5 Chilling Murderers Who Met Their Ends In Ridiculous Twists
It's that time of the year when we think about all manner of imaginary ghouls, to help us forget that far scarier ghouls really exist. But if you're willing to trade candied horrors for real ones, here are a few really horrible killers to think about. No need to get too scared of them. They're all dead now, and every one of them died horribly.
William Burke Murdered Victims For Dissection; He Wound Up Dissected And Turned Into A Book
Many delightfully spooky real stories from history involve those professionals known as resurrection men. Resurrection men, despite their name, did not try to bring dead bodies back to life. Instead they worked at just obtaining the dead bodies and presenting them to scientists for study (if the scientists then brought the bodies back to life, that was their business). The demand for bodies far exceeded the supply, since the law limited dissection to a few specific types of undesirables, so resurrection men turned to robbing graves. They did not turn to murder, usually. Doctors simply didn't pay enough to make it worth the trouble.
So hotelier William Burke, and his partner-in-crime William Hare, didn't start out by planning to kill anyone. In fact, they didn't start out planning to sell bodies at all. Then one of their hotel guests died, leaving behind a huge bill, and when the local church sent a man around to stick the body in a coffin, Burke and Hare realized they were about to throw away a valuable box of flesh. They replaced the body with wood scraps when the coffin man wasn't looking and later sold it to an eager Edinburgh doctor named Robert Knox. Soon after, another guest came down with fever, and the hosts reasoned this could be dangerous for the other customers. So Burke suffocated the guy with a pillow, and the two sold this body to Knox as well.
They murdered another sick guest in a similar fashion, and the process was proving to be so easy and so lucrative that they moved from killing the occasional guest to luring in victims off the street. Their usual method was to invite a woman over for whiskey, get her drunk to the point of incapacitation, and then smother her to death. Burke sometimes made a point of stripping the victim before selling the body, so he could gift her clothes to his wife. One of the more disturbing murders, Hare would later say, involved killing a drunk grandmother, then bringing her young mute grandson to the same room and killing him in front of her corpse, without even doing him the courtesy of getting him drunk first. Dr. Robert Knox commented sometimes on how surprisingly fresh the bodies they brought him were, but he didn't ask any inconvenient questions.
The night they killed victim number 16, they asked a couple lodgers to give them the building free. These lodgers returned to retrieve some stockings and were suspicious when Burke told them to stay away from their bed. They disobeyed and examined the straw mattress and discovered a woman's corpse there. When they reported their findings and the police came by, Hare turned on Burke and escaped justice by providing enough evidence to hang his friend. And remember those "undesirables" we said were allowed to be dissected? They included convicted murderers, so after his death, Burke was chopped up by the University of Edinburgh. They still have his skeleton on display today.
This was the story of Burke and Hare, even when we first told it to you a dozen years ago or so. But since then, new artifacts related to the pair have come to light. A Scottish prison discovered they had a mask molded on Burke's corpse in a closet, along with possibly the noose that hanged him. And it turned out that some of the skin scientifically peeled off Burke's body was used to bind a small book. This was not uncommon for murderers, as books made from murderers' hides were good luck.
Edinburgh University also now displays a note said to be written in William Burke's blood. They say that one of the students assigned to dissect him had a little too much fun and withdrew some blood for his personal use. Assuming, of course, that the note is genuine and wasn't really just written in chocolate sauce.
Ricky Dell Simonds Tried To Kill Another Girlfriend, But Fortunately Died Like A Dumbass
In 1986, Ricky Simonds was 25 and had been dumped by his girlfriend, Donna Miller. So he went to her trailer in Bessemer City, North Carolina, and strangled her to death. When authorities caught up to him, he'd taken so much drugs they had to hospitalize him, but they charged him soon after. The judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison for first-degree murder. By 1992, he was paroled and out again -- but, to be fair, it would be more than 20 years before he started killing again, so freeing him early didn't actually hurt anyone as far as we can tell.
