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.