The Strange Case of Tristan Bruebach and Manfred Seel

I first learned about Tristan Bruebach on Reddit’s Unresolved Mysteries about two years ago.  The case of the thirteen year old boy brutally murdered in a water tunnel that ran under a roadway was so outrageous and upsetting that it surprised me that it had not filtered out to English-speaking true crime buffs.  Tristan’s murder had elements that initially reminded me of The Family murders in Australia, but I’d never seen all the elements of Tristan Bruebach’s murder anywhere else.  It was a crime that to me was very much sui generis, and later analysis from German investigators echoed my opinion.  Nowhere on Earth have we seen another murder like Tristan’s.

I don’t have a lot of time for Reddit these days but I go back from time to time and I somehow managed to visit Unresolved Mysteries on the same day last year when someone posted that the police had a suspect in the murder of Tristan Bruebach.  Eager to learn the motives behind the murder, I read up on the suspect – Manfred Seel – and was initially very skeptical.  The investigation into Manfred Seel itself seemed odd to me.  Seel is accused of murdering two female coworkers in the 1970s, two female prostitutes in the 1990s, another female prostitute in the 2000s, and school boy Tristan in 1998.  It was hard to see how this one man could be linked to murders of two women he worked with, then have 20 years of inactivity followed by two murders of prostitutes, with a gap of several years until he killed Tristan.  The time frame is problematic, and the killings involved vastly different victim pools.

As mentioned already, Tristan’s murder was very unusual.  More on that later but it can be said that it’s not unexpected that a killer who preys on female coworkers is a different killer than a man who selects prostitutes as victims, and both killers would be different than a person who kills pre-pubescent boys.  As I began reading about Manfred Seel I found myself surprised because the more I read, the more I could understand how it is that the German police reached the conclusions they did.  I am unsure if I wholly buy that Seel murdered Tristan, but the authorities make a compelling case and I hope eventually more information comes to light.

Originally I thought I was going to be writing about how stupid I found the accusations pinning Seel as Tristan’s killer but after spending a couple of months scouring the Internet, whether or not I think Seel is responsible for Tristan’s murder is irrelevant.  Even if Seel is not Tristan’s killer, the fact is that now both names are linked together – it’s hard to discuss Tristan without discussing Seel.  It’s even harder for me to discuss Seel without discussing Tristan.  Tristan’s case is bizarre and what happened to him, and later his family, is tragic.  His case was marred with misinformation about his life, salacious rumors that were, irritatingly, repeated by the German press without a lick of proof, and even brought up in the Reddit thread about Tristan.  Seel’s story is similarly strange, with unexpected behaviors, foul deeds and even fouler implications.

Obtaining all this information was difficult because so much of it is in the German language.  In the end, I was pretty impressed at how much Google Translate has improved over the years, but it’s daunting for English-speakers who are just casually interested in the case to tackle all those news articles and to sort the good from the bad, to find articles that have fresh news and aren’t just a retelling of older information, updated with a bit of new information tacked on at the end.  Since I spent so long sorting and reading, I decided to write about Tristan Bruebach and Manfred Seel, source cite as much as I could, and share the links I found to news stories that were helpful and brought understanding to both stories.  Maybe this can serve as a small clearinghouse of information about the case for English-speaking readers.  In this article I’ve included citation numbers correlating to the source that I got specific information from, and when you scroll down to these sources, I’ve included the English Google Translation for each article originally in German.

Under the cut I will discuss Tristan, Seel, Seel’s other victims and interesting information German profilers and investigators used to track down victims who were killed over 40 years ago.  Please know that much of the information under the cut is disturbing.  Extreme sexual deviancy, child murder, dismemberment, rape, potential cannibalism and possible necrophilia show up in telling Tristan’s and Seel’s stories.  If any of this bothers you, don’t read any further.

