Total Pageviews

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Professor's Post: The Mysterious Tower

After extensive research at several Flemish archives, I have determined that the conical tower standing alongside the canal just outside our balcony has a colorful legend--or perhaps a sanguine history.

The structure was built in the mid-16th century as a toll collector's station for ships, laden with flax and tulip bulbs, coming up the canal from Damme and Bruges. The tower fell into disuse and disrepair in the late 17th century, but it soon found a new and unexpected function. In 1689 the Duke of Ghent used it to imprision a vicious dwarf, Nils Vander Witloof, a court jester convicted of embezzling money from a  local bishop who had much to hide.

Prior to his execution, Witloof asked if he could be moved from his dungeon cell in the Gravensteen Castle to the tower, alleging that he wanted to gaze upon the beloved canal (from the slits cut into the brickwork) before he died. The Duke complied, but it was a fatal mistake. While confined to the tower, Witloof made friends with the birds (magpies, gulls and moor hens), who brought him sticks, sharp stones, and bits of twine. With these materials the ingenius dwarf fashioned a bow and arrow.

One afternoon as the Duke was being rowed down the canal on his way to a banquet (or possibly a romantic assignation), Witloof took aim through the slit and shot a crudely fashioned arrow that took out the Duke's right eye.

For this he was flayed before being drawn and quartered. Some elderly local residents claim on winter nights there is a sound emanating from the tower that is a ghostly echo of Witloof's wicked laugh as his arrow struck home. Or it could just be the east wind.


  1. You should be ashamed for posting lies that others will now disseminate as truths forevermore. Who do you think you are, Wikipedia?

    1. When it turns up in a student paper, I'll known I'm going to hell.