400 years ago, on Epiphany 1596, in a small shabby house were Bruno, a big strong guy with bright red hair and his wife Black Kate, a woman with long black hair, thin lips and a big hawk nose. They were leaders of a robber gang that often made the Brabant Kempen unsafe. Their robber's nest was called Hellenend.
Suddenly there was a knock on the door. Three long and three short knocks, that meant good people. Another gang member named Terus stepped in. He sat down by the fire and told that a baby was born on the Ten Vorsel Farm. Mr. Ten Vorsel had sent all his servants out to spread the happy news, so the farm was now virtually unprotected. This was the moment to raid the homestead.
The farm was south of Bladel in the middle of the woods. Dirk ten Vorsel, his wife Elizabeth and their seven-year-old son Floris lived here. The homestead was now in deep at rest and almost deserted.
Bruno drummed up 2 more members of the gang. It were the one-meter-high dwarfs Quintje de Bult and Bortje with the crooked neck. They blackened their faces with a burnt cork and set off. Black Kate wanted to take the child with her because she thought that a child born on the day of Epiphany would be a prodigy. That had to bring good luck. The other gang members wanted money and jewelry.
They stormed into the farm and snatched everything. When Dirk wanted to protect his family, he got hit with the infamous club of Bruno and Elizabeth was shocked that her newborn baby was taken out of the cradle and taken. The gang fled in the direction of Postel.
Black Kate held the child tightly against her. They went to the Postel Abbey because if this child was to keep his mysterious powers, it had to be baptized quickly.
After banging the door, Father Bernard opened the door. He was forced to baptize the child. The boy was named Thomas. The father noticed that the child was wearing a golden medallion and he asked half of it as a memento. Bruno, who was pleased that the Father had cooperated, broke the medallion in half and gave half to the Father.
In the meantime, Ten Vorsel's servants had started a search but had to return empty handed, because they had not found a trace of the gang. Dirk had suffered a major head injury due to the hit with the club and had lost a lot of blood. Tied up, his wife Elizabeth and Floris had to watch how the gang had left Dirk to die. Floris was so full of hatred that he vowed to avenge all this one day.
The father soon afterwards found out who he had baptized, but could not reverse this. The gang fell apart after the raid. Quintje and Botje went to Antwerp with their share of the loot. Bruno, Kateand Terus marched to Germany, where they also became notorious.
In the years following the raid, the accident continued to haunt the Ten Vorsel family: a fierce fire burned a large part of the stables down, the harvest failed years in succession and the farm fell on hard times. Floris, at the age of 18 tried to earn a living at sea. His parents went to live in a small workers' house because they could no longer maintain the farm.
Thomas grew up well and after a few years the gang returned to Bladel. They wanted to get rid of Dirk ten Vorsel. They thought he had not survived the blow, but that was the case. Kate devised a devilish plan; she started telling rumors of how Dirk abused and imprisoned his wife (he would have chased his son Floris out of the house). She demanded a punishment: he had to be “in the plough".
Eventually the villagers agreed and Dirk ten Vorsel was put in the plough. They forced him through whipping and beating. After a while he collapsed with fatigue. Kate jumped up to him and convincingly played a mean game. She shouted that the villagers had killed Dirk. The people fled in a panic. Nobody saw that Kate and her gang stayed behind to kill Dirk. Bruno gave him a blow with his club and Terus drove his knife into poor Dirk's chest.
Thomas had hid himself all night and had seen everything!
He knew what Bruno and his buddies were capable of, but he had never up close. He went to the corpse, grabbed the knife, and stared intently at his murdered father. He felt sad and betrayed.
He was thus found by the warden and his helpers and of course branded as the perpetrator. He was locked up in the dungeon under the town hall.
In Hellenend Kate heard what had happened to Thomas. She wanted to free him, because otherwise he might betray the gang! No sooner said than done; Thomas was released but wanted nothing more to do with Kate and her gang. Kate decided to kill him out of fear. He was shot in the chest by Terus and fell, the gang fled.
After an hour Thomas woke up and staggered to the church. There he was found, bleeding badly. He was operated on and cared for and fortunately recovered. To recover, he was taken to the Postel Abbey ...
In the meantime, the 2 dwarfs had returned to Hellenend. Terus had a devilish plan for a final big score. They would raid the Abbey!
