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In western society, we sure do love stories about serial killers. But mostly, we love our serial killers in one of two flavors -- dead, or in prison. That's why we make movies about them -- to see them get caught in the end (and hopefully shot by a rogue detective who doesn't play by the rules). But in real life, there are absolutely serial killers who do their thing for years, or even decades, without ever getting caught.

5
A Guy Poisoned Nearly 50 Vending Machine Customers, Got Away With It

Corpse Reviver / Wiki Commons

In 1985, people all over Japan started falling victim to a wave of deadly poisonings. 35 people were hospitalized and 12 more were killed, all found to have been poisoned with the herbicide paraquat. Police were baffled about the source of the toxin, until they discovered the one thing every case had in common: The victim had recently drunk a beverage from a vending machine (not all the same one, though). This being Japan, the land of five vending machines per square foot, that hardly narrowed things down.

Michael/Wiki Commons
"This tastes funny; call an ambula- Wait, never mind, I accidentally got Mountain Dew."

Upon further examination, it turned out the victims had all fallen for the same scam -- they found unopened drinks inside the machine's dispenser slot, presumably left there by the last person, for whatever reason. Since the human brain tends to shut down all further thought upon the discovery of free shit, they scarfed down the prized beverage ... then quickly regretted it. The poison was so effective that victims would often start to feel sick before they had finished their drink. We're guessing they still finished it, though, because hey, it was free.

To be fair, there was actually another, ingenious layer to the poisoner's strategy: The product most often tainted was a Japanese energy drink called Oronamin C, which was running a promotion whereby vending machines would occasionally dispense a bonus second drink. It wasn't hard to imagine that some customers were walking away without realizing that a second drink was rolling down the chute, a phenomenon that the killer was taking full advantage of -- the unsuspecting victims had even less reason to be wary.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co.
Being sold a brutal, unforgiving onslaught of cute-n-quirky probably didn't help either.

Here's where we'd love to tell you all about the psychopath who hatched this scheme, and their method, and why they did it. Too bad -- nobody fucking knows. A serial killer who took a dozen victims (that we know about!) and could have had three dozen more if they'd ingested more of the toxin and/or didn't get help in time, may still be out there today. Shit, for all we know, only the first couple were this guy and the rest were copycats (which would actually be even more alarming, the idea that it just became a fad).

After they figured out what was happening, the vending machine company began attaching stickers to the machines that warned customers not to, you know, consume mystery drinks that they might find inside. The poisonings pretty much stopped overnight. Which is great, except that any leads the police might have had in the case dried up as well. No arrests were ever made, which means that there's probably some guy in Japan right now chugging a bottle of Oronamin C and musing on his brief serial-killing hobby. Or, you know, he's still killing people using some other method.

Christina Chun/Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Keep him away from any and all jars of Kit-Kats.

4
A Serial Killer Has Been Operating In Edmonton For 40 Years

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Since 1975, the bodies of at least 30 women have been found dumped in fields near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, some of them burned to death. Unfortunately for their families and loved ones, many of the victims were sex workers, and many of them Indigenous -- two factors which, depressingly, mean that the police will prioritize your murder investigation somewhere between "truancy" and "cat up a tree."

Project KARE
We're not detectives, but maybe once you hit double digits you should bump it up on the to-do list?

But after 40 years and dozens of victims, the Canadian police have been forced to conclude that they might have a serial killer on the loose. It's either that, or several killers in the area have all landed on the exact same modus operandi (again, would you prefer it be one guy, or some kind of murderous cult?). Nevertheless, police are pretty much stumped, knowing nothing about the killer except that he probably drives some sort of truck, feels comfortable with rural driving, and enjoys outdoor activity, which narrows the possibilities down to like 80 percent of the entire Canadian male population.

That's not to say they haven't been doing anything -- in 2003, they set up Project KARE, a task force dedicated to fighting back against the serial killer, mostly by maintaining a database of DNA samples from local sex workers. You know, so that they can identify the corpses.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
It's all part of their never-ending quest to do at least one part of their job well.

Oh, but did we mention that they actually have the killer's voice on tape? In 2010, one of the victims, Amber Tuccaro, made a phone call to her brother while she was hitching a ride with a man whose voice can be heard on the tape. Since her time of death is estimated to be around the time the call ended, it can be pretty safely assumed that this man might have had something to do with it.

The police waited two years to release the recording, and since then, at least three women have come forward to report that they know who the guy is. We're sure they're about to make an arrest any day now -- remember they only got that recording, uh, six years ago.

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3
The I-70 Killer Went On An Interstate Killing Spree In Broad Daylight, Was Never Caught

St. Charles Police Department

"The I-70 Killer" is the unimaginative name given to a serial killer who murdered six people across four states along the Interstate 70 highway in 1992. Because, let's face it, all the really good serial killer names have been taken by now.

The murderer had really narrow criteria for his targets, even by serial killer standards -- they had to be young, short, female, and most specifically, had to be working alone in a boutique store within a few miles of I-70. He did break the pattern once by murdering a man, Michael McCown, but police are pretty sure the killer mistook the long-haired McCown for a girl, and probably had a good laugh about it afterward while he was dancing naked in his living room, smearing his body with the blood from a decapitated dove like it was a magic marker (or whatever his thing was).

