Saturday, June 22, 2024

The Vampire of Dusseldorf - GRAPHIC


Peter Kurten is not exactly a household name. By way of introduction, he was a serial killer who roamed the streets of Germany in the late 1920s.  His crimes included murder, rape, arson, and more.  He also had a tendency to drink the blood of his victims, earning him the nickname "The Vampire of Dusseldorf."  In 1931, he was convicted and sentenced to death by beheading. 

Ordinarily, a killer forgotten to history would not necessarily merit a blog post.  Indeed, it is in fact his final resting place that makes this story so unique.  You see, his mummified head is on permanent display at Ripley's Believe it or Not! 

For those unfamiliar, Ripley Entertainment runs a series of "odditoriums" throughout the United States.  They were originally founded by the late Robert Ripley back in the 1930s, but today they're a corporate entity, displaying artifacts he collected throughout his travels.  Ripley once famously quoted "I've been to 200 countries and the strangest thing I've seen is man."

Unlike most Ripleys, which are traditional walk through museums, the odditorium in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, is very unique.  Many of the traditional Ripleys artifacts are hidden throughout the building, and its something of a scavenger hunt to track them down, making this a much more interactive museum.  Kurten's mummified head is the crown jewel in their hidden collection.

Finding Kurten is no easy task.  You must first find an area called "Ripley's Grotto" and look for a 19th Century torture device known as the iron maiden.  While this is a common display at most Ripleys museums, here in Wisconsin, it serves as the entrance to a secret passageway.

Once inside, you'll see a host of Ripley's artifacts on display, including some native statues and more torture devices, as you make your way through a metal catacomb.  You'll also notice a series of numbers along the wall, each one baring a different color (1 is green, 2 is yellow, etc.).  You'll need to remember these colors and numbers later on.

At the end of this labyrinth, you'll find yourself in a room baring more artifacts and what looks to be a combination lock vault, baring the name "Ripley Vault Company."  A sign indicates that the vault can be opened by matching a set of colors to the numbers you saw earlier in the hallway.  This blogger figured out the combination on his first try.

Enter the code on the keypad, then hit the key in the middle.  If you've successfully entered the combination correctly, then the vault will open to reveal another secret chamber.

At first, it seems as if you've hit a dead end, because the only thing you'll see hanging on the wall is a portrait of a cat made from laundry machine lint.  Its hardly a grand prize worthy of the time and effort put into uncovering this hidden lair, but don't walk out just yet!  Look behind you and you'll see the first sign that you've stumbled on to something bigger - a portrait of Kurten himself.  

If you try to pull on the photo, it won't get you anywhere.  This is just a clue to let you know that you're on the right track.  At this point, you need to carefully re-examine that seemingly innocent cat lint portrait.

Put your hand on the right side of the picture frame and gently pull it towards you.  Its actually on a hinge, as this seemingly ordinary cat portrait hides an ever bigger prize - the mummified head of serial killer Peter Kurten.  Look below if you dare!

Normally, I end these blogs by saying rest in peace, but this guy doesn't deserve it.  A fitting end for such a cruel human being.

  • If you want to learn more about the life and crimes of Peter Kurten, take a voyage to Amazon.  It's all in books.

  • In 2009, Kurten's crimes were the subject of the German theatrical release Normal.  Check out the trailer on YouTube.

  • There are 17 Ripley's odditoriums in the United States, and this blogger has been to nine of them.  The one is Wisconsin Dells is by far the best.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Karen Carpenter


"People never think of entertainers as being human.  When you walk out on stage, the audience thinks nothing can go wrong with them.  We get sick and we have headaches just like they do.  When we are cut, we bleed."

Karen Anne Carpenter was born in New Haven, Connecticut on March 2, 1950.  In 1963, her family moved to Downey, California, where she continued her education, eventually enrolling at California State University at Long Beach.  It was here that she began her musical education, learning the drums and honing her voice.

Talent, it seems, was not limited to Karen, as her brother Richard had musical aspirations as well.  In 1969, they formed The Carpenters, signing on with A&M Records, achieving great commercial success throughout the 1970s. She sang most of the songs on the group's first album, known today as Ticket to Ride.  They'd follow it up one year later with their second album, Close to You.  It contained what would become two of their signature hits, (They Long to be) Close to You and We've Only Just Begun.  Over the course of their 14-year career, they'd release 11 albums, selling more than 4 million copies.

Fame was not without its price however, and by 1975, it was beginning to take its toll.  Carpenter began to exhibit symptoms of anorexia nervosa, a condition that would plague her throughout her remaining years.  She ultimately died of heart failure caused by the disease on February 4, 1983.  She was just one month shy of her 33rd birthday.

Karen Carpenter was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Cypress, California.  By 1996, both of her parents had passed as well, and they would each be buried next to their daughter.  In 2003 however, Carpenter's family opted to exhume all three and relocate them to Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Park in Westlake Village.  A 46,000-pound private mausoleum was constructed at an estimated fee of $600,000.  The interior is inscribed with the phrase "A Star on Earth - A Star in Heaven."

Rest in peace.

  • If you want to learn more about Karen Carpenter, take a voyage to Amazon.  It's all in books.

  • Although Carpenter died a married woman, she had planned to divorce her husband, real estate mogul Thomas James Burris.  She was to sign the divorce papers the very day she died.

  • After finding success in the 1970s, Carpenter and her family bought two apartment complexes in Downey, California, dubbing them "Close to You" and "Only Just Begun."  They're still in operation today, and units can be rented via

  • In 1980, Carpenter recorded a self-titled solo album, which A&M Records reportedly shelved.  It was finally released in 1996, 13 years after she passed.  Take a listen on YouTube.

  • After her death, the family started what is today called The Carpenter Family Foundation in her honor.  It raises money for research on eating disorders while providing funding for the arts and education.