Kitty Genovese: the Unluckiest Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th has long been associated with bad luck. No one is really sure why, other than the number 13 and the day Friday are both considered somewhat unlucky, and so Friday the 13th is doubly so. But statistically, it is no more deadly than the other 364 days of the year. Not that it hasn’t had its fair share of catastrophes: freak floods, cyclones, blizzards, and plane crashes – including the infamous 1972 crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571.

However, one Friday the 13th tragedy stands out as a legendary perfect storm of murder and apathy: on March 13, 1964, bar manager Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was raped and stabbed to death outside her apartment building in Kew Gardens, Queens, in New York City. According to a New York Times article written soon after the crime, 38 people saw or heard the attack, but did nothing. The nation was rightfully shocked, and the phenomenon was studied intensely by psychologists and sociologists, who coined the term the “bystander effect.” For decades, her case was a staple of psychology classes.

But as the case got more scrutiny, researchers began to see that maybe the story we’d all been told wasn’t quite the whole truth.

Kitty Genovese grew up in an Italian- and Irish-American working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn. She was known by friends and classmates as a “chatterbox,” popular, and charming. After graduation, she worked several jobs before becoming the manager of a bar in Queens. She was reliable and hard-working, often working double shifts to save money for her dream: to open an Italian restaurant.

On March 13, 1963, she met Mary Ann Zielonko, and they quickly fell in love. They moved into a second-floor apartment near the railway station in Kew Gardens.

On their first anniversary, Kitty got off work around 3 a.m. She parked her car at the railway station and began walking home through the frigid winter night. Businesses were closed, streets were empty, and apartment windows dark: the perfect hunting grounds for a killer.

Winston Moseley had snuck out of his home earlier that night, leaving his wife and two sons sleeping while he prowled for his latest victim.

Kitty was close to her apartment when she heard him approach her. She tried to run, but he caught her and stabbed her. She yelled out. A neighbor heard her cries and yelled, “Leave that girl alone!” Frightened, Winston retreated to his car. Kitty, bloody but still alive, limped toward her apartment.

After a few minutes, hearing no sirens, Winston decided to finish what he started. He found Kitty collapsed in the entryway to her apartment building. He stabbed her repeatedly and raped her there, then took the money from her wallet and left her to die (the coroner later found 13 stab wounds and a number of defensive wounds on her body).

Neighbor and friend Sophie Farrar heard the noises and rushed down the stairs to Kitty’s aid, holding her and comforting her. More than a half-hour after the attack, another neighbor finally called the cops. They arrived quickly, along with an ambulance, but she succumbed to her wounds at Queens General Hospital.

Six days later, Winston Moseley confessed to the murder of Kitty Genovese and two other women: Annie Mae Johnson and Barbara Kralik, as well as a number of burglaries and rapes. He was sentenced to death, but later his sentence was commuted to 20 years to life. (An interesting aside is that this did not put an end to his violence. While in prison, he purposefully injured himself in order to get transferred to a hospital. He then escaped transport, found an empty house, and holed up there. When the cleaning lady arrived, he raped her. After escaping, she called the owners of the house, and they called the police. The police told her they were only one and a half hours to shift change, so she should call back later. When the owners came home, Winston tied the man up, raped the woman, then stole their car and went to another house where he held a mother and daughter hostage. Later he released them and was arrested.) He died in prison on March 28, 2016.

The story that was written about the attack made national headlines and sparked a widespread debate about supposed urban apathy and indifference. Kitty Genovese’s case – and the story of the 38 bystanders – helped pass Good Samaritan laws and sparked the creation of the 911 system.

Though the Kitty Genovese murder sparked such debate and ultimately positive changes, after some digging it was shown that the story was not as bad as it had been reported. First of all, the number of witnesses had been inflated, and most of the witnesses only caught brief glimpses of the attack and didn’t realize what they were seeing or hearing.

The fact remains that many people did hear her screaming and did not call the cops. But the neighborhood was near a bar, and residents said that screaming and yelling late at night weren’t uncommon. It is also important to remember that domestic violence was perfectly legal in 1964, so hearing a woman’s screams may have not alerted neighbors to a crime, necessarily – just a husband exercising his God-given right to control his wife.

There was also another factor at work: back then, being gay was illegal. Kitty and many of her neighbors feared police persecution daily, and so would not have seen the police as a force for help. In fact, her partner, Mary, was grilled extensively about her sexuality after Kitty’s death and was herself accused of killing her.

But most importantly, several people actually did call the cops. Her friend Sophie took a great risk to come to Kitty’s aid, and held her in her arms while she breathed her last. She showed great courage and kindness, and I think that story deserves as much attention as the false claim that “no one wanted to get involved.”

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“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” Shines a Light on the Golden State Killer

The incredible backstory of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer is well-known: Michelle McNamara spent years researching and tracking down a serial rapist and murderer, but died suddenly (from a combination of prescription drugs and an undiagnosed heart condition) without ever having found him. Later, using her notes and research materials, her lead researcher, Paul Haynes, and an investigative journalist friend, Billy Jensen, finished the manuscript for her.

The book is about her search for the criminal, still as yet unknown, that McNamara dubs the Golden State Killer, a man responsible for 50 rapes and at least 10 murders in Central and Southern California in the 1970s and 80s. He was known previously by different monikers in different jurisdictions: the East Area Rapist, the Visalia Ransacker, the Original Night Stalker.

The book itself, with a forward by the amazing thriller author Gillian Flynn, jumps right into it, describing the crime scene of Manuela Witthuhn’s rape and murder from the point of view of her brother-in-law, Drew. But this is no tedious catalog of gore. McNamara only features the cases that provide some vital clue or context to the case, always paying attention to the details – the crime scene details, of course, but also the human details: the responses of the friends and family who found the bodies, the thoughts of the investigators. Each scene is so rich in detail, it reads like a novel.

She also gives us glimpses into her own thoughts and motivations, like how she became obsessed with true crime at age 14, after learning of an unsolved murder where the young woman’s body was dumped mere blocks from her home.

The overall structure of the book is non-chronological, jumping back and forth in time from the crime scenes to the investigations to the present day. But it works, mostly, to build the narrative. Which brings me to my only (very mild) criticism: some of the chapters that are adapted or excerpts from previously published articles repeated some things, so it seemed like you were going over ground already covered.

The biggest thing about this book is, unlike most true-crime books, the killer is never identified. She does look into a trio of likely suspects, but all are excluded by the evidence. Profiles are built, but with no workable pool of suspects, they are as insubstantial as tissue paper. There is DNA evidence, but no suspect to match it to.

And with his last murder committed in 1986, this case may indeed stay cold. Cold cases involving serial killers are rarely solved after so many years. The longest a serial killer has gotten away with his crimes was 48 years: in 2016, Edwin Dean Richardson was identified through DNA as the murderer of Wendy Jo Halison in 1968. By then, Richardson was four years in his grave. But in the Golden State Killer case, all relevant police departments have had his DNA for years, and it has been run through CODIS multiple times without a hit. Until he messes up and gets arrested, it won’t do them any good.

Odds are, by now the Golden State Killer is dead. Brutal sexual attackers don’t stop until they are stopped. But even that theory isn’t iron-clad. The suspect called one of his victims in 2001, asking, “Remember when we played?” This suggests that he may indeed have enough self-control to quit for 30 years.

There a numerous theories floating around about the Golden State Killer. In addition to law enforcement, regular citizens discuss and research his crimes and try to find that crucial lead. This just shows the strength of this book: it takes a decades-old, little-known cold case and brings it to life. Hopefully it will bring it to justice as well.

Accessories to Murder

If studying killers has taught us anything, it’s that there are a lot of ways to kill people. Sure, there are the reliable standards: shooting, strangling, stabbing, bludgeoning, poisoning, and pushing (as in, off a cliff or down a flight of stairs).

But in the name of self-defense, people have invented some very creative ways to commit each of those. Mostly, they come in the form of jewelry or other accessories for women, the thinking being that packing heat was just unbecoming for a lady. So we’ll begin with the oldest, and probably still most popular, accessory to murder:

The Poison Ring

Poison Ring

One of the oldest and most recognizable accessories to murder, the poison ring.

These have been around since at least the 1400s, and the infamous poisoner and aristocrat Lucrezia Borgia is rumored to have had one. Their use is simple: a hinged lid hides a small compartment to store poison, preferably in powder form. The wearer can surreptitiously open the compartment and dump the poison into their victim’s (or their own) food or drink.

To be fair, most poison rings were actually more like lockets, designed to hold small portraits or locks of hair. However, this medieval poison ring unearthed in Bulgaria leaves no doubt what its intended use was: the tiny hole was meant to be hidden by the wearer’s finger, and the deadly dose simply tipped into the victim’s drink. In fact, archaeologists believe the ring belonged to the nobleman Dobrotitsa, and would explain the rash of mysterious deaths of other nobles close to him.

Hatpins of Peril

Hatpin-733x1024In the early 20th Century, women were subjected to much the same kinds of street harassment and groping that we’re still dealing with. Then as now, many women began to fight back, using a makeshift weapon most of them had on hand, er, head: the humble hatpin.

The style at the time was for women to wear huge, elaborate hats perched atop equally huge hairstyles. In order to hold all this construction in place, women used hatpins made of sturdy metal and 9 inches long – or longer. News stories began to appear featuring plucky women stabbing and slashing at “mashers,” or in modern terms, creeps, who attempted to grope or otherwise harrass women in public. At first the tone seemed to be positive.

