Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Trials: The Damnable Life and Death of Peter Stubbe, 1589-90

In the year 1590 in London, there appeared an anonymous biography describing the life and death of Peter Stubbe – a lycanthrope executed on March 31st of that same year in Bedburg near Cologne for the atrocious crimes he had committed in the form of a wolf. It is probably one of the most famous werewolf trials and it became notorious because of the brutality and number of crimes involved. Below is a brief description of the sinful life of the accused.

Peter Stubbe was born in Peradt and lived in Bedburg near Cologne in Germany. Ever since the age of twelve, Stubbe had been prone to evildoing to such a degree that, taking a particular liking to magic, necromancy and witchcraft, he turned away from Christian faith and gave his body and soul into the hands of the devil and other “impure” powers. In exchange for revoking salvation, he asked the devil for numerous pleasures in his short life, as well as the possibility of becoming famous all around the world, even for the price of heaven. The devil agreed eagerly to fulfilling Stubbe’s wishes, but as it was later shown, these wishes did not relate to such things as wealth and success in life, for his lust could not be satisfied by any worldly means. Because of the cruelty of his heart and soul that were particularly merciless and bloodthirsty, Stubbe limited his wishes to the possibility of venting his foulness according to his liking, on men, women and children under the likeness of a wolf, and the possibility of living in such form without fear of being recognised as the culprit of the bloody acts he was going to commit. The devil, who saw in him a perfect instrument of evildoing, gave him a strap which, when put on, instantly gave the person the appearance of “a ferocious wolf, strong and powerful, with large eyes that glow at night like silver fire-bands, huge and wide jaws, teeth of unheard sharpness, a gigantic body, and massive claws”. Having been taken off, the strap would change the perpetrator back into a human as if nothing ever happened. Stubbe rejoiced at the devil’s gift, because the appearance of a wolf that he could assume whenever he wanted to ideally suited his nature, which was prone to acts of cruelty and bloodshed. For this reason, he then indulged himself in bestial and disgusting acts of murder.

Whenever a person annoyed or crossed him, an anger and thirst for revenge began to burn inside him, which would leave him only after, in the form of a wolf, he had killed that person or one of their relatives. Having tasted crime, Stubbe began to try out new ways of spilling blood and so he roamed the village both day and night, committing hideous crimes.

While in human form (when he did not occupy himself with killing), he would walk the streets of Cologne or Bedburg dressed elegantly and very often one could meet people greeting him; the same people whose children or relatives he had ripped apart, but who would not hold a grudge against him due to their ignorance. Strolling, he would observe people and his potential victims. Whenever he spotted women, girls or children that he liked and whom his soul desired, he would wait for them to leave town and would then follow them. If he managed to encounter them alone, he would kidnap them, drag them into the open fields and kill them brutally under the guise of a wolf. It also often happened that, while roaming far away from the town, he would notice groups of girls playing in the fields. On such occasions, transformed into a wolf, he would leap at them, grab one and then, having satisfied his disgusting lusts, kill her immediately.

Such was the extent of his cruelty that the whole vicinity became terrified by the wickedness of the bloodthirsty and insatiable wolf. Continuing his monstrous activities and still committing hideous acts, over the course of a few years he murdered thirteen children and two young pregnant women, from whose bodies he had ripped out the fetuses in the bloodiest and most inhuman way imaginable and devoured their hearts, warm, raw and beating, which he considered a meal most delicate and suitable for his monstrous appetite. Stubbe, however, was not satisfied by human prey alone – he would kill many lambs and kids, devouring them raw, just like a wolf, so that nobody would suspect the killings were done by a sorcerer rather than a wolf.

During that time, he lived with his daughter – a beautiful and young girl whom he loved in the most unnatural of ways and with whom he had an incestuous relationship. In fact, he had been in this relationship with her even before he succumbed to evil. Her name was Beel Stubbe and her charm and beauty evoked the admiration of everyone who knew her. Stubbe’s lust and disgusting desires towards her lead to them having a son, and he lived with her day by day as though with a concubine. Peter, as lustful and devoted to evil a creature as he was, also lived in such a way with his sister. One time, a woman came by to him for a chat. Before she left, he managed to seduce her with sweet and charming words and influence her so much that he slept with her and later on she was always ready to fulfill all his desires. The woman went by the name of Katherine Trompin and enjoyed an excellent reputation among her acquaintances.

