4 Serial Killers Who Fell In Love (With Other Psychopaths)
Because we'd like to think that the world has some semblance of goodness left in it, we usually imagine that serial killers work alone. After all, these are one-in-a-million psychopaths, and what are the odds of them even running into a like-minded person, let alone striking up a profound relationship with them? Yet such pairings do happen, and more often than you'd think. Here are some romances that were less "happily ever after," and more "I hope the arresting officer brought extra handcuffs."
Henry Lee Lucas And Ottis Toole
Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole were practically brothers from very fucked up other mothers. Lucas was the son of an abusive alcoholic, and Toole, born in 1947, had a single mother who, with his grandma, were a pair of religious wackadoos. Each had their own reign of terror when they operated on their own, but when they met, it was like the chocolate and peanut butter kismet of psychopathy.
Lucas' mother would become his first victim. After having been repeatedly beaten by her and losing an eye because she let an infection get out of control, he would do his first stretch in prison for doing her in. Sentenced to 20-40 years, he served ten and got out in 1970. Almost immediately he went back in for an attempted kidnapping, earning him another five. Toole's first victim was a travelling salesman. The man, who'd tried to force the 14-year-old boy into sex, ended up as roadkill under the wheels of his own car.
After Lucas' second prison term, the two would meet in a Jacksonville, Florida soup kitchen. They instantly hit it off. Who was the first to broach the subject of serial killing, and how exactly did they slip it into the conversation? We'll never know. All we know is that the two became lovers and decided to join forces. Hitchhiking around America, they killed an indeterminate number of people.
Toole, a cannibal as well as a serial killer who blamed his killings on a cult he made up, claimed the two of them killed over a thousand people (a number no one believes), and he is believed to be the murderer of Adam Walsh, son of America's Most Wanted host John Walsh. They were finally arrested separately in 1983, with Lucas getting convicted for 11 murders and Toole for six. Both of them were brazen liars, so no one knows how many people they truly murdered together, or how many would have been spared had these guys not randomly decided to sit together at lunch that day.
Related: 5 Weird Serial Killer Trends (That Say A Lot About Society)
The San Francisco Witch Killers
Michael Carson and his wife Suzan were a living Mad Libs sentence, being self-proclaimed vegetarian Muslim warriors who hated witches. And who was a witch? Well, whoever they felt was a witch at the time. Duh.
Michael started out as James Clifford Carson, and was your typical Jewish pot dealer in Phoenix, Arizona. However, after noticing some troubling changes in his personality, his wife took their daughter and nope'd right out of there. After the split, he changed his name and came across Susan Barnes, a divorced mother of two. She was the schizophrenic daughter of an Arizona newspaper exec with a craving for LSD. She also later changed her name, replacing the middle "S" with a "Z," because that's cooler, obviously.
As with all of the examples on this list, exactly what was said when these two met and struck up a romance is lost to history. Presumably there was a magical moment when they each realized that the other had the most tenuous possible grasp on reality, and that it would be fun to just fly off the rails together. Michael would later say that Suzan was "a yogi and a mystic with knowledge of past, present and future."
The two traveled the world on Suzan's trust fund until they ended up on the streets, broke. They then began their crime spree by bludgeoning and stabbing 23-year-old Keryn Barnes to death. Clark Stephens (whom they claimed was a witch draining Suzan's powers), a fellow worker on a pot farm, was shot before being covered in chicken guano and lit on fire. There may have been up to a dozen other victims in multiple countries.
Their last victim was Jon Hellyar, a man who saw the couple hitchhiking and offered them a ride, and ended up shot and stabbed by the side of the road for his trouble. Suzan thought he was a witch too. Before their arrest, the cops found a manifesto written by the couple titled "Cry For War," wherein they called for the killing of Ronald Reagan and Johnny Carson. (Who were both ... witches? Were they part of the same coven?) They were finally apprehended after a high-speed chase (driving the car of their last victim, no less), and both are now serving life terms. To this day, they've never expressed remorse, but at this point, it'd probably be weirder if they did.