YouTube Creepiness: MrsMisanthropy and Alceste Esseintes

I’ve been consuming a lot of media on YouTube lately, mainly in the form of various “creepypasta” channels. Various people with good or interesting voices read short stories and vignettes written for online readers – Reddit’s nosleep is a good source of creepypastas – and sometimes put in appropriate sound effects. I listen to hours and hours of such readings as I sew or iron or do repetitive tasks that don’t need my full attention to perform. It reminds me a bit of old radio serials – I wonder if my grandmother did the same, listening to assorted radio dramas as she ironed or cleaned the bathroom.

Creepypastas are fun but ultimately most are pleasant diversions as opposed to something that inspires me to write about them, but the last few months I’ve found myself combing through a couple of accounts that have proven to be far creepier than story recitations that have creepiness as an actual goal. Of course, both accounts aren’t shying away from presenting unpleasant, upsetting or gross content but when it’s not the goal and it happens sort of organically, it’s all the more interesting, I think.

Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

Book:  Penpal

Author:  Dathan Auerbach

Type of Book:  Fiction, short story collection, horror

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd:  Because it is both excellent and terrible.

Availability:  Published by 1000Vultures, you can get a copy here:

Comments: If you are a Redditor and subscribe to “nosleep” then chances are you are already aware of Penpal and Dathan Auerbach.  Dathan posted a series of stories to “nosleep” that became so popular that he expanded them, eventually self-publishing the stories as Penpal, using his Reddit name, 1000Vultures, as the name of his publishing company.  The book has had moderate success and has even been optioned for a film.

Nosleep and the phenomenon of “creepypasta” have expanded into YouTube serials wherein voice actors read the stories, but it has to be said that most of the stories that get posted and then turned into audio-videos are mediocre.  Some are so bad they are of the “then who was phone” variety.  But sometimes some excellent gems are posted to the subreddit.  For example during the summer of 2014, Reddit user natesw posted an account of how his dead girlfriend was talking to him via Facebook chat.  It was a creepy and well-executed story, and it went viral.  Unfortunately going viral was probably the story’s undoing because it caused an influx of people into nosleep who had no idea how the community worked and didn’t read the sidebar rules.  You see, nosleep operates as if all the stories posted there are true.  Even if they aren’t true, they are true.  The readers interact with the author of the story as if the author is the protagonist or in some manner part of the story, and the author responds in character when replying in comments.  Natesw’s story got so barraged by people unclear on the concept of nosleep that he more or less abandoned it.  Newcomers were analyzing exif data trying to disprove his story, doing their best to track him down on other social media sites and doxx him to prove it was a hoax and it all got quite ruined for those who understood what was going on.  Luckily, Dathan’s stories didn’t fall victim to people unclear on the concept until the stories had enough traction that such nonsense didn’t affect them, but if you Google any element of this book, one of the autofill menu items will always be “is penpal based on a true story” or some variant.

But such is the risk of engaging in writing and theater online – if you do it well it will be indistinguishable from real life to those who never read the community guidelines.

Penpal is the story of a young man’s very disturbing childhood, and his attempts to make sense of what happened to him and his friends.  The first two chapters are golden, truly creepy and leaving the reader with the task of deciding the reality of the situations the author presents, especially in the first chapter, “Footsteps.”  The first two chapters are not in chronological order – “Footsteps” takes place when the narrator is six, “Balloons” takes place when he is five – so I am going to discuss “Balloons” first because it will make this discussion easier to follow. 

Sharing the Love

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

I’ve had some serious insomnia lately, which means I’ve been up during the middle of the night, reading lunatic shit, mostly on Reddit. I’ve come across a couple of strange topics I wanted to share with you guys.

The first involves another lost German child. Not long ago I talked about the case of Tristan Bruebach, a German teenager killed brutally in a tunnel in Frankfurt in 1998. I had never heard of that particular MO before and the crime itself was utterly shocking. This time the child in question was literally lost. Dirk Schiller disappeared on a vacation with his family in the former East Germany in 1979. As in the family was walking to their car in a snow covered lot and the little boy disappeared without a trace.

