May 7, 2023 | Serial Killers

Peter Kürten – The Dusseldorf Vampire

Morgan Collier

Morgan Collier

Peter Kürten, the serial killer famously known as the “Dusseldorf Vampire,” was born in 1883 in Germany to a household plagued by abuse. He started committing murders in 1913, and the sensational coverage of his killings garnered him widespread attention. 

Early Life

Kürten entered this world on May 26, 1883, in Köln-Mullheim, a suburb of Cologne, Germany. Despite being the oldest of a large family of 13 children, Kürten’s childhood was marked by extreme poverty and deprivation. To make matters worse, his father, an alcoholic with a cruel streak, subjected his wife and children to constant abuse in the small, cramped living space they all shared.

At age 9, Kürten Established an inappropriate bond with a dog catcher residing in his building, who encouraged him to harm animals. Initially, Kürten targeted dogs, but as he aged, he progressed to farmyard animals like sheep and goats.

When Kürten turned 16 in 1899, he became involved in minor criminal activities and fled from home to avoid the unceasing brutality.

Kürten’s involvement in petty crime resulted in him frequently being incarcerated throughout his late teenage years. In the brief intervals between his prison terms, he was responsible for several sexual assaults.


On May 25, 1913, Peter Kürten committed his first known murder. The victim was 9-year-old Christine Klein, who tragically lost her life when she was stabbed and sexually assaulted in her own home while her parents were working downstairs.

When World War I broke out, Kürten was conscripted for military service. However, he struggled to adjust to the strict military regulations and ultimately deserted from his barracks. After being captured, he was imprisoned until 1921.

After his imprisonment, Kürten was able to establish a stable life and live in a relatively ordinary manner. He married a former sex worker called Auguste Scharf and got himself a steady job. 

Unfortunately, this sense of normalcy would only last for a mere four years because he was eventually incarcerated for six months following an incident in which he coerced a maid into engaging in sexual activity with him.

Following his release from his 5th stint in prison, Kürten went back to his old ways almost immediately. 

Within the span of a single month, he took the lives of two individuals and made an effort to kill a third, who, despite sustaining injuries, managed to survive.

In the ensuing months, he made several attempts to strangle four women, all of whom managed to escape his grasp. However, his lethal rampage would reach its pinnacle in August of 1929.

The Killing Continues

Throughout the month of August, Kürten went on a rampage and took the lives of six innocent people. To further his sadistic pleasures, he decided to play a twisted game with the police. After burying one of his victims, he sent a map to the police, revealing the location of the body. 

In the days that followed, Kürten murdered two sisters, one by strangulation and the other by slicing her neck. During the murder, Kürten committed his first act of cannibalism and drank the blood of the younger sister as it flowed from her neck.

Kürten’s next two murders took place one month later. He used a hammer to strike two servant girls over their heads, resulting in their deaths.

But his next victim would be the last that he managed to slay.

On November 7, 1929, Peter Kürten stabbed 5-year-old Gertrude Albermann to death. He then hid her body under some rubble. Two days later, he contacted a newspaper with a map detailing the position of the body. 

This act of taunting only served to increase the terror and panic in the community as they tried to catch the elusive and dangerous killer.

His Capture

Kürten made a failed attempt to seduce and murder a young woman named Maria Budlick on May 14. She managed to escape his apartment, but upon fleeing, Kürten raped her in a nearby forest.

She then shared her ordeal in a letter to a friend, but the letter ended up in the hands of a postal worker due to an incorrect address. Fortunately, the letter was eventually passed on to the police.

As the police were reading Budlick’s letter, Kürten’s wife was hearing him confess to his crimes. Surprisingly, she had managed to stay married to him and supposedly had no idea about his evil acts. Kürten suggested that his wife should turn him in as there was a reward out for him. He thought it would be a better option as there would be some money left for her after his arrest.

Once Peter Kürten was taken into custody, he admitted to all his crimes without any sign of regret. He disclosed that he had committed a total of 68 offenses, which included 10 murders and 31 attempted murders. He rationalized his actions by stating that his brutal acts were simply a way to get back at the cruelties he suffered during his childhood and that he was only taking what he believed was rightfully his.

Trial And Execution

Kürten’s trial lasted only 90 minutes as the jury found him guilty on all counts. He was sentenced to death by guillotine, receiving nine death sentences. On July 2, 1931, Kürten was executed in Cologne, Germany.

Just before his execution, Kürten’s final words reveal the extent of his twisted mind. He asked, “After my head is chopped off, will I still be able to hear, for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be the ultimate pleasure.”