One might be forgiven for believing that the 16th century werewolf attacks were limited to France. It may seem to, given the high number of cases in that country, but one of the most celebrated trials actually took place in Germany in 1579. The accused was Peter Stumpp and the details of the trial were so sensational that they inspired a sixteen page pamphlet published in London in 1590. Unfortunately, the original German version has been lost.
Peter Stumpp was a wealthy farmer and, by all appearances, an influential and productive member of society. He appears to have been married, although he was a widower by 1580, with two children, a daughter and a son of indeterminate age. And yet, during his trial, a plethora of lurid details emerged including that he:
- Practiced black magic since he was twelve.
- Was able to change into a wolf thanks to a magical belt given to him by the Devil.
- Had devoured goats, lambs and sheep as well as fourteen children, two pregnant women and their fetuses (worse still was the claim that one of the children was his own son).
- Was guilty of an incestuous relationship with both his daughter and a close female relative.
- Once had sexual relations with a succubus sent by the Devil.
His punishment was one of the most brutal ever recorded, ignoring the fact that most of his confessions were made after being stretched on the rack. His daughter and supposed mistress were strangled and he was sentenced to death on the Wheel. In reality, he was merely tortured while on this apparatus before being beheaded and burned. Many still claim that he was nothing more than a casualty of the turbulent political winds blowing over the region at the time.