5 Creepshow Unsolved Crimes
Oh, you've read about serial killers before. But something in you draws you back again and again. It's a compulsion, really -- maybe because evil is real (and it lives within you and you and also probably you). But anyway, here are those particularly awful ones who escaped justice, like ...
The German Sewer Murders
What is the worst way to die? Your answer to that question should take into account not just how painful various methods of dying may be but also other types of suffering that play into your final moments, the humiliation involved, and even the desecration that your corpse may go through after you're dead. Factor in all that, and we'd have to put "bound and dropped in sewage to drown" among several experiences we'd rather avoid.
The first time Frankfurt authorities found a body in the sewage system, in May 1982, they figured someone had murdered the teenager elsewhere and had dumped the body down a manhole to get rid of it. And maybe that's what happened. But in time, it seems the killer graduated from using sewers as just a disposal system to using as a disposal system and murder method. Some of his six victims were alive when he dropped them down there. Then the sewage drowned them, or the sewage gas suffocated them. In the unlikely event they survived both those, they then faced this:
That's a screw conveyor, and it mashed the bodies up so much (sometimes ripping off a leg, for instance) that identification became a tricky process. One victim, Markus Hildebrandt, might have been hard to identify but for a distinctive tattoo on his arm. Markus had been thrown into the sewers handcuffed. He was a sex worker, as were a few others of the victims, while two others were 14 and 11 and had been reported missing by their parents before turning up in the sewers.
The final body turned up in 1989. So much time had passed since the other ones that you might think this was unconnected, but the victim, Daniel Schaub, had been reported missing all the way back in 1983. All we found of him in 1989 were scraps of recognizable clothing and bits of bones, washed up by one of the waterways leading out of the sewage plant. Police made no progress whatever at hunting down the killer. According to criminal profilers, though, he was most likely German, due to the fact that, well, the murders occurred in Germany.
The Canadian Baby Killer
If reading about dead kids didn't brighten your day, we have some bad news for you: This next story is about dead babies. Forty-three dead babies, in fact. They weren't all murdered, probably -- Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children saw babies die pretty regularly, even without a serial killer intervening -- but in March 1981, they discovered that the last nine months had produced over seven times as many dead babies as was normal.
Police ordered autopsies, goaded by one suspicious parent, and they found a bunch of the babies had been pumped with digoxin, which is a heart medication at one-tenth that dosage, but at these levels, it's poison. Other babies has been given epinephrine instead of Vitamin E, and despite both those substances featuring the letter "E," they're hard to mix up accidentally. To this day, some people do think these deaths had to be accidents, because sleep comes easier that way, but the evidence was strong enough that police confirmed at least five were murders.
They arrested one nurse, Susan Nelles. The evidence against her included 1) other nurses reporting her suspicious facial expressions, 2) other nurses reporting her "odd remarks" (sources offer no details on these), and 3) she engaged a lawyer before police approached her. But with Nelles in custody, life at the hospital didn't return to normal. The lead nurse, Phyllis Trayner, discovered that someone had put capsules of a different heart medication into her salad, and another nurse discovered the same sort of capsules in her soup. Propranolol isn't as dangerous as digoxin, but it did look like the serial killer had now moved on to adults, or was trying to cover her tracks.
If that wasn't enough to clear Nelles, her defense quickly pointed out that she was off-duty during one of the murders. So, unless she was one member of a whole conspiracy of murder nurses -- which the court briefly considered before dismissing -- Nelles was innocent. Soon, a different nurse put forward a new suspect: Phyllis Trayner. She'd seen Trayner inject one of the babies with something right before he'd died, claimed the witness.
Police didn't find this convincing enough to charge her. Trayner died in 2011. We don't see anyone reopening the case, unless the detective is a single-minded 40-year-old who is one of the babies who secretly survived. The Hospital for Sick Children, meanwhile, tried putting the scandal behind it by rebranding to something less stupid: SickKids. Wait, really, "SickKids"? No, that's an even worse name.
In a lot of serial killer stories, you'll hear about bodies being identified, or bodies that can't possibly be identified. With this next story, the identification of the victim might be the weirdest part of it. This victim was, for years, dubbed "Buckskin Girl," because they found her in a buckskin poncho. They found her in 1981 in Ohio, and police believe she was one of nine women murdered by the same guy over the next decade or so.
The bodies turned up at different truck stops along the same highway, and they might have been unrelated, but police link them because they all seemed to be beaten and strangled the same way and because the killer appeared take all their underwear and shoes with him, as trophies. One victim, a sex worker named Shirley Dean Taylor, had told people at the truck stop she worked that she was meeting a client called "Dr. No." Another sex worker, Anne-Marie Patterson, once told police about a client with that same alias, and she was murdered a week later, so the assumption is that this Dr. No was the killer. We've never found him, not even when we arrested one guy who said, "Yeah, I did strangle six Ohio prostitutes, but not these ones, sorry."