But it wasn’t long before stories began to be told about innocent men being victimized by crazed, hatpin-wielding women. In fact, in Connecticut in 1906, one woman murdered her husband by drugging him, then piercing his skull through the corner of his eye orbit with her hatpin – a stealthy wound that was difficult for the medical examiner to find.

By 1909, hatpins were considered enough of a threat that the Chicago city council voted to ban hatpins longer than 9 inches. Violators faced arrest and a $50 fine. Soon other cities like Kansas City, Hamburg, Paris, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans all passed ordinances that limited hatpins’ length and/or required the pointed ends to be sheathed in public.

Women were outraged, and many refused to obey the law or pay the fines. It was quite the international controversy for a while…until the big gaudy hats went out of style, making the hatpin obsolete – at least for fashion purposes.

The Ring Gun

indexApparently these “little protectors” were primarily sold to gamblers in the 1800s. Not much is known about them, but according to Guns.com, they started appearing around the same time as other types of creative firearms like the pen gun and the cane gun. The French-made Le Petit Protector was the first documented example of this type of firearm, a tiny six-shooter mounted on a ring.

Typically, a ring gun would be worn on the index finger and the thumb used to fire the hammer. There was no barrel; each round fired simply from its individual cylinder. The revolver had to be manually rotated, and to load, unload, or reload, the wearer had to take a small, slotted jeweler’s screwdriver and remove the cylinder from the ring base.

They were sold with five-, six-, or seven-round cylinders in either 2mm or 4mm pinfire. The 4mm guns had a cylinder about as wide as a nickel, while the 2mm had one closer in size to a dime. The 2mm guns were typically marked “Femme Fatal” and sold in small, oval-shaped jewelry boxes, while the larger 4mm guns were more likely meant for men. You could also buy them as a matching his and hers set.

Despite how cool they might look, they weren’t very effective as a murder weapon. The tiny rounds, propelled by minuscule amounts of gunpowder, packed less force than a pellet gun. At best, they served at a deterrent. However, due to their rarity, they are quite collectible, with one set fetching $13,000 at auction.

Pepper Spray Sparkles

3978dcf8-52cc-4eae-b90f-d93e135cba95_1.719226c6f82f1d6c70e14c0ab2a6f74dOK, so it probably can’t kill anyone (unless they’ve got a condition like asthma), but I couldn’t leave out this newest fashion/self-defense accessory: glitter pepper spray. It’s just like regular pepper spray, but with glitter. And that’s pretty much it.

The company that sells it, blingsting, also makes bedazzled tazers and shiny personal alarms. So you can look cute while fending off a rapist, or something.

I don’t mean to hate on blingsting. Their cutsey self-defense products aren’t so different than those fancy hatpins our great-grandmothers used to fend off creepers. And that’s the really sad part – that it’s been over a century, and we’re still having to carry ever-more creative weapons just to go out in public.

Senior Citizen Serial Killers: Ray and Faye Copeland

We’ll end the month of killer couples with the oldest serial killers: Ray and Faye Copeland.

The Con Man and the Church Lady

Ray Copeland was born Dec. 30, 1914, in Oklahoma. His family moved around a lot, and eventually settled in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Like many who suffered through the Great Depression, Ray had to drop out of school in the fourth grade to support his family. This left him functionally illiterate for the rest of his life.

From early on, friends and family described him as spoiled and demanding. He committed his first known crime at the age of 20, stealing two hogs and selling them in another town. His father covered for him, and no charges were filed. He continued stealing and selling livestock, then in 1930, he was caught forging government checks in Harrison, Arkansas, and sentenced to a year in county jail.

In 1940, he meant 19-year-led Faye Della Wilson, seven years his junior. Faye had been raised in a dirt-floor cabin in Harrison in a very religious family. The two got married six months later. In 1944 they moved, along with their oldest two kids, to California, where they had another child. They eventually ended up with five children. Ray was violently abusive to all of them, beating them with anything he could lay his hands on, including cattle kickers and cast-iron skillets. Faye, raised a Christian fundamentalist, believed the husband was the head of the household and divorce was a sin, so she wouldn’t leave him. As she said, she bowed her head and took it.

The Scams of a Livestock Rustler

The year their youngest child was born, Ray was accused of stealing horses from a nearby farmer. No charges were filed, but he figured he needed to move on, and moved the family back to Arkansas. Less than a month after his return, he was arrested for stealing cattle and served a year in the State Penitentiary.

When he got out, he moved to Missouri. Again he was arrested for cattle theft. He kept moving the family around and getting arrested for writing forged checks pretty regularly. Finally, they bought a 40-acre farm in Mooresville, outside Chillicothe, Missouri. Faye supported the farm by working in a factory, and later, being a motel maid.

This is where Ray hatched the scam to use drifters to pass forged checks at cattle auctions. By the time the checks would bounce, Ray would have sold the ill-gotten livestock, and the drifter would be long gone. He was able to get away with it dozens of times until one of the drifters was caught and confessed to the police. Ray was again arrested and sentenced to jail for forgery.

From Scam Artist to Serial Killer

When Ray got out of jail this time, he knew he had to be smarter. Here is how the new, improved scam would go down: Ray would recruit homeless men from the missions and shelters in nearby towns, offering them $50 a week plus room and board to help out around the farm. For many, it seemed like a deal that was too good to be true. And it was. Ray in fact hated transients, and often stated they didn’t deserve to live.

He would then have his victim open a checking account in their own name with $200 that Ray would front them, using a P.O. box as an address. They would then go together to various cattle auctions, and Ray would signal the man which cattle to bid on and how much. When they purchased the cattle, the man would pay with his check, which would clear – at first. They would sell the cattle and come back and do it again – only this time, the checks would not clear. In the meantime, Ray would have sold the cattle and murdered the homeless man before anyone was the wiser.

Dennis Murphy was one of these men. In 1986, he was wanted for writing bad checks at cattle auctions. Police had discovered that the cattle had been taken away in a trailer owned by Ray Copeland. The police questioned the Copelands about Murphy. The couple claimed that Murphy also written them bad checks, and that one day he just up and left. Since Murphy was known to be a drifter, the sheriff took the Copelands’ story at face value.

Then a deputy from a different county came looking for another man, Wayne Warner. The Copelands gave him the same story about Warner. In all, there were seven men who were wanted for these forged checks at cattle auctions throughout central Missouri, and and all of them were missing.

It wasn’t until in 1989 that a tip cracked the case open, when a man named Jack McCormick called the Missouri authorities from Nebraska. He told them that he thought he had seen human bones on the Copelands’ farm. The authorities searched the farm, including using cadaver dogs, but they found nothing. McCormick, who was taken into custody and questioned, recanted his statement about finding the bones, but he did reveal something else. He told them all about the check cashing scam that Ray had drafted him into.

He also told them that he was very afraid of Ray. He recounted that one night, Ray had asked him to come out to a neighbor’s barn under the pretense of shooting a raccoon that had gotten into the barn. Ray had his .22 bolt-action Marlin rifle, and he and McCormick went to the barn. But McCormick felt very wary of Ray, and kept his eye on him. When he went to poke a stick and get the raccoon out, as Ray had directed him to, he turned around and saw Ray had that .22 pointed right at his head.

He told police that he talked Ray out of shooting him with the promise that he would leave town and never come back. He told Ray that before he left, he wanted to make good the hot check that he had written, and convinced Ray to take him to the bank where he would deposit his earnings to cover it. Ray actually did this, and McCormick slipped out the back of the bank and over to a used car lot nearby. There, he convinced the salesperson that he wanted to take one of the cars for a test drive. Well, that “test drive” was his way out. McCormick waited until he was safely in Nebraska before he made his call to the police.

Though they did not find any remains on the Copeland farm, the police begin to piece it together: seven missing men, all wanted for writing forged checks at cattle auctions. All seven traced to the Copelands.

They got a tip from a local that Ray had often worked on a neighboring farm, and one of those barns had a smell like a dead animal. So they searched that property, and in that barn, they found a shallow grave containing the skeletal remains of three men, all killed by a .22 bullet to the head. In another barn on the same property, they found another body, then another in a well. This last man had been wearing a belt that said “Dennis.”

Searching the Copelands’ home, they found many of the missing men’s clothes, and, hidden in a camera case, a list of men’s names. Some of the names had X’s next to them. Nearly all of them had been wanted in connection with the hot check scam.

It was very difficult to identify the bodies of these victims. Since they were transients, any medical or dental records they had were very old or non-existent, and many had gone decades without dental care. Dennis Murphy was identified by the odd shape of his mandibular condyle, the joint of the jawbone. Forensic scientists were able to identify the other bodies: Paul Cowart, James Harvey, John Freeman, and Wayne Warner. All of them had X’s next to their names on the list.

In 1989, Ray Copeland was charged with five murders, as was Faye. They were tried separately, Faye first.

Faye was convicted on all five counts and sentenced to death by lethal injection. Ray was found guilty of the same, and given the same sentence. At 69 and 76 years old, they were the oldest couple ever sentenced to death in American history.

Was Faye Really Guilty?

Her son doesn’t think so. Her court-appointed psychologist didn’t think so. She was convicted on only two pieces of evidence: the list in the camera case that was in her handwriting, and the quilt she made of the dead men’s clothes. Neither of which actually proves her knowledge of the murders.

