Ludwig the Blood Sucker the Lower East Sides Very Own Alcoholic Vampire
Welcome back Misfits! I was on vacation all of last week so I haven’t written a blog in a little while. Hopefully I’m not too rusty.
Today I’m going to be covering a local New York City urban legend that we discussed on the Misfits and Mysteries podcast a few weeks back, Ludwig the Blood Sucker. He’s a short hairy German vampire who likes to have a good time and get F***d up on his victims very high blood alcohol content (BAC). You can listen to our whole discussion of vampires and Ludwig on our website, the embedded link below, Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform.
Anyway, let's travel to the Lower East Side to meet New York City's very own blood sucking party animal.
The Urban Legend
During the mid to late 19th Century, there was a very popular urban legend among the people of Bowery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan about a small hairy vampire who targeted local dive bars named Ludwig. According to legend, Ludwig was only around three feet tall, incredibly hairy, and looked like a gnome. Unlike your classic Dracula who relies heavily on his sex appeal to woo unsuspecting victims, Ludwig had to take a very different approach. He was far too short and ugly to seduce women and too weak to tackle a fully grown sober man, so he targeted local drunks who had recently been thrown out for instigating a bar fight. As a short king, Ludwig was unable to take down a fully grown German man and was too ugly to seduce a German woman, so he cut his losses and stowed away on a ship headed for America to live out the American Dream.
Ludwig arrived in New York and set up shop on Bowery Street in Manhattan's lower east side where there were plenty of rowdy dive bars and frequent bar fights. According to his “victims” Ludwig would wait for a bar fight to break out in Bismarck Hall or the House of Commons (two defunct bars he was alleged to frequent) and would sink his fangs into the drunk and disoriented instigator who was thrown out of the bar. Ludwig targeted drunk victims because they were not only easy targets, but their BAC gave the little fella a nice buzz. Unlike some vampires, Ludwig was kind of a chill dude and wouldn’t kill or turn his victims into vampires, he would just take a pint for himself to get a mean buzz and let his victims live.
Ludwig was also the 19th Century equivalent of an internet troll. He would mock his drunken victims and when they threatened to have him burned on the steak, he would taunt them, saying no one would believe them that a vampiric gnome jumped out of a dark alley and drank just one pint of their blood.
It’s fun that New York has it’s very own alcoholic vampire legend, but what's not as fun is that Ludwig, might be a little more real than you or I would like to admit.
The True Story of Franz Ludwig Hellreigel the Blood Sucker.
According to an article I found, someone uncovered an old interview in the National Police Gazette from the 1800s there was an actual German man named Ludwig who lived in the lower east side and actually had a taste for human blood. I have attached the image of the original interview and will include some highlights from it below.
While we don’t know for sure, it seems highly unlikely that German American Taylor and known blood drinking resident of Manhattan's Lower East Side, Franz Ludwig Hellreigel, wasn't the inspiration for the legend of Ludwig the Blood Sucker. Hellreigel was an unusually short man (not General Tom Thumb short), but smaller than your average joe. He was also an abnormally hairy dude with a very large head and long thick black hair which made his head look disproportionately large compared to the rest of his body. Hellreigel also did in fact frequent Bowery Street and was in fact a resident of the lower east side and lived on Avenue B between second and third street with his wife Mararetha and his many children.
Ludwig was a respectable tailor in the community until he and his wife got into some domestic troubles and went through one of the messiest divorces, just short of the lady who married and divorced a pirate ghost in 2018. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about check out our episode about the Irish woman who married and divorced a ghost pirate, you can find it on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts).
I’m going to preface this with Ludwig is a F***ing weirdo who drinks blood like alcohol so even though his ex did him dirty he’s still a freak. So while going through a messy divorce, his soon to be ex wife made his habit of drinking animal blood public when she told all the ladies in the community that he had a ravenous taste for human blood. Rather than following Internet Today’s wonderful advice of “When s**t hits the fan shut the f**k up,” Ludwig took an interview and doubled down on how normal it was to drink blood. When asked by a reporter if he actually drank blood, Ludwig responded “Yes it is true that I drink blood and it's good for me. It is a good medicine. It makes me strong. The Germans eat blood sausages and they all say it is good. But when I drink mine they say it is bad and they call me blood sucker. Now what is the difference whether I take the blood before it is made into sausage or afterward? They make a fuss about nothing.” I’m no PR professional here but I know for a fact that the best way to draw more attention to something you want to go away is to double down and call everyone else weird for not doing the weird thing you do.
So later on in the interview Ludwig tries to clear his name and sort of does but honestly came off as more of a vampiric creep. When asked about his alleged blood sucking, Ludwig said “But all the trouble came from that woman, Margaretha. She told all the women that I couldn’t live without drinking the blood of some person. And the women, they told that story to everybody for the truth; but it’s no so. She told them that I used to bite her arms in the night, when she was asleep, and then suck the blood. She made me so much trouble.” Then when the reporter asked if he ever bit his wife Ludwig responded: “Well, yes; I did bite her sometimes, but it was not for the blood, although the blood from a person is better than that of an animal. It is just as much better as good wine is better than some common wine. If you would try it once you would see the difference. Human blood is richer and it has a finer flavor.” What the actual f**k bro you’re digging yourself a deeper and deeper whole the more you talk. What do you mean you bite her but not for blood? Is this a sexual thing? Or are you just a freak? Also it's not helping your case at all that you just said human blood tastes better than animal blood. He's giving off major vampire vibes here.
Look I’m no expert on medicine and diet trends of 19th century Germany, but based on the story I’m about to tell about how he got into drinking blood I think Ludwig might actually be a vampire. According to the interview, Ludwig was a very frail child growing up and was the only one of six to survive so his parents spared no expense raising him. They did what any good parent would do and took their son to the local medical quack who prescribed him a meat and blood only diet. Yes eating meat and drinking blood definitely made him stronger, definitely wouldn’t have gotten an energy boost if I don't know maybe he ate a carb every once in a while. Well anyway he drank blood like a tonic as a medicine to cure him and denied all allegations that he drank human blood. Again our friend Ludwig clearly failed PR 101 because he doubled down on his psycho activities and casually admitted that human blood tastes better than animal blood. No mention of how he knew what human blood tasted but honestly I’d prefer not to find out.
Oh and if you thought it was bad enough that there was an actual German man named Ludwig who drank blood in 19th Century New York, time to buckle up because there is no evidence that he ever died. I thought this was a joke, but I looked up death certificates, find my grave, and obituaries and I found nothing about Franz Ludwig Hellreigel ever dying. So maybe he was actually a vampire. And maybe he’s still out there today. All I know is when COVID-19 is over and bars are open I’ll steer clear of any bar fights on Bowery Street. Stay Spooky Misfits!
If you enjoyed this blog check out my blog about weird ways to turn into a vampire from around the world. Spoiler alert if you’ve ever talked to yourself you might be a vampire. Also don’t forget to check out the Misfits and Mysteries Podcast on all podcast platforms and share this blog with a friend!