Legends of werewolves have long persisted around the world, but few people in history have ever been actually accused of being one. Even fewer people in the history of werewolfery have ever been killed for their violent canine ways. One such person is the werewolf of Bedburg, Peter Stumpp. This man was the subject of the first werewolf trial known to history, and his crimes, confession, and execution are enough to make anyone's blood run cold.
This serial killer claimed he was a werewolf way back in the 1500s in Europe. He claimed to have practiced the dark arts, transformed into an animal, supposedly killed over twenty people, and even claimed to have eaten them on numerous occasions. Upon finding this out, the townspeople decided he should be put to death. But was he really a werewolf?
Given the information we have, it's hard to tell. What we can be sure of is that the whole trial and report of the crimes are some seriously messed up stuff!
Peter Stumpp wasn't always the center of werewolf legend. Originally, he was a farmer living out his life in the late 1500s. He was known by several names, including Peter Stübbe and Peter Stumpf, and lived in the rural community of Bedburg, Cologne, Germany. The town he lived in regarded him with respect for the most part, because he was a family man and fairly wealthy relative to his fellow townspeople. He was a widower with two adolescent children, a son and a daughter, both of whom were upstanding citizens.
While his life may have seemed peaceful enough to onlookers, the town was going through quite a lot of turmoil. Invading armies for the Catholics and the Protestants both came to Bedburg to try to convert the townspeople. The Black Plague moved through the town, killing numerous people. One would think that this would be enough to distract people from any potential shadiness from Stumpp, and that was true... until livestock started to die.
Sometimes, local farmers would find that their cows had been mysteriously slaughtered in the fields. They would lie torn open and pulled apart, as if an animal was just having fun and playing with its food. For a while, the villagers thought it might just be a pack of wolves, but that opinion changed as people became the next targets.
Children and women began to go missing. Sometimes the people would be found, but more often they would just vanish without a trace. This was because Stumpp was eating them. He later said he had a taste for human blood and flesh, and would hunt his prey before luring them in, sometimes by asking for help. Then he would tear their bodies apart, just as had been done to the livestock. During this time, a wolf attacked a village in West Germany, and had escaped after one of his paws had been cut off. This fact would later become important in the trial.
What caused Stumpp to do all this, you might wonder. From what he later confessed, it all started in his childhood. He told inquisitors that at the age of 12, he began practicing black magic. He first started with sorcery, which eventually drew a succubus to him. He had sexual intercourse with the succubus repeatedly, and this gave him the ability to actually contact the Devil himself! The Devil, eager to see him cause greater damage to the world, gave him the magical ability to transform into a wolf, bent on eating human flesh. It was then that his murderous ways began, and continued for many years. He also said that, in the night, his eyes would sparkle like fire as he stalked his prey.
Stumpp not only had a preference for human flesh, he also had specific humans he liked to kill. When he later confessed, he talked about having killed numerous children - up to 14 - because they were the easiest to carry off and their flesh was the most tender. He would bludgeon them, strangle them, then eviscerate them if the mood suited him. He also attacked women, because he had carnal desires as well. When he killed women, he would rape them, before or after killing, and would then tear their bodies apart.
When he could, Stumpp targeted pregnant women, because he also had a taste for their unborn babies. In one horrifying account, Stumpp said that he had ripped open the bellies of pregnant women, torn the fetuses out of them, and then "ate their hearts panting hot and raw." He referred to the fetuses he consumed as "dainty morsels."