She was a battered wife, the victim of years of abuse and control. Her court-appointed psychologist stated that she suffered from textbook battered woman’s syndrome, a kind of learned helplessness where the victim becomes unquestioningly compliant. Faye stated time and again that whatever Ray did or said, she did not ask questions for fear of being beaten. She was offered a plea deal by the prosecution, but she didn’t take it because she swore she had no information to give them – she didn’t know where any bodies were because she didn’t know about the murders. On a technicality, her psychologist’s statement that she suffered from battered women’s syndrome was excluded from her trial. So no testimony or evidence about the abuse she suffered from Ray or how he controlled her was allowed in her defense. Subsequently, she was convicted on the flimsiest of evidence: the list and the quilt.

Most likely, Ray told her to write the list (throughout their marriage, Faye had to take care of any tasks that required reading or writing). Ray told her to put X’s next to men’s names. This could have simply meant the men left or were no longer willing to participate in the cattle scam. The fact that she made a quilt out of their clothes doesn’t point to her knowledge of their deaths, either, only that many of these transients would leave clothing behind, and she, like any thrifty country woman, found a way to recycle them into something useful.

Ray, who had controlled her and made her life miserable for decades, continued to do so even after his death in jail in 1993. Faye was never exonerated. In 1999, her sentence was commuted to life in prison. She suffered a stroke in 2002 and was released into a nursing home, where she died a year later. To this day, many still believe she was his willing accomplice, a cold-hearted killer rather than a beaten-down wife.

Besides the five known victims, the Copelands were also suspected in the deaths of seven other men. If Faye knew anything about them, she took that knowledge with her to the grave.

Thrill Kill Couple: Benjamin and Erika Sifrit

The Sifrits aren’t technically serial killers, but only because their stupidity got them caught before they could claim more victims.

They Seemed Like an All-American Couple

Erika Grace, perhaps the more controlling of the two, was born into privilege, the only child of a successful contractor. Throughout high school and college she was an excellent student and athlete. She played basketball and graduated cum laude from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Her friends knew her as a normal, level-headed person, active and outgoing. She didn’t seem to have a dark side.

Not much is known about Benjamin (or BJ), other than he was raised in Minnesota and was a poor student in high school. But after enlisting in the Navy, he seemed to find his calling in life. In 1997, he finished first in his elite SEALs class.

Two years later, he met Erika, then a student at Mary Washington, at a bar with friends. Though he apparently tried to dissuade her from getting into a relationship with him due to his demanding training schedule, she was relentless. Three weeks later, he spontaneously asked her to marry him, and they eloped to Las Vegas.

According to BJ’s mother, Elizabeth, her son changed after getting involved with Erika. Once close with the rest of his family, he stopped calling and visiting. “I just wanted to make [Erika] happy,” he explained at his trial. “It was extreme.” This isolation from family is also a common red flag for abusive and controlling relationships.

The relationship also seemed to affect his Navy career. Erika didn’t like that BJ would be gone for long stretches during training, and would call and harass him frequently. She claimed to have anxiety attacks and bouts of depression while he was gone. Once, while he was in Alaska for training, she flew up to visit him, a violation of the rules. They both were sent home.

BJ’s response to the stress of being torn between his wife and career was to “torpedo” his career. He became unruly and insubordinate, and even got a large swastika tattoo. Finally he was court-martialed for a variety of offenses, including going AWOL. One Navy prosecutor said BJ seemed to have developed “utter disregard for authority.” Ultimately he was drummed out of the service on a bad-conduct discharge.

So they moved back to Erika’s hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania, and her dad set them up with a scrapbooking store – a hobby that Erika was obsessed with (though not very good at, if the examples on Crime Watch Daily are any indication).

Like Gasoline and a Match

The couple thrived on excitement; many of Erika’s high-school friends said they didn’t recognize her anymore. She got tattoos, including a cross on her hip inspired by the movie Natural Born Killers. BJ, who already owned two handguns, bought Erika a .357 Magnum as a present. The couple collected pet snakes they named “Bonnie” and “Clyde,” “Hitler,” and “HIV.” They began doing drugs heavily. Before long, they started stealing from nearby stores and Hooters restaurants (another odd obsession of Erika’s), and selling the items on Ebay.

But that was not enough for the thrill-seekers. So in 2002, the couple headed for Ocean City, Maryland, for their first vacation. But they had more on the itinerary then just sunbathing and bar-hopping.

The Murders

The couple met Martha “Geney” Crutchley and Joshua Ford on a shuttle bus to the club Seacrets. The Sifrits didn’t have exact change, so Joshua offered to pay for them in exchange for the Sifrits buying him a drink at the club. The two couples seemed to hit it off, chatting and drinking through the night.

Afterwards, the Sifrits invited them to their condo for nightcap. What happened next, no one but the Sifrits know for sure, but statements and evidence paint a scene that went something like this: At some point, Erika claimed her purse was missing and accused Geney and Josh of stealing it. BJ then threatened them with his gun. The terrified couple blockaded themselves in the bathroom. Someone – it’s still not known for sure which one – shot Joshua twice through the door. Then BJ kicked the door down and shot him twice more while Geney cowered under the sink. Erika then turned on Geney, stabbing her multiple times.

BJ dismembered their bodies. At one point, he held up their severed heads and told Erika to take a picture, but she refused. They also discussed eating some of their victims’ flesh, but Erika said they didn’t go through with it.

They cleaned up the bathroom, which had so much blood on the floor, it would splash when you stepped in it, according to Erika. They put Geney and Josh’s body parts in trash bags and tossed them into dumpsters across the state line in Delaware. They replaced the bullet-riddled bathroom door and went on with their vacation. They played mini-golf, ate crab, and swam in the ocean, all smiles and happy faces. Erika wore Josh’s bloody ring on a necklace and got a tattoo on her side in the exact spot where she first stabbed Geney.

Still not satisfied, the thrill-kill couple tried it again. For a second time, they befriended a couple, Melissa Seling and Justin Wright, and invited them to their condo for a nightcap. Again, Erika claimed her purse was missing. Again, BJ brandished a gun. But one thing went differently for this couple: BJ didn’t think he and Erika had time to clean up another double homicide. So Melissa and Justin lived.

Meanwhile, when Josh and Geney didn’t return to work, their worried friends and coworkers filed a missing persons report. Ocean City PD searched their condo, but found nothing out of place. Their car was still in the lot, where it had been sitting for a while. The police put out flyers, issued BOLOs, and investigated, but found nothing.

Busted (Pun Intended)

So far, the Sifrits had committed the perfect crime. No one had connected them to the missing couple, and no bodies had been found.

But Erika’s weird addiction to Hooters merch did them in. Almost a week after the murders, the extremely drunk Sifrits broke into a Hooters, setting off a silent alarm. Police arrived on the scene and caught them red-handed. They were so drunk, BJ asked the cops if they could just put it all back and “we’ll be cool.”

Erika, however, began having a panic attack. She asked one of the cops to get her anti-anxiety pills from her purse. While going through her purse to get the medication, the cop found some very suspicious items: IDs belonging to the missing couple … and five spent rounds of ammunition.

Erika had her .357 Magnum in her waistband. They searched the Jeep and found two more handguns: BJ’s Sig Sauer 9mm and .45, along with flex cuffs, gloves, and ski masks. It was obvious there was more going on here than a simple robbery.

So the police searched the Sifrits’ condo. There they found more souveniers “Little Miss Scrapbook” had kept: two spent bullets, one of them with Josh’s blood still on it, and a stack of pictures, including pictures of Josh and Geney, and a key to their condo.

Then they searched the bathroom. Despite the Sifrits’ cleaning, there were traces of blood in the grout. In a sink stopper, they found hair and tissue. Under the sink, a bullet hole. On the window, Josh’s palm print.

Erika confessed soon after their arrest, claiming it was all BJ’s idea, and that she was a frightened, abused victim forced to play along. BJ, of course, blamed it all on Erika.

Erika tried to cop a plea deal by telling them where the bodies were, but one condition of the deal was that she had to pass a lie detector test. She didn’t. She was more involved in the murders then she had claimed.

After an extensive search of the Delaware landfill, only parts of Josh and Geney’s remains were found, so they couldn’t determine cause of death for Geney. Regardless, BJ was convicted of one count of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 38 years. Erika was convicted of both murders and sentenced to life plus 20 years. BJ will be eligible for parole in 2021, and Erika in 2024.

 

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, serial rapists and killers

The Ken and Barbie Killers: Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka were the perfect 80s power couple: they enjoyed every privilege, every benefit of the doubt, because they were pretty, white, and blonde. But there was no humanity behind their sparkling blue eyes. Together they were far more terrifying and psychotic than anything in a Bret Easton Ellis novel.

Paul was born August 27, 1964, into a deeply dysfunctional family. His father, Kenneth, was himself a rapist who even molested his own daughter. He also regularly abused his wife, Paul’s mother, verbally and physically. He often called her a “bitch” and a “fat cow,” terms Paul would later call his own victims. She became deeply depressed and gained a lot of weight, eventually isolating herself in the basement.

Despite that, Paul was known by friends and neighbors as a sweet, happy child with dimpled cheeks and curly blond hair.

When Paul was 16, he discovered that Kenneth was not his biological father. From that point on he hated his family, and once he moved out, he severed all contact with them.

After graduation he went on to attend the University of Toronto. It was there that his sadism began to bloom, and he began abusing his girlfriends. In fact, one of his ex-girlfriends went to the police several times to report him for abuse, rape, and threats, but nothing was ever done about it.

He began raping women in the Scarborough area in 1987. He would abduct them from bus stops and brutally rape them, often punching them, strangling them, cutting and penetrating them with a knife. The media dubbed him “The Scarborough Rapist.”

