Article about Eldermans in De Oud Hagenaar

In De Oud Hagenaar of 2 October 2018 an article appeared about Jan Eldermans, written from the viewpoint of a former neighbour of his. Dutch readers can find the article here.

You need to click on the newspaper to your right, to start downloading the PDF of this paper. The article can be found on page 3.

For English readers a translation is available below:


In the newspaper Algemeen Dagblad of Saturday June 16th 2018 an interesting article appeared, titled: “Drawing wizard becomes famous”. In this article can be read that recently a book appeared in England, written by Wilmar Taal: “The Silent Listener”. This book deals with Jan Eldermans and after reading the article it became clear to me that next to my parents’ house not one, but two more or less celebrity Dutch people have lived.

I was born on the Van Reesstraat 23 and nextdoor, on number 25, lived Jan Eldermans. When I was around sixteen years old, my parents moved to the Mispelstraat 16 and on number 18 lived a little kid that would be known as the novelist Nicolaas Matsier. I already wrote the necessary articles about this kid, but who was Jan Eldermans?

I could buy or borrow the book and quote something from it. I will not do it. I want to look how far I will come when surfing the internet, although caution is preferred, because soon I came across doubtful information.

Johannes Hendrik Willem Eldermans, Jan as he was called, was born on April 23rd 1904 in Enschede. His father was a railway conductor and the family moved to Rotterdam in 1907. When Jan was 16 years old he joined the military service and since September 1922 he studied at the Sports Teacher’s Academy in The Hague. He met his future wife Dina Roelanda Callenbach there, people called her Diek. In 1928 they married in Rotterdam and had two daughters, Loesje and Gerda.

After a brief stint at the City Archives of Rotterdam, he became a probation officer in 1931 in The Hague. From 1936 to 1949 he lived in Almelo with his family and worked there not only as a probation officer, but also as a secretary and even president of the second chamber of the Tribunal Almelo and accordingly from 1949 to his retirement in 1970 he worked at the Probation Council in our city. The amazing thing is that I can’t remember anything of the family that lived next to us, while I remember other neighbours quite clearly. Also the two girls, who would be seven and two years my senior, never made any impression. Jan passed away on March 17th 1985. He still lived at the address Van Reesstraat 25.

The other Jan Eldermans

Next to his dayjob, he spend a lot of his spare time, mostly until deep in the night, on something totally different and this would make him famous, also abroad. I quote from the article in Algemeen Dagblad: “Those who cross the threshold of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in the English town Boscastle, arrive in a twilight world of occultism and superstition. A special room is filled with outstanding drawings full of magical symbols. This is the work of Jan Eldermans from The Hague. In daytime a probation officer, but at night he withdrew in his magical world. For forty years he scribbled page after page with symbols and spells”. To avoid misunderstandings I think he didn’t believe in it himself. He was searching for the truth and I fear he never found it. He was also interested in gnomes and he looked for every folk tale in which gnomes are featured, but it doesn’t mean he believed in their existence. He remarks at first that he doesn’t believe in their existence, but doubt rears its head years later. Next to drawing thousands and thousands magical depictions he was also to be found in the Royal Library, looking for these kind of folk tales. I do not agree with the term ‘scribbled’ in the aforementioned citation. Most of the drawings have a high quality. The title of the book, The Silent Listener, makes him appear to me as someone who listens, but doesn’t judge. His son-in-law donated next to the drawings manuscripts, notes and magical objects to the Museum in Boscastle. This son-in-law, Bob Richel who married Loesje, was interested in these matters as well and made some interesting drawings. I learned from Wilmar that he is currently working on a book about Bob Richel. Part of the legacy is in personal collections and also in Zürich, in the Zentralbibliothek. In the time before his passing he decided to destroy a part of his work. Why he did this, never became clear, -although I can make a picture of that.


The word esoterics means knowledge for the initiated, and it appears quite appropriate in this case. Although he was quite enthusiastic for these matters, he retreated into his room. He never revealed his collection, not even when it started to grow very large. Wilmar made clear to me that he sees Jan Eldermans more as a collector than a practitioner. His wife and children lived their own lives in the family. Before the book by Wilmar Taal was published, some stories were going around about Jan Eldermans on the internet. There was also utter nonsense. I read that he was born in Rotterdam and raised by his grandparents, which is verifiably wrong. You see, you must not believe everything that is claimed on the internet. By his way of living he did pull up a smokescreen around his comings and goings.

At the end of my search of the meaning of Jan Eldermans, I find it too bad that my parents are no longer alive. Who knows what they could have told me about this interesting neighbor. And I would have loved to visit him. Maybe then, one of his works would have adorned my walls.

© 2018 Carl Doeke Eisma. Translation: Wilmar Taal.

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