A sensational trial in Germany in 1589 saw a man accused of making a deal with the devil, shape-shifting into a wolf, and killing 128 people, among other assorted gruesome crimes.
Known as the “Werewolf of Bedburg,” Peter Stubbe (or Stumpp) was executed on October 31, 1589, along with his daughter and mistress. As an example to others tempted by the devil’s offer of magical shape shifting garments, the execution was spectacularly horrific. The story was spread throughout Europe in a pamphlet describing the trial, torture, and death with relish. Then, as now, a story with a title like A True Discourse. Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of One Stubbe Peeter, a Most Wicked Sorcerer sold like hotcakes, and the werewolf myth gained more ground in the popular mind.
After lurid accounts of his supposed crimes including assorted murders, acts of cannibalism, and the ripping of children from the wombs of their mothers, after which he “eate their hartes panting hotte and rawe,” his final execution was described thus:
…his body laide on a wheele, and with red hotte burning pincers in ten seue∣ral places to haue the flesh puld off from the bones, after that, his legges and Armes to be broken with a woodden Are or Hatchet, afterward to haue his head strook from his body, then to haue his carkasse burnde to Ashes.
Today there is debate over whether Stubbe was a spectacularly bad man — a serial killer of the day — or if perhaps the spate of deaths might in fact be blamed on actual, non-demonic, non-shifting wolves, or whether he simply found himself, like so many others, on the wrong side of an inquisitor’s political or religious agenda.
…So much more on the long, storied history of Wolves, Men, and Delicious Little Girls…
The Demon Cat of Washington DC
The ghost cat or ‘Demon Cat’ is a popular story. This creature haunts the basement of the Capitol building at night, usually spotted around the hall between the Crypt of the Capitol and the Old Supreme Court Chamber. Tourists can even see little paw prints on the floors of this hallway if they look close enough. The story goes that Capitol Hill, then Jenkins Hill, was once the home of a den of black cats, but once construction of the Capitol began (in 1794) the cat’s den was destroyed along with the family of cats. The mother cat now roams the halls of the basement of the Capitol building where presumably the den was located, searching for her young. Even though there are no unattended pets allowed in the Capitol, late night staffers and visitors have noticed an animal making quick dashes around this area of the building. The cat’s paw-prints beneath the Samuel Morse memorial can bee seen in the second picture.
Sightings of the creature have mysteriously been followed by tragic occurrences throughout the United States. One such account tells of a Capitol Police officer who noticed a quick black dash across the floor. As he moved closer to catch a glimpse of the animal, its shadow grew bigger and more menacing. Then, quickly, it disappeared. The next day, 1 November 1918, a story in the newspaper described the worst rapid transit system accident in New York City with over 90 deaths.
Hill of Witches, Lithuania
On one of the most beautiful and oldest parabolic dunes in Juodkrantė, Lithuania, the forest is alive with a vast array of fairy-tale creatures, witches, demons, kings, princesses, fisherman and devils. Known as the Hill of Witches (Raganų kalnas), this public trail through the woods takes visitors on a trip through the most well-known legends and stories in Lithuanian folk history.
Work began in 1979 on the sculpture park, and it now features over 80 different wooden carvings from local artists. Each beautifully hand-crafted sculpture depicts a popular character from folk and pagan traditions of Lithuania. The public park got its name long before the sculptures were placed along the wooded trails, and is in fact a reference to the pagan celebrations that take place on the hill during the Midsummer’s Eve Festival.
Each year on June 24th, people across Lithuania dance, sing and bring in the midsummer with the older folk traditions of the country. After Christianity came to Lithuania, the celebration was renamed Saint Jonas’ Festival, but many of the practices still have pagan roots, as echoed by the fantastic Hill of Witches sculptures.