The Deadly Duo Meet

It was right around this time when he met Karla at a pet food convention; she was 17 and he was 23. It was instant attraction.

Karla was born May 4, 1970. The oldest of three girls, she was pretty and popular. She had normal, loving parents. She wanted to be a veterinarian and went to work for a vet clinic when she was a teenager.

Paul and Karla found they shared the same sadomasochistic desires – they fell into the role of master and slave right off the bat. As time went on, their relationship intensified, as did their sexual crimes. Meanwhile, Paul, with Karla’s full knowledge, continued raping women.

In May 1990, one victim described Paul to the police, who generated a sketch that was sent out to the public. A former coworker of Paul’s called the police after seeing the sketch, but it wasn’t followed up. Months later, the wife of an old neighbor of Paul’s also called, and this time the police finally questioned Paul. But his good looks and charm led them to believe he was innocent. Even though they collected a DNA sample from him, it wasn’t compared to the victims for another two years – time enough for him to murder three girls and rape many more.

They Take Their First Victim

Paul’s entitled attitude led him to believe he deserved to take Karla’s virginity, but since he couldn’t do that, Karla, ever the faithful slave, arranged the next best thing. Karla knew Paul had been looking at her 15-year-old sister, Tammy. He would peep into her window and masturbate to her while she slept – all with Karla’s knowledge and approval.

So Karla hatched a plan to give him what he wanted. On December 23, 1990, at a family Christmas party, Karla and Paul gave Tammy cocktails laced with a sedative. Once everyone else had gone to bed, the couple took Tammy to the basement. There Karla held a rag soaked in the anesthetic Halothane – stolen from the vet clinic where she worked – over Tammy’s nose and mouth. Once the girl was unconscious, the couple began raping her and recording it with the video recorder Paul had gotten as a Christmas gift.

Sometime during the assault, the heavily drugged Tammy vomited and aspirated it, choking to death. After carefully cleaning up the evidence of what they had done, they called the EMTs. Despite the large, unexplained burns on Tammy’s face (a result of the Halothane), the police accepted the pretty young couple’s explanation that Tammy had simply had too much to drink and had choked on her own vomit.

This brutal psychotic act seems to have only brought the two closer. Soon after Tammy’s murder, the couple moved in together. At one point, Karla dressed up in Tammy’s clothes and pretended to be her while she and Paul had sex in her bed. Again, they recorded it – something they would do for every assault they committed.

But Paul still wasn’t satisfied; he blamed Karla for Tammy’s death – which was only a problem for him because she wasn’t available for him to use her anymore.

More Victims

So they decided to get another toy for Paul, a young teenager known only as “Jane Doe.” Jane knew Karla from the pet store where they had worked together, and she idolized the pretty older woman. So Karla invited her out to dinner, and just like she had done to her sister, laced her drinks with sedatives, took her home, and administered the Halothane. Again, both of them brutally raped and tortured her and recorded it. Unlike Tammy, however, Jane survived. She woke up the next day, sore and sick, but with no memory of what had been done to her.

Meanwhile, less than six months since her sister’s death, the couple (mostly Paul) was planning their wedding, a lavish affair including a horse-drawn carriage, an expensive bridal gown, and a sit-down meal of veal-stuffed pheasant. Oddly, Paul bragged to friends that the wedding was really a moneymaking affair, and that he expected to bring in $50,000 in gifts. Even more oddly, rather then Karla taking Paul’s last name, or even keeping her own, the couple both unofficially renamed themselves Teale after the fictional serial killer Martin Thiel from the movie Criminal Law.

Only two weeks before their wedding, on June 15, 1991, the couple stepped up their sick game. Up until now, they hadn’t meant to kill anyone. Tammy’s death had been unintentional, and Paul was actually angry with Karla for causing it.

But with 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy, there was no anesthetic. Paul kidnapped her, and the couple held her captive for several days, raping and torturing her – and, of course, videotaping it. Once they tired of her, they killed her, dismembered her body, and encased the pieces in cement. Karla dumped them in nearby Lake Gibson.

On June 29, as the killer couple was making their vows surrounded by friends and family, anglers and boaters on the lake discovered the blocks of concrete containing Leslie’s legs, feet, and head. The next day, another boater saw her torso floating on the water. While the police were investigating the murder, Paul and Karla were honeymooning in Hawaii.

Nearly a year went by, and the couple apparently abducted and raped at least two more women, though they survived. As an interesting side note, Karla may not have had a conscience, but something kept her up at night. Sometime after Kristen’s murder, Karla went to a psychic for advice on how to exorcise the noises she kept hearing from the basement where Leslie had been dismembered.

In April 1992, the couple abducted Kristen French from a church parking lot. For Kristen, there were no drugs, no blindfold, and no hope of survival. They subjected her to the same brutality and rape as they had Leslie before killing her. Immediately after killing her, Karla left the room to do her hair for Easter dinner with her family. Her body, they simply dumped in a ditch.

The Beginning of the End

Paul’s viciousness would be his downfall. It was around this same time that Paul began turning his abuse onto Karla, and in early 1993 her parents convinced her to leave him and press charges.

After arresting him on the abuse charges, the Green Ribbon Task Force, formed in 1992 to solve the murders of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, wanted to question Karla more about Paul – and about a Mickey Mouse watch she was wearing that looked a lot like Kristen’s.

They questioned her for about five hours, but she didn’t divulge anything – yet. She got herself a lawyer, and he portrayed her as an abuse victim herself, forced to participate in Paul’s brutal crimes for fear of her life. They asked for a plea deal: in exchange for her testimony against Paul, she would plead guilty to manslaughter, and only be given 12 years. That deal, later called “the deal with the devil,” was quickly accepted.

The police searched Paul’s house for 71 days, but they could not find the alleged rape videos. However, Paul had told his lawyer that the videotapes were hidden in a ceiling light fixture in the upstairs bathroom. His lawyer found the tapes, but did not hand them over for evidence. Over a year later, his lawyer resigned, and a new lawyer, John Rosen, stepped in. Rosen did turn the tapes over to police – but too late. The prosecutors had already made the infamous plea bargain with Karla.

When law enforcement saw the horrific scenes on the tapes, it was obvious that Karla wasn’t the innocent bystander she pretended to be to get her plea deal. What they showed was so brutal that even seasoned detectives and reporters couldn’t hold back their emotion as the transcripts were read in court – and Karla had been a willing, and even eager, participant.

In September 1995, Paul was convicted of several offenses, including two first-degree murders and two aggravated sexual assaults. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for at least 25 years in Kingston Penitentiary, Canada’s toughest maximum-security prison. He was designated a dangerous offender, making him unlikely to ever be released.

He was never tried for the Scarborough rapes, of which there are 19 known victims. There may be dozens more; some put the total figure at 43 victims.

Where is Karla Now?

Karla, meanwhile, finished her sentence in July 2005. She remarried and has three children. In an effort to hide from the public, she’s gone by several names, including Leanne Teale. The conditions of her parole were dropped in 2015, and in May 2017, she was outed for volunteering at a religious school in Montreal where her children attend, to great public outrage. That was the same year Paul came up for day parole and was denied.

The media and people in general continue to be fascinated with her – the question, “Where is Karla Homolka Now?” has generated countless headlines, and numerous social media groups have been created to answer that very question.

Why is everyone so obsessed with Karla, but not Paul, who was at least 50 percent of this deadly duo? I think for one, she is out walking around free, so there’s a lot of anger and resentment toward her.

But also, women who kill – especially when they kill with such cruelty and violence – are considered somehow worse than men who do the same. It upends the old Victorian notions of “feminine nature,” that women aren’t capable of such extreme acts of violence. Indeed it is rare; only 15 percent of serial killers are female and most of them kill quietly and domestically. The few female serial killers who kill along with men usually do so out of a dependent personality disorder: they are vulnerable, have a deep fear of abandonment, have suffered abuse, and are typically not well educated. Karla fits none of these characteristics.

She is an enigma, a psychopath and sexual sadist, a serial killer who is walking around free.

 

 

 

 

The San Francisco Witch Cult Killers

We’ll start off the month of lovers with one of the craziest killer couples: Suzan and James/Michael “Bear” Carson, the psycho “Witch Killer Cult” who terrorized San Francisco in the early 1980s.

Susan Barnes had been a seemingly normal suburban housewife in 1960s Scottsdale, Arizona. Her husband made good money, enabling her to be a stereotypical spoiled housewife. But she wanted more than that.

She began taking hallucinogens like LSD, mescaline, and peyote while she was hanging out with her sons’ high-school classmates. She also regularly seduced and slept with them – according to the rumor mill, she slept with 150 young men and boys.

When she turned 35, she began to have delusions and hallucinations – or as she called them, “visions” – even when she wasn’t on drugs. This was actually nothing new; since she was a child, she believed she was psychic.

Needless to say the infidelity, drug use, and budding psychosis shattered her marriage. She reinvented herself, and started spelling her name with a “z” instead of an “s.” She had visions telling her she needed to find a soulmate, a partner, a loyal disciple. That’s when she James Carson.

Originally from Oklahoma, Carson was also another non-conformist, middle-class dropout. Always bookish, he took a special interest in history, religions, and philosophy. He earned a degree from University of Iowa, where he met his wife. After graduation, they had a daughter and moved to Arizona. While his wife supported him, he was a stay-at-home dad and pot dealer. Things seem to work out that way for quite a while – by his daughter’s account, he was a loving and attentive father.

