The Cannibal Karl Denke
Karl Denke was born August the 12th 1870 in what is now Ziebice, Poland. His story had been all but forgotten until a researcher poring through old records accidentally stumbled across it and made it available to be republished.
Not much is known about his childhood, but when he matured Denke appeared to be a devout Christian and well respected in his town of about 8,000 citizens. He carried the cross at funerals, was always ready to lend a hand to the needy and played the organ at church services. Some even called him Father Denke. But, appearances can be deceiving.
In actuality, Denke was a monster. He was a cannibal who hacked over 40 victims to death, pickled their pieces in brine and then sold them in jars as pork at a local market.
The Denke’s were wealthy farmers. Even so, Karl ran away from home at the age of 12 but continued to attend elementary school. When he graduated he found work as an apprentice gardener. His father died when he was 25 and the Denke farm was passed down to an older brother.
Karl purchased a piece of it and tried his hand at farming. But, he failed miserably so he sold his property, bought a small house in Ziebice and set up a small business selling pickled pork and leather goods in an adjacent shop. However, due to hard economic times he was soon forced to sell his home but he was still able to live in a small apartment connected to the house.
However, the peace and quiet of Ziebice would soon be shattered. On December 21st of 1924 a passerby heard bloodcurdling screams coming from Denke’s apartment. Shortly afterwards a terrified man, plastered in blood ran into the local police station. He was screeching something about Karl Denke attacking him with an axe.
The police could see something terrible had happened to the poor fellow, but they couldn’t believe the kindly, upstanding pillar of the community, Karl Denke, could have had anything to do with it. Yet, the man kept insisting it was Denke. So, they dutifully marched off to arrest him, but still not believing the man’s wild accusations.
Denke was arrested and tossed into jail. Later that night, a guard found him dead. He had committed suicide by hanging himself with a handkerchief.
When authorities searched Denke’s shop and apartment , what they found would have sickened even the most hardened police veteran. There were jars of human meat being pickled in brine solution, human bones, tubs of fat and lengths of human skin. Denke had been making belts and other leather goods to sell. It has to be said, Denke was at least thrifty…he even made shoelaces to sell out of his victim’s hair.
Blood stained clothing was also discovered hanging in a closet as well as a journal Denke had used to record names, dates and even weights of those he had murdered. To seal the case identification from at least a dozen men was also found.
In a corner of the Ziebice’s Museum is a spot dedicated to their hometown cannibal. On a table, are bloody knives, axes, and a meat grinder Denke used to process his victim’s bodies.