Seduction, theft, threats, burglary, breaking and entering, arson, sexual assault, rape, attempted robbery, attempted murder, and murder: these are all crimes Peter Kurten, also known as the Vampire of Dusseldorf and the Dusseldorf Monster, would eventually be convicted of. Hidden beneath his mild-mannered exterior and gentle demeanor was a diabolical maniac filled with lust and sexual rage. His homicidal murder spree would last nearly two decades as Kurten spread terror in Germany from 1913 all the way until his capture in 1930.
Kurten was the monster of all monsters, with zero remorse or empathy. He would kill at will, even in broad daylight, brazenly and with complete disregard. His compulsion for murder was unmatched. While most haven’t even heard of him, Kurten was every bit as brutal as any modern serial killer. A psychiatrist who saw and assessed Kurten would go on record saying, “Kurten is the king of sexual delinquents because he unites nearly all perversions in one person.” He went on say, “That is the dreadful thing: The man Kurten is a riddle to me. I cannot solve it. The criminal Haarman only killed men, Landru only women, Grossman only women, but Kurten killed men, women, children, and animals, killed anything he found!”
The depravity and brutality of Kurten’s bloodshed still baffles psychologists today. Here are ten facts about the brutal serial killer.
10 Child Abuse
Kurten’s story begins like all too many tragic tales, with child abuse and sexual assault. Peter was from a poor family in Cologne and had an alcoholic father who would often attack and violently assault Peter and the other 12 children of the household. Peter, it would be said, bore the worst of the beatings of all of the Kurten children.
Beyond physically beating the children, Peter’s father would rape Peter’s mother in front of them. His father would at one point be imprisoned for attempting to rape Peter’s sister when she was 13. Peter’s childhood home seemed fertile soil to produce one of the worst and most depraved madmen of all time. His family was so poor that all 13 children shared a single one-bedroom apartment.
9 The Young Murders
Whether he was born evil or just a product of a horrible environment, the world will never know, but Peter Kurten had criminal and homicidal tendencies from a very young age. His first murders, according to him, would take place when he was only nine years old.
While rafting on the Rhine, Kurten pushed a schoolmate off the raft and into the water. At this point, another boy jumped in the water and attempted to save the drowning boy, but Peter held his head under the water, effectively drowning both boys. Their deaths were ruled accidental drownings, and Kurten was cleared of any wrongdoing.
8 Sexual Depravity And Sadism
Peter’s exposure to both physical and sexual violence as a child definitely had an impact on him, as he would develop sexual perversions at an early age. Already a murderer of two people at the age of nine, Peter Kurten would also begin having sex with animals. A dogcatcher who lived in his building was the one who introduced the young, impressionable Kurten to bestiality. At first, Peter was only having sex with dogs. But as time went on, he began to engage in intercourse with other animals, such as sheep and goats.
As Peter matured to a young teen, he began stabbing the animals he had sex with and killing them during intercourse. This would have a profound impact on who he would become later in life, with his murderous rampage being the result of uncontrollable sexual compulsion. Peter couldn’t contain himself, and he had to hurt and kill in order to get off. Each of his later murders would have a sexual element, and it would seem that for Kurten, sex and violence, particularly involving blood, were intertwined. He would use scissors, hammers, and many other devices to assault his victims during intercourse.
At some point in Peter’s young life, sex became warped and distorted and couldn’t be untangled from violence, probably a result of his sexually violent childhood. Kurten would become the face of sexual sadism.
7 First Adult Murder
After a string of sexual assaults, Kurten would commit his first murder as an adult on May 25, 1913. His victim was a girl only ten years old named Christine Klein. After strangling her and assaulting her sexually in her bedroom while her parents worked in the bar downstairs, Kurten cut her throat.
Now here’s where the story gets worse: Christine Klein’s uncle had gotten into a severe argument with her father that same exact night, saying he would “do something [the father would] remember all of [his] life.” Kurten slipped away into the night, and Christine’s uncle would get the blame. He was brought up on charges for murder and ultimately acquitted for lack of evidence. Kurten is said to have followed the case closely, probably for reasons of sadistic gratification. Christine’s murder would ultimately remain unsolved for years.
6 A Life Of Crime
By the time Kurten was arrested the final time for the atrocities he’d committed across Germany, he had been imprisoned almost 30 times. His life of crime began as a petty thief, stealing food, clothing, or whatever he wanted. He was constantly in and out of jails and prisons, without any remorse or showing any signs of changing. Kurten would always come out of the penal system even more angry and ready to get back at society. His mind grew darker and darker, and during his times in solitary confinement, left with nothing but his own mind, his fantasies intensified.
Serial killers often have vivid imaginations and fantasize about the dark and depraved actions that they eventually end up carrying out, like the BTK Killer, who would kill once every few years and just fantasize the rest of the time. There was something about being totally isolated with his sexual fantasies that Kurten enjoyed, and he would soon do anything in his power to try to be locked in solitary confinement while in prison.
5 Calculating Sociopath
We could very well call Peter Kurten the original Ted Bundy, and it wouldn’t be an understatement. Kurten not only had no qualms about killing men, women, or children, but he would also use his unsuspecting charm and nerves of steel to manipulate and control anyone and everyone around him. Peter would often steal whatever he needed, clothing, food, you name it. Like Bundy, sex and violence were so intensely intertwined that they could not be separated. Sex had nothing to do with affection, passion, or love and everything to do with power, control, and violence.
This type of intelligent sociopath is often the figure of our worst nightmares—the Ted Bundys, Peter Kurtens, and Ed Kempers of the world. These men not only have no conscience about hurting or even killing other people, but they actually get off on it, and unlike most serial killers, Kurten and the rest had very high levels of intelligence and were able to outsmart and outmaneuver and blend into society so perfectly as to go undetected as the murderers they were for a very long period of time.
4 Military Service
In between his many, many stints in jail and prison, Peter Kurten would also end up serving in the military. World War I broke out, and his country called him into service. However, Peter cared nothing for military life, for discipline, or for others at all. He would ultimately abandon his post and desert the military.
This crime was punished quite severely, and he was imprisoned all the way until 1921. This only enraged the madman further, driving his hatred for humanity even deeper into his core.
3 Marriage And Murder
In 1921, after his long term in prison for military desertion, Peter Kurten married a former prostitute who’d been jailed for killing her fiance. In 1925, Peter got a job in Dusseldorf, and the couple moved. A murder spree began. With a taste for blood, Kurten would continue to kill through the late 1920s, along with sprees of theft, arson, rape, and sexual assault.
Peter killed his victims in a variety of manners, sometimes with a hammer, sometimes with a knife, and sometimes strangling them. His murders were particularly brutal, and with the German newspapers reporting that he may have drank his victims’ blood, the “Vampire of Dusseldorf” nickname was born. Killing men, women, and children, his warpath would go on unhindered. Amazingly, one woman whom Peter stabbed 24 times survived.
2 Twist Of Fate
Peter killed with absolute disregard and wasn’t afraid to be seen with his victims in public, sometimes even taking them for a stroll before beating their heads in with a hammer. With the fact that he used a hammer and a knife, however, would come the occasional victim who survived the attack. Here’s where the story of Peter Kurten gets very, very interesting.
A woman named Maria Budlick moved to Dusseldorf in search of work to escape the economic woes brought on by the Great Depression. The year was 1930, and upon her arrival, she met a man who offered her a place to stay. When the man tried to escort her through a back alley, she resisted, and they argued, as she had remembered the newspapers talking about the Vampire stalking the streets. A second man came, stopped the disagreement, and escorted the woman away. This knight in shining armor, however, was the very man she was terrified of; she was face-to-face with none other than Peter Kurten. After a brief stop at Kurten’s apartment and a failed attempt at seduction, Peter ended up raping Maria and leaving her. According to Kurten himself, she offered no resistance, and thus, he didn’t need to kill her.
Instead of going to the police, Maria decided to keep the rape a secret. She wrote a letter to a close friend of hers, but in an unusual twist of fate, the letter was delivered to the wrong recipient. The recipient reported this to the police, and Maria would eventually agree to escort them to Peter’s apartment building, where they encountered him on the stairs. However, she was still unable to identify Kurten as her attacker, overwhelmed with tremendous fear.
Peter went to his apartment, packed his bags, and made his escape with his wife while the police addressed Maria in an attempt to get her talking. Then, in an interesting twist of fate, Kurten turned to his wife, and knowing that she could not get by on her own without his work should anything happen to him, Peter performed an almost unthinkable (for him) act of selflessness: He told her to turn him in and collect the money which had been offered for his capture. He confessed to her that he was the Vampire the police had been chasing all along. Peter’s wife obliged, and his trial would become a spectacle in Germany.
1 Last Words
Probably the most chilling part of the Peter Kurten story would be his final words. Kurten had been sentenced to death, and his day of execution had arrived, July 2, 1931.
Before being decapitated by the guillotine, Peter walked up, and right before placing his head in the guillotine, he turned to the prison doctor and said coldly, “Tell me. After my head has been 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 a pleasure to end all pleasures.”
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