Peter Kürten

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Peter Kürten
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-11502, Polizeiaufnahme eines Massenmörders.jpg
Mugshot of Peter Kürten taken in 1931
Born (1883-05-26)May 26, 1883
Mülheim am Rhein, Germany
Died July 2, 1931(1931-07-02) (aged 48)
Cologne, Germany
Cause of death Decapitation by guillotine
Other names The Vampire of Düsseldorf
The Düsseldorf Monster
Criminal penalty Death
Motive Sexual gratification / to "strike back at oppressive society"
Conviction(s) Arson
Attempted murder
Burglary
Theft
Murder
Killings
Victims Murders: 9 (or more)
Attempted: 20 (or more)
Sexual assaults: unknown
Span of killings
26 May 1913–7 November 1929
Country Germany
State(s) Rhine Province, Prussia
Date apprehended
May 24, 1930

Peter Kürten (26 May 1883 – 2 July 1931) was a German serial killer known as both The Vampire of Düsseldorf and the Düsseldorf Monster, who committed a series of murders and sexual assaults between February and November 1929 in the city of Düsseldorf.

In the years prior to these assaults, Kürten had amassed a lengthy criminal record for offenses including arson, theft and attempted murder. He also confessed to the 1913 murder of a 9-year-old girl in Mülheim an Rhein.

Kürten became known as both the The Vampire of Düsseldorf and the Düsseldorf Monster because the majority of his murders were committed in and around the city of Düsseldorf. He was considered a vampire because he drank the blood of a killed swan in December 1929 and he also made attempts to drink the blood of some of his human victims.

Early life[edit]

Peter Kürten was born into a poverty-stricken, abusive family in Mülheim am Rhein, as the third eldest of thirteen children. As a child, he witnessed his alcoholic father repeatedly sexually assault his mother and his sisters. He engaged in petty criminality from a young age, and was a frequent runaway. He later claimed to have committed his first murders at the age of nine, when he drowned two young boys with whom he had been swimming.

Kürten moved with his family to Düsseldorf in 1894 and from 1899 he received a number of short prison sentences for various crimes, including theft and arson.

Kürten progressed from torturing animals to attacks on people. He committed his first recorded murder in 1913, strangling a 9-year-old girl, Christine Klein, during the course of a burglary. He managed to get away undiscovered. His crimes were then halted by an eight-year prison sentence for quite more thefts. In 1921, he left prison and moved to Altenburg, where he got married in 1923. In 1925, he returned with his wife to Düsseldorf, where he began the series of crimes that would culminate in his capture, trial, death sentence and subsequent execution.

Murders[edit]

On 2 February 1929, he assaulted a woman, on 9 February he molested and murdered an nine-year-old girl. On 13 February, he murdered a middle-aged mechanic, stabbing him 20 times. Kürten did not attack again deadly for six months, until 11 August when he raped and killed a woman. In the early morning of 21 August he stabbed three people in separate attacks within 15 minutes. Three days later he murdered two girls, aged five and 14, and stabbed another woman on 25 August.

On 29 September, he committed rape and murder, brutally beating a servant girl with a hammer in a wooded area outside of Düsseldorf.

On 11 October, he attacked a woman with a hammer, raped her and left her for dead. On 25 October, he attacked two women with a hammer, both survived. On 7 November, he murdered a five-year-old girl by strangling and stabbing her various times with scissors.

Various times he sent a map to a local newspaper or the local police disclosing the location of the grave of one of his victims.

The variety of victims and murder methods gave police the impression that more than one killer was at large: the police had over 900,000 different names on their potential suspect list.

The November murder was Kürten's last, although he did engage in a spate of non-fatal hammer attacks from February to March 1930. In May, he accosted a young woman named Maria Butlies; he initially took her to his home, and then to the Grafenberger Woods, where he raped (but did not kill) her. Butlies led the police to Kürten's home. He avoided the police, but confessed to his wife, knowing that his identity was known by the police. On 24 May, he was located and arrested.

