Although the notion of villainous, undead bloodsuckers with evil powers has been around for thousands of years in countless cultures, author Bram Stoker largely invented humanity’s present concept of “the vampire” in 1897 upon the publication of his novel, Dracula.
“Vampire” criminals had been charged as such well before Dracula, and stories of their diabolical practices profoundly inflamed Stoker’s imagination. After the book, though, a fresh global archetype existed for murderers who also consumed their victims’ blood. Check out five such cases of early killer “vampires” below.
1. FRANCOIS BERTRAND, “THE VAMPIRE OF MONTPARNASSE”
Predating Dracula by a half-century, French army officer Francois Bertrand is not knowm to have murdered anyone or even taken to drinking blood. Thus, he came by the nickname “The Vampire of Montparnasse” in 1849 due to another unsavory violation: sex with dead bodies.
Beginning in 1864, Bertrand robbed graves and defiled the corpses of both men and women. Of his intimate relations with the remains of a 16-year-old girl, he once declared:
“I covered it with kisses and pressed it wildly to my heart. All that one could enjoy with a living woman is nothing in comparison with the pleasure I experienced. After I had enjoyed it for about a quarter of an hour, I cut the body up, as usual, and tore out the entrails. Then I buried the cadaver again.”
Once word got out about a tomb raider, the Montparnasse Cemetery set up armed guards. For a while, Bertrand evaded capture and even gunfire, but he eventually took a bullet that outed him as the invader.
Due to no specific law against Bertrand’s grotesque transgressions, authorities charged him with “vampirism.” He did a year in jail, and then apparently lived quietly until 1878. Bertrand’s legacy, however, is that his case coined the term “necrophilia.” Where would true-crime aficionados be without it? [CrimeFeed]
2. VICTOR ANTOINE ARDISSON, “THE VAMPIRE OF MUY”
In 1901, 29-year-old gravedigger and undertaker Victor Antoine Ardisson scandalized France after it came to light that he had mutilated and/or sexually violated more than 100 corpses that had been left in his care.
Acting on a tip from creeped-out neighbors, police raided Ardisson’s home and found him orally gratifying himself with the remains of a three-year-old girl. They also saw a teenage girl’s decapitated head, which Ardisson referred to as his “bride.”
Upon being arrested, Ardisson explained that he hoped sex with the bodies would “revive and restore” them. The court ordered Ardisson to spend the rest of his life in a psychiatric facility, where he was examined by Dr. Alexis Epaulard, one of the first physicians to link what had been deemed “vampirism” with necrophilia.
3. PETER KURTEN, “THE VAMPIRE OF DUSSELDORF”
The childhood of Peter Kurten, who commenced an 18-year killing spree in 1913 that got him deemed “The Vampire of Dusseldorf,” was a thing of horror in itself.
Born in 1883, Kurten’s alcoholic father brutalized his wife and 13 children with extreme violence and sexual assaults. At age 10, Kurten fell under the sway of a perverted local dogcatcher who tutored the child in the abominations of bestiality.
In his teens, Kurten escalated to street crimes accompanied by numerous prison stays. While locked up, he grew more furious and sexually twisted. While on the loose in 1913, Kurten slashed the throat of a 10-year-old girl and said he ejaculated upon her blood that had dripped onto the ground.
Kurten’s next known murder occurred in 1929, when he stabbed a five-year-old girl 34 times with a pair of scissors. From there, Kurten raped and slaughtered an unknown total number of victims over the next two years and reportedly lapped up their blood.
With the police hot on his trail in 1931, Kurten turned himself in and confessed to 68 killings. A court convicted him of nine murders and seven attempted murders, and ordered him to be executed by guillotine.
On his way to the blade, Kurten asked the prison doctor:
“After my head has been chopped off, will I still be able to hear; at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures.”
Not for nothing did one of Kurten’s psychiatrists anoint him “the king of all sexual perverts.” [CrimeFeed]
4. FRITZ HAARMANN, “THE VAMPIRE OF HANOVER”
For Hanover native Fritz Haarmann, the chaos of Germany in the aftermath of World War I proved to be a horribly ideal “hunting ground” for human targets.
Growing up prone to blackouts and seizures, the teenage Haarmaan sexually abused a number of young boys. This led to stints in various mental institutions.
Repeated blow-ups with his family eventually got Haarmann cast out onto the street, where he hustled and robbed and made money as a police informant. He also, in 1918, commenced the sickening modus operandi of murder that got him dubbed “The Vampire of Hanover.”
Over a course of six years, Haarmann killed dozens of boys and young men by sinking his teeth through each victim’s throat, usually tearing out their trachea. He called this kill technique his “love bite.” Haarmann is also suspected of butchering the bodies and peddling them as black-market meat.
Police caught up with Haarmann in 1924 and charged him with 27 murders. Haarmann said the real number was somewhere between 30 and 60. A jury found him guilty of 24, and a judge condemned him to the guillotine. On April 25, 1925, Haarmann’s head came off. [The Lineup]
5. JOHN GEORGE HAIGH, LONDON’S “ACID BATH” VAMPIRE
On September 6, 1944, habitual criminal and ex-chauffeur John George Haigh escalated an experiment he tried in jail that involved dissolving a mouse in acid. It’s unknown if he drank the mouse’s blood, as well, but it would only make sense.
This particular afternoon, Haigh had run into William McSwann, a wealthy London local who had been the former driver’s boss. The men agreed to go to dinner, but Haigh said he had to stop at his apartment first.
Once inside, Haigh bludgeoned McSwann to death, drank his blood, and then stuffed the body into a 45-gallon drum. Haigh then poured concentrated sulphuric acid over the body, and it dissolved over the next two days.
Haigh’s next victims, whom he killed and disposed of the same way, were William McSwann’s parents, Donald and Amy. From there, Haigh swindled thousands from the McSwann estate, and continued to combine vampirism, acid baths, and fraud for the next four years.
In 1948, Olivia Duran-Deacon, Haigh’s 69-year-old widowed neighbor, went missing. The search led police to Haigh’s workshop, where they found:
“28 lb. of melted body fat, part of the left foot eroded by acid, three gallstones, and 18 fragments of human bone eroded by acid.”
While in custody, Haigh proclaimed himself a vampire and confessed to nine murders. He played up the “vampire” angle in an attempt to plead insanity. It didn’t fly. The court convicted Haigh on six counts of murder. He was hanged at Wandsworth Prison by the famous executioner Albert Pierrepoint on August 10, 1949. [CrimeFeed]
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Main photos: Victor Antoine Ardisson [historic booking photos]