With Buckskin Girl, police were clueless about who she was, with none of the pimps they interviewed offering any information. Decades passed. In 2001, they took her DNA profile and put it on file, but that wasn't enough to make any difference. In 2016, detectives analyzed the pollen on the body and isotopes in her hair to try to trace where she'd come from. This actually worked. It gave them an idea of where to look for a DNA match, and it led them to identify Buckskin Girl as a long-missing Arkansas woman named Marcia King. The sheriff's office released her photo hoping this might help bring in tips about Dr. No, who they're still pursuing.
One other slain woman ended up getting identified after a similarly long time. It's possible this one wasn't one of Dr. No's victims -- unlike with the others, the killer left her in her underwear but took all her other clothes -- but detectives think she was. Almost 30 years after finding her body, they matched her DNA with a missing person, Patrice Corley. Patricia's sister-in-law had tried reporting her missing years earlier, but police rejected her report ... because she wasn't a blood relative. At the time, all police knew for sure about the Jane Doe was that she'd given birth, so a minister paid for a headstone that read "Somebody's mother. Somebody's daughter."
The Monster Of The Mangones
Uh, we've got some more dead kids for you next. A lot of dead kids -- a dozen murdered over the course of five months in 1963 and 1964 in the Colombian city of Cali. Depending on when you say the streak ended, the number rises to over 30. The bodies generally turned up in vacant lots (called mangones, hence the killer's nickname), and it does not sound like any of these kids had very pleasant final moments. One turned up with his eyes missing. Many were drained of their blood while still alive.
City officials, sensing rising panic, released an explanation of what was going on: This was not the work of a serial killer at all. Someone had instead dug up the bodies of these children from cemeteries and was leaving them around the city, to undermine the government! The Monster of the Mangones was a troll (or a terrorist, to use the legal term). People didn't buy this explanation because they'd identified these children -- they were children who'd been reported as missing, not buried. Unless the Monster kidnapped the children, killed them, buried them, and then dug them up again, which we're pretty sure would still make him a serial killer.
As you might imagine, a city intent of covering up the nature of this crime wasn't too good at investigating it, so the Monster of the Mangones was never found. And in the wake of the government's misinformation came other rumors that turned the Monster into an urban legend, and it's hard for us to tell which parts were based in fact. It was said, for instance, that the Monster tortured the boys with needles. In particular, he stabbed boys in the heart to make them spasm because ... okay, we won't spell out exactly why, but they said it was sexual.
The blood draining part prompted plenty of wild speculation. The most reasonable reason, though still terrifying, was that the Monster bled children for the blood black market, and a pair of twins who escaped being killed described what sounded like a blood harvesting operation. But stories also said the Monster used the blood personally to cure him of some mysterious aristocratic disease, or simply drank it. This led to a second nickname for the serial killer: the Cali vampire.
The Man Gorilla
The first time the people of Cumminsville found one of the Man Gorilla's victims, they thought she'd been hit by a train. It was April 1904, and a railway engineer found Mary McDonald lying at the station, something having smashed her head and chopped off half of one leg. He got her to the hospital, and she managed to just say her name before dying. People figured she might have stumbled onto the tracks by mistake, maybe while drunk. Strange though that interviews of all the train drivers failed to produce any information about plowing into anyone.
The second victim, Louise Mueller, was also believed to have been killed by a train, even though she wasn't found especially near any train tracks (the people of Cumminsville, a small town near Cincinnati, apparently greatly feared trains). The coroner looked her over though and said, no, she could not have been hit by a train and then walked several streets over to the clump of weeds where they found her, and also a train would have injured her in a bunch of ways other than smashing her skull. Victim 3, Alma Steinigewig, carried a train ticket, which might lend credence to the theory that the serial killer was a train. But the trail of blood showing how she'd been dragged, plus the giant human boot prints nearby, suggested otherwise.
So the killer was a man, and he killed two more women after these, slitting their throats as well as bashing their heads open. One time, he even left the bloody axe behind. The axe didn't help police find the killer, nor did a bloody glove (historically, bloody gloves rarely succeed in netting convictions). The real clues about what this guy was like came from the eight other women he attacked but failed to kill. They gave varying descriptions of the hulking individual who came to be known as the Man Gorilla. Some said he was white, some Black. So police arrested two suspects, one white and one Black, leading newspapers to fear what might come next:
Fortunately for the town, if unfortunately for the overeager media, no race war followed, and neither of the suspects appeared to be guilty. We will never know the identity of the Man Gorilla. But we can marvel at the stories of those eight Cumminsville folk who somehow escaped becoming victims 6 through 14. One woman got hit by a hatchet and fell on the railway tracks but survived. Another socked the guy in the mouth till he fled. A third woman pulled out a revolver and fired on him. Then there was Dorothy Hannaford, attacked the same night as Alma Steinigewig. The Man Gorilla was going to drag her to the tracks to murder her, but then a train arrived and scared him away.
Wow, we were completely wrong. The train was actually the hero in this story.