The evil bailiff of Harridslevgaard
While Harridslevgaard Estate enjoyed great success, the bailiff terrorised the lives of his farmers by using them as breeding stock, forcing them into marriages, and then rising from the grave – or so the story goes.
Harridslevgaard has many claims to fame: It has been called “The Robbers’ Castle” for its time as a robbers’ den and it has the largest private banqueting hall in Denmark, covering fully 400 m2. Perhaps its most eye-opening feature, however, is the story of the evil bailiff, Niels Hunderup.
In 1740, Christiane Hoppe inherited the estate on the death of her husband. This proved to be a true blessing for the estate, which grew strongly and thrived. Christiane established a successful stud farm and exported horses to a range of countries.
The success story was, however, blighted by the steward of the estate – known as a bailiff at that time – Niels Hunderup.
Revenge of the peasant farmers
Niels Hunderup believed that the estate’s success with horse breeding could be replicated with the peasant farmers. In brief, the strongest young men were to marry the prettiest girls. This would provide the estate with the best workforce.
Niels Hunderup also wanted to optimise operations by forcing newly widowed women to marry again swiftly, so that an efficient man could run the farm and support the widow. They were whipped and tortured until they gave their consent.
Occasionally, however, the farmers teamed up to administer a sound beating to Niels Hunderup. When he complained to the lady of the estate, her only comment was: “You were asking for it.”
The bailiff’s sister fell pregnant
In spite of his extensive experience with breeding, it is said that Niels Hunderup had intimate relations with his own sister. Incest was also illegal at that time. Niels Hunderup apparently intended to keep their affair a secret, but his sister fell pregnant.
Legend has it that the bailiff was so furious with her that he tied her to the tail of a horse, jumped up on its back and rode across the fields at full gallop. Perhaps he hoped that the ill treatment would “only” force her to miscarry, but she died of her injuries.
Niels Hunderup died in 1771 and his soul was doomed to roam the earthly realm. People living on the estate said that they saw him at night, riding a grey horse, where both man and beast had glowing eyes, and the farmhands heard him stamping around in the grain loft.
It is said that a local priest was finally called upon to banish Niels Hunderup’s spirit from the place.
The manor tales are written by Linda Corfitz