"A true treatise describing the damnable life and death of a certain Peter Stubbe. This was a vile witcher who committed many murders in appearance as a wolf and continued this diabolical behavior for 25 years, killing and devouring everything: men, women and children," read the opening lines of a pamphlet published in England in the 16th century.
It is a 16-page illustrated letter that was printed in London. Because there are no records or minutes of witnesses from Stubbe's trial, this illustrated pamphlet remains the main source for the grisly story to this day. It was probably translated from German into English at the time. However, a possible original German source has not yet been found.
Peter Stubbe is said to have been a farmer from the village of Epprath near Cologne. He lived there as a widower with his daughter Beell. After mutilated animals were found in the Bedburg region, which were brutally executed as if a wolf had killed them, a hunt was organized by the villagers. A group of men set out to capture the beast responsible for these gruesome acts.
Now the story becomes like a fairy tale: when the pursuers were on the trail of a wolf-like figure, the pamphlet says that Stubbe took off his belt. He is said to have received this directly from the devil as a child in order to be able to transform himself into a wolf. His identity was thus established and Stubbe was arrested. He was then taken to the torture chamber of the city of Bedburg. There he was tortured until he confessed to all his cruel deeds.
On October 31, 1589, "Stump" or "Stüpp", as he was also called, was tried. At this point it is said to have raged in the area for 25 years. The accusation was that he could turn into a werewolf in order to carry out bestial murders in this form created by the devil. He is credited with multiple murders, cannibalism and incest. Altogether he probably murdered 16 people, 13 of them were children. His own son, whom he fathered with his daughter, is said to have been among the victims. He is said to have murdered him and later devoured his brain. He is also said to have torn the unborn children from pregnant women and eaten their hearts.
Peter Stubbe was sentenced to death for the crimes he was accused of. On the day of execution, he was tied to a wheel by an executioner. He then cut flesh from several parts of his body with red-hot tongs – sometimes down to the bone. Stubbe was skinned alive. After his arms and legs were broken, he was beheaded with a hatchet. His body was burned on a pyre. His daughter Beell and his lover Katharina Trompin were sentenced with him. The two women were themselves burned at the stake after witnessing Stubbe's execution for being an accessory to murder. The executioner is said to have strangled her beforehand. As a deterrent and reminder, Stubbe's head was later placed on a pole and placed in the center of the village.
The case of Peter Stubbe, in which it is still not certain whether he was actually a bestial murderer or whether he was simply blamed for numerous accidents and/or animal attacks, is still considered the most well-known of all "werewolf trials". It even got people talking as far away as the Netherlands, Denmark and England.
Sources: "National Geographic", "British Library"