But as time went on, he began to get more antisocial and prone to angry outbursts. Due to his growing unstable behavior and his inability (or unwillingness) to get a job, his wife divorced him in 1977. Shortly thereafter, he met Suzan.

When they met, it was instant attraction. The first thing she said to him when they met was that his name was Michael. He said, “No, my name is James.” To which she responded, “No, you are Michael, an angel of God.” From then on, James went by the name Michael.

It was a match made in hell; James was looking for God, and Suzan was looking for a disciple. After they married, they tripped around Europe a while, and Susan developed her own religion from her drug- and psychosis-induced visions: a twisted, radical interpretation of Islam. Upon returning to the US, they began going by the surname “Bear” and described themselves as “vegetarian Moslem warriors.”

However, their religion was not all tofu and white light. For one thing, they believed insulting a woman was tantamount to assault, and deserving of death. For another, they believed there were witches surrounding them, using their mental powers to control others. And they believed it was their duty to kill all witches.

This kind of shared madness is called folie á deux, or, more clinically, shared psychotic disorder. It is a rare delusional disorder shared by two or, sometimes, more people with unusually close emotional ties. The delusions are usually induced in the passive partner – in this case, Michael – by the active one – Suzan.

Up until now their cult had consisted of only two members. So they began looking for recruits in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. In 1980, Haight-Ashbury was still a major epicenter of the counter-culture and drug culture. There they met Keryn Barnes at a party. Though most people were repulsed by the Bears’ odd and even hostile behavior, Keryn, an open-minded spiritual seeker, found them fascinating.

She invited them to come live with her, where they continued nearly non-stop tripping, drinking, and getting high. Before long, Suzan began to see Keryn as a witch. Maybe she felt threatened by the pretty younger woman, or maybe she really did believe Keryn had evil psychic powers. Either way, she and Michael murdered her as she lay sleeping on the kitchen floor, beating her to death with an iron skillet and stabbing her over a dozen times.

When the police found Keryn’s bloody body, they also found a scene straight out of Helter Skelter: the walls were covered in strange religious symbols and one word: “Suzan.” Through their investigation, they discovered that Michael and Suzan had been living with Keryn, and were likely suspects in her murder. However, the Bears were long gone.

They fled north and stayed an abandoned cabin in the Oregon woods Suzan called “Allah’s mountain,” until they were kicked out by a park ranger. Later, another good Samaritan let them stay in his treehouse. But their weird, combative behavior soon grated on the owner, and he kicked them out. Suzan, however, was not going to take this lying down. She instructed Michael to take revenge on the owner. So they robbed his house, taking, among other things, a handgun, and then set it on fire.

So they headed back to California, getting jobs as caretakers of a marijuana plantation in Humboldt County. However, when a friend of the owner, Clark Stevens, came up to work on the operation, he and the Bears butted heads quickly. They argued, and when things got heated, Clark said something that offended Suzan. For this offense, she ordered Michael to kill Clark. Ever her faithful disciple, Michael shot him dead with the stolen gun. They poured kerosene over his body, set it on fire, then covered it with chicken litter.

Now the Bears were on the run again. A man named Jon Hellyar picked them up hitchhiking near Bakersfield. Suzan told Michael as soon as she saw Jon, she knew he was a witch and they would have to kill him. Sure enough, they began arguing as soon as the Bears got in his truck. Apparently his leg touched Suzan’s, and this was a death sentence. They struggled, and Jon was able to pull over and get out of his truck. The Bears followed him. They stabbed and shot him right on the side of the highway, in full view of passing drivers, who called the police. Suzan and Michael drove off in Jon’s truck, which was quickly spotted by police. After a high-speed chase, the couple was arrested.

While they were in custody, they arranged a rambling, six-hour press conference where they laid out their twisted beliefs and reasoning for the murders. They showed no remorse, and in fact, thought they should be heroes for killing witches.

Regardless, they were tried and found guilty and sentenced to 75 years to life. They came up for parole in 2015; Michael declined parole, and Suzan was denied because she was still unrepentant for the murders. Their earliest official release date won’t be until 2059.

But that is not the end of the strange story of the Witch Killer Cult. Authorities think they may be responsible for nearly a dozen other murders in Europe and the United States, but don’t have enough evidence to bring charges.

All the Real Killers in American Horror Story, Pt. 4

Season six was really a fun change of pace – very meta-on-meta. As a fan of low-budget true-crime shows, I got a kick out of AHS’ treatment of them: the victim interviews, the cheesy re-enactments, and a cameo by my favorite historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin!

But were there any real killers in season six? Do you even have to ask?

The Angels of Death

Obviously, the nurses Miranda and Bridget Jane (played by Jenna Doolittle and Areana Cirina in “real” life, by Maya Rose Berko and Christian Rakes in the “re-enactment”) are dead ringers (pardon the pun) for Gwendolyn Graham and Cathy Wood. Graham and Wood were lovers who made a game of killing the elderly patients in the Alpine Manor nursing home where they worked in 1987. The object of the game was to choose victims by their initials to spell out the word “MURDER.” But that proved too difficult, so they gave up and just started just killing at random, eventually taking the lives of five victims.

They nearly got away with it, too. Since their victims were elderly and in poor health, their deaths were ruled as from natural causes.

However, Graham and Woods’ relationship did not last. They broke up, and Wood married a man whom she confessed the murders to. After he and Wood divorced, he went to the police. While Graham was given five life sentences, Wood got a lighter sentence for her cooperation, and is expected to be released in 2021.

The Bean Clan

The Polk clan gives a huge nod and wink to the Peacocks from one of the darkest and most horrifying X Files episodes, “Home.” However, their gruesome dietary practices also reflect another murderous clan who may or may not have been real: the cannibalistic Bean clan of Scotland.

Alexander “Sawney” Bean and his wife, Agnes Douglas, lived in a sea cave on Scotland’s southwest coast. Over time they had 14 children, and, through incest, 32 grandchildren. The family would rob and kill unsuspecting travelers, then bring the bodies back to their cave for dismemberment and roasting – or salting and pickling, to save for later.

It’s rumored that over a span of 25 years, the clan murdered over 1,000 people, spawning terror and rumors in the neighboring towns. Some blamed the innkeepers, some blamed evil goblins living in the wilderness or kelpies who lived in the lochs and rivers.

Legends differ on how they were caught. Some say one of their intended victims was rescued by another traveler. They brought the authorities to the Beans’ cave, led there by hunting dogs following the the odor of human decomposition. Inside, they found body parts hung up to dry as well as stolen valuables scattered throughout the cave.

Another version states a wanderer came upon them roasting a human body over an open fire and went for the authorities.

In any case, the Bean clan met a horrific end. The women and children were strangled before the stake, their last agonizing moments spent watching the men be slowly dismembered and left to bleed to death, before they (the women and children) were set on fire.

Yet it is not certain the legend is real. For one, the name “Sawney” was the popular English nickname for a stereotypical Scot, much like “Paddy” for the Irish. For another, the date of their existence isn’t known; some say the Bean clan killed in in the early 1400s, but others say it was at the turn of the 17th Century. Like with most legends, there may be a bit of truth underneath a lot of hyperbole.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to look at season seven until it comes out on Hulu, so stay tuned and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Next month is February, the month for lovers, so we’ll be looking at Couples Who Kill…

All the Real Killers in American Horror Story, Part 3

Season five has so many real killers in it, it gets its own post!

H.H. Holmes

The insane architect of the Cortez, J.P. March (played by Evan Peters) is largely based on a real serial killer: H.H. Holmes (real name, Herman Webster Mudgett).

Holmes built his “murder castle” just outside of Chicago in 1893, just in time for the Columbian exhibition. Like the Cortez, his hotel was a deranged masterpiece designed to confuse, kill, and dispose of its inhabitants. Like March, Holmes would fire contractors who saw too much or asked to many questions – though he would just fire them without pay, not execute them. Holmes’ murder castle had doors that opened onto brick walls, staircases then went to nowhere, sealed rooms with poison gas piped in (and a peep hole where he could watch his victims’ death throes), and a chute for delivering the bodies to the basement, where he could strip their flesh and sell their skeletons to anatomy schools.

The Devil’s Night Guest List

In episode 4, March hosts his annual Devil’s Night dinner, where real serial killers he’s mentored are invited back from the dead. The guest list includes:

  • Jeffrey Dahmer, played by Seth Gabel
  • The Zodiac killer, played by an unknown actor
  • Richard Ramirez, who actually stayed at the Cecil Hotel (see below), played by Anthony Ruivivar
  • John Wayne Gacy, played by John Carroll Lynch. Lynch has played serial killers before, including the main suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, in the movie Zodiac and Twisty the Clown in season four. But as great an actor as Lynch is, I don’t think he really got Gacy was an outgoing, ambitious glad-hander – someone who recruited prominent men into the Jaycees and hobknobbed with politicians. Lynch portrayed him as a somewhat dull, almost childish character, more like Twisty than the real Gacy.
  • Aileen Wuornos, played by Lily Rabe. Rabe’s Wournos was incredible – maybe even better than Charlize Theron!
  • Gordon Northcott, the Wineville chicken coop murderer, played by Luke Baybak. As an aside, apparently Hazel’s son was one of his victims, as she reveals earlier in the episode. This was one detail that I found, well, off-key. What was the purpose of that scene? Why didn’t Hazel attempt some sort of revenge on Northcott at that evening’s dinner? This just doesn’t make sense!

The Cecil Hotel

Perhaps the most interesting “real killer” in season five is the hotel itself, which seems to be an amalgam of H.H. Holmes’ murder castle and a real hotel in LA called the Hotel Cecil.

