigated the surrounding area with the use of soil investigations, measuring equipment and ‘other sources’. They arrive at the conclusion that The Round House and the estate were constructed according to ‘German rites’. Seen from above, the giant image of the Nordic god Wodan would be visible. The Round House is his one remaining eye. Schalkwijk even manages to reconstruct a helmet and a spear in the landscape. In a bush he recognizes a beard and moustache. They further claim to have found at the south a ditch in the form of a phallus, with a vulva nearby, at walking distance. “We got the most insane orders, replacing hills, dig away soil and construct rice fields. We never saw rice”, the labourers tell. These statements strengthen Schalkwijk and his group in their conviction.
From other quarters too, it is murmured that the place has a reputation for weirdness. Some visitors will later claim that they felt haunted by a strange, oppressive atmosphere when visiting the by now wooded area. Other tales recount how many times, in the past but also in the present, little people were seen who allegedly had an abode in the vicinity of the Mythstee. But that is not everything. A wealthy family buys an estate adjacent to The Round House and the Mythstee in the 1930’s. Some of its members behave very curiously and subsequently more rumours start that a ‘Germanic-Celtic cult’ practice its rituals at the Round House. When National Socialism emerges, eugenic experiments were conducted there as well. Mention is made of unholy orgies with certain very high placed German-friendly Dutchmen. There’s even mention of the ghostly appearances of four or five girls. They can be seen wandering over the nearby path sometimes at night, their arms tightly clutched.
The problem though is that the existence of a huge geoglyph in the form of Wodan remains unproven too. On the aerial photos that have been studied by enthousiasts and researchers of the myth, nothing is seen. Also, but a few traces remain of the original landscape projects of Frank Van Vloten, seen above in a family picture in the upper right corner. Are Schalkwijk and his group of fellow researchers deluded and do they simply want to see things that are not there at all? What certainly doesn’t give one confidence is that almost anything in the book on the case is unsourced. We don’t know who spoke to whom, when or how.
But the strange stories remain.
In regards to these weird tales about little men and unholy rites by a ‘German-Celtic cult’, these stem from an odd source as well. They appear in some curious leaves with intricate drawings, done by an elderly and deceased man by thename of Eldermans. Not much is known about him, what remained of his archive when Eldermans destroyed most of it towards the end of his life, is for the most part found in a museum for witchcraft. Eldermans himself is described by his late son-in-law with simply one word: ‘witch’.
Perhaps a closer examination of the purported shadowy group responsible for the occult activity during World War One might shed some much-needed light on the matter. It is perhaps here, in the various allegations of occult orders working on behalf of Imperial Germany, that we may be able to shed some light on the matter.
A shadowy group of anonymous Dutch researchers claims that a building known as the Round House, since long demolished, was the centre of unholy rituals and even human sacrifice. This all occurred, so they claim, during the First World War, by a mysterious order called the Freya Brotherhood. With the help of these rituals they tried to stem the tide of the war in Germany’s favour. However, since not a single shred of evidence is offered and their claims are therefore hard to believe, I took the other way and researched in how far the existence of such a group during the First World War is likely.
The First World War was the first major conflict that saw all the civilised nations of the world at each other’s throats. It represented unimaginable horror in many different ways. A war that many thought would be over by Christmas dragged on for four grinding years. The millions of men, so eager and happy to march into the cauldron of death would lose their lives, lurking in the trenches filled with putrid water. Pummelled senseless by giant artillery attacks that lasted hours on end, mowed down by the newly perfected machineguns, set alight by flame throwers or ending up as twisted, broken corpses caught in the barbed wire obstacles littering the nightmare landscape that was the front. There were even rumours of bands of soldiers who either had lost their minds or had simply deserted, clung together in groups turned ferociously cannibal, on the prowl for warm flesh in the labyrinthine trenches of no-mans land.