Unfortunately, all of his immoral desires could not be sated by even such a large company of women and because he was not satisfied with the beauty of any woman, the devil finally sent to Stubbe an evil spirit in the form of a woman so beautiful and attractive that she was reminiscent more of a heavenly sylph rather than an earthly being. The woman stayed with him for seven years – until it was revealed that she was nothing else but a demon.

A cruel murderer that Stubbe was, he would not be sated by corporal sins and he would consider a day lost if he did not kill anyone or anything – be it human or animal. And he killed for nothing else than pleasure, as it was later on described.

The young and handsome son filled Stubbe with happiness and was called by him the light of his life. For a time, Stubbe elevated the love for his son above murdering. But not for long. Soon, Stubbe began to crave also his blood, so one day he invited the child for a walk around the village. The father parted with the son when they were walking through the nearby woods under the pretext of having to relieve his physiological needs and while the boy walked ahead, he transformed into a wolf using his strap, caught up to the son and killed him. Having done so, he devoured his brain as if it was the most refined way to sate his appetite. It was the most horrible deed ever heard of, as never before had there been word of a criminal whose of such degenerated nature.

Some documents relate that once upon a time Stubbe noticed two men and a woman who he then decided he wanted to kill. He was afraid, however, that he would be discovered and that he might not be able to deal with two grown men at once – that’s why he used deception. Hidden in the bushes, he listened until he learned the name of one of the men. After that, he overtook the three and hid himself among the trees. When the three reached the place where he was hiding, he called out the man whose name he had learnt. The man, having heard the voice call out for him, went to check where the voice was coming from and whose it was. He did not return, for the wolf-Stubbe killed him on the spot. The others waited for his return, but when he did not come back for a long time, the other man went to find out what had happened. This way, the werewolf had a chance to dispose of the second of his victims. The woman, distressed by the absence of her companions, began suspecting that something bad had happened to them. She tried to save herself by fleeing, but the wolf was a lot faster than her, so he grabbed her, raped her and killed her cruelly. The bodies of the two men were later found torn to pieces in the woods, but the body of the woman was never to be found.

In this way, Peter Stubbe lived for twenty-five years – unrecognised and unsuspected by anyone. During that time, he killed and devoured countless men, women and children, as well as sheep, lambs, kids, and other animals. In fact, when he could not lure any human into his traps (as they were becoming cautious), the wild and cruel beast that he was would vent its anger by killing animals and committing unthinkable wickedness, so that the whole of Germany was forced to acknowledge them as being true.

The inhabitants of Cologne, Bedburg and Peradt, followed and plagued by the monster-wolf that was continuously a cause of damage and losses, became afraid to travel from one place to another without a larger number of men and weapons. To their horror, they kept finding the remains of the beast’s victims in the fields – the beast that they could not capture and put to death. That is why, when someone’s child went missing, they would lose all hope of finding them, certain that the wolf had already devoured it.

There occurred, however, an accident showing the “great power and mercifulness of God in uplifting the spirits of all Christian souls”. One day, a few children were playing in a meadow near the town, where cows grazed along with their calves. Unexpectedly, the wolf leaped into the middle of the circle of children and grabbed one of the girls by her throat. Fortunately for her, he didn’t manage to tear it due to the stiff, starched collar of her clothes. The screams of the rest of the children startled the grazing cows which, for fear for their calves, attacked the wolf with such violence that he was forced to retreat, leaving the would-be victim alive. The father of the girl, who lived in London, received a letter with the description of what had befallen his daughter in Germany. The letter evoked mistrust in him, so he asked for another one to be sent to him, this time with more specific details.

He was not the only one who received such a letter – they were sent out to all the parents of children attacked by Stubbe, who lived in London or in any other country, as well as those in Germany. In German cities, Cologne, Bedburg and Peradt, people were praying to God that he free them from the danger of the vicious wolf.

