In most creepy stories about executioners, they play the role of the villain. But we actually feel sympathy for Heinrich Schmidt, who was an executioner with an unfortunate back story. Heinrich Schmidt was once a normal guy, a woodsman in the Bavarian town of Hof. However, on one ordinary day in 1553 his life changed forever – for the worse.
It was commonplace for townsfolk to attend executions, and on that day Heinrich Schmidt had been doing just that. He was standing in a crowd waiting to see an execution. The crowd were left waiting because there was one big problem; they had no executioner. Their tyrannical ruler, Brandenburg-Kulmbach Albrecht II, was furious at the situation and decided to pick someone at random from the crowd. He picked Schmidt to be the executioner, but Schmidt said no. So the prince gave him an ultimatum: execute these men, or you’ll be executed too. Schmidt eventually gave in and carried out the execution. But once he did, there was no going back.
His family became so isolated by the stigma that he couldn’t get any work other than as an executioner. And that’s how the rest of his life was, shunned by society and being forced to execute people.