As a child, I can remember sitting up late at night with my brothers watching movies starring characters named Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Godzilla, Chucky, or Pinhead. The monsters with two names were scary. But if you were really ugly and scary, you earned the right to have just one name. Fortunately, none of the monsters I just named exist which is why I enjoy watching horror movies—they aren’t real.
But don’t turn off that nightlight just yet or put away your baseball bat or whatever weapon of choice you have that makes you feel safe at night. I say this because real monsters do exist. They just don’t have razor sharp nails, carry funny looking boxes or have teeth powerful enough to snap a bone in half. Sometimes they look like your neighbor, co-worker or the guy who bags your groceries and tells you to have a nice evening as you leave.
This week’s tale involves a horrific man who made Jack the Ripper look inept. For this true story, we go back to Germany in 1883 to study one Peter Kurten—the infamous Vampire of Düsseldorf. People also called him the Düsseldorf Monster. Both names were fitting for such an evil man.
Like many serial killers, Kurten had a disturbed childhood. Kurten had 12 siblings and the entire family lived in a one bedroom apartment. Kurten, his mother and siblings were often victims of domestic violence committed by Kurten’s father.
Kurten’s lust for killing began with him killing animals. He also committed burglaries, arsons and other crimes. He was arrested and jailed more than 30 times. He evolved from tormenting and killing animals to hunting and killing people. His murderous reign of terror lasted from 1913 to 1929.
Apparently, Kurten was without a soul because He truly enjoyed killing people without any remorse. After he killed his victims, he drank their blood. He also enjoyed reading about his crimes in the local newspaper and then locating the families of his victims. He did this so he could watch them grieve.
It’s believed he killed at least 70 people before authorities stopped him. However, no one knows how many people Kurten killed. After his capture, he also admitted to murdering two classmates when he was nine. Before Kurten’s 1930 confession, it was believed the two boys had accidentally drowned.
On May 24, 1930, Kurten surrendered to authorities. After being found guilty by a jury, he was sentenced to be executed. On July 2, 1931, the Vampire of Düsseldorf walked to his death. He would face swift justice by a guillotine. Strangely, before Kurten lost his head, he asked a rather strange question to his psychiatrist.
“Tell me… after my head is chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures.”
After Kurten’s death, studies on his brain were completed to get a better understanding of Kurten’s mental status. Many years later, Kurten’s head would end up becoming a bargain basement collectible.
A buyer from Ripley’s Believe It or Not thought Kurten’s head might draw some attention. Even in death, Kurten doesn’t disappoint. Annually, curiosity seekers make a pilgrimage to Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin to see the preserved head of Peter Kurten.
But if you ever decided to visit and don’t want to see the Vampire of Düsseldorf, there are other strange attractions for you to view. Ripley’s is widely known for its collection of shrunken heads, a two-headed calf, skull bowls, and many other strange items. So who’s up for a Wisconsin road trip? Any takers?
Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page at http://www.lifewithgrandpa.com. He also wrote Just Bite Me: A Guide to Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Walking Nightmares, which is available on Amazon.com.