THE “Hochalp” (or High Alp), near Scharnitz, was some two centuries ago covered up to the top with the finest grass and woods, and the now cleared Fitzwald was the most beautiful forest in the whole Tyrol. It reached up to the very summit of the mountain, which was covered with such enormous trees, that three men could not encompass one of them with their arms; in one word, the Hochalp was a “Cow-Heaven,” as it was generally called by the peasants. Where now the sheep climb about, at that time there were but cows pastured, and the cattle thrived there better than anywhere else.
The Alp belonged to a rich peasant of Leutasch, named Simele, who had two sons, who, after his death, commenced a serious quarrel about which of them was to have the Alp. The younger brother was a good man, but the other was a real wretch; and, as they could not agree, they drew lots for the Alp, which fell to Johann, the younger of the two.
After this he married a good village girl, whom his brother Matz had set his eyes upon, and from whom he had received a refusal. Johann lived happily with his wife, while his brother boiled over with bitter spite, and month after month his determination of seeking revenge increased. He commenced a law suit, finding false witnesses, and swore a false oath, so that the Court declared the drawing invalid, and awarded the Alp to Matz.
Whilst all this was going on, Johann was busy on the Alp, and so heard nothing of the judgment; and as his brother entered fiercely into the hut, and tried to pitch him out of it, he defended himself until his herdsmen arrived, who chased him away, after having beaten him soundly. At this reception Matz foamed with rage; so, running home, he seized his gun, crept in the following night back to the hut in which his brother was sleeping, and shot him dead in his bed.
But Johann’s soul was scarcely out of his body, when God’s wrath appeared and fearfully punished the perjurer and fratricide. A terrible storm came on with lightning, thunder, snow, hail, and wild pouring rains, so that everything was overthrown and inundated. After that an earthquake convulsed the ground, and on both sides the mountains fell into the valley, covering the Alm huts and meadows more than sixty feet deep with débris. The murderer was swallowed among the falling rocks, and is condemned to suffer dreadfully beneath them. He is still heard very often shrieking in agony, and all the pilgrimages which his family have made for his redemption have been in vain.
As nobody could do anything with the valley covered with rocks and stones, the decried spot fell into the hands of the monastery of Werdenfels, and wherever it was possible, the monks have restored cultivation, so that new forests and meadows have in course of time sprung up upon the ruins of the once famous Alp.
A beautiful little chapel has been erected there, in which several times during the course of the year service is performed; but the spirit of the murderer still wanders around and groans so dreadfully during the night, that every one is terrified. There he must remain until the last day, and what will happen to him then God alone knows.