His mother never gave up looking for him and there is a level of conspiracy attached to this case that gives even a skeptic like me pause. This site does a great job covering the case, explaining the Stasi connection, and a possible link to medical experimentation. This is a seriously twitchy case, and it’s made all the more twitchy given the release of the family’s Stasi files. I lost hours reading about this case.

The other strange tidbit I want to share is also from Reddit, and is amusing, bordering on hilarious, once you read enough to realize that your initial conclusion was incorrect and that the person in question is not into waterfowl bestiality. Readers, I give you /u/fuckswithducks. His comment history is a gold mine and I lost even more hours reading his deep love of rubber duckies, his encyclopedic knowledge of them as well as how he uses them in his sex life.

I shit you not, I read comment after comment to Mr Oddbooks until he pleaded with me to shut up. Here are some examples, all links as they were in the original comments.

Duck size is important:

Let’s talk about duck size. I’m really not interested in small ducks. On the other hand, big ducks are nice, but they’re just impractical. What the hell am I supposed to do with them?! My ideal duck size is 3-6 inches tall. Also, I don’t really like fat ducks. I’m just looking for nice, standard, medium-sized ducks like these.

It is possible to have a favorite rubber duck, and to know so much about that duck that people may think you are making shit up until they Google and realize you, in fact, know your shit, duck-wise:

I’m still searching for the manufacturer of my favorite rubber duck. Every few years the ducks show up in stores again (the last time I saw one was around 2008), but I’ve never been able to learn their origin. Here’s a bit of a back story about this duck (some info I’ve posted before, some is new):

In 1977, a toy company called Knickerbocker created a new toy called Ernie’s Rubber Duckie. Designed by famous toy inventor Henry Orenstein (patent USD260915), this toy would lay the foundation for one of the most iconic rubber ducks in history. In 1983, Knickerbocker was sold to Hasbro; which produced more of the ducks around 1985 through Playskool. Around that time, a Taiwanese factory got a hold of this toy and started creating generic knockoffs of it. By 1992, Playskool discontinued production of their rubber duck, but the Taiwanese factory continued on. Every few years, this anonymous factory produced replicas which would appear in toy stores across the United States.

Remember this stock photo? It appeared in everything from Photoshop tutorials to the default Windows user account profile picture. Some were even used in an experiment to test the pollution caused by different kinds of jet ski engines. Those particular ducks are now mounted on the desk of politician Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif. The last time I ever saw them was in a World Market around 2008 (video evidence from 2005).

If you have one of these, feel free to check the bottom and I guarantee you’ll find the “Made in Taiwan”. They seem to all come from one source, yet I have never been able to track them down. My dream is to some day discover where they’re made and start my own store for them.

Edit: I want to thank all the people who have tried looking for me! Unfortunately, the search goes on. Several people have found very similar ducks, the closest probably being the Bath and Body Works ducks or this knockoff of the knockoff which is from China and is significantly lower quality.

Duck porn is a thing not limited to /u/fuckswithducks:

Thanks for doing an AMA! I have a more general question about Brazzers. In Wet Dreams! with Dani Jensen (2012), I noticed that you included a rubber duck in the shoot. In Splash Time with Jenna Ross (2013), you used 3 of the same duck. Does Brazzers have its own permanent prop collection? If so, can we get a tour and see some of the interesting things you’ve collected to use in videos over the years? I’m curious because you reuse the same rubber duck and I have seen other studios reuse other rubber ducks as well (for example, Bangbros reused this one 12)

But just because some porn companies recognize the erotic use of rubber ducks does not mean they make it easy for the average duck perv:

The generic video titles (e.g. “[Pornstar] rides huge dick”, “young bedroom solo”) and descriptions which are clearly copy/paste jobs. They make it really difficult to find porn when you’re searching for specific things. Really the only way to find porn with rubber ducks is to search for “bath” and then scroll through all the thumbnails for one. Plenty of porn videos set entirely in the bathroom won’t even mention it in the title/description, though. It’s simple SEO, people!

