6 Terrifying Serial Killers (Who Are Still Out There)
It's comforting to pretend that real-life crime plays by the same rules as TV, and that sooner or later every killer is nabbed by an attractive cop with a clever one-liner. Unfortunately, some deranged murderers are never found. What happened to them, you ask? Maybe they switched hobbies, maybe they slipped in the shower and broke their necks, or maybe they're hiding in your closet right now. (Yes, every single one of them.)
So load up a playlist of cute baby animals in another tab, and let us tell you about ...
"The Doodler" Killed As Many As 14 People In The '70s (And Got Away With It Because They Were Gay)
The Doodler sounds like a Batman villain who draws mustaches on people's faces, but he was far more sinister. His name came from his propensity to sit in bars and nightclubs and charm his victims by sketching them, before leading them off to be stabbed to death. If you're wondering how he remains at large despite being seen in public places, now's the part where we tell you that these were gay bars in San Francisco in 1974 and 1975. That's not a time period when law enforcement (or society in general) were on the best of terms with the LGBT community, to put it mildly.
The Doodler has been credited with as many as 14 victims, although it's likelier he was "only" responsible for around five or six. It's possible the other murdered gay men were rolled into his case erroneously, or because, you know, more killers means more paperwork.
The first killing was in 1974. By 1977, the police had gone "Ugh, fine," put together a composite sketch of the killer, and determined a suspect. They also had some witnesses, including someone who had been about to sleep with a man who matched the killer's description, only to "reconsider" when a knife fell out of his coat. We're not sure if the witness was creeped out, or if he decided the man was too much of a clumsy dork.
The police were "fairly certain" they had the right guy ... but he walked free because no witnesses were willing to publicly testify. None other than Harvey Milk explained why, telling the AP that the witnesses probably feared the unemployment / social ostracism combo that came with being outed. It didn't help that in the same years the killings occurred, some San Francisco Police Department officers liked to cruise around undercover, pick up gay men, and then arrest them, at one point beating a "suspect" so badly that he suffered brain damage. So yeah, not the most approachable people in the world.
If the Doodler's still alive today, he would be in his 60s. He told a witness he was "studying commercial art," and the police described him as potentially being a quiet, intelligent middle-class man who, in perhaps the ultimate "No shit" statement, had "mental difficulties involving sex." But hey, at least violence against LGBT people is taken way more seriously today, because they're only, uh ... at a higher risk than any other group of being victims of a hate crime. Well, shit.
The Colonial Parkway Killer (Killers?) Murdered Four Random Couples, And No One Knows How Or Why
You know that trope in which a young couple pulls over on the side of the road, only for a killer to sneak up while they're "distracted"? Yeah, that's based on reality. From 1986 to 1989, three couples were found brutally murdered along Virginia's scenic Colonial Parkway, while a fourth pair went missing and is presumed dead. Unlike in the movies, though, the killer wasn't found within 90 minutes and impaled in a gruesome manner. Three decades later, no one has a clue who he (or she, or they) is (or was, or were).
Details and theories are scant. One leading hypothesis is that the killer was either a member of law enforcement or impersonating one. That would explain how they were able to approach the cars without spooking anyone. Plus, glove compartments were found open, as though the victims were getting their registrations ready. But that, like almost everything about this case, is ultimately speculation. There's not even a guarantee that the four sets of murders are related, especially since different methods were employed on the victims. The idea of multiple killers stalking couples in the same stretch of Virginia highway sounds as far-fetched as it does horrifying, though.
As of 2016, the FBI was operating on the theory that was it two killers working in tandem, based on evidence which showed that at least one couple (Rebecca Ann Dowski and U.S. Naval Academy graduate Cathleen Thomas) had fought back vigorously. Thomas even managed grab a chunk of the killer's hair, which the FBI has been using for DNA tests which will hopefully produce results before another 30 years go by.
The Oakland County Child Killer Case Is Even More Messed Up Than It Sounds
There's no way to sugarcoat the story of someone called the Oakland County Child Killer, so let's pour a stiff drink and dive right in. Between February 1976 and March 1977, four children in Michigan were kidnapped and subsequently found dead. All had been bathed and left in clean clothes, which is a disturbing calling card ... but not as disturbing as the next part. One of the victim's mothers appealed for her kidnapped son to be released, saying she wanted to feed him his favorite meal of fried chicken. When his body appeared, an autopsy revealed that he had been fed fried chicken before being killed. We're not sure which possibility is worse -- whether the killer was making a cruel taunt, or if the message was "See? I'm not so bad after all."
This, naturally, kicked off a massive investigation. A mysterious man named Allen wrote a rambling, poorly spelled letter to a local psychiatrist, claiming to know the killer, saying he actually "loved children," and explaining that his motivation boiled down to "Vietnam, man."
"Allen" talked to the psychiatrist on the phone and sounded genuinely frightened, but he didn't show up to a meeting and was never heard from again. And that was but one of the 12,000 tips the police received, so keep that in mind the next time you're tempted to complain about the state of your inbox.
Another suspect was Christopher Busch, a convicted pedophile (two of the victims had been sexually assaulted) who hailed from a wealthy family. Busch had a car that resembled one a witness spotted, had bloody ropes laying around his home, and owned a drawing of a tortured boy which eerily resembled one of the victims (which is online, but you'll have to look it up yourself).
Oh, and Busch also committed suicide in 1978, after which the murders stopped. So that was probably the guy, right? That's what many family members of the victims figured, until it came out in 2012 that his DNA didn't match the evidence and the cops considered him innocent (of this particular crime, anyway).