There were strange occurrences too, growing into legends over time. There were the famous Angels of Mons, or encounters with a radiant white entity, always there in the hour of need, called the Comrade in White. There was the story of the terrible Hound of Mons, outfitted with a human brain by a mad German scientist. The First World War was so peppered with strange events that a number of books were solely devoted to these anomalies. Just one year after the war, in 1919, the book Légendes, prophéties et superstitions de la Grande Guerre (Legends, prophecies and superstitions of the Great War) by French linguist Albert Dauzat saw print. Amongst others, the book lists a sighting of an aerial object that we could classify as a UFO:
In the first days of November 1918, at the moment when President Wilson and the German government were holding preliminary discussions concerning a cease-fire, the tale ran across the American front that a ‘white dove of peace’ had, on a clear day, circled the lines for more than an hour. It was an aeroplane, according to the testimony of a colonel and two majors: they even recalled certain less truthful details, which proved that they too were the victims of a mild form of suggestion. It was, they said, a completely white aeroplane, of a type unknown on the western front, not carrying an insignia of any kind, and, flying very high, it passed over the American trenches, then circled the German lines.
It did so for over an hour, then turned north and disappeared.
Sometimes the stories of these events that travelled through the trenches as they were whispered from soldier to soldier were the source of brief comfort and solace. Since if not blinded or worse by poison gas, killed by snipers or gnawed upon by rats as large as little dogs, soldiers were routinely executed branded as cowards. Shell shock after all was still unrecognized as the true psycho-medical cause for the inertia in following up orders. Orders that many times were as senseless as the conflict that was, in fact, an ordinary family brawl between the royal houses; after all, the German Kaiser was a nephew of the British Queen, and both were family of the Russian Tsar.
But the ultimate tragedy was that technology had a much faster pace than the willingness and ability of the old generals to comprehend the effects and the need for change in their ancient strategies and battlefield tactics. This was a new type of war. The First World War saw the advent of the airplane and the tank as formidable weapons of war. But each day thousands of soldiers were hurtled against the devastating fire of the machinegun, the minefield and the flame thrower, dying totally unnecessary deaths often for but a few feet of gain in terrain that strategically meant nothing but undoubtedly helped some general from losing face. No wonder then, that, when the war became a stalemate, a war of attrition, some of Germany’s generals resorted to less conventional means to try and win the war or at least to gain some insight in the unfolding tragedy that ultimately left 60 million people dead. It would even be claimed after the war that the Angels of Mons were in fact a German psyop – but one so novel and unusual that it had backfired on its own troops.
One of these was German general Helmuth von Moltke. His spiritual needs gained Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Anthroposophical movement, a listening ear. Steiner corresponded with Moltke while he was alive, but also after Moltke died. Steiner, a recent study clarifies, embraced Moltke as a latent spiritualist and one of his followers, potentially an important Anthroposophist. Both Moltke and his wife, Eliza, studied Steiner’s works, which they found compelling. In a letter to his wife, Moltke wrote that Steiner’s teachings struck a chord in him: “No other philosophizing author has so far been more comprehensible to me than he.” Steiner returned von Moltke’s high regard, finding in him the reincarnated Pope Nicholas I. When Moltke was appointed chief of staff, the Chief of the Military Cabinet was ready to resign, stating that: “Above all, he (Moltke) was a religious dreamer, who believed in guardian angels, faith-healing and similar nonsense.” Moreover, Moltke was often accused of being a spiritualist.
Then there was German general Karl Haushofer who commanded a brigade on the western front. It was said that he had the uncanny gift of prediction, knowing exactly where and when the enemy would start an artillery barrage. It is claimed that he even knew the exact numbers of casualties and that his predictions always became true. In time Haushofer befriended Rudolf Hess and he would visit a World War I veteran turned aspiring politician by the name of Adolf Hitler in Landsberg prison.
General Erich Ludendorff, who after the war became an ally of Adolf Hitler, began to publish his tirades against secret societies – especially freemasonry and the Jesuits – after the war. This he did with his second wife, Mathilde Ludendorff, who founded with him the Bund fur Gotteserkenntnis (Society for the Knowledge of God), an obscure theist society that is still in existence.
Mathilde (see her portrait picture around 1924 below) was trained in psychiatry and relentlessly attacked the various strands of occultism of her day, arguing that it had led to the development of mental illness in a number of her patients. She also claimed that Moltke had lost the first battle of the Marne because he was under the influence of one Lisbeth Seidler, a devotee of Rudolf Steiner. Nevertheless, she cooperated with a number of leading figures of the post World War I Volkische scene, such as Rudolf John Gorsleben, Otto Siegfried Reuter and Karl Maria Willigut, who is named ‘Himmler’s Rasputin’ and who was amongst others responsible for the design of the infamous Totenkopf ring that only the members of the SS could wear.