Related: 6 More Real-Life Murderers Scarier Than Any Horror Movie
The Lonely Hearts Killers
Martha Beck didn't exactly fit the profile of a serial killer, or one half of a flamboyant murder couple. She was a lonely, overweight woman who would write to the "Lonely Hearts" column of her local paper ("lonely hearts" being the fun, flashy, not-at-all-depressing 1940s name for the personals). Eventually Beck received an answer from a homely Hispanic man named Raymond Fernandez. And for a guy using the most miserable section of a newspaper, he didn't seem that bad.
Of course, at the time, Beck didn't know that a falling hatch aboard a ship had clonked Fernandez on the noggin so hard that it turned him bald, gave him headaches, and changed his personality, like the laziest comic book origin story ever. He turned to petty crimes, donning a toupee as believable as a Dick Cheney smile. After getting caught and sent to the slammer, he learned normal prison things like, um, how to control women via voodoo, as taught by his occultist cellmate. Typical stuff.
When he got out, he put that old black magic to work by answering dozens of personal ads, developing the MO of hooking up with older women just long enough to get them to offer their bank accounts to him, and then abandoning them. But things changed when Beck came along. Showing up at Fernandez's place with her two kids, they soon formed a partnership. Well, after Fernandez told her to ditch the kids at the Salvation Army ... which she did.
Feeling like a woman who would dump her own children for him might be someone he could trust, Fernandez changed Beck's status from would-be victim to partner in crime. He got her to pose as his sister while he seduced older women in order to rob them. But soon the robberies started going wrong, due to Beck's temper and jealousy. Together they murdered an old woman, a widow, and the widow's two-year-old. Why kill the child? Because her crying over her dead mother annoyed Beck.
Eventually, though, neighbors became suspicious about the missing woman and child, called the police, and Beck and Fernandez were caught. Beck tried to maintain her innocence, but Fernandez spilled the gruesome beans almost immediately. Their last words were about how much they loved each other ... right before they were executed, one after the other, on the same day. Kind of surprising they didn't just let him sit on her lap in the electric chair.
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Belle Gunness And Ray Lamphere
Belle Gunness was born Brynhild Paulsdatter Storset in Norway in 1859, but came to America sometime in the early 1880s. There she wasted little time ruining the lives of everyone around her. Shortly after marrying Mads Albert Sorenson in 1884, their store and home both burned down. The two cashed in on the insurance policies, and then Sorenson died of a mysterious cerebral hemorrhage on the day both of his life insurance policies just happened to overlap (meaning Belle got double payment). Oh, and their two children had died mysteriously earlier, too. Spoiler for the rest of the entry: Lots of people died "mysteriously" around Belle.
After using the insurance money to buy a 40-acre farm in La Porte, Indiana, Belle went on to marry Peter Gunness, whose name she'd take and keep. Soon she'd say adios to their new baby girl, her adopted daughter Jennie, and then Pete himself. Gunness then began placing personal ads and drawing the attention of a string of unlucky gentlemen -- John Moo, Henry Gurholdt, Olaf Svenherud, Ole B. Budsburg, Olaf Lindbloom, etc. All would disappear on her murder farm after dropping a nice wad of cash on Belle.
In 1907, Gunness took in a farmhand, Ray Lamphere, whom she started a relationship with. As she continued to first poison then dismember victims around her farm, the two grew even closer. Did she ever consider making him a victim? If so, what convinced her to keep him around? We'll never know. What we do know is that Ray became privy to her murderous secrets, and was fine with it. Still, Belle dumped him as soon as Andrew Helgelein, the latest man she'd set her sights on, came a-courtin'. Lamphere took this poorly, or at least Gunness said he did, and Gunness made sure that everyone knew Lamphere had threatened to burn her farm down. And then her farm burned down, and Gunness was nowhere to be found.
After exploring the rubble, the remains of dozens of men and children were discovered (it's impossible to say how many, the whole area was a mass grave and parts were mixed and matched). Ray was found guilty of the fire, but not the murders, and eventually locals uncovered what appeared to be Gunness' body ... without its head. And since this was the early 1900s, finding a body without a head means that body might have belonged to anyone.
Lamphere later claimed that Belle had planned the whole thing to cover her escape. To this day, experts are divided on the subject, even though that's very obviously what happened.
Andrew McRae has books and eBooks available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He can also be found on Instagram and Facebook, as well as writing for Lewtonbus.
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