Visiting the abandoned house of Armin Meiwes, the German cannibal

In Germany, Armin Meiwes became known in 2001 for the murder of Bernd Jürgen Brandes. Perpetrated on a consenting victim, the crime was preceded and followed by acts of cannibalism. This internationally significant case horrified Germany in the early 21st century.

Since 2001, when his case came to light, I had always desired to visit the house of Armin Meiwes, the German cannibal. However, I never thought I would be able to do so. For over 20 years, it was just a vague fantasy of “dark tourism” and urbex that lingered in the recesses of my mind, but something was about to change.

One day, I learned that a good friend of mine had a couple of friends living in Fulda, a charming medium-sized German town located 63 kilometers south of Wüstefeld, the village where Armin Meiwes’s massive 700-year-old mansion was situated. I should note that it was classified as a historical monument.

In August 2022, I finally had the opportunity to visit. Arriving by car in the early afternoon, we parked at the foot of the sign presenting the history of the small village of Wüstefeld, consisting of only a handful of houses lost in the middle of the forest. As we approached, it felt like the beginning of Stanley Kubrick’s film “The Shining.” The sign mentioned the famous Ulla Von Bernus, a personality known in Germany for being a witch and fortune teller, involved in some media and legal turmoil.

Towards the end of her life, Ulla Von Bernus allegedly turned to an occult form of Christianity. She made headlines one last time posthumously when it was revealed that she had lived in Rotenburg, in the immediate vicinity of Armin Meiwes, the “Rotenburg Cannibal,” and had been the best friend of his mother, Waltraud Meiwes.

When we arrived on foot in front of the overgrown house, we were abruptly halted by the presence of Armin Meiwes’s direct neighbor, who was spreading manure on his vacant land. My two companions were ready to turn back, but for me, it was out of the question. I hadn’t waited for over 20 years and traveled several hundred kilometers to turn back so close to the goal. Fortunately, the neighbor got off his tractor after about ten minutes and went back home. The coast was finally clear!

We took advantage of the opportunity to enter Armin Meiwes’s house, crawling in single file. Inside, a strong emotion overcame me. Despite the fire that had ravaged the house some time ago, a strong smell of mold, and a rather destroyed interior, I was ready for a thorough exploration of the home and to collect as many items as possible. The first step was to equip ourselves with masks to avoid inhaling the stale air too much.

On the ground floor were a spacious storage room still containing kitchen equipment, jars full of provisions, a charred kitchen (where the fire had started), a room resembling a bedroom or library, and a dining room with a large bay window overlooking the neighbor’s house. We had to crawl to avoid being noticed. We spent a long time in the dining room where Armin had consumed the flesh of Bernd Brandes, his consenting victim. There was also a laundry room (or a small bathroom) cluttered with all kinds of boxes full of celebrity magazines belonging to his mother and erotic books belonging to Armin Meiwes.

In the area of the ground floor, I collected dishes, including plates, a salad bowl, a kitchen knife (the only one I found), books with the name Waltraud Meiwes, Armin’s mother, family documents from the early 20th century, celebrity magazines from the 90s, including an erotic one, as well as numerous DIY tools, screwdrivers, and pliers, among other things.

The ground floor also had a room resembling a television room, as well as a computer workshop with equipment still present in the room, and another room of little interest, with just an old desk, a rickety wardrobe, and a rotten sofa.

To access the first floor, the only way was to take a demolished staircase that required a bit of climbing. Quickly, I realized the state of ruin and dilapidation of the house, some areas of which were on the verge of collapse. We were walking on eggshells.

On the first floor, at the top of the stairs, we found small toys in a box, animal figurines. A huge corridor ran through the entire floor. Along it, Armin Meiwes’s room, with, opposite, a room that served as a dressing room and a place to store his personal belongings. Attached to it was the room of his mother, completely ravaged and of little interest, except for some unhealthy collages made by a certain Frank Hobush.

(Interesting fact about Armin Meiwes’s house: Authorities forced him to sell/rent the house, considered a listed building and part of the heritage, as he was in prison and broke, unable to take care of it. Thus, Armin Meiwes asked his lawyer to find someone to rent the house initially. It fell on a certain Frank Hobush, who happened to be a rapist and a pedophile. He reportedly lived in the house from 2009 to 2011. It seems that he mainly occupied Waltraud Meiwes’s room, judging by the many cut-up photos of children and German-language letters detailing his fantasies found there. Other documents in the form of lists, with names of children and their ages, as well as handwritten notes, sometimes in English, like “Good for love,” were also uncovered.)

