Christman Genipperteinga was a 16th century German bandit, serial killer and (alleged) black magician, alleged to have murdered 964 people over a thirteen year period which would, if true, make him the most prolific serial killer in recorded history.
No-one knows exactly when Christman was born, but accounts point to him originating from the area of Kerpen, close to Cologne, after which he preyed upon travellers from an underground lair overlooking the roads between several major cities. Allegedly the lair was barely detectable from the outside but inside was built and furnished like a normal house. From this base he operated, either alone or with temporary assistants until his capture in 1581. The assistants were temporary mainly because he tended to poison them once they had outlived their usefulness, partly out of a desire to avoid sharing the plunder and partly, we may suspect, from a fear of betrayal. Once murdered, the bodies of his former accomplices would be flung into a disused mine shaft inside the cave complex that he called home. The other reason that he was not much given to accomplices may be that, according to contemporary accounts, he was not afraid to attack parties of four or five men single handed - whether this was the result of superior armament, supernatural powers or just sheer aggression his record of success proves that it worked and thus he would only have needed assistance against a very significant party.
Christman's downfall came on account of the daughter of a local cooper whom he captured whilst she was travelling to visit her brother and enslaved for seven years, binding her to obey him under threat of death with a great many oaths … and, when he was absent from the lair, with a chain as well. During the years of her imprisonment, she is said to have born him six children, all of whom he strangled at birth … but then preserved the corpses as a form of grisly marrionette. Eventually his slave "wife" managed to persuade him to allow her to visit a local town, where she circumvented her oaths against betraying him to another human by confessing loudly to a stone. Appalled, the townsfolk then persuaded her to mark the trail back to the lair with a bag of dried peas, at which point they stormed the lair, finding Christman outraged that he should be betrayed like this, and dragged him away to face trial. The lair was found to be full of plunder from his life of banditry in the form of wine, preserved food, armour, firearms and other weaponry, besides money and assorted other valuables. One early account suggests that there were enough goods in the cave to furnish the town's annual market. Importantly they also found Chrisman's diary with records of all of his 964 murders and details of his ambition to reach a round thousand.
Between arrest and conviction took no more than three weeks - and still, given the normal speed of medieval justice for a man found in possession of a fortune in stolen goods, a stolen wife and a written record of enough murders to comprise a small town, it may be assumed that quite a bit of that time was taken up counting the siezed goods and reading the diary. Christman was executed on 17th June 1581 or, more accurately the execution started on 17th June … he had been condemend to The Wheel, as normal for aggravated murder in that era and took nine days to die … something of a record, helped on by a daily revival with alcoholic spirits. The fate of his "wife" and his ill gotten gains is not recorded.
The charges of witchcraft and cannibalism came later - doubtless inspired by his horrific treatment of his own children, as he is invoked in lists of those said to have used the remains of children or aborted babies in black magic. Other accounts show him engaging the devil as a partner in banditry and forcing his "wife" to consume human flesh, but none of this occult material appears in the earliest accounts … probably because the truth was bad enough, but later audiences either allowed the tale to grow in the telling or were incapable of accepting that much purely human evil.
Game and Story Use
- For those of us that love old skool PC games, this is pure Darklands stuff - medieval Germany, banditary and black magic. Toss in a few schrats and a cloud of pixellated alchemical geck and it would be perfect.
- Apparently the whole area around Genipperteinga's lair is riddled with caves - anyone not following a trail of peas could have all kinds of adventures whilst looking for him. Shades of Keep on the Borderlands for those that recall it…
- More generally, he makes a good villain for a fairly low fantasy game (as long as you don't let the players claim all of that loot1).
- You could then turn it up a little by making the occult stuff true - make the murdered babies into a form of European tuyul or tupilak (or just have their enslaved souls bound for some kind of magical enchantment) … or just sacrificed to a demonic patron. Likewise, recruiting The Devil himself as a fellow footpad is something of a tall order, but some lesser demon as a henchman might well be possible.
- Given his ability to defeat groups of four or five people single handed, this is either a fairly high level character or built on some serious points.
- For a more "horror" theme, the idea of falling into that mineshaft full of corpses - even inanimate ones - could be particularly effective.
- Note the "confessing to a stone" method of circumventing a prohibition on speaking to anyone … maybe even a way of bypassing a magical block. (In a non-supernatural or minimal magic campaign the woman might only believe that she was magically prevented from speaking … or the PCs might never know for sure which way things actually were).
- Not all of Christman's assistants may have been entirely voluntary - it's quite easy to imagine him press-ganging suitably exploitable people into becoming fellow robbers in exchange for their lives, or of making common cause with regular bandits who later become rebellious when they realise just how vile he acutally is.
- Good, if cruel, foreshadowing could involve the PCs meeting him whilst he hunts down someone who is clearly a bandit, thus appearing to be a vaguely positive force, whilst actually having been in the process of killing a former collaborator who was trying to turn King's Evidence against him. Added amusement if the PCs kill the bandit for him.