But although they doubled and tripled their efforts to come up with a way to capture and kill the monster, they were powerless against his cruelty until God himself decided of his end. Regardless of their failures, the people were devoted to their cause. In order to track down the beast, wherever there were rumours of its presence, large hounds and dogs of great strength were used. Eventually, the wolf was spotted. The hunters quickly circled around the lycanthrope and unleashed their hounds at him so that he had no way of escaping, a opportunity they had never been able to create before. Stubbe, seeing there was no way out, took off the strap and changed back into a human. The hunters were struck with horror when they saw a man where just moments ago there still was a wolf. They would have surely considered him the devil had they not known him. But they knew him, because he had lived in their town for a long time. They captured him and went to his home to make sure that they were not seeing things. Having made sure that it was him they were looking for and that there was no mischief or hallucination of the mind involved, they led him hurriedly to the authorities so that he would be immediately interrogated.

Thus, captured and led in front of the face of justice, Stubbe was submitted to torture in Bedburg. Afraid of the suffering, he quickly admitted to the wickedness of his whole existence and revealed all the cruelties that he had committed during those twenty-five years. He also confessed how, with the use of magic, he had received from the devil a strap that turned him into a wolf when he put it on. In addition, he confessed that he got rid of the strap by throwing it into the forest ravine during his capture and that it must still be there. Hearing this, the officials sent men to that place, but they did not find anything, so they began speculating that it had returned to where it came from – the devil, who,  having cast the mindless human into this pitiful situation, left him all by himself to bear the punishment that he had earned through his despicable life.

Having put him into custody for a time, the officials discovered, through investigation, that his daughter, Beel Stubbe, and Katherine Trompin were both accomplices in many of the murders committed by the lycanthrope. Peter Stubbe was sentenced, along with his two accomplices, by the tribunal and the sentence announced on October 28th 1589 was as follows: “Peter Stubbe, the main culprit, is sentenced to being broken by a wheel and his flesh is to be torn in ten different places by hot pincers so that it is separated from the bone; then, his legs and arms are to be quartered by wooden sticks or hammers, next, he is to be beheaded and, finally, burnt until nothing but ashes remain.” Additionally, his daughter and lover were sentenced to being burnt on a stake at the same time as his corpse. On March 31st 1590, the sentence was carried out in the city of Bedburg in the presence of many princes and pars of Germany.

After the execution, as a warning to all witches and sorcerers, by the command of the city’s authorities, a pole was stuck into the ground, on top of which was placed the wheel with the convict’s body parts. A little above that was hung a likeness of a wolf and a sorcerer’s head, and many pieces of wood to number all his victims. The same authorities ruled that this all be left on public display as an eternal memento of the crimes Stubbe committed and the punishment he received.

On the basis of: A true discourse declaring the damnable lyfe and death of one Stubbe Peter, a highe Jermaine borne, a sorcerer, who in the likeness of a wolfe committed many murders, twenty-five years together: and for the same was executed in the cytye of Bedburg, near Coleyn, on the 31 of Marche 1590, E. Venge, London 1590

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So after a while I come back again and bring you the translated account of the life and death of one of the most notorious werewolves in history. Initially I wanted to post this here on March 31st, the anniversary of his execution, but unfortunately other assignments caught up to me and I simply couldn't make it in time. Now that I'm posting this here doesn't mean however that things will get easier from now on - just on the contrary. And there is yet so much to be done to make this blog even seemingly close to having the same content as my original website... A lot of work, surely, but hopefully after the final exams are over, I will have some more time to pour some content in for everyone's enjoyment. 

Until then!

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  1. Thank you for this article!
    I enjoyed reading it as well as I shivered upon the gruesome acts of Stubbe.
    This inspires me to come up with a fictional werewolf story.

  2. Great article. This has helped me greatly in a essay.

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  4. Hi Folks- Great story and very well told. I thought you might be interested in a close encounter one of my police officers had with a wolf-like beast near the Thames at Maidenhead in the 1990s. http://brianlangston.hubpages.com/hub/The-Beast-of-Boulters-Lock

  5. Hi - My daughter and I have traced my maternal grandparents back to Peter Stubbe - my mother's maiden name is Stump and this is quite a story. Thank you so much for writing! Never thought my family came from werewolves!!