By Kristen Winiarski

If you thought that mummifying people was just an Egyptian thing, think again. Although it’s only his head that was mummified, notorious serial killer, Peter Kürten, aka the Vampire of Düsseldorf, not only had his head bisected and mummified, but it is also on display in Wisconsin Dells, of all places. While the Dells is considered a water park playground of family fun, venture into Ripley’s Believe it or not, and you will get a glimpse at this relatively normal head housing disturbing secrets along with his spirit that apparently didn’t want to leave it behind.

Mugshot of Peter Kürten courtesy of German Federal Archive

The Murderer

You didn’t want to live in Düsseldorf between February and November of 1929 (or any time after he was born really) when Kürten committed the most of his sexual assaults and murders. Surprisingly, these murders weren’t even the first crimes that he committed, as he also attempted murder in the past and liked to set things on fire. Despite his past issues, he was free during 1929 to kill nine people and attempt to murder another seven, which is what he was eventually convicted of.

 

Details of the assaults and murders will make anyone sick, including him eating some of his victims’ blood, hence the nickname. His last victim got away, and while she didn’t turn him in, a letter she wrote detailing the assault, ended up getting to the authorities. Once he knew he was going to be caught, he confessed to his wife, and she turned him in.

 

He was convicted and executed by beheading. His last thoughts were consistent with his disturbing life. While he had no last words to give after, he did ask the psychiatrist, “Tell me… after my head is 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.”

The mummified and dissected head of Peter Kurten on display in the Wisconsin Dells

The Brain

Given his truly screwed-up and disturbing crimes, it was thought that surely something was wrong with his brain that made him this way. It was put through a forensic analysis in an attempt to figure out the reasoning behind his personality and behavior. Perhaps most disturbing of all is that no abnormalities were found.

 

So how did this head come to reside in Wisconsin? The head became part of an antiques dealer’s collection in the United States after the end of World War II. This dealer collected strange things in an effort to get things that no one else could. His collection was auctioned off after his death and bought by Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not Odditorium in the Wisconsin Dells, courtesy of Google Street View

The Hauntings

It is claimed that Kürten still hangs out near his head, which is displayed in a dimly lit area spinning on a hook in a guillotine-shaped case, and haunts the museum. Maybe it would have been better to leave this child, man, and woman killer in Germany, but if you want to get the creeps, check out this museum. His ghost seems pretty harmless now, though—much less harmful than he was in life. Supposedly, he likes to mess with the air blowers in the bathrooms. There have also been reports in the building of shadow figures and voices, so he may be up to more mischief.

So how did this head come to reside in Wisconsin? The head became part of an antiques dealer’s collection in the United States after the end of World War II. This dealer collected strange things in an effort to get things that no one else could. His collection was auctioned off after his death and bought by Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

Check out our Wisconsin Dells Ghost Walks to see for yourself and also check out some of these EVPS collected on an investigation in the Wisconsin Dells we conducted with our Chicago Hauntings tour founder, Ursula Bielski in June of 2019.