The Cecil, also done in the art deco style, was built in 1925. It had 700 rooms and was very tony at the time. But the stock market crash of ’29 caused financial problems for the owners. Soon the neighborhood turned seedy, and the Cecil became a hostel for the shady and sick – much like the Cortez.

Over the years there have been not one, but two, serial killers who have called the Cecil their home. Richard Ramirez lived on the top floor while he was killing in the mid-1980s, and Jack Unterweger murdered three women while living there in 1991.

In addition, there have been 16 unnatural deaths at the hotel, including almost a dozen people who committed suicide and several others who attempted to. In 1962, one woman leapt to her death and landed on a pedestrian, killing him too. One man was fatally pinned to the building by a truck, and in 1994, a 19-year-old woman gave birth in the bathroom and threw the newborn out the window to his death.

Recently, in 2013, the Hotel Cecil tried rebranding itself with a renovation and new name, Stay on Main. But that was not enough to overcome the apparent curse of the Hotel Cecil. On Feb. 19, the naked, decomposing body of Elisa Lam was found in the hotel’s water tank after guests had complained of a foul odor and bad taste in the water. She had been missing for three weeks by then. The last images taken of Lam were hotel surveillance footage that showed her acting very strangely, as though she were afraid someone were following her, though no one else could be seen.

Though the cause of her disappearance and death was ruled accidental, questions still remain. For one, how could Lam have gotten onto the roof, when a locked door and fire escape are the only ways to access the hotel’s roof? The door, which only employees can reach, is also equipped with an alarm. Why didn’t it sound? The water tank itself is also extremely difficult to access, and authorities had a difficult time getting her body out. What really happened to Elisa Lam may never be answered.

 

Tune in next week for all the real killers in season six!

All the Real Killers in American Horror Story, Pt. 2

I hope you liked last week’s rundown. Let’s take a stab at the next two seasons, shall we?

AHS Coven – Season 3

Season three might not have the most real killers, but it has the most recognizable.

The Axeman

The Axeman of New Orleans, played by Danny Houston, was a real serial killer who terrorized New Orleans in 1918 and 1919. He would remove his victims’ door panels with a chisel, enter their homes, then kill one or more of the residents with their own axe or straight razor. Nothing else would be taken from the home, besides their lives.

Most of his victims were Italian or Italian-American, causing some to believe the murders were ethnically motivated. His primary victims were women; he only killed men when they tried to protect women. This leads some modern criminologists to believe he was a sexual sadist.

On May 13, 1919, with a dateline from “Hell,” the Axeman (or someone claiming to be him) wrote a letter to “the esteemed morals of New Orleans.” Claiming to be a demon, he wrote that he would “pass over” New Orleans the following Tuesday at 12:15 a.m. and would spare anyone whose home was playing a jazz band in full swing. That night, every dancehall in the Crescent City was packed, and hundreds of professional and amateur musicians played. No one was killed that night.

The Axeman had killed six and injured a dozen, but was never caught.

The Savage Mistress

The other serial killer featured in season three was far more cruel and sadistic – and also never faced justice: Mad Madame LaLaurie, played by Kathy Bates. Madame Marie Delfine LaLaurie was born in 1787 into the New Orleans wealthy elite. She was known as kind and courteous to her social equals. She even freed two of her slaves.

Her third marriage was to the less wealthy Dr. Louis LaLaurie after she bore his child out of wedlock. Soon after their marriage, stories about her cruelty to her slaves began to emerge, and multiple complaints were filed against her for it. In an eerie reflection of Elizabeth Bathory, for whom she has been repeatedly compared, she flew into a rage when a 12-year-old servant girl named Leah (or Lia) pulled a tangle while brushing her hair. Fleeing from the furious, whip-wielding mistress, Leah jumped from the roof to her death. Witnesses later saw LaLaurie burying the girl’s mangled corpse, so she was fined $300 and forced to sell her nine slaves. But like rich people everywhere, she was able to buy her way out of punishment. Her family members simply purchased the slaves and sold them back to LaLaurie.

In 1834, the depth of her sadism was finally exposed for all to see. On April 10, 1834, a fire broke out in the LaLaurie mansion, set by a slave who had been chained to the stove and left to starve. She later confessed that she had set the fire as a suicide attempt to avoid being taken to the attic, because no one who was taken there ever came back.

As LaLaurie scrambled to save her valuables, townsfolk rushed in to help her. In the attic, they found “seven slaves, more or less horribly mutilated … suspended by the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other.” They said they been imprisoned there for months. Details of the abuse have grown more fantastic over the years, including tales of slaves limbs being broken and reset an odd angles and other ghastly medical experiments. Though their conditions were torture by any standard, iron masks, collars with inward facing spikes, and beatings were actually common punishments used on slaves at the time.

Even in slave-holding New Orleans, however, this was more that they could tolerate. A mob of local citizens descended on the LaLaurie mansion and “demolished and destroyed everything upon which they could lay their hands.”

LaLaurie escaped with her slave driver to Paris, where she lived out the rest of her days in comfort and freedom. Her body was later exhumed and returned to New Orleans.

AHS Freakshow – Season 4

Season four, while being deliciously grotesque, doesn’t feature a lot of real killers. The most obviously inspired character is Twisty (played by John Caroll Lynch, no stranger to playing serial killers), a creature who is based on Pogo, the clown John Wayne Gacy would dress up as. Gacy would often entertain children dressed as Pogo, and, sometimes, he would dress as Pogo to assault and kill his victims.

There is one more serial killer that provided some inspiration for season four: Jeffrey Dahmer. In episode 5, “Pink Cupcakes,” Dandy begins choosing his victims by trawling the gay bar, just like Dahmer. Later, there is a scene at the bar where you can see a flyer in the background. It has a sketch of Dandy’s clown mask and says, “WANTED MAN.” This is also a callback to Dahmer. Many in Milwaukee’s gay community knew too many men and boys were going missing to be a coincidence. Thanks to the bigotry of the Milwaukee PD, the gay community had to try to solve the problem themselves, and to do so, they did put out flyers with some of the missing men’s photos on them. It’s a small detail, but it’s the kind of thing I love in this series.

Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!

Join us next week when we’ll look at the real killers featured in seasons five and six.

All the Real Killers in American Horror Story, Pt. 1

There are so many things I love about this series! I love how it moves around in time (I’m a sucker for anything vintage), the diversity of the cast, and the dark, intricate plotlines sprinkled with just a touch of camp. It’s absolutely delicious, like all the best nightmares are.

Another thing I love about American Horror Story is how Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and the other writers take characters and stories from real life. So in this series, I’m going to look at all the real psychos, sadists, and serial killers featured on the show.

AHS Murder House – Season 1

First, Tate Langdon (Evan Peters): he’s a troubled, moody loner, a teen who dreams of taking out his revenge on the classmates who shunned him. In episode 5 (“Halloween pt. 2”) we find out he actually did shoot up his school – then was himself shot – in the 1990s.

When most people think of a school shooting in the ‘90s, they think of the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 13 people and wounded more than 20 others, then turned their guns on themselves. Like the character Tate, they wore black trenchcoats and listened to Goth music.

But that wasn’t the first school shooting in America. There have been many shootings at public schools over the years, going back to the 1700s. Most were acts of revenge, committed by one person against another at a school. Others were the result of a fight breaking out amongst armed students. The modern type of school shooting, where a student (or students) comes to the school and targets fellow students and teachers for the express purpose of taking as many lives as possible, is a relatively recent phenomenon.

The first mass murder (four or more fatalities) at a public school (not a college), where the shooter arrived with the express purpose of killing many others (as opposed to a fight breaking out or an act of revenge on a specific individual): that dubious honor belongs to Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

A year before the Columbine massacre, on March 24, 1998, Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson, aged 11 and 13, pulled a fire alarm then ran to a wooded area, firing on teachers and students as they exited. They killed five people and wounded 10 others. When police apprehended the boys, they found they had stocked a stolen van with food, clothing, and camping equipment as well as 13 fully loaded firearms and 200 rounds of ammo. At the time, it shocked the nation…yet only a year later, the Columbine massacre eclipsed it, setting off a very dark and deadly trend that unfortunately continues to this day.

Another real killer featured in Season 1 was Richard Speck – the murder of the nursing school students is nearly identical to his 1966 mass murder. The main difference is that in real life, Speck raped, beat, and stabbed eight women.

The final real killer in Season 1 has to do with maybe the most famous real-life murder victim, the Black Dahlia. In episode 9, “Spooky Little Girl,” she’s raped, then accidentally murdered, by a dentist while under sedation. When I first saw this scene, the story seemed familiar, but I couldn’t put a name to who the real murderous dentist was. So I Googled it. Turns out, it wasn’t just one dentist who would rape his patients while under sedation – many, many doctors of various specialties have been found guilty of this. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did an excellent investigation into the problem and found it’s rampant in the medical community – they uncovered over 2,400 cases of doctors across the nation publicly sanctioned by medical authorities after being accused of sexually abusing patients. But many perps are never removed from medical practice. They just move away and start abusing patients again. Fortunately, unlike AHS’ Black Dahlia, their victims survived.

AHS Asylum – Season 2

The setting for Season 2 is Briarcliff Manor, an insane asylum where people were kept in horrible conditions, subjected to abuse and neglect … and treatments like electroshock therapy and forced lobotomies. It’s like something straight out of the pages of a horror novel. Actually, it’s from the pages of history books.