We don't know how much of his murderous past Kim Sprenger knew when she was dating Ricky in 2008. But she did know he could get violent, so when she became the latest person to dump him, she sought a restraining order. Kim filed for that in May. A couple weeks later, she drove home from work, and she smelled something strange in her Ford Taurus sedan. She couldn't figure out what it was at the time, nor could she the next day, when she drove her friends to church. It wasn't till the following evening that she popped open the trunk and discovered Ricky, decaying, squeezed in there.
Trunks have emergency releases inside. You're not supposed to be able to get stuck in them. But when Ricky Symonds hid himself in the ex-girlfriend's trunk with plans to ambush her somewhere with no witnesses -- as the strongest theory about what happened suggests -- maybe he just couldn't find that latch. Maybe he passed out with heatstroke while waiting for her to arrive and never awoke again. Either way, the guy who'd killed once and was maybe about to kill again was cut short and wound up dead.
We say he'd killed once, but that's one confirmed victim. At the time of his death, Ricky was also a person of interest in another case, that of Jamie Fraley, who's now been missing for 12 years so isn't likely alive and well somewhere. Jamie was engaged to Ricky's son, also named Ricky, and while the fiance is generally a good suspect when a woman goes missing, Ricky Jr. was in jail for theft when she disappeared. The last anyone heard from Jamie, she was on the phone saying someone had come to pick her up, and she'd earlier been given a ride by Ricky Sr., who lived in her building.
Police never had enough to charge Ricky in that case, but his death made that irrelevant pretty quick. The lesson we've all learned today though is that trunks are dangerous spaces, and for safety's sake, all cars should include latches that prevent people inside trunks from escaping. This will thwart murderers, definitely.
Felipe Espinosa Killed 32 Before A Mountain Man Decapitated Him
Who was America's first serial killer? Many point their finger at H.H. Holmes, famous for killing 27 people in a deadly hotel called the Murder Castle (an amazing story that's mostly false). But back when Holmes was still an infant and not yet able to verbalize his fantasies of killing dozens of people, Felipe Espinosa killed dozens of people across Colorado. Espinosa was a robber who came out of Mexico, the sort of criminal we generally categorize as a "bandit" rather than a "serial killer." But considering that he quickly stopped robbing his victims and took to mutilating them and ripping their hearts out, serial killer is probably the more accurate designation here.
No one's been able to put together a detailed early history of Felipe Espinosa and his brother Vivian. If you wanted to write out a sympathetic origin story, it would have to concentrate on the disenfranchisement of the Hispano people of Colorado, which included involuntary conscription into the Union army and having their goods seized by the government. Whatever the reason, by 1863, Felipe and Vivian were robbers. The military came to arrest them in January but found them armed, so they set the house on fire. They completely failed to apprehend the duo -- the lieutenant, annoyed, apparently threw down his gun, which then fired and shot himself non-fatally in the forehead -- but they confiscated every bit of property they could find. So Felipe and his brother took off and just began killing everybody they could find.
Sometimes, victims turned up shot in the back. Other times, stabbed. One would-be victim was saved because the papers he was carrying him shielded him, papers that included a copy of the new Emancipation Proclamation. In time, pursuers caught up with and took down Vivian, but they somehow mistook Felipe as part of their group, so he escaped and remained at large, still tearing his way through victims. It was time to call in the big guns. It was time to call Tom Tobin, the mountain man.
Tom Tobin was a tracker, a whiskey runner, and a beaver trapper (both kinds, probably). That October, soldiers set Tom up with a posse and sent him to him hunt Felipe down. He led them to the guy, finding him having just killed an ox and starting to roast its meat. Felipe tried to shoot at them, but they'd set up the ambush too well, so he didn't stand a chance. Once the man was dead by multiple bullets, Tom walked up to him and ... cut off his head. He also decapitated Felipe's nephew, who was traveling with him. Whether you were a serial killer or a bounty hunter, mutilation was very trendy in the 1860s.
The state had promised Tom a $2,500 reward for bringing in Felipe dead. They then didn't give him any money, at least at first -- sources say they might have given him a portion of this huge promised reward years later. But the governor did immediately give him a new coat, and the army gave him a new rifle. Makes sense. This was clearly a video game quest, so Tobin deserved fresh armor and a weapon upgrade.