In the light of the above, how probable is it then that on Dutch soil – and we must remember that The Netherlands was neutral in World War I – some offshoot of an also unidentified German order or group was involved in ritual human sacrifice? Even the shadowy group isn’t certain. So they throw in a brief overview of a mere two pages, mentioning the Golden Dawn, the Germanorden, the O.T.O and the Thule Gesellschaft. The short overview is riddled with errors (they describe for instance Erich Ludendorff as one who was ‘steeped deeply in the occult’ where actually he was against anything having to do with occultism). In doing so, all the important studies that have appeared over the years on these groups and characters have been bypassed. My guess is obviously, because these studies were not consulted.
They settle on an even more unlikely candidate: the group around Stefan Anton George (see his portrait picture above) entitled Die Kosmiker. George (1868-1933) though foresaw a sad end of the coming war in 1914, a viewpoint he also reflected in his pessimistic poem Der Krieg (The War) that he penned between then and 1916. Also, although National-Socialists expressed his influence (interestingly Albert Speer’s brother Hermann was a member of George’s inner circle), many of the leading members of the German resistance, such as the Stauffenberg brothers, were introduced to George. One of the brothers, Claus von Stauffenberg, would later become involved in the botched assassination attempt on Hitler on 20 July 1944.
If there actually is a context for this kind of dangerous alternative reality story telling, the 1930’s would have been much better situated as a backdrop for their wild claims. In 1931 for instance, a Dutch Ario-Germanic Society was founded that propagated the study of the works of Austrian Volkische author Guido von List. One of its founding members, a J.R. de Haan, proclaimed during a meeting in 1934: “Culture is the cultivation of nature and its architect is the Führer!” Another of its members, Dutch theosophist and later member of the SS Fokko van Till, even stood at the base of the nudism movement in the Netherlands. He had founded a nudist group modelled after the German Treubund für aufsteigendes Leben (Brotherhood or Loyalty Club for Ascending Life) of German Richard Ungewitter, a pioneer in nudism in Germany. In 1923 Ungewitter introduced the idea of ‘racial hygiene’, and in Van Till’s group only those were allowed to join if they were of ‘aryan descent’. The group published a short-lived magazine and had its own premises since 1929. Neighbours were not amused.
In 1941 a Dutch Celtic-German study circle named Yggdrasil was active, lecturing on topics as Atlantis and the spurious Oera-Linda book (see the image below featuring a page from the manuscript). The book also had enthralled Herman Wirth, a Dutchman who was appointed first director of Himmler’s Hogwarth, the Ahnenerbe Institut, much to the chagrin of Germany’s scientific circles. And indeed, in a pamphlet published in 1940 about the Oera Linda book and written by J.F. Overwijn, a member of Yggdrasil, he refers here and there to the ‘Fryas’, which he saw as a pre-Germanic tribe living in a time ‘in which there was no mention of Greek and Roman thoughts’.
But to return to the secrets of the Round House, I found no evidence of such a dark cult in existence in World War I Netherlands. It is just one of those tales extracted out of a muddy soup of supposition, hearsay and taking great liberty with verifiable history. Perhaps the little known historical details of the Dutch connections with ariosophy in the 1920′s and 30′s were garbled beyond recognition into the lurid accounts surrounding the Round House and its World War I killer cult.
There is a Dutch forum where opponents and proponents meet regularly in verbal sparring matches. The last development to date is the introduction of the Rennes-le-Château mystery to provide some extra flavour and, who knows, respectability. This is a development that I predicted some time ago, when I first became interested in the mystery of The Round House. And it also serves as a caveat: if there truly are historical grounds for a mystery to exist, over time the mystery becomes smaller in outline, as we travel to its epicenter. False mysteries, the so-called modern mythologies, on the contrary become larger, as more and more strands are pulled into the fray. We travel not inward, but are pushed outward to end up in a vexing maze where anything goes as in fact, at the core of this modern myth-mongering there is ultimately nothing of any significance to behold.
Source part1: http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2013/04/the-mysteries-of-the-round-house-part-i-dark-rituals/
Source part3: http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2013/07/the-mysteries-of-the-round-house-part-iii-the-secret-brotherhood/
Source part3: http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2013/07/the-mysteries-of-the-round-house-part-iii-the-secret-brotherhood/