The Ghost of the Pied Piper, a guest post by S.A. Patrick

There are things from our earliest childhood that haunt us.

For me, there’s always been one particular bogeyman, a ghost I’ve never quite put to rest – the Pied Piper of Hamelin. We all know the story: the town of Hamelin is overrun by rats, and who should come along but a stranger dressed in multicolored clothes, a rat-catcher who claims he can rid them of their rodents. The townsfolk agree to the high price he sets, and he produces a pipe and begins to play. The music brings the rats out from every hiding place, all caught by the mysterious power that the stranger creates with his pipe. The rats follow him to the river, where they drown. The Piper returns, but the townsfolk break their promise – in some versions they pay less than agreed, while in others they refuse to pay at all. The angry Piper leaves, only to return that night and play his pipe once more. This time, it is the children of the town who follow; they, and the Piper, are never seen again.

What happened to them is a mystery, one which has always haunted me. Because at the heart of the legend is something that people are often unaware of – the story has its roots in something that really happened. Surely, then, we can look back to its origins and see what answers we find?