Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Werewolf Syndrome: Compulsive Bestial Slaughterers

Hidden in the Blood

Map of Germany with Rugen Island locator
Map of Germany with Rugen Island locator

The murder and dismembering of two young boys in 1901 on the island of Rugen, off the coast of Germany, turned the attention of local authorities toward a strange, reclusive man named Ludwig Tessnow, a carpenter from Baabe.  The two boys had failed to return from their play, so a search was organized.  It wasn't long before searchers came across some of their parts, which had been scattered over a wide area in the woods near their home.  When their heads were found, the skulls were shattered, and from the eight-year-old, the heart was missing.  A blood-stained stone proved to be the murder weapon.

Earlier that day, someone recalled, Tessnow had been talking to them.  Authorities went to interview him, but he denied any involvement.  Still, they searched his home, which produced recently-laundered clothing that bore suspicious stains.  He claimed that they were from wood dye, which he used daily in his profession.  There was not much anyone could do to prove otherwise.  But then a magistrate recalled a similar crime, also associated with Tessnow.

Three years earlier in Osnabruck, Germany, two young girls had been found in the woods, butchered and disemboweled in the same manner as the boys.  The man seen loitering near the woods, his clothing stained, was Tessnow.  At that time, too, he had claimed that the stains were from wood dye.  So he'd had a ready excuse then, which had worked, and he now knew he had a good cover.  It helped him as well when a local farmer reported that a man who looked like Tessnow had fled from his field, leaving behind seven slaughtered sheep.  Their legs had been torn or cut off and tossed about the field.  Tessnow was brought in for a line-up and the farmer had no trouble picking him out.

Paul Uhlenhuth
Paul Uhlenhuth

Still, the police needed real evidence to tie Tessnow to the murders.  Then they heard about the test that biologist Paul Uhlenhuth had developed only four months before that could distinguish blood from other substances (such as wood dye), as well as distinguish animal blood from human.  The authorities contacted him and asked him to test Tessnow's clothing and the blood-stained stone.  Uhlenhuth was ready for such a test, and he applied his method to more than one hundred spots.  He then announced the results: While he did find wood dye, he also detected traces of both sheep and human blood.  They were quite distinct from one another, and his tests proved it.

Lon Chaney Jr. as The Werewolf
Lon Chaney Jr. as The Werewolf

With this evidence, Tessnow was tried, convicted, and executed.

No one called Tessnow a werewolf, but his compulsive ripping apart of animal and human corpses was similar to the "werewolves" from earlier eras.  There was actually a period of time in which such killers were considered fairly common.  Before we learn more about them, let's look at the werewolf legends.



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