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Peter Stumpf - Werewolf of Bedburg

Everyone knows that werewolves aren't real. That would be true in a sane and rational world. Fortunately, there is very little sanity or rationality to be had in ours. Werewolves are very real to a small portion of society.

The 16th century was a time when the portion of European society that believed in werewolves was much higher. Werewolf trials were as popular as witch trials for a time. The results were the same, with the accused being tortured into a confession before a brutal execution.

Out of all the surviving stories from that time, the tale of Peter Stumpf remains most compelling. The case remains controversial to this day. Some believe that Peter was an actual serial killer. Others see his execution as nothing more than a political stunt.

Werewolf Attacks in Bedburg

Bedburg, Germany, was a small city in the Holy Roman Empire. Protestants and Catholics were fighting about who was more Christian. The Empire, which was neither holy nor Roman, was in decline.

By some reports, the attacks began in 1564. Livestock and pets were found mutilated with such savagery that rumors of demons began circulating in Bedburg. Town officials reasoned that the culprit must be some beast, and organized regular hunts, to no avail.

Cologne, the electorate in which Bedburg was situated, fell into the grips of war in 1583. During the 5 years of the Protestant vs. Catholic conflict, the attacks spread from cattle to people.

Roving bandits were dismissed as a cause of the carnage. Either by witness, or pure gossip, a description of the responsible creature began circulating. This is from the original pamphlet published in English one year after Peter Stumpf's execution:

“greedy… strong and mighty, with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like unto brands of fire, a mouth great and wide, with most sharp and cruel teeth, a huge body and mighty paws.”

There was no doubt in the minds of the people of Bedburg. Only a werewolf could be responsible for the acts of violence they were seeing. They began traveling in large groups, careful to keep to the roads.

Women and children seemed to be on the beast's menu. Travelers often stumbled across the mutilated remains of one of the werewolf's victims. Fear and paranoia reached a fever pitch.

Something had to be done, and one year after the end of the Cologne War, something was done.

Peter, Peter, People Eater

Peter Stumpf's name has been recorded in a variety of ways. English readers might recognize him as Peter Stubbe. He has also been called Abil Griswold. Whatever his name was, the man was a protestant, and farmer who lived outside the city of Bedburg. His left hand was missing, thus he was named stump.

Groups were hunting for the creature for 25 bitter years. Then, in 1589, a team of hunters managed to track the creature using hounds. Following the dogs' noses, the hunters tracked their demonic quarry. After encircling the werewolf in a bush, the men were shocked to discover Peter Stumpf instead of the beast.

Reportedly, the men actually witnessed Peter Stubbe transform back into a man. What's more likely is that they cornered him on his way home. Either that or he was actually the killer, and the dogs did a good job.

Peter was taken to a cell in Bedburg. There he was put to the rack. For those that don't know, the rack is akin to being put in traction. The victim's hands are tied to a wooden frame, and a rope is tied around their ankles. Torturers will begin ratcheting the rope tighter and tighter. The ratchet ensures that there is no relief during the stretching.

Effectively, the Rack slowly dislocates your wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. First the joints pop out of their sockets, then the muscles begin to tear away, and finally there is a permanent separation of the limbs, at the joint.

A Werewolf Doing Squats With A Barbell On Its Shoulders In A Gym With A Squat Rack
Not this kind of rack

Peter Stumpf confessed on the Rack. He told his torturers a grand narrative of dark magic and deals with the devil. Anything to avoid the further tortures they promised.

According to his confession, Peter became interested in the occult some time around his 12th birthday. Soon he was trafficking with demons and partaking in sins of the flesh.

Peter Stumpf (Peeter Stubbe in the pamphlet), met with the Devil. During their meeting, the Devil offered Peter whatever his heart desired. All that he had to give was his eternal soul.

Peter Stumpf sought neither fame nor riches, instead, he begged the Devil for the ability to take on the form of a beast. In this form he would be able to satiate his bloodlust, and no investigator would be able to trace his crimes back to him.

The Devil was pleased that Peter wanted to wreak only havoc. He gave Peter a magical belt, made of wolf's hide. Whenever Peter donned the belt, he was magically transformed into the shape of a monstrous wolf.

