A to Z Challenge: K (serial killers)

Peter Kürten — The Düsseldorf Vampire

Fast Facts:

  • Born in 1883, died 1931 in Germany
  • Murdered at least 9 people after being sexually abused as a child
  • Realising one of his rape victims could identify him he confessed his crimes to his wife and urged her to turn him in so she could get a financial reward
  • Charged with 9 murders and 7 attempted murders
  • He was found guilty on all counts and executed

Peter Kürten was the eldest of 13 children and lived in extreme poverty in a one bedroom apartment. His father was a sadistic alcoholic who sexually abused his family. When he was 9 years old, Kürten befriended a dog-catcher who lived in the same building who introduced him to bestiality with dogs (later in life to other farmyard animals). His first claimed murders were at the same age, when he pushed a school friend into the water and when a second went in to rescue him held them both under. This was dismissed as an accident.

As he grew, he found pleasure when he stabbed the animal during intercourse. Kürten moved on to petty crime and ran away from home. He ended up in jail for his crimes over a number of years. While in jail he shifted his sadistic tendencies to humans. With each jail term his anger against society increased, as did his depravity. The first known victim was a child who was assaulted and stabbed. A family member was blamed and Kürten discovered pleasure in the suffering of others.

Kürten was called for military service at the start of WWI but he deserted. He was caught and served his longest sentence. After he was released he married a former prostitute who had been found guilty of murdering her fiancé. He found a job and spent a number of years in relative normality.

He reverted back to his criminal life in Dusseldorf where he again began his sexual attacks. Over a 15 month period he sexually attacked and killed a number of victims including young girls, women and men. He had a habit of returning to the scene of the crime, sometimes speaking to police. The police believed he might drink the blood of his victims, coining his name “Vampire of Dusseldorf”.

Police investigations were derailed when a learning-disabled man confessed to the murders. He was convicted and the case believed closed. The killings continued, however, and even though a woman who survived her attack was able to give a description to police it was too generic to help. Kürten enjoyed the press attention and panic and even contacted a newspaper to tell them the location of a body. He didn’t always kill his victims, which made the news reports shocking.

One victim was taken to Kürten’s apartment before being taken to a nearby forest and raped before releasing her. Knowing she could identify he confessed his crimes to his wife and insisted she turn him in for a reward. Once arrested, Kürten provided a detailed account of his 79 crimes. He had a nearly photographic memory and got pleasure recalling the crimes. He was charged with 9 murders and 7 attempted murders. He was found guilty and received 9 death sentences and was executed by guillotine.

18 comments on “A to Z Challenge: K (serial killers)

  1. Eew! And I thought MY lot of serial killers in Crime Time(my book) were awful!

  2. They still had the guillotine then? Wow. This one was particularly nasty.

    • I wonder if they brought out the guillotine just for him? I was surprised it was still in use then as well.

  3. Yikes! These people are getting worse and worse.


    • You wouldn’t think they could, and yet they still do. There are some nasty people out there!

  4. This is probably the most disturbing one so far.

    Kickstarts by The Wanted

  5. 13 children! It’s easy to see how his upbringing slipped through the cracks.

  6. Whoa, this one’s a really sick puppy. It sounds silly to make that distinction – it’s not as if there are any healthy serial killers out there. But the sheer extent and variety of depravity here is shocking. This is the first one in your list where the word that pops to mind for me is ‘evil’.

  7. Yeesh! That guy was bad news…

  8. Wow, the guillotine, I thought this was an exclusively French thing, Well, I don’t mind as long as it got the job done. What a monster! Even though his father and neighbor “taught” him this was “normal” he must have known in his heart what he kept doing was wrong?! Intersting that he found the “perfect” wife.


    • I think he would have had to have known. I wonder if there was a genetic reason for ignoring the “right from wrong” knowledge?

  9. Just when I thought these people couldn’t get worse. This guy is a real prize.

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