Insane asylums began in the late 17th century. Often the goal of these institutions was merely to keep the patients docile, so they were left in cell-like rooms, chained, put in straight-jackets, and later, drugged. Psychiatry was in its infancy, so mental illness was not well understood. Women, in particular, were labeled “mad” for nearly any infraction of the strict social code. Offenses like masturbating, defiance, or even not smiling enough could get a woman committed.

The most infamous of these was Bedlam (Bethlem Royal Hospital), the oldest institution for treatment of mental illness. It was built atop a sewer that frequently overflowed into the building. Patients were spun in suspended chairs, beaten, starved, dunked in ice baths, and other atrocities. Many didn’t survive. Edward Wakefield, a Quaker, exposed its abuses in 1814.

The character Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) may well have been inspired by the intrepid Nellie Bly, (the pen name of Elizabeth Cochrane) who, in 1887, had herself committed to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island in New York City. She then exposed the filth, beatings, neglect, and torture there. She published a series of newspaper articles, “Behind Asylum Doors,” which were later collected into a book, Ten Days in a Madhouse. The exposure helped legislators increase the institution’s budget and the abuses stopped.

While Briarcliff was undoubtedly an amalgam of many of these awful places, the one that seems to track the closest is Willowbrook State Hospital. First exposed by newspaper reporter Jane Kurtin, the horrifying conditions of the hospital were aired by Geraldo Rivera in 1972 in a special called “Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace.” The “investigative report” done by Lana Winters is a thinly-fictionalized, nearly shot-by-shot remake of Rivera’s piece.

Probably the most obvious – and evil – real killer in Season 2 is Dr. Arthur Arden/Hans Grüper (James Cromwell). He is explicitly an avatar of the Nazi Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele. Both did horrible, unethical, and cruel experiments – without anesthetics – on women, children, and twins in Auschwitz.  Both were deceptively kind, as shown in episode 4, “I am Anne Frank, pt. 1,” where the younger Grüper (John Cromwell) is shown giving treats to the children in the camp.

However, unlike Mengele, who lived out the rest of his days in Brazil, Arden’s fate was more fitting. As Executive Producer Ryan Murphy put it, “… the image of a Nazi doctor going into an oven is sort of a brilliant metaphor of him literally paying. Obviously, he’s a terrible character but I thought his end was very justified and somewhat poetic.” Perhaps not coincidentally, the character’s surname, “Arden,” means “they burn” in Spanish.

Bloody Face is a Frankenstein’s-monster mix of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Norman Bates, and Buffalo Bill. And who are all those fictional monsters based on? The Butcher of Plainfield, Ed Gein. Dr. Oliver Thredson/Bloody Face, like Gein, is obsessed with his mother and her skin. Like Gein, he made furniture and objects out of human remains – specifically, like Gein, a bowl made from a skull and a lampshade and mask of human skin.

There is one real-life killer ascribed to AHS that I don’t think holds up. Some are saying Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brocheré) represents Lizzy Borden. She did murder her father and step-mother with an axe; but that’s where the similarities end. Borden was a stout, no-nonsense woman, used to getting her own way – nothing like the waifish, mewling Grace. She wasn’t French either.

Of course all this is a matter of opinion. I’m interested in hearing other theories! Let me know what you think in the comments. And tune in next week for seasons 3 and 4!

 

Ronald Gene Simmons, the Christmas Killer

The holidays can really test anyone’s nerves. The expectation of overspending on gifts, risking your life traveling to visit people you moved hours away from for a reason, and forced cheerfulness in the company of people who you’d pay good money to avoid. It’s easy to slip into fantasies about doing away with the lot of them. And it’s probably because of these stresses that incidents of domestic violence increase during the holiday season.

The worst of these was committed by Ronald Gene Simmons. Over the course of a week, he slaughtered 14 of his family members and two former co-workers in the little town of Russellville, Arkansas, committing the largest family murder in US history.

Simmons was a “family annihilator,” a murderer who, either in one fatal swoop or over the course of hours or days, kills off most or all of his or her family.

The typical family annihilator that makes the headlines is a man who, outwardly, has all the trappings of a perfect family, such as a devoted wife, a high-paying or -status job, and clean, well-behaved children. There’s usually no history of abuse, and the killer has no prior criminal record. He’s usually set off by some traumatic event that he believes will ruin him, usually the loss of his job or discovery of a secret (usually involving white-collar crime or bankruptcy). John List is the perfect example of this type of killer, which is called the “civil reputable” family annihilator.

Simmons was the more common type of family annihilator: the “livid coercive,” a dominating domestic abuser who is threatened by losing control over his family. For Simmons, slaughtering his family was more about his need to possess them than to spare them from humiliation or poverty. In fact, he made sure his family lived in crushing poverty and isolation. But his psychopathic nature was far more deviant than most domestic abusers.

He Was a Bully and a Tyrant from the Beginning

Simmons showed narcissistic, controlling tendencies early on – hitting his younger siblings, manipulating them and his parents, erupting in fits of rage, and never backing down or admitting he was wrong. His younger brother described him as a bully and tyrant.

When he was in the second grade, his family moved to the small town of Hector, Arkansas, into an old farmhouse without running water, 20 miles away from the nearest paved road. They lived there for several years, and, to Gene, it was paradise. For the rest of his life, he longed to return to Arkansas and live “the simple life.”

At age 17, he entered the Navy, where he met Rebecca (Becky) Ulibarri at a USO dance hall. They fell in love and corresponded frequently while he was away. They were married in 1960 and had their first child, Gene Jr. (“Little Gene”) the following year.

Becky was just the kind of woman Gene wanted: meek, accommodating, and dependent. She couldn’t even drive. Gene ran the household with an iron fist, even when he was away. He had set schedules for meals, laundry, and cleaning. He controlled the finances, paying the bills himself and only allowing Becky a small “allowance,” which usually wasn’t enough to cover decent meals for his ever-growing family – over the next 17 years, the couple had six more children.

Yet meek, cowed Becky, in her diaries and letters, called him “my Gene,” and when she expressed frustration with his tyrannical ways, told herself that he probably knew best.

Unbeknownst to her, they weren’t actually that poor – Gene was just stingy. After finishing his stint with the Navy, Gene worked briefly at a bank, which paid quite well. However, his know-it-all attitude and controlling personality chafed his co-workers and supervisors, effectively shutting him out of any promotions.

So he went back into the military, this time, the Air Force. He spent 1967-68 in Saigon during the Vietnam War working in the Office of Special Investigations. By all accounts he excelled at his job, being a model of efficiency and proper protocol – his same monomaniacal obsession for order and control that he used on his family was an asset in the OSI.

While at the OSI civilian quarters in Saigon, he lived a life of comfort. He had maid service, a cook, and laundry delivered to his door. He enjoyed an officer’s commissary privileges, and when he had R&R, he spent it in Australia.

Meanwhile, his new bride and their (at the time) three small children were kept in a tiny travel trailer on his in-law’s property. He continued to control all their finances from abroad, allowing Becky only $40 a month to support the children on.

After he returned, he moved them to San Francisco, then Cloudcroft, New Mexico. It was there where he began pursuing his dream of having an off-grid farm, and he worked the children long hours to try and make it happen. He had them building rock walls, putting up fences, and various other hard labor from the time they got home from school until late at night. In the summer, he worked them from sunup to sundown.

He also kept them isolated. He would not allow a telephone in the house, and rarely allowed the children to visit friends or have company over. He had the only key to the mailbox, and would read all the incoming and outgoing mail.

While the family lived in isolation and poverty, he bought himself a Honda motorcycle, then later, a Subaru truck. He covered for his financial mismanagement by taking out loans, both from relatives and from the bank.

From Tyrant to Monster

So far, so bad…until the birth of his youngest child, Rebecca Lynn, in 1977. Becky (Gene’s wife) had by now borne seven children, and all of them had been underweight. Her obstetrician diagnosed an underlying health issue, and recommended in strong terms that Becky get a tubal ligation, stating that another pregnancy would put her life in danger. But this being 1977, her husband also had to consent to the procedure. He did not. Becky pleaded with him, literally begging for her life, until, finally, Gene begrudgingly relented.

After that, he was never the same towards her. He never “forgave” her for being putting her own life (and her children’s well-being) over his desires, and essentially stopped having sex with her. In his mind, she was of no use to him anymore.

Meanwhile, he began to turn his attentions toward young Sheila Marie. From the time she was born in October of 1963, it was clear his oldest daughter was his favorite. It was in about 1978 or ‘79 that Gene began actively grooming Sheila. While his other children had to beg for money for school supplies and lunches, Gene lavished Sheila with gifts of clothes and jewelry. For his other children, he had only criticism, demands, and insults. But Sheila was his “little princess,” his “ladybug.”

When Sheila was only 15, her father began molesting her.

By March of 1981, Sheila was pregnant with her father’s child. After dropping her off at her prom, Gene gathered the family and told them Sheila was pregnant. While he didn’t state who the father was, Becky knew. Gene laid down the law, as usual, commanding the family to simply accept the child and raise it as one of their own. Becky dropped into a deep depression, but did or said nothing against her husband.

Yet, somehow, the word got out. Eventually word got all the way to the Otero County office of Social Services. When questioned, Sheila admitted that Gene was the father of the child growing in her belly. The family was ordered to undergo family counseling. At his counseling, Gene was unashamed. He claimed he had done it for Sheila’s own good, in order to “protect” and “teach” her. He saw nothing wrong with what he’d done, and basically dismissed the counselor’s questions.

