'Nosferatu' Director's Head Stolen from German Cemetery

This is apparently not the first time Murnau's grave has been disrupted

Photo: Ralf Hirschberger; Inset: Ullstein Bild/Getty; Rex USA

After having directed one of the most iconic horror films of all time, 1922’s Nosferatu, you’d think F.W. Murnau would be entitled to an eternity of peaceful slumber.

But not everyone feels the same. Reports out of Germany claim that the director’s head has been stolen from his family plot in a cemetery in Stahnsdorf, Germany, about 12 miles southwest of central Berlin.

The metal lid to Murnau’s coffin was pried open, though the nearby graves of two of his brothers were intact, suggesting the robbers knew exactly who they were targeting. German paper Der Spiegel reports that wax residue was discovered near the grave site, which some are pointing to as indicative of occult-related motivations for the robbery. This is apparently not the first time someone has broken into the Murnau family crypt, leading cemetery officials to weigh relocating Murnau’s body away from his family to stave off further vandalism.

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Murnau’s film was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though the striking images in Nosferatu – notably Max Shreck as the vampire Count Orlok – are as indelibly seared into pop culture memory as Todd Browning’s 1931 Bela Lugosi-starring adaptation.

Murnau’s Hollywood career also included the Oscar-winning silent film Sunrise. He died in a car accident in 1931, when his hired car – reportedly driven by a 14-year-old boy – crashed into a light pole in Santa Barbara, California.

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