When I was a teenager, I was very much fascinated by true life crime stories. Funnily enough as I got older my interest waned, specifically because the horrible acts that humans are capable of committing, troubled me lots. But now I often think about the variety of human acts and I am interested in the motivation of other human beings. The Dusseldorf Vampire was an infamous murderer, who's stayed with me over the years, atrocious creature that he was. An introduction from The Crime Library:
It may be said – and without exaggeration – that the epidemic of sexual outrages and murders occurring between February and November 1929 provoked a wave of sheer horror and contempt not only in Germany, but throughout the entire world. The subject of extensive judicial examination, justice has sought not only to punish the killer for his crimes, but also to probe the mind and soul of this outrageously enigmatic man.
Peter Kurten (later, the Dusseldorf vampire) was born in Cologne in 1883. From the BBC Crime Cases:
his childhood was one of unremitting poverty and violence. The Kurten family rented a one-bedroom apartment and lived in fear of Peter's father, a moulder by trade, a habitual drunkard. He would return home from the local inn, beat his children (Peter, as the eldest, felt the brunt of the violence) and rape his wife in front of them. In later years he also sexually assaulted his daughters.
His childhood then was one of the very worst that a child could have. Apparently he admitted killing a couple of school friends when he was just five years old, but whether that it actually true is difficult to say. His later crimes are not disputed. An example from the Crime Library:
In August, however, a series of strangulation and stabbing incidents made the police aware that a madman was once again on the prowl. On the 21st of the month, in the western suburb of Lierenfeld, three people were stabbed while walking home at night. The three random victims were all bidden "Good Evening" to before being subjected to a deep knife wound in their ribs and back. As the lights went out on the night of the 23rd August 1929, hundreds of people were enjoying the annual fair in the ancient town of Flehe. At around 10.30 p.m., two foster sisters, five-year-old Gertrude Hamacher and fourteen-year-old Louise Lenzen, left the fair and started walking through the adjoining allotments to their home. As they did so, a shadow broke away from among the trees and followed them along a footpath. The shadow stopped the children and asked whether Louise "would be very kind and get some cigarettes for me? I’ll look after the little girl." Louise took the man’s money and ran back towards the fairground. Quietly, the man picked up Gertrude in his arms and strangled her, before slowly cutting her throat with a clasp knife. Louise returned a few moments later and was dragged off the footpath before being strangled and decapitated.
His reign of terror lasted approximately one year, at the end of which, though he was finally caught and tried for nine murders, he was suspected of committing over 60. Why did he do, what he did? Interestingly Kurten was one of the first serial killers to be interviewed by a psychiatrist and in his own words then, is his motivation:
"I derived the sort of pleasure from these visions that other people would get from thinking about a naked woman."
"I have no remorse. As to whether recollection of my deeds makes me feel ashamed, I will tell you. Thinking back to all the details is not at all unpleasant. I rather enjoy it."
And so this is a kind of Munsters' dilemma. Kurten wanted to murder people to achieve arousal. But no human really wants to be murdered by another (at least no sane person) and his victims no doubt all hoped that it would never happen to them, and yet it did. It seems to me that it is good that the frequency of such prolific serial killers is decidedly minimal, so they do not pose the greatest danger to our individual survival. Though, that there are humans out there that want the complete opposite to you or I, is something to bear in mind. You have been warned.Go Top