The Abandoned Ghost Mansion of Villa de Vecchi
Ghosts, apparitions, piano sounds, unexplained lights, fountains of blood and satanic rituals — all rumors of the now famous “haunted mansion” in the village of Bindo in Cortenova, Italy. Yet Villa de Vecchi has all the trappings to live up to its image: an eery beauty, desolate location, abandoned for 75 years, and filled with the energy of a tragic past.
Villa de Vecchi is a beautiful abandoned Baroque villa in the moutains near Lake Como. A favorite locale for urban exploration and photography, it was once a grand mansion built by a nobleman.In the mid 19th century, Count Felix de Vecchi chose architect Alessandro Sidoli to design his home. Sidoli integrated the latest technologies, including running water and heating pipes. The villa was adorned with incredible frescoes and featured a grand piano in the hall.
According to local lore, Count de Vecchi allegedly returned home to find that his wife had been murdered and his daughter was missing. With no trace of her in sight, he spent months searching to no avail. Distraught and alone, de Vecchi committed suicide In 1862.
The mansion passed on to de Vecchi’s brother whose family spent summers there through the 1940s. Eventually the home was deserted and became known as the Ghost Mansion, an abandoned mansion with a chilling history and a haunted reputation. While an effort is underway to save the historic villa, its future remains uncertain.
Mysterious Coin-Covered Wishing Trees
The strange phenomenon of gnarled old trees with coins embedded all over their bark has been spotted from the Peak District to the Scottish Highlands in the United Kingdom. One of the larger collections can be seen in the picturesque village of Portmeirion in Wales where there are seven felled tree trunks with coins pushed into them.
The coins are usually knocked into the tree trunks using stones by passers-by, who hope it will bring them good fortune. These fascinating spectacles often have coins from centuries ago buried deep in their bark, warped from the passage of time.
The tradition of making offerings to deities at wishing trees dates back hundreds of years and is similar to the concept of a “wishing well”, where one tosses a coin in for good luck. The “wishing trees” date back to the early 1700s in Scotland where ill people stuck florins into trees with the idea that the trees would take any any illness. However if someone were to take away any of the coins, legend states that they will become ill instead.
The History of Magic
The Beginnings of Magic - The art of magic, that of producing extraordinary phenomena in opposition to the laws of science, since the dawn of time has had the power to both frighten and fascinate. During prehistoric times, it is likely that many individuals scattered around the world realized that they possessed the talent to mystify their peers. It is in this manner that they became the first witches or wizards. Several prehistoric utensils and illustrations found in caves around 50,000 BC seem to attest to this. It is believed that magical rites were practiced in religious ceremonies. Sorcerers or healers at this time had both the knowledge of basic principles of life and nature (as the beneficial effects of certain plants or potions on the body…) and probably also had the ability to deceive their fellow companions both orally and visually.
The above illustrations by Emile Bayard (1837 - 1891) are from the book Histoire de la Magie. Bayard was successful by a young age and had published cartoons in newspapers by the time he was 15. When completing illustrations for books, he never used photographs, preferring an interview with the author. The overall success of his illustrations was that, according to him, the reader could comprehend the book by only seeing his prints.
Devil’s Bridge in Ardino, Bulgaria
Constructed in the early 16th century by the Ottoman Empire, Dyavolski most, or the Devil’s Bridge, is the most stunning of the humpbacked bridges that cross the Arda River in Bulgaria.
The bridge, also known as ”Sheytan Kyupriya,” is located near the town of Ardino, which even has a water fountain shaped like the bridge (picture 3). The bridge spans 185 feet long, 11.5 feet wide, and at its gravity-defying central arch stands 37.7 feet high. Interior semi-circular arches were built in to monitor the water level. It was built over a demolished Roman bridge and cuts from the steep slopes of the Rhodope Moutains along an ancient road.
However, the reason some locals are hesitant to cross at night is rooted in dark lore. One story is that the head builder’s wife passed away during construction, so her shadow was encased in the structure. Another tale has it that the devil’s footprint can be found somewhere on the rocks. While this is all folkloric myth, it does make for a somewhat unsettling vista in the darkness with its towering form.