That's not to say I love the actual killers, or their hideous acts, although I do find serial killers to be particularly fascinating. The psychology of multiple murderers, their peculiar and horrible methods, the pleasure, often sexual, they derive from the act of killing, their unstoppable compulsions, their inability to empathize or sympathize with their victims - all of this makes them seem somehow simultaneously less and more than human. After all, notorious killers such as Jack the Ripper or the Zodiac Killer have become more monster than man in the popular imagination, endowed with almost supernatural powers and superhuman prowess.
But there is one ritual which brings the monster back into the realm of the mundane, back to a human world where basic needs must be met: the paradoxical last meal before execution. Paradoxical, because food is meant to sustain life, but in this instance it's given just before life is taken away.
It's hard to pinpoint the exact origins of this custom, though certainly food is integral to many cultures' death rituals. Hundreds of years ago, in Germany, the condemned sat down to a "Hangman's Meal" with their executioner to symbolize their forgiveness for what was to come, a sort of tacit promise that their vengeful ghost wouldn't come back and haunt the hangman. (Source: Lapham's Quarterly.)
It is doubtful that Peter Kurten, known variously as the Dusseldorf Ripper, the Dusseldorf Monster, and later as the Vampire of Dusseldorf - would have offered his executioner any such promise, given his complete lack of remorse for the many rapes, assaults, and killings he committed between 1913 - 1929 in Weimar Germany.
One thing is certain, however: Kurten got off on blood. So much so that he sometimes let his victims live if they bled enough for him to reach sexual satisfaction before they died. He gave himself up in 1930 - he wasn't being heroic or selfless, he was about to be arrested for rape - and was executed by guillotine the next year.
For his last meal, he dined on Wienerschnitzel, fried potatoes, and an entire bottle of white wine. Because my budget doesn't currently allow for cruelty-free veal, I made pork schnitzel, and I hope Kurten doesn't come back to haunt me for it.
For the potatoes, I parboiled baby fingerlings, then cut then in half and fried them in butter and sea salt. I served this with an Austrian Gruner Veltliner.
This would make an excellent last meal, though I don't know that it would be my choice.
As Kurten was being led to the guillotine, he is said to have asked his executioner, "After my head has been chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from my neck? That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures."