The Tragic Truth About The Woman Who Was Executed For Being A Vampire Witch

There's no denying that Walpurga Hausmännin is a household name. Children around the United States dash about the playground, arguing over who gets to be Walpurga Hausmännin next. Parents adopt stern tones and remind their kids, "You mustn't drink the blood of infants, kiddo, or German villagers will set you on fire like they did to Walpurga Hausmännin." And don't even get started on those money grubbers in Tinsel Town, constantly repackaging the same old Walpurga Hausmännin stories and calling them "reboots" or "reimaginings" or "a necessary service in a world that just can't kick Walpurga Hausmännin fever and frankly, doesn't want to."

However, on the astronomically slim chance that you're not familiar with Walpurga Hausmännin, here's the inside story, which is actually horribly tragic: In 1587, an innocent German midwife (who was, you guessed it, named Walpurga Hausmännin) was executed, having been forced to confess to the murders of more than forty children as well as — and not to bury the lede — allegedly having made it hail "once or twice a year" through powers granted her by a supposed pact with the Devil.

The dramatic end of the "vampire witch"

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that Walpurga's story isn't a particularly complicated one, but no less depressing. She was old and alone, having been widowed 31 years prior, according to transcripts from her trial, reprinted online via the University of Washington. It was the 16th century, and career options were limited. She became a midwife, and practiced in Dillingen for the better part of two decades.

At this particular point in history, being a midwife was a losing bet. Infant mortality rates floated around 18 percent, and with all of Europe in the middle of a centuries-long love affair with witch hunts, the position of "lonely old woman with the house where the babies keep dying" was not an enviable one. Walpurga was arrested, and "upon kindly questioning and also torture," was forced to confess to a whole slew of ungodly crimes of the sort that women in her position were often forced to confess to: meeting demons, sleeping with demons, that sort of thing. She was also accused of killing babies with a balm gifted to her by Satan, and allegedly, she swallowed their blood. It was claimed that she even rode a pitchfork. 

Once the trial wrapped up, the authorities marched Walpurga Hausmännin around the town, tore at her skin with hot irons, and chopped off her right hand. On September 20th, 1587, they burned her at the stake.