The label `vampire’ conjures up visions of dark, misty forests and bleak castles. But one of the most famous vampires in history was no part of this ancient mythology. The scenes of his appalling crimes were in twentieth-century urban Germany. His name was Peter Kurten and because of his vile deeds he became known as `the Vampire of Dusseldorf’.
Kurten was a brutal sadist who first practised his perversions as a child of nine while working for the local dog-catcher near his home-town of Gologne- Mulheim. The youngster loved to torture the animals he rounded up, eventually progressing from dogs to pigs, sheep and goats. He was drawn hypnotically to the sight of blood and loved nothing better than to chop the head off a goose or swan and gorge himself on the blood that spurted out. Gradually Kurten switched from animals to human victims.
As a boy, he drowned two playmates swimming in the Rhine but there deaths were clean, easy, almost mundane. As an adult, he sought excitement through theft, fraud, arson and the beating of prostitutes. But the thrills he experienced were not enough and he coolly planned the ultimate crime, premeditated murder.
Strangely for such a calculating fiend, his first attempt failed. He attacked a girl in a wooded park, leaving her for dead. The victim, however, recovered and crawled away, too ashamed ever to report the incident. His next attempt was tragically successful. The victim was an eight-year-old girl whom he strangled and raped before cutting her throat. The murder took place in 1913 but it was 17 years before the full story was known… related by Kurten himself at his trial.
Without emotion, he told the court: `I had been stealing, especially from bars and inns where the owners lived on the floors above. In a room above an inn at Gologne-Mulheim I discovered a child asleep. I seized her head and strangled her for about a minute and a half. She woke up and struggled but lost consciousness. `I had a small, sharp penknife with me and I held the child’s head and cut her throat. I heard the blood spurt and drip on the floor. The whole thing lasted about three minutes, then I locked the door and went home to Dusseldorf.’
The following day, Kurten returned to the scene of the crime, sitting at a cafe opposite the bar where the girl had been murdered. `People were talking about it all around me,’ he said. `It did me good.’ There was a tragic sequel to this murder, of which Kurten must have been fully aware. The butchered girl’s uncle became prime suspect in the case. He was arrested and tried for murder. After a shameful trial, the poor man was acquitted but the stigma of the accusation haunted him until his premature death two or three years later.
Meanwhile, Peter Kurten, who had been called up for service in 1914 deserted within days and spent most of World War One in jail. Even when freed, he turned again to crime and was imprisoned for fraud. Finally released in 1921, he seemed to make a concerted effort to attain respectability. He got married, albeit to an ex-prostitute, gave up crime and took a job in a factory. He dressed smartly, spoke courteously and was well liked by his neighbours. In 1925 the monster reverted to form. He employed prostitutes and beat them within an inch of their lives. Then he began attacking complete strangers in the street, mesmerized by the sight of their blood.
Kurten’s savagery became uncontrollable in 1929. He accosted two sisters, aged 14 and 5, as they walked home from a fair, strangled both and cut their throats. Within 24 hours, he pounced on a housemaid and stabbed her repeatedly in an uncontrollable frenzy until the blade of his knife broke off in her back. The girl’s screams alerted passers-by who arrived in time to save her life but not to catch her attacker.
The city of Dusseldorf was by now in a state of panic. Police had a file of more than 5o attacks they believed had been committed by the man referred to as `The Vampire’. But there was no suspect, no evidence, no link between the horrified victims and the quiet, self controlled murderer. Then, in 1930, the police were led literally to Kurten’s door. A young country girl, newly arrived at Dusseldorf’s main railway station, was being pestered by a stranger who promised to direct her to a cheap hotel. Just as the man’s advances became frighteningly persistent, a second man arrived on the scene and intervened.
As the first offender skulked away the `rescuer’ introduced himself- as Peter Kurten. The girl was invited to recover from her ordeal with a meal at Kurten’s home, after which he walked with her into the city’s Grafenburg Woods and viciously assaulted her. Just as she was about to pass out, Kurten did what he had never done before… he allowed his victim to go free. He asked her if she could remember where he lived and, after naively accepting her assurance that she could not, he escorted her to a public thoroughfare and walked calmly away.
Incredibly, perhaps through a sense of shame, the girl did not go to the police, and the Vampire of Dusseldorf might even then have escaped capture except for an extraordinary coincidence. The young girl wrote of the incident to a friend but incorrectly addressed the letter. A postal official who opened it to seek the sender’s address could not contain his curiosity and read the account of the attack. He immediately called in the police.