A fetish collection of rubber duckies can have a practical use as well, like for when your girlfriend takes up too much space in bed:

Came here to say this. There are plenty of passive-aggressive ways to win your space back. Personally, I like to stack rubber ducks on my girlfriend until she moves.

And sexual appreciation doesn’t always have to be about the ducks:

Sexual preferences aside, I think everyone can appreciate a nice set of boobs.

Part of me thinks this is a dedicated dada-esque account.  But most of me hopes this is real.  I really love /u/fuckswithducks and need him to abide on Reddit as long as he can.  I should probably send him some gold to show my appreciation.

You read anything recently that is weird or strange or unsettling?  Tell me about it!

Stuff is happening, as well as things

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

So sorry for the silence on my end.  I’ve been writing quite a bit, so much in fact that I have written myself into a corner.  Every Cradle Is a Grave came into my life as I was experiencing death and the rage and depression death brings with it.  I have written over 20,000 words about the book and, though I am well-known for my wordiness, that is a wholly inappropriate number of words to use to discuss a book.  I am self-indulgent but luckily I still have a bit of self-awareness and now I am spending time editing so that I can present my frame of mind regarding the book without substituting my frame of mind for the book.  I will have the discussion up early next week.

I will also have another “middle of the road” discussion up either tomorrow or Thursday.

I’ve been immersed in some interesting media and topics this week, one of which turned into a rabbit-hole.  I follow the “Unresolved Mysteries” subreddit and a German user posted about a murder I had never heard of and as a result I have been scouring the Internet, reading crappy translations of old German news articles, finding every detail I can about it.  In 1998, thirteen year old Tristan Bruebach was murdered in such a sexually specific and audacious manner that I cannot believe I had not heard of this murder before and I also cannot believe this was the sole time the murderer performed such a killing. But against all logic, it seems like that is the case.  Seriously, three decades of reading and studying and I have never heard of a murder like this, and there are so many strange details about Tristan, his activities before his murder, and the way he was killed that even seasoned professional criminologists are baffled by the case.

I’ve also been listening to the Michigan band His Name Is Alive almost non-stop.  I don’t know how to describe this sort of music and the band has continually evolved since the late 80s so it’s hard to pigeon-hole the effort.  The only constant member of the band is Warren Defever, with different musicians and singers coming and going.

A friend of mine in college gave me a mixed tape with “Baby Fish Mouth” on it but it was the early 90s, no iTunes and precious little Internet outside of university labs, and tracking down small, indie bands was harder then. I finally got a copy of the album, Mouth by Mouth, and every song was worthwhile, which seldom ever seems to happen. The singer on this track, Karin Oliver, performed with HNIA for several years but evidently is now an account manager at a marketing firm.


“How Ghosts Affect Relationships” is from the album Livonia, released in 1990. It wasn’t until this album got uploaded to YouTube that I could access it. I don’t know if it’s rare or if it’s just that I wasn’t thorough. This is the best song on the album, I think, and it’s a little musical knife in my heart.


“How Dark Is Your Dark Side” is not the best song on Xmmer, a 2007 album, but I listen to it over and over because I love the singer, Andrea Morici. There is something sweetly hypnotic about her voice on this track. I think she may be the best vocalist to work with Defever.

So that’s where I am. Buried in hyperemotional reactions to a book about antinatalism, searching for information about a savagely murdered child, and listening to experimental rock. See you soon with a short entry about two short story collections that disappointed me sincerely.

