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This is a story of a very particular incidence that took place on May 23, 1837 in Cologne, Germany. The following events have been pieced together by the witnesses and survivors of one of the most frightening storms to ravage this planet, and its unearthly consequences.
Der Durchgang. The Gateway.
Maria Scholt had been gardening since the break of the Sun over the horizon. The small spot of dirt that was her yard was tilled, watered, and seeded – vegetables would come in a few months. As she wiped her brow, eyes lingering on the sky, her dark eyebrows drew together. It was unusual today, she thought. The blue was abnormally dark, the clouds were moving too fast.
“Der Himmel war erschreckend an diesem Tag… the sky was frightening that day. I remember thinking I’d better go inside, because a storm was evident, but my tomatoes were very nearly planted in the ground, I just wanted to finish… When I saw the wall of clouds that was coming, a thrill went through my very veins and I stood up to run inside. But I was too late; the clouds were over me, great black ones, clouds that I had never before seen. They were low, too, so low that I felt as thought I could simply reach up and brush them.”
Maria Scholt was one of the thousands of inhabitants caught outdoors and unawares by the storm. One moment, the azure sky was tinted black – the next, towering spires of cloud were frothing over the small town like unearthly being, groaning with the weight of its own monumental prowess. The winds followed quickly; survivors reported feeling the very ground beneath their feet shake as a wall of moving air swept across the town, flattening houses, uprooting trees, a veritable hurricane. The dogs in the town went mad with the noise made by the wind as it slipped between the branches of the remaining trees, its whistling inaudible to human ears yet deafening to the dogs’. Yet still, there was no lightning.
The rain came down like the tears of Atlas, furious from the outset. It, too, was unlike most earthly rain – the pellets burned to the touch, boiling as though there was a roaring furnace deep in the clouds. Those inside could here the wails of those still outdoors…
“I can never forget it,” writes Mikael Schmidt. “I could hear the screaming so loudly that it rang in my head for hours afterwards. I had left my dog outside – her yelps pierced through all the other screams to my very soul, begging me to come get her, but I was too scared, so very scared… After a few minutes, the noises ceased, and I lay shivering in my own sweat.”
Those outside when the rain came died within minutes. Houses caught fire, and residents had to make the choice whether to brave the flames or the scalding rain. Cologne slowly began its transformation into a graveyard.
It was then when the lightning came.
The first bolt struck a church bell in the north of the city. The toll could be heard for miles as the great, iron-cast bell shattered from the intense heat and the molten metal plummeted down to the pavement below like the rocks of Vesuvius. Then, all over the city, the heavenly white-fire came roaring forth, searing through the very air with cracks that shattered eardrums. Those hit by the monstrous bolts simply disappeared. The resulting thunder shook the bones of the residents still alive.
“Crying,” writes Maria. “I was crying and screaming and begging God to stay his hand, because I knew that the powers of hell had been unleashed. The lightning… oh god, the lightning! I had never seen anything like it, striking down over and over again, ten bolts at a time, splitting buildings in two, halving streets with a sharp report that left me stunned. And all the meanwhile, that awful burning rain kept pouring down…”
The storm raged for half an hour like this until it reached the pinnacle of its power. And this, my friends, is where we are most interested. Because this is when the inhabitants of Cologne, Germany witnessed Der Durchgang. The Gateway.
The lightning reached its most frequent interval. The flashes came hard and fast, creating moments of darkness and light so quickly that they blended into one sporadic picture. The roar was so deafening that the civilians, cowering in their homes, sat curled into balls, moaning and crying, praying that their house wasn’t rent to pieces by the might of God. And when the air was most filled with the white, crystalline light, the images appeared.
They appeared slowly, specters in the shadows, flickering with the light from the storm. They came purposefully, appearing in bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, closets… children and adults both, wearing black robes. They brought with them a piercing chill, the coldness of a world that has never felt the rays of the Sun…
The storm had torn the boundary between the living and those who had passed on. The barriers holding them back were breached, rent asunder by the ferocity of the storm, unleashing a flood of spirits, imprints of souls. They appeared as though images on a screen, wavering in the half-light, emerging from the darkest corners. But they grew in strength and numbers, and set about their purpose.
Maria Scholt watched with horror as they approached her and her son as they cowered in her bedroom.
“They appeared falteringly, but grew as the lightning became more relentless. Their eyes… they were black, tantalizing eyes, hungry for my gaze. The room became so cold I felt my tears freeze on my cheeks. The people were silent, too, just slipping over the floor, hands out-stretched for me and my son.”
The Gateway had been opened. The dead had returned for the living. Across the ravaged town of Cologne, the surviving inhabitants screamed in shrill terror as family members emerged from the recesses of the storm and came towards them. Many believed it was the end of the world. Some attempted to flee but got trapped by the sheer number of black wraiths. Those who were caught simply disappeared, vanishing into the heavy air.
The storm only lasted for one hour. In that time, the town was consumed in flames, thousands of inhabitants were killed, and the living specters of the dead emerged to claim their victims. The survivors emerged from their houses broken and deranged, having listened to the screams of the dying and watching their loved-ones overcome by their dead family members. Many committed suicide, unable to sleep at night, the memories still clear in their brain. The government quickly intervened and hushed up the incident, believing that the civilians were crazy from the severity of the storm. But those brave enough to tell their story made it known that on May 23, 1837, Der Durchgang was rent open over Cologne, Germany, and the worlds of the living and dead came together.