THE LEGEND OF EVIL COUNTS
Count von Forno, the master of Leśnica, was an evil and hot-tempered man. Wherever he went, his lieges were hiding from him, afraid of his anger. In the eyes of the castle servants one could always see terrible fear. From the place he was at a given moment, people could hear his awful curses. The count’s men were insulted, beaten and given lashes with his whip, which he always carried with him.
One day, when the count flew into a rage with one of his servant, he stabbed the poor man and threw him out of the window. It is said that this was the left window over the entrance, on the second floor. In the chamber where it all happened the blood stains remained – and no one could manage to clean them.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as they say. The young count was very similar to his father and treated his people the same cruel way. One day, when he felt attracted to one of the local girls, he started to pester her. The girl was actually very pretty, but also very decent, so she tried to keep the young count at arm’s length. Eventually the spoilt youth caught her in some secluded place. The girl wanted to run away, but the persecutor chased after her. Seeing that there’s no way out, she threw herself in despair into the Bystrzyca river and drowned. The place where she died is still believed to be dangerous for the swimmers, even nowadays – the water there is dark, almost black and always forms a whirlpool. From time to time a black bird flies over it and while making circles over the river, shrieks with dismal.
When the old count died, there was joy all around. The crowds came to the cemetery to see his persecutor buried in the ground. But coming back from the funeral, they all suddenly noticed the dead count standing still by the window of his chamber. “Where have you been, people?”, he asked.
People, half dead from fear, entered the castle and found out that the count was behaving like he had before – cursing and insulting everyone. He stayed in the castle for some time, suddenly he disappeared and moved to the peak of a nearby mountain. One of the female servants was obliged to bring him food there. Every day at noon sharp, she had to climb the mountain, leave the food and walk away, without looking back. Every time she came, she got a piece of silver as her payment. One time, when she was a little late, the count slapped her face so hard that she fell on the ground and lay there unconscious for some time. When she woke up, she managed to crawl back to the village, but died soon after. Since then no one wanted to carry the food to the mountain.
From that moment on the only thing the count did was making passers by – even those who knew the area very well – lose their way whenever they happened to walk near the mountain around noon. In the castle he left his portrait presenting him on the horse, with the whip in the hand. This whip cracked from time to time so loudly, that it could be heard in every chamber. Von Forno looked at everyone with his evil eyes so it gave people the creeps. When someone touched the painting, a terrible noise was heard. After the castle was taken over by a new owner, the portrait was taken off the wall and out of the castle – eventually life came back to normal.
It is believed that on the Leśnica cemetery there was once a big battle of the ghosts that rose from the dead and fought until they all disappeared under the ground again. Some people believe that this has something in common with a note from 1689: it said that somewhere in Leśnica the count tried to convert 50 men with their families to catholic faith. When they refused and found shelter in the cemetery, they were all shot and the bodies were thrown in the water.
One dealing with history may found traces of real events in this legend. Feudal lords never treated their subjects fairly, which was even more severe in the Silesian grounds, as here it was based on nationalistic premises. The Silesian gentry was either German or Germanized, while the peasants kept Polish language and customs.
The family of von Forno came to the Lower Silesia from Bohemia in the 17th century, settled down in Leśnica, in the Wrocław neighborhood and never enjoyed a good reputation. Its last descendant died in 1733. The legend probably tells the story of Horatius von Forno, who was the president of the Königliche Breslauer Kammer (Wrocław Royal Chamber) and died in Wroclaw, in his own house in the Market Square, in 1654. Wrocław Municipal Council (protestant) agreed for the funeral in Blessed Virgin Mary on the Sand Island church, but it had to take place at night, with no ceremonies and choir.