A Bandit and Black Magic Practitioner Who Killed Over 500 People
Peter Niers (died 1581) was a German bandit, black arts practitioner, and one of history’s most prolific serial killers. Over a 15 year period, as he confessed after his arrest, Niers murdered 544 people, and cut the fetuses out of the wombs of 24 pregnant women. The fetuses were used as ingredients in his black magic, and consumed in cannibalistic acts.
Niers began his criminal career as a highwayman in Alsace, present day France, and eventually came to head a gang that numbered about 24 bandits. He also became a leading figure in a loose network of bandit and highwayman gangs, that joined forces on occasion to conduct major operations requiring large numbers of men. His criminal activities spanned a large territory that included western France, the Rhineland, and Bavaria in southern Germany.
What set Niers apart from other bandits was his bloodthirstiness and gratuitous cruelty. He was not content to simply rob or kill his victims. Niers also relished torturing those who fell into his hands and murdering them in a variety of fiendishly inventive ways. He was captured in 1577, and under torture, confessed to 75 murders during the previous 11 years. However, before he could be executed, he managed to escape.
Niers returned to his criminal activities, resuming them with even greater cruelty and bloodthirstiness. Indeed the majority of his murders and depravities would occur in the following four years: whereas he had murdered 75 years in the 11 years preceding his arrest in 1577, he would murder an additional 569 people in the 4 years from 1577 to 1581, when he was arrested for a second, and final time.
He was taken to the Bavarian city of Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz for a public execution, in which the authorities went Medieval on Niers, literally and figuratively. Even for an era in which torture and gruesome executions were routine, Peter Niers’ execution, which commenced on September 16th, 1581, stood out. It was a 3-day ordeal, with the first day spent flaying Niers’ skin, then pouring hot oil on his exposed muscles to slough off layers of his flesh. On the second day, his feet were coated in grease, and his lower body was slowly grilled over a low fire. On the third day, his body was broken on the wheel, with dozens of blows that smashed his major bones to pieces. Finally, the executioners quartered him while still alive, sawing his body into pieces.