However, Gene knew that the district attorney, Steven Sanders, took a hard line on child abuse. Soon after Sheila gave birth to Sylvia Gail, sensing that he may be facing legal trouble, he planned a hasty retreat back to Arkansas.

The Simmons Flee to Arkansas

First they settled in Ward, Arkansas. There he impregnated Sheila again, but this time, despite his proclaimed “pro-life” beliefs, he obtained a secret abortion for her.

Once Sheila turned 18, she began taking classes at a business school in Little Rock. At first Gene encouraged her, but once she met Dennis McNulty and began dating him, Gene wanted to shut it down. To his way of thinking, Sheila belonged to him and him alone.

So he moved his family farther away, to a 14-acre spread in Dover, which Gene dubbed “Mockingbird Hill.” There, they lived in a jury-rigged structure comprising an old mobile home and its various additions. As usual, there was no phone, and the only indoor plumbing went to the shower. Water for cleaning and cooking was caught in jugs and buckets lined up along the roof’s dripline. The thrown-together outhouse would overflow in heavy rains, running into the pond.

As in New Mexico, Gene had grand dreams of turning his overgrown, rocky acreage into a self-sufficient farm. As in New Mexico, he worked his children hard to make his fantasies real.

But he didn’t have the resources he’d had in New Mexico. Because he’d up and left his job without notice, he couldn’t get another cushy civil service job, and he was deeply in debt. Instead, he ended up taking low-paying shift work, which he couldn’t hold down. He started hitting on a co-worker, Kathy Kendrick, at the law firm where he worked as a clerk. When he wouldn’t back off, she went to their supervisor, and Gene was fired shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, he began hoarding the property with salvaged materials for his various “projects” – cinderblocks, pallets, sheets of tin, car parts.

The two older boys – Little Gene and Billy – moved out and started families of their own. Despite her father’s pleas, Sheila also moved out and married Dennis. She had told Dennis about Sylvia Gail’s true father, and Dennis had accepted her, promising to legally adopt the girl.

Gene was losing control. He began physically abusing Becky. He bought himself another gun.

On Dec. 18, 1987, Gene quit his part-time job at the Sinclair Mini Mart.

The Christmas Killings

On Dec. 22, after the younger kids left for school, Gene went into the room of his oldest son, Little Gene, who had brought his 3-year-old daughter, Barbara, back for a holiday visit. Gene bludgeoned his son with a metal pipe, and when that didn’t kill him, he shot him several times. In another bedroom, Becky was cradling little Barbara, pleading for their lives. Gene shot Becky, then garotted Barbara with a fish stringer. He loaded their bodies into a wheelbarrow and dumped them in a large pit the children had dug several months earlier, then doused them in kerosene.

He then went back to the house and waited, passing the hours watching TV and drinking.

When the younger children – Loretta, Eddy, Marianne, and little Rebecca –  came home from school, he greeted them in the yard, smiling and promising them each a surprise. One by one, while the others waited in the car listening to Christmas carols, he took them inside and garrotted them, holding their heads underwater in a rain barrel to make sure they were dead. He took them out to the same pit as the others and covered them with dirt and barbed wire, then placed scrap tin over the mass grave in an attempt to keep out scavengers.

The remaining older children, Billy and Sheila, and their families were expected to arrive the day after Christmas. So again, Ronald Gene Simmons waited.

Four days later, Billy; his wife, Renata; and their infant son, Trae, were the first to arrive. Gene shot Billy and Renata, laying their bodies by the dining room table, covered with their own coats and some bedding. He strangled Trae like he had the others, then wrapped him in plastic and placed his tiny body into the trunk of a car behind the house.

Next to arrive were Sheila and Dennis, along with Sylvia Gail, now 7, and Sheila and Dennis’ biological child, 21-month-old Michael. He shot Sheila and Dennis and strangled the children. Sylvia’s and Dennis’ bodies were laid in the dining room and covered with jackets like the other others. Michael’s body was wrapped in plastic and placed in the trunk of yet another car on the property. Sheila, however, was given special treatment in death, just like she had in life: her body was laid out on the dining room table and covered with their best tablecloth.

Later that day, Gene drove in to Russellville, where he stopped at a store and, bizarrely, picked up some pre-ordered Christmas gifts. That night, he went to a bar and had a few drinks. Then he went home and waited out the weekend, watching TV and drinking beer while the corpses of his family rotted in the next room.

On the morning of Dec. 28, Gene drove back into Russellville, walked into the law office where he had previously worked, and shot and killed Kathy Kendrick.

Next Gene went to another previous employer, The Taylor Oil Company, where he shot and killed J.D. Chaffin and wounded the owner, Rusty Taylor. He then drove to the Sinclair Mini Mart, shooting and wounding two more people. Afterwards, Simmons went to the office of the Woodline Motor Freight Company, where he shot and wounded yet another woman.

Simmons then simply sat in the office and chatted with one of the secretaries while waiting for the police. When they arrived, Simmons handed over his gun and surrendered without any resistance.

Simmons was charged with a total of 16 counts of murder. During the trial for the murder of his family, when prosecuting attorney John Bynum presented a note that Gene had written to Sheila professing his love, Simmons lashed out at Bynum, punching him the face, and then unsuccessfully struggled for a deputy’s handgun. Officers rushed him out of the courtroom in chains.

He was found guilty and sentenced to death by lethal injection plus 147 years. He refused all appeals (even fighting in court for the right to do so), and on May 31, 1990, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton signed Simmons’ execution warrant. On June 25, 1990, he died by lethal injection. This was the quickest sentence-to-execution time in US history since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

None of his relatives would claim the body, so he was buried in a pauper’s field in Varner, Arkansas.

Are Female Serial Killers More Dangerous?

As recently as 1998, no less of an expert on serial killers than Roy Hazelwood stated, “There are no female serial killers.”

He was a smart man, but he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Perhaps it’s taken so long to recognize that women can be serial killers because of an unconscious bias on the part of the media and law enforcement. The popular stereotype of a serial killer is someone who kills strangers, usually women, and tortures and mutilates them to gratify some sadistic appetite for control or sex. Their work is usually wet and bloody, the stuff of Hollywood slasher flicks.

But none of those characteristics are necessary to fit the FBI’s definition of serial murder: “the unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events.”

While the methods of female serial killers are very different than those of males, they are no less gruesome – or deadly.

Who are female serial killers?

Female serial killers typically prey on people they know, such as family members or patients in their care. Their weapon of choice is poison, followed by smothering. They kill primarily for two reasons: financial gain (most commonly) or for the sadistic thrill of taking a life. Theirs is the stuff of the Gothic novel and the Greek tragedy: domestic, quiet, and intimate.

Because the work of female serial killers is so subtle, the deaths are often categorized as accidents, illness, or other natural causes. Therefore, female serial killers are able to evade capture twice as long as males, remaining free to kill and kill again. So despite being rarer – only 15 percent of serial murders are committed by women – their body counts tend to be higher and their “careers” longer.

Why do males and females kill differently?

Penn State psychology professor Marissa Harrison, the lead author on a 2014 study on female serial killers (full article is behind a paywall) interprets this difference as reflecting ancestral tendencies: “Female serial killers gather and male serial killers hunt.”

I submit that it’s not so much about hunting vs. gathering, but again, about power. Most serial killers prey on those who have less power than they do. Unlike most males, females experience their power over those they care for, such as family members, children, the elderly and sick.

There are exceptions, of course. Aileen Wournos killed “like a man,” targeting strangers to shoot and rob. And “Angel of Death” Charles Cullen, perhaps the most prolific serial killer in US history, was a nurse who murdered helpless elderly patients at the hospitals where he worked.

Despite that, take it to heart: never underestimate a dangerous woman.

Can Data Find Serial Killers?

One man, a former newspaper reporter, says yes. Watch the video below:

https://www.theatlantic.com/video/iframe/546893/
Now, to be clear, the data don’t find the actual killers. What they do is identify when there are multiple victims in an area, who may be similar demographically (such as age, race, and gender), and have been killed in a similar way. This could be a huge help for law enforcement in different jurisdictions to be able to see that a serial killer is at work in their area. Read more about it at The Atlantic.

I’m excited to see where this goes. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Why are Most Serial Killers Born in November?

The month is nearly over, but it’s worth taking a last look at the penultimate month of the year, and the one that officially starts the holiday season in America. Its name originally meant it was the ninth month, but it was pushed back to number 11 in the Julian and Gregorian calendars.

It also seems to be a cursed month; there is a much greater chance that babies born in November will grow up to be serial killers.

While the researchers only looked at 100 serial killers (not enough to be a representative sample), 19 of them were born in November, compared to an average of nine per month the rest of the year. Their study showed that people born in November were more likely to believe they’d gotten a “raw deal” and were more pessimistic.

Scientists, of course, were quick to disavow astrology as the cause, instead ascribing it to seasonal factors such as a lack of vitamin D during pregnancy. Read more about the study in The Sun (UK).

Charles Manson, who died last Sunday, the 19th, was a November baby. Some other serial killers born in November include:

  • David Parker Ray (Nov. 6, 1939)
  • Carl Eugene Watts (Nov. 7, 1953)
  • Belle Gunness (Nov. 11, 1859)
  • Kristen Gilbert (Nov. 13, 1967)
  • Moses Sithole (Nov. 17, 1964)
  • Dennis Nilsen (Nov. 23, 1945)
  • Ted Bundy (Nov. 24, 1946)
  • Charles Starkweather (Nov. 24, 1938)
  • Rosemary West (Nov. 29, 1953)