Besides Busch, a whole bunch of shady people with criminal backgrounds have been associated with the crime at one point or another, but ultimately couldn't be tied to it. A 2011 DNA test on a strand of hair helpfully narrowed the pool of suspects to "1 percent of the Caucasian population." Look, let's arrest all white guys in the U.S. to be on the safe side.
The Long Island Serial Killer Littered A Whole Beach With Corpses
The nicest thing we can say about this case is, "Well, at least most of the victims were adults." In May 2010, sex worker Shannan Gilbert made a panicked call to 911 before vanishing in an area of Long Island known as Gilgo Beach. In December, a detective found her body ... and then someone else's. And someone else's, and someone else's. All four victims had been reported missing, and all were women in their 20s who had worked as escorts off Craigslist.
Over the following year, a fifth missing sex worker and five more unidentified bodies were found in the same area, along with literal bits and pieces of other people.
This prompted a particularly perceptive district attorney to comment, "It is clear that the area in and around Gilgo Beach has been used to discard human remains for some period of time," which presumably sent local property values plummeting for everything except Scarface-style mansions.
The fact that the beach is so secluded, tricky to navigate, and full of nasty shit made it an ideal corpse-dumping ground for who knows how long. One skull was linked to legs that were found elsewhere in 1996, while other victims had been reported missing as late as 2010. And in all that time, there have been a grand total of zero leads. The most definitive clue anyone can offer is that the killer has access to burlap sacks, which narrows it down to anyone with $5 and access to a Home Depot. How do the cops even know they're not dealing with ten different killers with the creepiest timeshare ever? Well, one indicator is that someone repeatedly called one victim's teenage sister from the victim's cellphone to taunt her. Unfortunately, he was savvy enough to keep the calls short and thus untraceable.
The best anyone can offer is that the killer probably has some knowledge of police proceedings and what looks like a mundane life, complete with the possibility that they're killing when their wife and kids are out of town. But that's all educated guesswork, with less-educated guesswork blaming everything from sex parties among the ultra-rich to satanic rituals. The theories get weird in a hurry, which is what tends to happen when ten bodies are discovered and all law enforcement can offer is "Dunno, it's probably a white dude?"
Ironically, police now believe Shannan Gilbert wasn't a victim of the serial killer and may have drowned, but at least her 911 call helped them stumble across victims who otherwise might have never been found. Hey, gotta take your victories where you can get them.
Juarez Is A Paradise For Serial Killers Targeting Women
Juarez can be a nasty place at the best of times. In 2010, the city saw 3,776 freaking murders during a spike in cartel warfare. However, the murders of women are especially brutal, and so common that they had to invent a word for it: femicidio.
According to the state government, 76 female murder victims in Juarez showed evidence of serial killings. Most were young, had the same eye color and hairstyle, were attacked while returning home from work, and had similar ... things done to them. One victim's family was only able to recognize their loved one by her blouse and the rubber bands holding her pony tail. So they're less safe-for-TV Law And Order-style crimes, and more Saw.
But don't worry, the police are on the case! Why, mere days after eight bodies were found near a busy intersection, two bus drivers were arrested and confessed ... after they had been tortured and threatened by police. Oh, and the head of forensics resigned in disgust, stating that there wasn't a "shred of evidence" against them. This wasn't even the first time that police had thrown someone in jail and declared the problem solved, only for women to inconvenience their days by continuing to get murdered.
So, who is responsible? Well, the head of the FBI's office in El Paso suggested that an American could be responsible, noting, "This would be an ideal killing field for a serial murderer given the nature of the law enforcement response." Because apparently Mexico is a great vacation spot for both college kids on spring break and homicidal maniacs.
Former Diplomat William Bradford Bishop Murdered His Family With A Sledgehammer And ... Disappeared
Unlike the killers you've read about so far, we know exactly who this one is and what he did. There's no mystery here -- a grand jury indicted him in 1976 based on what experts call a "metric shit-ton of evidence." The only thing we don't know is where the hell he went to.
William Bradford Bishop spent years working abroad for the United States Foreign Service before settling into a desk job in Washington, D.C. After being passed over for a promotion in 1976, he very undiplomatically bought a sledgehammer, went home, and bludgeoned his wife, mother, and three sons to death. He then put their bodies in his car, drove to North Carolina, dug a shallow grave, and set them on fire. The detective who investigated the house after a neighbor expressed concern about not seeing the family around called it the worst crime scene he had ever seen ... and, again, the bodies weren't even there.
The bodies and the car were quickly found, but it took police time to connect the dots, during which Bishop simply vanished. There were three "credible" sightings of him in Europe: a former acquaintance claims she saw him in Stockholm in 1978, a former co-worker said he took a piss next to him in an Italian bathroom in 1979 and that he ran when challenged (then again, that's the normal reaction when someone talks to you by the urinal), and another old neighbor says he was on a train platform in Basel in 1994. Europe makes sense; Bishop spoke six languages and had experience creating IDs and passports, which the Bourne movies have taught us are 90 percent of what it takes to survive over there.
If Bishop is still alive today -- and the FBI, which has him on their Top 10 Most Wanted List, believes he is -- he would be 80. The FBI notes that he enjoys exercise and outdoor activities, knows how to fly a plane, and likes scotch, wine, peanuts, and spicy food. They also created this creepy portrait to demonstrate what he might look like today:
So if you live near a dude who loves peanuts, flies planes, and looks like he calls the condo board whenever someone's balcony flower box is an inch over regulation size, he miiight be one of the most wanted men in the world. Or maybe it's a random dude, and Bishop will never be found because sometimes horrible murderers win. Life's terrifyingly arbitrary, kids!
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