Detectives found the girl and made her retrace her steps to Kurten’s home. There, they spotted Kurten but he had seen them first and fled through the streets. Under threat of capture, the killer turned to his unsuspecting wife. He met her in a restaurant where she worked and over double helpings of lunch, he confessed to her, in a matter-of fact way, his many crimes.
His disgusted wife arranged a further secret meeting but instead went to the police, who lay in wait for Kurten at the rendezvous.
In court, 47-year-old Kurten was as cool as ever. He horrified judge and jury by the calm, clinical manner in which he related in sickening detail the long catalogue of his crimes. He told how he had strangled, stabbed or clubbed to death his innocent victims and had then drunk the blood from one person’s slashed throat, from another’s wounded forehead and from another’s half severed hand.
His own defence counsel called him `the king of sexual delinquents; uniting nearly all perversions in one person; killing men, women, children and animals- killing anything he found.’ His lawyer was making a plea for a ruling of insanity, but to no avail.
Kurten was sentenced to die by guillotine and on the morning of his death, I July, 1932, he ate a hearty meal twice over, then told a prison doctor of his last hope… to experience what he described as `the pleasure to end all pleasure’. It was, said Kurten, `that after my head has been chopped of I will still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck’.
Fritz Haarmann It is incredible that two `vampire’ killers could turn up in the same country in the same period. Yet while `the Dusseldorf Vampire’, Peter Kurten, was beginning to gain infamy for his deeds, another brutal monster was coming to the end of his reign of terror. He was Fritz Haarmann, `the Hanover Vampire’. At the end of World War One, Haarmann, then aged 39, emerged from a five- year jail sentence for theft and returned to his home town of Hanover to try to scrape together a living in the chaos of post-war Germany. The business he chose was as a purveyor of meats, pies and second-hand clothes in a poor area of the city. He prospered because of the cheap and simple source of his raw materials… murdered young men and boys.
Haarmann spent his evenings and nights prowling Hanover’s railway stations and back alleys to seek out the human flotsam sleeping rough there. He would offer those who were jobless or homeless the chance of free food, lodging and companionship. In return, they would be sexually abused and often murdered. Their bodies would be butchered, their clothes sold and their flesh put into Haarmann’s tasty pies.
The method of murder gave rise to Haarmann’s sobriquet as `Vampire of Hanover’ – he would kill his victims by biting through their throats. Incredibly, police and voluntary workers, who must certainly have suspected Haarmann, not only turned a blind eye to his nefarious activities but actively encouraged him. He became a police informer, passing on details of suspicious newcomers to town, of planned crimes and of hidden loot. So close was his relationship with the police that when in 1918 the parents of one 17-year-old boy reported their son missing after being seen in Haarmann’s company, the ensuing search of the killer’s room was no more than cursory.
The murderer was later to boast at his trial: `When the police examined my room, the head of the boy was lying in newspaper behind the oven.’
The following year Fritz Haarmann met the accomplice who was to speed up the `production line’ at his cooked meats plant. His name was Hans Gans; He was just 2o but was already a heartless, vicious thug whose job it was to pick out the victims ready for the executioner. Together, they began disposing of boys and young men at a prodigious rate.
Hanover had by now gained an unenviable reputation as the city where people could vanish from the streets without trace while the police were apparently powerless to act. In fact, the police could have acted and saved many lives, but they found Haarmann’s information so helpful that they effectively gave him immunity. They even failed to respond to complaints about the one- way traffic of boys into Haarmann’s rooms, the buckets of blood carried out and the bloodied clothes and suspect meat (labelled as pork) which he was selling.
Eventually, the discovery of two human skulls, one of a youngster, on the bank of the River Leine forced police to act. They searched the riverside and discovered more human remains. Boys playing nearby found a sack packed with human organs. And the dredging of the river bed raised more than 5oo human bones. Haarmann’s blood-spattered apartments and workshops were raided.
In December 1924 Haarmann and Gans went on trial. `How many victims did you kill?’ asked the prosecutor. Haarmann replied: `It might be 30, it might be 40, I can’t remember the exact number.’ Asked how he had killed his victims, Haarmann replied dispassionately: `I bit them through their throats’. While Hans Gans received a life sentence (of which he subsequently served only I2 years) the Vampire of Hanover was predictably sentenced to death, having been found sane and entirely responsible for his bloody. deeds. Before being beheaded, he declared: `I will go to my execution as if it were a wedding.’
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Haarmann
Tags: article, Bloodlust-UK, Dracula, haarman, kurten, Reference, Reference Material, Vampire
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