It’s honestly pretty hard to get caught as a serial killer. If you get away with it long enough to earn the title, you’re probably smart enough to evade capture indefinitely. That’s why, when serial killers do get caught, it’s often in bizarre, unlikely, and/or downright hilarious ways.

The BTK Killer Didn’t Know How Technology Worked

Floppy disks

(Brett Jordan/Unsplash)

Toward the end of his killing spree, the BTK Killer had begun sending police little care packages, but he eventually realized what an inefficient means of communication this was, asked them if a floppy disk could be traced back to him, and made them super swearsies to tell the truth. They crossed their fingers behind their backs and assured him it was totes safe, then easily determined the disk was last used at Dennis Rader’s church by an account with his own name on it.

A Slice of Pizza Doomed the Grim Sleeper

Grim Sleeper

(LAPD/Wikimedia Commons)

Los Angeles police had the DNA of the Grim Sleeper, who killed at least 10 women over a span of 30 years, but they couldn’t connect it to anyone until 2008, when a young man who was arrested on weapons charges popped up in the database as a relative. Narrowing down the likely suspects from the man’s family tree, they started trailing his father, whose saliva retrieved from a slice of pizza in a trash can did him in.

Ancestry Websites Exposed the Golden State Killer

Golden State Killer

(Sacramento Sheriff/Wikimedia Commons)

The Golden State Killer was also brought down by DNA from a family member, but in his case, they’d willingly supplied it. After decades of dead-end leads, investigators finally just started scouring genealogy websites for DNA matches with people who just wanted to prove that they really are Irish, Greg. It didn’t take them long to find Joseph DeAngelo’s family, which is why you should always just put up with Greg’s mockery, depending on how you feel about familial murder.

The Night Stalker Was Recognized By a Bunch of Grandmas

Night Stalker

(LAPD/Wikimedia Commons)

Richard Ramirez was out of town when the LAPD identified him as the Night Stalker, so when he came back, he unknowingly walked into his own personal Truman Show. When he walked into a convenience store, a group of elderly women began pointing and shouting “El matador,” at which point Ramirez saw his own face on a newspaper and attempted to flee. An angry mob followed him from the store, picking up more members as it rolled along like a vengeful snowball, until by the time police caught up with him, hundreds of residents were either kicking his ass or trying to.

The Son of Sam’s Parking Tickets

Remember, kids: Always obey traffic laws during your killing sprees. David Berkowitz was identified as the Son of Sam after a witness heard gunfire and then saw him holding a gun and running to his cream-colored Ford Galaxie. It might have ended there, as there were plenty of tacky cars on the streets in 1977, but she remembered there was a parking ticket on his windshield. Police searched their records, found the illegal parker who didn’t belong, and arrested him for lack of foresight (also a ton of murder).

Police Set a Looney Tunes-y Trap for the Night Caller

The Night Caller terrorized Australia in the ‘60s until a rifle that police determined was definitely his was found abandoned in a bush. They replaced it with a replica, tied it to some fishing line, and waited nearby for their big, murdery fish, hoping he would come back to retrieve it. It took him 17 days, but he did. You know how hard those things are to get in Australia?

All Ted Bundy Had to Do Was Not Steal a Car

Ted Bundy

(Donn Dughi/Wikimedia Commons)

Ted Bundy was uncommonly good at escaping prison, but his last ride on the lam came to an end not because anyone recognized him but because he stole a car. He probably could have gotten away with even that, but an officer noticed him “loitering and driving erratically,” so he ran the plates, found out the car was stolen, and pulled him over. Even at that point, he gave police a fake ID, so for two days, they thought they had some guy named Ken before Bundy was like, “LOL, JK.”

Jeffrey Dahmer Trusted His Victim

After his last intended victim found himself handcuffed in Dahmer’s apartment, he played it cool, telling Dahmer he was his “friend” and agreeing to watch TV with him. After an incredibly weird night of watching The Exorcist III with a guy who just told him he was going to eat his heart, he asked to use the bathroom, and Dahmer apparently decided they’d bonded enough to grant him some concessions. Instead, when Dahmer let go the handcuffs, he punched him in the face and ran out the door.

Albert Fish Used the Wrong Stationery

Albert Fish

(Unknown author/Wikimedia Commons)

Albert Fish couldn’t resist sending an anonymous letter to his last victim’s mother, describing in detail what he did to her, which ended up being his downfall. He’d used an envelope bearing the logo of a private chauffeur company, which had been taken by a janitor who worked for them, because employment in the custodial arts doesn’t preclude a taste for stationery. He’d left it in his room after he’d checked out of a boardinghouse, which was subsequently occupied by Mr. Fish, who could have killed countless more children if he’d just been a little more careful with his mail.

Police Thought the Coed Killer’s Confession Was a Prank

Ed Kemper

(Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office/Wikimedia Commons)

Ed Kemper certainly found one way to get away with murder: get friendly wth the local cops. He hung out in bars frequented by cops and got so chummy with them that they nicknamed him “Big Ed.” It worked so well that when he decided enough was enough and confessed to the string of murders that earned him the nickname “the Coed Killer,” the cops just thought Big Ed was yanking their chain. It wasn’t until he provided them with details he couldn’t have known otherwise that they realized, oh, shit, the Coed Killer is Big Ed.

Dennis Nilsen Clogged Up His Building’s Toilets

Nilsen's apartments

(Chris Whippet/Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill/CC BY-SA 2.0/Wikimedia Commons)

Anyone who’s ever found out firsthand why you don’t flush tampons down the toilet can tell you it’s a terrible plan for disposing of a body, but no one told Dennis Nilsen. He was arrested for the murders of 15 men after his apartment building was flooded with complaints (and probably not a few fingernails) of clogged and smelly drains. Nilsen himself had even complained, having apparently forgotten about all the limbs he’d stuffed down there.

Police Patiently Waited For Geovanni Borjas to Spit

Getting that all-important DNA can be a tough gig. L.A. police were pretty sure Geovanni Borjas was the guy they were looking for in a pair of cold case murders, but they needed his DNA, so they simply followed him around, waiting for him to spit on the sidewalk. It worked, and good manners won the day yet again.

Danueal Drayton Was Connected to His Victims on a Dating App

Tinder

(Good Faces Agency/Unsplash)

It’s easier than ever for serial killers to find potential victims, but while the temptation to use modern technology and its subsequent data trail is strong -- actually, yeah, go ahead and do that. After Danueal Drayton was arrested for holding captive a woman he’d met on a dating app, it didn’t take police long to connect him with other victims. They were all in his Tinder history.

Israel Keyes Used His Victim’s Debit Card

Debit cards are another really good way to track people, especially if they were owned by murder victims. Israel Keyes was apparently unaware of that when he stole his last victim’s money with her debit card, and he made it even easier for police by using it at an ATM, where he was easily identified on surveillance footage.

The Manson Family Loved Volkswagens

Charles Manson

(California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/Wikimedia Commons)

When several members of the Manson family were arrested in October 1969 for a string of Volkswagen Bug thefts, which they’d planned to convert into getaway dune buggies, police had no idea they had any connection to the high-profile murders they’d been investigating for two months. They only started looking into them after Susan Atkins’s cellmate told them she’d bragged about tasting Sharon Tate’s blood, so if any of your cult members seem to have big mouths, make sure to bail them out on lesser charges in a timely fashion.

Top image: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/Wikimedia Commons

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