Police Set A (Literal) Trap To Nab The Night Caller
Eric Edgar Cooke came with all kinds of supervillain origin flags. He was born with a cleft lip and palate, which made kids mock him for years -- and in case that those deformities were too grounded and sad to make for a good villain story, he also later got his face blasted with steam while working as a blacksmith, covering him with burns. Sources called him "accident-prone" (i.e., his father abused him), and he suffered enough brain damage that they put him in an asylum for a bit. At 17, he tried to join a church choir, but they rejected him. He burned the church down.
He was arrested for that and for various other crimes before 1959, when he started his murder spree. He broke into various homes in Perth -- or rather, he entered various homes; people rarely locked their doors then, until word got around that someone was murdering people. Sometimes, he shot people when they spotted him. Sometimes, he shot people in their beds. One time, he chopped up a victim then got lemonade out of the fridge and drank it on the porch. Another time, he strangled his victim, raped her corpse, dragged her naked in front of the neighbor's house, raped her again with a bottle, and then posed the body with the bottle so the neighbors could find it.
All told, he wasn't a nice chap, so when an elderly couple reported finding a rifle he probably owned hidden under a bush, police were happy for the opportunity to track him down. If he came back for the gun, they'd have him ... so long as they were careful and he didn't know they were watching. So, police replaced the gun with one they'd disabled, and they tied fishing line to it like they were setting up a Looney Tunes trap. They held on to other end of the line and set up camp in a camouflaged tent. They hunkered down in this secret base -- a "hide," to use the preferred Australian hunting term -- to wait it out, as long as it took.
It took 17 days. But he did come for it, and the police got him. When he spotted them, he ran, supposedly trying to get to the river, but he couldn't get away. He was wearing women's gloves when they apprehended him (probably to avoid leaving fingerprints) and carried women's underwear in his pockets (probably for reasons unrelated to fingerprints). He had committed dozens of crimes, but they got him to definitely confess to eight murders, which was enough to hang him. He even confessed to two murders for which the police had already arrested people, and it would take them another 40 years before they agreed to let these wrongly arrested guys go. Whoops.
You Ever Hear How Jeffrey Dahmer Died?
We shouldn't have to introduce you to the killer known as Jeffrey Dahmer, a name every child is taught right before "George Washington." He's the first reason most of us have for learning just what cannibalism is, what necrophilia is, and what Wisconsin is. Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 people. When he wasn't eating or masturbating over their remains, he was experimenting with their skeletons to see how long he could preserve them. Also, in his creepiest move yet, he once stole a mannequin.
So what happened after Dahmer went to jail? Did he become a reformed vegetarian like that German penis cannibal Armin Meiwes? Did he reverse entropy and resurrect his sister, like that Baltimore surgeon cannibal Hannibal Lecter? He did neither. Instead, two years into his sentence, a fellow inmate killed him with a metal bar.
Someone had already tried slashing his throat once, so prison officials really should have seen this coming, and maybe they did. Killer Christopher J. Scarver bludgeoned Dahmer and one other murderer in the shower, and afterward told officers, "God told me to do it. Jesse Anderson and Jeffrey Dahmer are dead." Scarver wasn't eligible for parole for another 50 years or so, so he didn't have much incentive for playing by the rules. (Dahmer was not eligible for parole anytime soon either, having been sentenced to 15 consecutive life terms.)
Another 20 years passed before the news really got to interview Scarver and ask him what motivated him. It wasn't just that Dahmer had done a bunch of evil stuff -- it was how he acted about while in prison. When guards approached, he'd say, "I bite" and then laugh when they backed away scared. He put a sign up in his cell reading "Cannibals Anonymous Meeting Tonight," for lols. And he'd keep food from his meals so he could arrange the stuff to look like severed human limbs. Then he'd drip ketchup on it for blood, and he'd place it where inmates would stumble on it. This was an offense that needed to be punished. Murder is bad. But wasting food? Unforgivable.