“he procured of the Devil a girdle, which being put on, he forthwith became a wolf”

Thus, Peter could murder and rape to his dark heart's content. He could then also walk among the townsfolk, who were none the wiser.

Trial of the Bedburg Werewolf

The trial of Peter Stubbe, Werewolf of Bedburg
I promise that I am not a werewolf.

Peter Stumpf was convicted of 18 murders while wearing the guise of a wolf. 13 of his victims were small children. He would bludgeon them to death before tearing into their throats and eating of their flesh.

He sexually assaulted his female victims before murdering them and cannibalizing their bodies. 2 of his victims were pregnant at the time of the attacks. He claimed to have ripped the babies from their wombs, and eaten their hearts.

Several men found their throats torn in the werewolf's jaws. One of the victims was Peter's own young son. It seems that his bloodlust knew no bounds.

“in the shape and likeness of a wolf he encountered his own son and there most cruelly slew him, which done, he presently ate the brains out of his head as a most savory and dainty delicious mean to staunch his greedy appetite: the most monstrous act that ever man heard of”

The pamphlet makes an effort to also indicate that he often attacked lambs, which could indicate a religious motivation behind the pamphlet itself. Followers of Christianity typically refer to themselves as either sheep, or lambs. Therefore, if Peter was attacking lambs, he could metaphorically be attacking the core of Christianity.

Like a jealous child, Peter would attack livestock when he failed to find a person. Devastation was his goal.

During his trial, he confessed to more crimes. Peter Stumpf claimed that he was in an incestuous relationship with his daughter, Beell (Sybil) Stubbe. Sybil allegedly bore his child. Peter was committing incest with his sister as well.

One of his stranger 'crimes' was seducing a local woman by the name Katherine Trompin. She was dragged down with him, succumbing to accusations of sorcery and indecent conduct.

The Devil sent a succubus to Peter. Think of it as a performance bonus. After all, the man was so cartoonishly villainous that the Devil himself must have been taken aback.

Peter Stumpf claimed that when the hunters cornered him, he discarded the belt. Hoping that he could fool them with his human form. Investigators went searching for the belt, but were never able to find it.

Instead of concluding that there was no belt, and the whole story was made up to escape further torture, they decided that the Devil must have reclaimed it. Obviously the tricky old Devil was done with Peter, and wanted to watch him suffer a bit before being sent to hell.

The Time had come for Peter's sentencing. What though, could be done to match the enormity of his deeds?

“After he had some space been imprisoned, the magistrates found out through due examination of the matter, that his daughter Stubbe Beell and his gossip Katherine Trompin were both accessory to divers murders committed, who for the same as also for their lewd life otherwise committed, was arraigned, and with Stubbe Peeter condemned, and their several judgments pronounced the 28 of October 1589, in this manner, that is to say: Stubbe Peeter as principal malefactor, was judged first to have his body laid on a wheel, and with red hot burning pincers in ten several places to have the flesh pulled off from the bones, after that, his legs and arms to be broken with a wooden ax or hatchet, afterward to have his head struck from his body, then to have his carcass burned to ashes.”

Peter Stumpf was broken on the wheel, decapitated and burned on 31 October 1589. His daughter and mistress were burned in the same fire. Many aristocrats and princes of Germany attended the execution.

The wheel upon which he had been broken was erected on a high pole in the town square. Atop the wheel was placed the likeness of a wolf. Thus ended the story of Peter Stubbe, Werewolf of Bedburg.

The Truth

Shrugging Werewolf
Seems legit

Records of Peter Stumpf's trial and execution were destroyed. The only account is the anonymous pamphlet. We can safely assume that the trial was real, though, as these trials were commonplace in 16th century Germany.

Peter, being a farmer, wouldn't warrant the attendance of upper crust citizens. This suggests a political motive. Remember the Cologne war, which ended in a Catholic victory?

The new Catholic rulers could have used Peter Stumpf as a scapegoat. He was a protestant in a time when it was a very bad look to be protestant. Accusing him of being a werewolf would send a message.

Protestants were in league with Satan.

So we are left with 3 distinct possibilities. Peter Stumpf was the victim of a bloody propaganda stunt. He was a serial killer suffering from Clinical Lycanthropy, or, he was in fact a real werewolf.



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