Kürten also admitted to drinking the blood of at least one of his victims.[1]

Trial and execution[edit]

Peter Kürten was charged with nine murders and seven attempted murders. He went on trial in April 1931. He initially pleaded not guilty, but after some weeks changed his plea. He was found guilty and sentenced to death.

As Kürten was awaiting execution, he was interviewed by Dr. Karl Berg, whose interviews and accompanying analysis of Kürten formed the basis of his book, The Sadist. Kürten stated to Berg that his primary motive was one of sexual pleasure. The number of stab wounds varied because it sometimes took longer to achieve orgasm; the sight of blood was integral to his sexual stimulation as evidenced by his final words: "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."

Kürten was executed on 2 July 1931 by guillotine in Cologne.[2]

Analysis[edit]

Peter Kürten said to the legal examiners that his primary motive was to "strike back at oppressive society." He did not deny that he had sexually molested his victims, but he always claimed during his trial that this was not his primary motive.

In 1931, scientists attempted to examine irregularities in Kürten's brain in an attempt to explain his personality and behavior. His head was dissected and mummified and is currently on display at the Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.[3]

Cultural references[edit]

Fritz Lang's 1931 film M, in which a serial child killer terrorizes Berlin, is often said to have been based upon Peter Kürten, but Lang denied that Kürten was an influence. Because of the similarities between Kürten and the film's villain, Hans Beckert, the film was known as The Vampire of Dusseldorf in some countries.

Julius Ševčík filmed a movie Normal (2009) about Peter Kürten. Peter Kurten is played by Slovak actor Milan Kňažko.

The first biopic about Peter Kürten was Robert Hossein's The Secret Killer (Le Vampire de Düsseldorf, 1965).[4]

Singer/songwriter Randy Newman wrote a song about Peter Kürten entitled "In Germany Before the War" for his 1977 album Little Criminals.

Playwright Anthony Neilson's work Normal: The Düsseldorf Ripper (1991) is a fictional account of Peter Kürten's life, is told from the point of view of his defense lawyer. It was adapted for the screen as Angels Gone, and also released under the title Normal.

Kim Newman included Peter Kürten as a minor character in his novel The Bloody Red Baron (1995),[5] serving as a "batman" (military servant) to Manfred von Richthofen, the "Red Baron".

Doom Metal band Church of Misery, released a track in 2013 called "The Düsseldorf Monster" about Peter Kürten on their album, Thy Kingdom Scum.[6]

The power electronics band Whitehouse recorded an album titled Dedicated to Peter Kürten.

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=QQfoPMTMSdIC&pg=PT197&lpg=PT197&dq=%22Peter+Kürten%22+blood+temple&source=bl&ots=GR1wQpmpbY&sig=_2SCLQxilLFuJ1TBVZZSQXFVqqQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5bzIUfKCJ-i50gGByYGwAg&ved=0CE8Q6AEwBQ
  2. ^ About the decapitation by executioner Carl Gröpler read in detail: Blazek, Matthias, Scharfrichter in Preußen und im Deutschen Reich 1866-1945, Stuttgart 2010, p. 74 f.
  3. ^ Raphael, Lutz; Tenorth, Heinz-Elmar, Ideen als gesellschaftliche Gestaltungskraft im Europa der Neuzeit – Beiträge für eine erneuerte Geistesgeschichte, Ed. 20, Berlin 2006, p. 432.
  4. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058922/.
  5. ^ Kim Newman (1995). Anno Dracula. The Bloody Red Baron. London: Titan Books. p. 203. ISBN 978-085-768-0846. 
  6. ^ http://www.metalblade.com/us/releases/church-of-misery-thy-kingdom-scum/
  • Lane, Brian and Gregg, Wilfred (1992). The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Berkley Books.
  • Fuchs, Christian [1996] (2002). Bad Blood. Creation Books.
  • Cummins, Joseph S. (2001). "Cannibals: Shocking True Tales of the Last Taboo on Land and at Sea." Lyons Press.