Peter Kurten, the Vampire of Düsseldorf, appeared to have been destined for a life of violence from the day he was born. However, no one could have predicted that he would earn himself the title of “king of the sexual delinquents.” (Peter Kurten, the ‘Vampire of Düsseldorf’ ) His killings had no purpose but to subdue his lust and his lust was never sated.

Peter Kurten was born in Cologne, Germany on May 26, 1883, the first-born child in a family of thirteen. His father was an alcoholic, frequently beat his children, and often raped Kurten’s mother in front of him.

“If they hadn’t been married, it would have been rape,” Kurten commented once. Kurten’s father also committed incest with Kurten’s younger sister. This influence was unhealthy enough for a young boy growing up, but another mentor in depravity appeared in the form of a dogcatcher. Kurten’s father was often locked up in prison on minor charges and to make ends meet, Kurten’s mother would take boarders into their one-room apartment. One such boarder was the dogcatcher.

At the tender age of nine, Kurten was taught by the dogcatcher how to masturbate and torture dogs, thus introducing him to the world of bestiality. (Serial killers - casefiles {kurten, peter - the dusseldorf vampire}) While these newly taught activities were deplorable enough, Kurten had already begun to create his bloody mark in history on his own.

Also at age nine, Kurten was playing with two of his friends on the river Rhine when one boy accidentally fell in. Kurten maneuvered the raft over him and began suffocating him. When the second boy dived in to save the first boy, Kurten moved the raft over the second boy’s head and suffocated him as well. This action was labeled an accident and Kurten was left unpunished. When Kurten was eleven, he and his family moved to Düsseldorf.

By the time Kurten turned sixteen, he had had enough of his father’s abuse and ran away from home. Ironically enough, if he had waited a few more weeks, he would have seen his father arrested for committing incest with his 13-year-old sister and put away for three years. As it was, Kurten wasn’t out on the street for long; he was arrested for petty thievery and sent to jail for the first of his twenty-seven offenses. Once released, he took up with an “ill-treated masochistic” prostitute who was twice his age. His bloodlust had begun to surface once more, however, and in 1899 he reported attacking a girl in the Grafenburg Woods. Since no body was ever found, it is assumed that she survived his attack but was frightened into silence.

Over the next fourteen years, Kurten kept coming and going in and out of prison for petty crimes. Not long after he was released from prison in 1913, he killed once more. On May 23, Kurten had broken into an inn in Köln and was trying to find things to steal when, “…I saw a sleeping girl of about 10, covered with a thick feather bed." (Peter Kurten) He grabbed her neck and choked her into unconsciousness. He “…held the child’s head and cut her throat. I heard the blood spurt and drip on the mat beside the bed. It spurted in an arch, right over my hand. The whole thing lasted about three minutes. Then I went locked the door again and went back home to Düsseldorf.” (Peter Kurten)

He went back to the inn the next night and felt a thrill as the people buzzed around him, talking about the murder. As he said, “all the horror and indignation did him good.” (Peter Kurten)

In 1914, he was drafted into the Kaiser’s Army but quickly deserted, which caused his first major arrest. He was locked up for desertion and sentenced to eight years. In jail, Kurten frequently broke minor rules in order to be placed in solitary confinement where he would indulge himself by dreaming of ways that he could kill hundreds of people. (Summers) Finally in 1921, he was released back into German society. He moved to Altenburg, married a former prostitute and appeared to be adjusting to normal society quite well. In 1925, however, he and his wife moved back to Dusseldorf in Kurten’s search for a job. Something about Dusseldorf appeared to trigger Kurten’s bloodlust once more and between 1925 through 1929, four women were attacked and raped. There were also a startling amount of arson-related fires in Dusseldorf which Kurten would later claim as his.

On February 4th, 1929, Kurten attacked and stabbed a woman twenty-four times before she escaped. On February 9th, 1929, Kurten finally claimed his next victim when he murdered 8-year-old Rosa Ohliger. Kurten wasn’t done on his spree yet, as evidenced by the discovery of a 45-year-old mechanic’s body which Kurten had stabbed twenty times.

Kurten continued to desire blood, however, and on the night of August 23, 1929, Kurten stabbed and killed five-year-old Gertrude Hamacher and fourteen-year-old Louise Lenzen. The next day, he attempted to rape a servant girl named Gertrude Schulte, but stabbed her and left her for dead when she resisted. As the body count rose, so did Germany’s fear, especially after two more murders were committed in September and October. While there were more attacks, the last known murder victim was 5-year-old Gertrude Albermann, who was murdered on November 7, 1929.

For a while, it looked like Kurten would never be caught, but he finally made a fatal error. On May 14th 1930, an unemployed woman named Maria Budlick arrived in Dusseldorf looking for a job where she was picked up by one man who attempted to take her to a girl’s hostel. The man was, in turn, scared off by another man appearing on the scene. This other man was Kurten. Kurten first took the woman to his apartment and fed her before telling her that he would walk her to the hostel. She believed him, of course, and they were supposedly off on their way. Once Kurten led her to the woods, he grabbed her by the throat and started to strangle her. But just before everything went black, Kurten asked her: “Do you remember where I live?” he asked. “In case you're ever in need and want my help?” (Peter Kurten, the ‘Vampire of Düsseldorf’ )  The woman replied in the negative, and so he raped her and let her go.

This sealed Kurten’s fate. Maria not only remembered the street name, she remembered Kurten’s face. She wrote a letter to her friend discussing what had happened, but due to it having the wrong address, it was delivered to the wrong person, who took one look at the contents and handed it over to the police. To summarize what happened next, Maria Budlick led the police to Kurten, who confessed to his wife who he was so that she could turn him in for the reward. On May 24, Kurten was arrested and taken to the police station where “he confessed to almost eighty offenses.” (Wikipedia: Peter Kurten)

After a short trial, Peter Kurten was found guilty and sentenced to be guillotined.

After all of the evidence, it should be obvious that Peter Kurten was a lust killer. He killed to satisfy his sexual desires. Although he had fantasies about slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people, he was grounded in reality. He also committed necrophilia with at least two of his victims. Finally, sex was an essential part of his crimes.

Peter Kurten had been dead for over seventy years, but his crimes are still associated with the city of Dusseldorf today. He’s made his mark on history by being the first serial killer to be analyzed by psychiatrists and to have helped the Germans make great strides in profiling criminals. Kurten may have been a stereotypical serial killer, but without him, how would psychiatrists know what a stereotypical serial killer was like?





















Peter kurten, the ‘vampire of düsseldorf’. (n.d.). Retrieved Nov. 12, 2005, from


Peter kurten. (n.d.). Retrieved Nov. 10, 2005, from Crime Library Web site:


Summers, c. (n.d.). Crime case closed - peter kurten. Retrieved Nov. 10, 2005, from BBC Web site:


Serial killers - casefiles {kurten, peter - the dusseldorf vampire}. (n.d.). Retrieved Nov. 11, 2005, from


Wikipedia-peter kurten. (n.d.). Retrieved Nov. 11, 2005, from


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