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In the extreme southwest corner of the crescent-shaped medieval town layout on the town wall is the only surviving tower of the old town fortifications. The semicircular building, which was erected in the 14th century from Rüthen green sandstone, received its name from the vernacular because of its function as a dungeon and torture chamber during the long-lasting phase of Rüthen witch trials in the 16th and 17th centuries and their gruesome accompanying circumstances. In the Sauerland at that time about 600 people were sentenced as witches.
About half of the alleged witches were men. Of the 102 people accused of witchcraft in Rüthen, only two survived the interrogations and the ghastly torture. In the small two-story tower there are small loopholes. In the lower room of the tower, torture devices hang on the stone walls: a thumbscrew, long iron torture tongs and a executioner's sword. There are illuminated information panels on the history of witch hunts embedded in the floor.
A narrow wooden staircase leads to the upper room. There you can see a so-called 'elevator' - a noose attached to a heavy stone. On the walls hang an old rod and a neck shackle. Next to it is a wooden torture chair. Apart from this tower, the old city fortification had another 12 towers and blockhouses, the remains of which can be seen in the city wall ring still visible for about 3.5 km during a circular walk.
At many places along the wall path there are charming views of the varied natural landscape surrounding the town. A bronze relief on the outer wall of the tower is a reminder in particular of the times of witch hunts in Rüthen. However, the work of art is also a monument to the overcoming of the witch mania through the courageous appearance of the famous Jesuit priest Friedrich von Spee and the country priest Michael Stappert (Stapirius), who is also depicted there and comes from Rüthen. Both were opponents of the witch hunt. Friedrich von Spee was confessor of many alleged witches and in the 17th century published a book on witch hunts entitled 'Cautio criminalis' (German: 'Beware of the accusation').
You can visit the Hexenturm as part of a guided tour of the city!