At least it was only a metaphorical knife. This time.
You have the Internet, so you are familiar with harassment. But there's a profound difference between repeatedly threatening to strangle your 15-year-old Xbox Live opponent with a "cock lasso" and devoting your entire existence to making somebody's life an unbearable hell. True ruinous harassment takes a special kind of person. It takes madness, it takes evil, and most of it all, it takes devotion. The following folks have all those traits in spades ...
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One night in April of 1986, teenager Rickie Blake received a call from a mystery man named George. When her family awoke the following morning, Rickie was gone. Later that day, her battered body was discovered next to the freeway. And somehow, that's not the end of the tragedy. What followed were years of a grieving family being plagued by a mystery sicko who'd make a 4chan user slowly shake his head in disgust.
Just weeks after their daughter's murder, the Blakes started receiving phone calls, which would become an annual tradition. Every year, starting on Rickie's birthday and leading up to the anniversary of her murder, the mystery caller would ring them up at 3 or 4 in the morning to relay details of her death. Sometimes, he'd share unsettling tidbits which made it clear that he'd been recently watching them. His creepiest tactic? Wordlessly playing a recording of Rickie's favorite song, "With You All The Way" by New Edition.
And it didn't stop at phone calls. Boxes containing Rickie's clothing were stolen from the family's garage. Strange items appeared at Rickie's grave, such as bits of male clothing stuffed inside a vase. You'd think all this might compel the family to change their number and move to somewhere on the far side of the galaxy, but believe it or not, Rickie's mother Alicia came to look forward to the annual calls. She hoped against hope that Rickie's killer would eventually let slip something incriminating. Then, in 2003, the killer was identified via DNA evidence as career criminal and interminable asshole George Williams, Jr. In 2005, Williams was sentenced to death. The End. Right?
Not quite. See, a mere week after Rickie's murder, Williams was arrested for an unrelated crime, and spent 12 years in the slammer before being paroled in 1998. Which means he wasn't the one leaving creepy items on his victim's grave and physically stalking her family. It was an entirely different lunatic, who saw a horrific tragedy and popped up for no other reason than to twist the knife.
Making Williams .000000001 percent less horrific than originally thought.
At least it was only a metaphorical knife. This time.
In the early 1980s, Vancouver nurse Cindy James fell victim to something even more nefarious than neon anklewarmers. Soon after separating from her husband, James was buried beneath a nonstop torrent of harassment that would continue for seven full years. And this being the '80s, we're not talking about the occasional shitty Facebook comment. No, this was back when harassment still required dedication, a bunch of magazine subscriptions, and a shit-ton of those glue sticks you ate in kindergarten.
James became convinced that her tormentor was attempting to literally scare her to death -- a conclusion that was reinforced every single time her phone line got cut or her porch lights were smashed. The situation soon escalated to physical attacks. A friend found James unconscious in her yard, a nylon stocking tightly knotted around her neck. A private investigator discovered James unconscious in her home with one of the aforementioned cut-and-paste notes pinned to her hand with a goddamn paring knife. When some friends stayed with James for protection, someone set fire to her freaking basement.
James was violently attacked on at least five occasions. And if you're thinking they missed an obvious suspect in James' estranged husband, then think again. He received his own fair share of raspy, threatening phone calls. Have a listen if you don't feel like sleeping tonight:
Finally, in May of 1989, James disappeared. Her bloody car was discovered in a parking lot, and two weeks later, her body was found in the yard of an abandoned house, her hands and feet tied behind her. But that's not what killed her. What killed her was a morphine overdose.
And that's when the stalker puzzle began to crumble. All those physical attacks? No one other than James had ever seen an attacker, and she only ever described vague details, such as his white tennis shoes. That fire in her basement? There was no exterior disturbance to the house, indicating that it was started by someone inside. In the end, police determined that Cindy James's stalker and eventual murderer was ... Cindy James. The coroner wasn't quite convinced, ruling the cause of death an "unknown event" before signing the death certificate "Captain Noncommittal."
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"I got promoted from Lieutenant last fall."
So was James murdered by a relentless stalker who's still free to practice his fucked-up arts and crafts to this day, or did she slowly succumb to Asshole Tyler Durden Syndrome? No one knows for certain, and frankly, we're not sure which scenario is more disturbing.
Starting in 1974, the residents of Visalia, California were victimized for a full year and a half by the "Visalia Ransacker," an unidentified man who performed nearly a hundred burglaries, sometimes breaking into the same home multiple times. But this wasn't your run-of-the-mill thief. No, the Visalia Ransacker wasn't a bit interested in valuables, instead opting to steal sentimental objects like wedding rings and family photographs.
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We hope he got a good price for Grandma's ashes.
Then, on September 11, 1975, the Ransacker upped his game. That's when Claude Snelling awoke in the middle of the night to find the Ransacker attempting to burgle not a photograph of Snelling's 16-year-old daughter, but his actual 16-year-old daughter. When Snelling confronted the intruder, he fatally shot Snelling in the chest and kicked his daughter in the face before scampering away. Three months later, detective Bill McGowen caught the Visalia Ransacker outside of a house that he had hit three times before. But the Ransacker fired at McGowen, hitting his flashlight and pelting his eyes with glass shards, before escaping into the night. And that, kids, is why you should never bring a flashlight to a gunfight.