It was also along this corridor that the famous bathroom where Bernd Brandes took his last bath before falling asleep forever, completely drained of his blood after the amputation of his penis, which Armin and he tried to eat, was located. The tiles, once sparkling green, characteristic of the mythical crime bathroom, were dirty and blackened by grime due to the smoke from the fire that had reached the second floor. But it didn’t matter; I peeled off quite a few using a chisel to keep them as souvenirs. I felt jittery and nervous. There was the fact of finally being in the house, collecting memories, but also the fear that the neighbor might spot us and alert the police. Indeed, the latter was reputed to be fed up with urbex enthusiasts who kept coming to explore the house and make videos for their YouTube channels.

In Armin’s room, under his bed, I found a small sealed bottle of strong alcohol, probably still consumable, given to him for a birthday. Around the neck, there was a small gift ribbon. I also found birthday cards addressed to Armin and a cup on which it was written in German, “Happy Birthday.” I also discovered photo negatives featuring his mother, Waltraud Meiwes, in front of landscapes.

But I was not done with surprises. My best finds occurred in his dressing room. In this room, the floor was littered with objects, papers, clothes, and decaying mess at least seventy centimeters thick. In this humus, we dug deep to discover military documents in the name of Armin Meiwes, his busy agenda from 1983, a tie with computer motifs (Armin being an IT professional), a denim jacket, shirts, pants, a belt, a small dog plush, sunglasses, a military canteen, a pair of military boots, a shoulder patch from an army jacket, and a very strange polystyrene mannequin head with a colored male face, featuring thick eyebrows and a beard. I then remembered that, like Jeffrey Dahmer, in his overwhelming loneliness, Armin Meiwes wanted to have a companion who would never leave him. A boyfriend who would stay with him forever. So, while waiting to meet Bernd Brandes, he crafted imaginary partners on whom he could project all his sexual fantasies. This also recalls Armin’s imaginary childhood friend, whom he called “Franky,” who never left him. Later, this name would be the one he adopted on the internet to navigate on cannibalism-themed dating sites. Armin Meiwes would then become “Franky the butcher.”

Regarding the dressing room floor, as we dug deeper to unearth elements of Armin Meiwes’s intimate life, we suddenly realized that the mess in the room constituted its floor. Indeed, this mass of material formed a makeshift floor because the real one had collapsed on the ground floor long ago. Seeing the danger and precariousness of the place, we decided to stop our excavations there.

At the end of the corridor, there was another room, part of the second floor had completely collapsed onto it, a fairly large room with walls covered in red fabrics, featuring an old wicker cradle in the center, and a moldy veranda with chairs that had become a refuge for birds.

After his mother’s death in 1999, Armin Meiwes rearranged the family home according to his fantasies, and I was about to gauge the extent of it by going to the second floor, even more unstable than the first floor and ground floor. Indeed, the higher we climbed, the more threatening the house became, especially with a floor full of holes that seemed to threaten to give way under our feet at every wrong step. Sometimes, we had to make small jumps to land on solid stone parts. We could have turned back, but the desire to discover the slaughter room was too strong.

I recognized it immediately. Everything I knew about the house until then, I had seen in photos in magazines or on the internet, and the images had permanently etched into my mind. I felt like I was visiting a house I already knew, without ever having entered it. Reality offered me thrills that no virtuality could surpass.

As soon as I crossed the threshold, I understood where I was. The walls of what was once an old smoking room were blackened, with white crosses engraved on them. An old rusty bed frame and a bedside table were in the room. It was in this room that Armin had hung the corpse of Bernd Brandes from the ceiling using a few hooks, to empty him of his organs, and then cut him into pieces. There was also another room, a lambrin-lined bedroom, if my memory serves me right, with a wooden bed and some small furniture.

The second floor, in a state of advanced dilapidation, revealed the roof structure, but in one place, another newer wooden staircase indicated the presence of a third floor, or rather, I should say, an extension. I knew about it, and I knew that this was where an old children’s playroom was located, with still many toys inside. Unfortunately, the danger of the place, between the weakened floor and the threatening framework, made me fear for my life, and I decided not to venture further. Thus ended my fantastic exploration of the mysterious house of the German cannibal, Armin Meiwes.

As for the collection of the many objects I retrieved, I had organized myself as follows: I took what interested me and left everything in front of the doors of the rooms where I had made my discoveries. So, I produced several small piles of objects. I collected everything as we retraced our steps to the exit of the house.

We emerged covered in dust from head to toe, with a slightly stinging throat, but less than if we hadn’t each worn a protective mask. Our eyes were also on fire, but we were very happy! We loaded all our relics into the car trunk and left with “Mein Teil,” the Rammstein song about Armin Meiwes, playing at full volume.

At that time, I still didn’t know that we were among the last explorers of the vast mansion. One year later, in April 2023, to our great dismay, we learned that it had completely burned down in a fire. Now, nothing remains of it. In fact, all the objects we collected in the now-burnt house are unique relics. They are witnesses to one of the most incredible criminal cases of the early 21st century, which shook all of Germany and gained worldwide attention, but also precious relics of a complex family history that spawned the troubled fate of Armin Meiwes, the cannibal.

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