IN THE ancient castle of Büchsenhausen, which stands just above Innsbruck, still wanders about the apparition of one of its former possessors. The legend does not say to whom the castle originally belonged, but old chronicles relate that it passed, in the sixteenth century, into the hands of the celebrated iron-founder, Gregor Löffler, who gave it the name of “Büchsenhausen” (home of guns), because he had established there a gunfoundry. Later on it fell into the power of the reigning family of Austria, and the Archduchess Claudia presented it to her favourite Chancellor, Wilhelm von Biener, a liberal-minded nobleman, gifted with the doubtful talent of writing the most cutting satires, whose venomous point he turned against the nobility and church, and, for this reason, he brought upon himself the hatred of all those against whose opinion he wrote; but the favour of the Archduchess protected the talented statesman, who was most faithfully devoted to her interests.
On the 2nd of August, 1648, the Archduchess died, and then the enemies of Herr von Biener set to work so energetically that, after a short time, they succeeded in turning him out of his position, and imprisoned him on the 28th of August, 1650. A royal commission of noblemen, consisting of Biener’s greatest enemies, hastened down to Büchsenhausen, and claimed from his wife all his papers and documents, amongst which they discovered satires, which were most useful to their purpose. He was accused of high-treason, and, as his enemies were both his accusers and judges, he was condemned to death. His wife visited him while he was in prison, and he, who knew himself to be guiltless of any crime, always consoled her with these words:--“There can be no God in Heaven if they are allowed to murder an innocent man.”
On the 17th of July, 1651, Herr von Biener was executed in public. The sword which was used on the occasion is still to be seen in the castle of Büchsenhausen. His wife had sent a messenger to the Emperor to pray for a reprieve, which he had granted; but one of Biener’s most deadly enemies, President Schmaus, of the Austrian Court, stopped the messenger, and of course the execution ensued.
A few days afterwards, the rascal who had stopped the merciful errand of the Emperor was found dead through the judgment of God. Frau von Biener went raving mad; through the whole house she tore from room to room, crying, “There is no God; there is no God.” At last she climbed up the peak behind the Martinswand, and threw herself over a precipice into a deep chasm, out of which she was carried a corpse to Höttingen, where she was buried on the left-hand side of the altar, under a plain tombstone bearing no inscription, and with only a cross cut upon it.
Since her death she has appeared very often as a wandering ghost to a great number of persons, and the inhabitants of the surrounding country have given her the name of the “Bienerweibele” (Biener’s Wife). Clad in long black robes, slowly and solemnly she walks along through all the rooms in the castle, passes through firmly locked doors, stops with a woeful look at the bedside of peacefully sleeping people, appears to each proprietor and his wife before their death with wonderful consolation, always foretelling the immediate approach of the “Dreaded Spirit,” and never harms those who have never done her any injury. But in the year 1720, it happened that a descendant of one who had been instrumental in her husband’s death, who was sleeping in the castle, was found dead in his bed on the following morning, with a most fearfully contorted neck. The ghost appears in a black velvet mantle, and bears on her head a little bonnet, called in the dialect of the country, “Hierinnen,” embroidered with black lace, and on the back of her head a beautiful little golden crown, which is fastened on her hair by the means of a silver pin. People say that in former times the apparition was quite black, but at present it is more grey, and every day she is becoming more light, until at last her unhappy spirit will be redeemed.