The Visalia home invasions stopped, and the Ransacker vanished. So what happened to him? Did he give up his life of ransacking, translating his sacking skills into more socially acceptable sacks, such as those in grocery bagging or football?
Shift to Sacramento in June of 1976. The "East Area Rapist" spent three years breaking into homes and sexually assaulting more than 50 victims. Then, in October of 1979, the "Original Night Stalker" began a Southern California murder spree which yielded at least 10 victims. DNA testing conducted many years later led to a revelation: The East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker were the same guy. Shocking, we know. More shocking is the fact that, to this day, investigators haven't the slightest idea who said guy is. If you'd like to hear his voice and you don't place any inherent value in unsoiled underwear, have a blast:
So what does all this have to do with the Visalia Ransacker? Well, consider the timeline. The East Area Rapist committed his first crime mere months after the Ransacker dropped off the map. And speaking of maps, Sacramento is pretty damn close to Visalia on them. Many experts believe that the home invasions in Visalia were but a warm-up act for a psychopath whose singular goal in life was to earn himself ever more horrible nicknames. If the Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist, and the Original Night Stalker are indeed one and the same, then he's one of the most prolific unidentified criminals of all time. On an unrelated note, we typed the word 'ransack' so many times that it has absolutely no meaning anymore. There's no way that's a real word, right? Ransack? Ransacking? Ransacker? It's weird, right?
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While receiving a call from your future killer only to discover that said call is coming from inside your house is a common horror trope, it's become somewhat archaic with the arrival of cell phones. But in 2007, the Kuykendall family of Fircrest, Washington experienced a real-life revamp of the tired plot device.
"Seriously? Didn't Scream reinvent this like five times already?"
It all began when 16-year-old Courtney started receiving scratchy-voiced calls from "Restricted" at all hours, threatening to murder her, her parents, her grandparents, and her little dog, too. Soon the entire family was receiving calls. Then the harassment spread to their neighbors. Dang, you know you really pissed off a psycho when people start getting death threats simply because they got your mail one time by accident. Eventually the Kuykendalls went to the police, who traced the calls back to ... Courtney Kuykendall's phone.
That night, the Kuykendalls received a voicemail recording of their visit with the police. So was young Courtney some psychologically disturbed future Hannibal Lecter getting her rocks off on tormenting her own family? Maybe. But the problem with that theory is that the calls continued even after Courtney's mother took away her phone. Hell, they continued even when it was turned off.
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"How about now?"
Thankfully, the callers never followed through on their threats, which dwindled to a stop after the family called in the FBI to investigate. A culprit was never found, so we are forced to conclude that the Kuykendalls were victimized by either a psychotic hacker or a tech-savvy poltergeist.
In October of 1941, Denver police had themselves a true locked room mystery. An elderly man named Philip Peters was bludgeoned to death inside his own home, behind locked doors and firmly latched windows. Philip's wife had been away, recovering in the hospital from a broken hip when the crime occurred. She would sadly return to a newly empty house ... or so she thought.
Mrs. Peters began to hear strange, unexplained noises in her home. The housekeeper, nurse, and laundress she'd hired to take care of her heard them too, and after seeing what appeared to be a spectral figure advancing through the darkness late one night, the entire staff simultaneously shit their pants and bailed. Mrs. Peters followed suit. That might have been the end of the story, had neighbors not still reported occasional noises and lights inside the supposedly empty house. Police set up surveillance, and after catching a glimpse of a strange man pulling back the curtains, barged into the house and apprehended a drifter by the name of Theodore Coneys.
But Coneys wasn't some bored troll who got off on harassing a grieving old lady. You see, the reason Peters's body was found inside a locked house was that his killer had never left. Instead, Coneys had climbed through a tiny trap door in an upstairs closet and hid inside an attic cubbyhole ... for nine goddamned months.
In fact, Coneys had been living in his dusty abode for weeks before the murder. Coneys was a former acquaintance of Mr. Peters, and having stopped by for a handout and finding the house unlocked, he helped himself to some new digs. For the next few weeks, Coneys would sneak out of his hiding place when Peters wasn't home to steal food and probably fuck with the settings on the radio, the bastard. It was smooth sailing until Coneys got a bit too enthralled by a pot roast and Peters walked in on him in the kitchen. Coneys overreacted and bludgeoned Peters with his own gun before retreating to his attic cubbyhole so as to not get caught by, as he put it, doing "the obvious thing."
viaThe Denver City Page
"See, they expect the killer to try to get away with it, so I won't! That'll really mess with their heads."
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Angels are real, and they are bad frickin' news. Robert Brockway's Vicious Circuit series is a punk rock, dark fantasy full of horror and humor. Check out the first two books, and pre-order the third, Kill All Angels, available December 26th.