Haarmann, Fritz

Haarmann, Fritz (1879–1925)

(pop culture)

Fritz Haarmann, the so-called Vampire of Hanover, (Germany), is one of several prominent persons often cited as an actual modern vampire. Born on October 24, 1879 in Hanover, Haarmann grew up in fear of his father. He joined the army as a young man and after a period of service returned to Hanover. However, he soon was arrested for child molestation. Sentenced to a mental institution, he escaped and went to Switzerland. Thus began a period of his life when he lived on the streets, surviving off of petty crime interspersed with arrests and brief stays in jail. After World War I, he seemed to have switched sides and joined the police department as an informer and spy. Haarmann was homosexual. He picked up young men off the street and invited them to his home. There he engaged in sex and on occasion (five or more times a year) killed them. Arrested in 1919, he spent nine months in jail for engaging in illegal sex. After his release, he met Hans Grans, who became his lover and partner in crime. During the early 1920s, Haarmann’s crimes became even more grisly. He began to bite the throats of his victims and drink their blood.

In 1924 the discovery of the remains of several of Haarmann’s victims and the persistent pleas of the parents of several young men who had disappeared initiated an investigation that eventually led police to Haarmann. Arrested that year on sex charges, Haarmann sat in jail as his living quarters were searched. The corpses of more than 20 bodies were found. Faced with the most incriminating evidence—clothing identified as belonging to one of his victims—Haarmann finally confessed and implicated Grans. The subsequent trial proved a gruesome affair. Haarmann was formally charged with 24 murders, but was believed to have killed more than 50 people. He testified and related accounts of many of his activities, including cannibalism. During part of this time, he worked as a butcher and claimed to have sold the meat of several of his victims to his customers. Convicted, he was sentenced to death and executed by decapitation on April 15, 1925. Grans was imprisoned for life. His brain was sent to Göttingen University for study.

Haarmann was not a vampire in the traditional folkloric sense. He was a disturbed individual with a blood fetish that found expression during the rape and murder of his victims. As such, his crimes fit more into the history of serial murder than with the folkloric or literary vampire. The movie Tenderness of the Wolves (1974) was inspired by the Haarmann case. Since that time, Haarmann has been the subject of several television documentaries, usually as a representative serial killer.

Sources:

Glut, Donald F. True Vampires of History. New York: H C Publishers, 1971. 191 pp.
Lessing, Theodore. Haarmannï—Die Geschichte eines Werwolfs, 1925. English translation by Mo Croasdale: “The Story of a Werewolf.” In Monsters of Weimar. London: Nemesis Books, 1993: pp. 11–156.
Volta, Ornella. The Vampire. New York: Award Books, 1962. 153 pp.