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Peter Stumpp: The Werewolf of Bedburg

In 1589, known as one of the most brutal executions ever to be recorded, Peter Stumpp, also known as the “Werewolf of Bedburg,” was killed for publicly stating that he was a werewolf, with the power to transform whenever he pleased.

Peter Stumpp
A traditional torture rack.

Peter Stumpp was born in the village of Epprath near Bedburg. He was a wealthy German farmer who had great influence in the surrounding area’s politics. He had a son, a daughter, and an intimate relationship with one of his distant relatives known as Katharina Trump.

Sometime during the year of 1589, Peter Stumpp was accused of being a werewolf. After being stretched on the rack, he confessed to practicing black magic since the age of twelve. He claimed that the Devil gave him a magic girdle, which would allow him to transform into the likeness of a greedy, devouring wolf, strong and mighty, with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like fire, a mouth great and wide, with most sharp and cruel teeth, a huge body, and mighty paws. Stumpp claimed that removing the girdle would reverse the effects. (That sounds like the coolest of werewolf costumes!)

In addition, while being tortured, Stumpp admitted that he had been an insatiable bloodsucker for the last twenty-five years of his life. He would feast and gorge himself on the blood and flesh of goats, lambs, and sheep. He also admitted to killing and eating fourteen children, two pregnant women, and their fetuses.

But the accusations continue:

Not only was Stumpp accused of being a serial murderer and cannibal, but he was also accused of having an incestuous relationship with his daughter. (For her incestuous actions, Stumpp’s daughter was sentenced to die with him.) Stumpp’s relationship with his distant relative, Katharina Trump, did not help the whole incestuous thing, nor did Stumpp’s admittance to having had sexual relations with a succubus that was offered to him by the Devil.

The execution:

Peter Stumpp
Composite woodcut print by Lukas Mayer of the execution of Peter Stumpp in 1589 at Bedburg near Cologne.

On October 31st, 1589, Stumpp was put on the wheel. Using red-hot pincers, flesh was torn from his body in ten different places. To prevent his undead self from climbing out of the grave and returning to life, his limbs were broken using the blunt side of an axehead. He was then beheaded and burned on a pyre. Both his daughter and mistress were flayed, raped, and strangled, then burned along with Stumpp’s body. As a warning to others, the local authorities erected a sign depicting a picture of a wolf and a wheel, with Stumpp’s head mounted on top.