Foreign News: Vampire Coachman (TIME: Monday, June 9, 1930)

After 16 months of strenuous detective work by some of Germany's greatest criminologists, one Peter Kuerten, 47, was arrested last week, charged with being the famed "Düsseldorf Vampire" (TIME, Jan. 13).

Herr Kuerten is a retired family coachman, scrupulously clean and neat, polite spoken, with a grave, impressive face. His fellow servants thought nothing of his one eccentricity: a passion for studying geography. In arresting Coachman Kuerten last week, the police pointed out that this hobby dovetailed nicely with the "Düsseldorf Vampire's" habit of sending to local newspapers, small, carefully drawn maps illustrating each of his ghastly crimes.

After 24 hours of the kind of treatment police know how to give a suspect, Peter Kuerten confessed to some seven murders and six attacks on Düsseldorf women and girls. Since this would account for more than half the "vampire crimes," the police called it a day, gave their well - badgered prisoner a rest. Said he: "The quicker I lose my head now, the happier I shall be."

Terrible though his crimes are, Coachman Kuerten ranks third on the list of Germany's post - War "mass murderers." His record was exceeded by "Harrman of Hanover" and "Angerstein of North Germany" - probably the most ferocious, wholesale destroyers of life (except in Wartime) since the Middle Ages. Oddly enough last week, the heirs of Killer Angerstein collected on his life insurance. After prolonged litigation the court held that beheading (the official German mode of execution) constitutes "death" within the meaning of an ordinary insurance policy.

About the crimes of Düsseldorf's coachman there was nothing remarkable, except that for 16 months their author invariably escaped. His weapon was a common penknife. Walking up to a woman in some secluded spot he would address her courteously, watch his chance to seize her with a firm, stifling grip. In a nearby shelter of some sort - always carefully chosen -  Coachman Kuerten would then deal with his victim, usually ending by hacking her lifeless body into an almost unrecognizable state with his penknife.

Opponents of the famed criminological thesis which says "It is insane to commit murder, therefore every murderer is insane, therefore no murderer should be punished," observed last week that in Germany this syllogism seems to have badly broken down. Triumphantly they pointed out that Coachman Kuerten, Harrman and Angerstein all lived orderly lives apart from their crimes, showed no other symptoms of insanity, seemed to be actuated as killers by what one detective last week called "sane malice."

That Coachman Kuerten was caught resulted from his softheartedness in not actually killing some nine women whom he attacked, merely pricking and slashing them lightly with his penknife and letting them go. One such victim recognized and later denounced him to the completely baffled police. His wife sobbed last week: "I don't understand. I can't believe it! Peter was always so kind and gentle to me."

Fanged Films

USA, 2006
Yugoslavia, 1971
The Time of Vampires

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

Vol. 1 No. 25

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The Bane of the Moor