Warehouse E

The Magic Belt

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The Werewolf of Bedburg

By James Donahue

There is a true story about Peter Stubbe, a German farmer who in the late Sixteenth Century was convicted of such heinous crimes of murder and mutilation of both cattle and humans that he became known as the Werewolf of Bedburg.

Strangely, it was said that Stubbe perceived himself as a werewolf that was dominated by the Devil. While the people said he never physically transformed into a wolf, as the native American shape shifters of the Southwest United States claim to do, he did the next best thing. He cloaked himself with the skin of a wolf when prowling for his victims.

When he was on trial, Stubbe allegedly confessed that when he was 12, the Devil gave him a “magic belt” of wolf fur that, when worn, transformed him into “the likeness of a greedy, devouring wolf, strong and mighty, with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like brands of fire.”

Stubbe was determined to be a deranged serial killer responsible for the deaths of 13 children, two pregnant women and several cows in and around the town of Bedburg.

The crimes were gory. Young girls were sexually assaulted before their bodies were physically torn into pieces. The fetuses were torn from the wombs of the two pregnant women and their hearts torn from their bodies and eaten raw. Small children were strangled, bludgeoned and their throats ripped open. Some of the children were disemboweled and partially eaten. Farmers found lambs and calves dead in the field, their bodies ripped apart and partly consumed by what appeared to be an animal.

All of this was happening at a dark time in human history, when superstitious and illiterate people believed in demons, witchcraft and werewolves. The crimes were so terrible that farmers brought out their dogs, picked up their firearms and began hunting for what they believed was some kind of demon from hell.

It was said that the hunt continued for days before the creature was discovered. And one old story said they chased down a wolf, not a man. When the dogs had the creature cornered, the hunters converged on the spot to find Peter Stubbe cowering in the grass. He had a walking stick in his hand.

The people in the area could not believe that their well-known neighbor, Mr. Stubbe, could be the terrible killer they were hunting. Stubbe was a wealthy and respected member of the community. He was, at the time, a widower and father of two young children.

Here is where the story of Stubbe’s guilt becomes somewhat clouded. He did not confess to the crimes until he was tortured on the rack. That was when his story of his meeting with the Devil, and magic wolf pelt belt, and sorcery was told.

Stubbe was found guilty on October 28, 1589, and sentenced to a terrible death. His body was strapped spread-eagle on a large wheel. Then while he was still alive, his executioners used red-hot pinchers to tear his body apart as the townspeople watched. Stubbe’s arms and legs were broken with a large ax. And in the end, his head was dismembered. Then what remained of Stubbe, plus his daughter and his mistress were burned at the stake. The women were convicted of being an assessor to Stubbe’s crimes.

Such was “justice” in Germany during the time of the dark ages, the black plague and the years people lived under the fear of evil spirits.

Contemporary researchers now question Stubbe’s guilt. Some believe it possible that his crazed confession was brought on by torture and his own personal superstitions.

All that is known about that time in Bedburg is that the killings appear to have ended after Stubbe was captured and put to death.