The Alex Jones-ification of the Mainstream Media

This post originally appeared on Houdini's Revenge

When the Boston Marathon Bombings occurred, I immediately knew two things were going to happen.  First, people were going to mouth off and engage in passive-aggressive yet incendiary speculation about the Tea Party.  The Tea Party is anathema to my political, social and moral beliefs but even I tensed as people pointed out the links between Tax Day and Patriot Day, both happening on April 15th, and the Tea Party.  And when I say people, I mean liberal pundits, and I was not disappointed.  Michael Moore and David Axelrod were the two whose comments I found the most ridiculous (I didn’t mind Chris Matthews mentioning that most domestic terrorists in the USA are from the extreme right wing because it’s an accurate statement based on actual evidence – this just wasn’t the right time to bring it up).  We live in a world of pundits.  Everyone with a little bit of knowledge and access to a television camera offers instant opinions based on very little fact and we pay them to do it.  It used to be that pundits were experts, but perhaps we now need to rethink their value because when the truth matters the most they seem to do more harm than good. When Moore and Axelrod postulated about the Tea Party, there was zero proof of anything other than that two bombs went off and that people were gravely injured.  Their speculation about who was to blame was irresponsible.

The response to this was equally as tiresome. With no small amount of disgust, I noticed the sanctimonious and oh-so-offended tones of those on the right, so sorely aggrieved that anyone would think the right wing responsible for bombings, as if Tim McVeigh, Eric Rudolph and Ted Kaczynski did not exist. But all of that’s beside the point.  I advise all people who were not injured in the attack or who are not close to someone injured in the attack to pull up their socks and stop making this terrible tragedy all about them and their sense of continual victimization.

The second thing I knew would happen was that Alex Jones would declare it a false flag operation launched against innocent citizens by a government so craven it would kill its own in order to erode our civil rights.  His bloviating performance during the Sandy Hook shooting caused many like me to expect the worst from him and on cue, just like the barking seal he is, he began to perform for the paranoid types who make up the core of his support.  Grass is green, sky is blue, blood is on the ground, and Alex Jones is pandering to the delusions of the crowd.  It must be Monday.

But even though pundits are loosely considered journalists in this country, I was not prepared for the utter failure of not just the journalists in the USA, but journalists worldwide, to cover the bombings in a professional manner.  I expect pundits to act like fools – it’s what they are paid to do.  I expect Alex Jones to concoct improbable conspiracies and pass them off as news – it is what he is paid to do.  But I did not expect mainstream media, supposedly run by trained journalists, to go so very wrong as they adopted the instant idiocy of punditry and the Infowars tactic to treat every rumor as fact.  I know we are a society wherein we demand instant news and that CNN, the New York Post and other “legitimate” news sources were just trying to give us what we want, but the fact that legitimate news media decided to use the same metrics as Reddit to determine the factual worthiness of information they received is distressing and cannot be excused just because people want instant news.

April 19, 2013I posit the complete news failures we witnessed and are still witnessing happened because the mainstream media and pundits followed the examples set by conspiracy-mongers like Alex Jones.  The mainstream media failed to follow some of the most basic rules of journalism in their reporting of the Boston Marathon Bombings and acted as if they, hubs of world news, needed to behave like people on message boards, reporting every tiny bit of information before vetting it, giving as much credence to chatter on a police radio as they did to actual news releases from the Boston police and the FBI.  It is nothing short of knee-slappingly hilarious that after such a failure of basic reporting ethics and rules, the mainstream media tried to blame social media sites like Reddit for muddying the waters as members worked over every detail of the bombings, coming to good conclusions, bad conclusions and outright crazy conclusions.  In a world where proper journalism matters, the mutterings on message boards mean nothing.  The media blaming Reddit for their failures and the harms they caused is pathetic and sniveling.  Whether or not we like the idea that people gather on social media sites to engage in armchair sleuthing, it happens and will continue to happen.  Armchair sleuths are not the problem.  Mainstream media who give credence to armchair sleuths are the problem, but, as we will see, just reading the Find Boston Bombers subReddit was hardly the whole of the media failure.