It was tradition that the fathers of Postel gave 2 full carts of food to the poor twice a year. Kaat and Bruno wanted to intercept and steal these carts. The carts would arrive empty in the village and the population would furiously go to the Abbey. The gang would then use the confusion to enter the Abbey. Bruno also knew of a box of money, stashed in one of the tower rooms.
Everything seemed to go according to plan, only a lone horseman had seen the robbery and he had quickly ridden to the Abbey to warn the fathers. He turned out to have ten helpers. They rode with him after they learned in the village that the people (incited by Kate and her buddies) were on their way to Postel.
The stranger was received suspiciously at the Abbey, but it soon became apparent that this group of men meant best for the fathers.
The stranger introduced himself: Floris Ten Vorsel.
The abbot, Father Colebrant, was surprised. After all, Floris was not at sea, and Thomas was shocked to hear that name.
Floris said that he had resigned and had returned to the Kempen. On the road he had seen Quintje and Bortje, the two dwarfs, and recognized them immediately. He continued to follow them in order to possibly take revenge later!
Everyone had only just recovered from their surprise when they heard the crowd of screaming people coming. The gate was closed, but they still managed to find a way inside. A fierce battle erupted, and the gang climbed the stairs to the tower room while the people fought in the courtyard. The tower room was completely dark, but when the five gang members came in, Floris's ten helpers lit ten torches. The gang was shocked and an intense fight followed. Floris was stabbed by Terus and fell. When Terus wanted to stab again, the door opened and Thomas entered. Kate screamed in bewilderment. Thomas lifted Floris up and went downstairs, laid him over his horse and fled.
The gang fought and was so badly wounded that they could not flee, except for Black Kate.
The following morning a garrison, now warned, came to the Abbey. They arrested the four gang members and the abbot began to put the raided Abbey back in order.
Bruno, Terus, Quintje and Bortje were sentenced to death for all their crimes and hanged the next morning. There was no sign Black Kate at that time. At least she wasn't on Hellenend!
Thomas had brought Floris to Hoeve Ten Vorsel where his wounds could heal. Elizabeth was overjoyed to have her son back and was very grateful to Thomas. He was allowed to stay on the farm as long as he wanted. With the money that Floris had earned at sea, the large farm was restored.
Thomas learned to read and write on the farm from Father Bernard (who had previously baptized him). He saw that the priest was playing with a medallion and was told the story of the infamous Epiphany Night.
He was scared of robberies because his "parents" Kate and Bruno were also robbers and he was ashamed of them. He had never told anyone that they were his parents. Thomas was afraid that if he did, he would not be allowed to stay at the Hoeve anymore.
One day Thomas, Father Bernard, Floris and Elizabeth walked through the beautifully restored garden. They had a picnic on a lawn. When Thomas was sitting there it was all too much for him. He burst into tears and told everything; he didn't deserve to be there! After this it remained silent for a while, everyone was shocked.
Suddenly there was a loud scream and an old, dirty and ugly woman jumped out of the bushes in a black cloak: Black Kate! She screamed that Thomas was not her son at all and that she had abducted him from the farm as a baby. She threw the other half of the medallion to the group as proof that she wasn't lying! She screamed that Thomas should have brought the gang luck, but instead there had only been doom and gloom. She jumped forward and pulled a knife to attack Thomas. Floris intervened and dove towards Kate so that the knife fell and Kate landed in a ditch. She scrambled to her feet and fled into the woods.
On the Hoeve a big party was held that evening because Thomas was back. From then on he would be called Dirk, named after his father.
Kate was found and imprisoned the following day after a long search. She was sentenced to death for everything she had done to the people and was decapitated while screaming loudly, on the scaffold the next morning. Because her body was not allowed to be buried in consecrated ground, she was dragged up the heith and buried there. Because no cross was allowed on her grave, a shrub was planted on it for recognition. Because this shrub has never been able to grow normally, it has now grown into a tree that everyone on Ten Vorsel and in the wider area still knows as the Witch Tree.
The story of Black Kate is still being told to the many children who come to camp with their school at Landgoed Ten Vorsel. This keeps the legend alive.
Over the years, Kate has often been driven away from Ten Vorsel, but those who listen well still regularly hear her chilling witch laugh echoing through the woods.