The Witchita Eagle
Pictured: A cop guarding the boutique store, and not laughing.

The killer started his spree by murdering Robin Fuldauer in a shoe store that she was managing. His second and third victims, Patricia Smith and Patricia Magers, were killed in their bridal store, most likely because he didn't know there were two people present. McCown was next, killed in his ceramics store, and two more murders followed -- Nancy Kitzmiller, in another shoe store, and Sarah Blessing, in her gift shop. After that, the killings stopped.

The Witchita Eagle
We usually encourage people to never give up on their dreams, but in this case, we're glad he did.

The thing is, the I-70 killer wasn't exactly your Hannibal Lecter-tier serial killing genius. In fact, he was sloppy as hell -- he killed in public and in broad daylight, and there are so many witnesses to his crimes that they could start a local book club. After he killed the two Patricias, one witness saw him so clearly that he was able to provide a composite sketch. Another witness saw him enter the scene of his final killing, and still more saw him leaving the scene as he rushed back toward the I-70.

But despite a whole bunch of people knowing exactly what he looks like, and the fact that his face has been plastered over true crime shows over the last 20 years, no suspects have ever been identified. We guess he just has one of "those faces."

2
The Rainbow Maniac Murdered 13 Gay Men, In Public

TViG

From 2007 to 2009, men in the city of Carapicuiba, Brazil, were terrorized by the Rainbow Maniac. He earned that moniker because the victims were all gay and were clearly targeted for that reason (so, of course, the newspapers give the killer a nickname that makes him sound like an adorable Care Bear villain).

Paturis Park had long been used by the gay community as a place to seek out sex, but over the course of several months, 13 gay men were found murdered in advanced stages of undress. Most were shot once in the head, though one was beaten to death and another was shot 12 times. Even though every murder was committed in the open and in public, after two years of killings the only lead police had was that the killer apparently "dislikes homosexuals," because all the best criminal profilers operate in Brazil.

TViG
"See anyone killin' a gay?"
"No."
"Well, I'm outta ideas. Lunch?"

One suspect, retired police officer Jairo Francisco Franco, was ultimately charged based on a witness report -- they claimed he was the one who shot the guy 12 times -- and the fact that by having three names, he met the first requirement for becoming a famous murderer. He went to trial and after two-and-a-half years of criminal proceedings, he was found not guilty.

TViG
He was presumably stripped of his third name to cut down on any future mix-ups.

But, even if he had been convicted, the shooting he's accused of is one of the odd ones -- it could have turned out he did that one, and not the rest of the ritualistic "one shot to the head" executions. Either way, no further arrests were made.

The good news is the killings also stopped. You could say this proves it was Franco but, then again, the arrest could have convinced the real killer the cops were getting too close. Either way, somebody got away with it, scot-free.

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1
Serial Killer "Bible John" Was Seen By Dozens Of Witnesses (Multiple Times!) And Still Got Away

Finlay McWalter

In the late 1960s, women starting vanishing from the Barrowland Ballroom, a nightclub in Glasgow, Scotland. Between 1968 and 1969, 25-year-old Patricia Docker, 32-year-old Jemima McDonald, and 29-year-old Helen Puttock were all murdered after nights out at the Barrowland. All three were strangled with their own stockings, and all three women's handbags were missing, most likely taken as a souvenir. Yep, sounds like a serial killer.

Over the years, these killings have blown up into one of the biggest crime investigations in Scottish history. And this is despite the fact that, just, so many witnesses know exactly what he looks and sounds like.

Grampian TV
"Start extradition papers for Ron Howard ASAP."

These were all nightclub hookups, after all, and the victims all had friends who saw who their buddy was going home with; they even shared a cab with him in at least one instance. In most cases, the killer identified himself as John, and was notable for constantly quoting from the Bible, which gave him his media nickname "Bible John." Shit, if he was any more of a serial killer, he'd turn up to the club wearing someone else's face.

Grampian TV
There's a lot of Bible to cover, so maybe he never read the "don't kill" part.

Despite knowing so much about what Bible John looked like that they were able to plaster his portrait all over the Glasgow night scene, and putting cops undercover all over the damn place, they still never caught the guy. They did identify one suspect in 1996, John McInnes, who unfortunately couldn't answer any questions due to the fact that he'd been dead for 16 years. But, after exhuming his corpse, they ultimately proved he wasn't the guy, and had to apologize to his family for digging up his skeleton and calling it a serial killer.

Grampian TV
"We took it by his silence that he was cool with it. Our bad."

Since then, the case has gone drier than John McInnes' bones, and at this point it's unlikely that Bible John will ever be found, considering that he's probably in a retirement home, if he's alive at all (at the very least, his clubbing days are probably behind him). Or, maybe he got arrested for some other crime decades ago. Or, maybe his last victim managed to kill him in self-defense, and nobody ever found him. Make up whatever story you want, because we'll never know the truth. Sometimes, that's just the way it goes.

Janel Comeau is not a serial killer, but you should probably keep an eye on her on Twitter and her blog, just in case.

For more stories to keep you up at night, check out 5 Horrific Serial Killers (Who Are Free Right Now) and 5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie.

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