Pauli Presents: 5 Horrifying Crimes No One Can Explain!
Oh, good, you're finally here! I've been waiting for you, for there are murders that need to be solved! Murders that the cops have been trying to figure out for years without success. Murders that just keep getting creepier with each piece of uncovered evidence. No one else can help. It's up to us and our fumbling 2 a.m. armchair investigations to figure out the real culprits. So quick, friend, grab these case files and get comfortable. We're finally going to get to the bottom of these old, terrifying murder cases. Because, let's face it, you didn't really want to sleep tonight, anyway ...
The Original Night Stalker
"Night Stalker" is a serial killer moniker much like "Robin" is a superhero code name; there's been quite a few of them running around, and they're invariably awful. However, only one Night Stalker out there remains at large; the Original Night Stalker, the OG sadistic rapist-murderer who terrorized California from 1979 to 1986.
The thing is, this is not exactly for lack of trying on the killer's part. Since he was responsible for at least 50 sexual assaults but "only" 12 murders, he was seen by plenty of eyewitnesses. We've got enough police sketches to populate half of Skyrim with custom characters based on them.
"Case closed -- the two oldest Hanson brothers and Bill Pullman did it. Cracking job, everyone!"
Also, despite clear tactical prowess and active attempts to operate stealthily, he was often the exact opposite of careful with his crimes. When he broke into his victims' houses to tie them up and either shoot or bludgeon them to death, he would sometimes alert them by repeatedly muttering "I'm gonna kill them all," which is the sort of mysterious noise from downstairs that generally alerts even the thickest homeowner. He would attempt to flee crime scenes on a fucking bike, and nearly get caught by angry neighbors. At one point, he may even have taken a huge-ass dog with him to murder people. (Just to tag along; not to do the actual murdering.)
Oh, and he also actively kept in touch with the media, the police, and his targets. Here's a creepy-ass phone call he made to an intended victim:
Here's an equally creepy poem that he (or someone claiming to be him) sent to the media and the mayor's office in Sacramento, when he was still known under his original moniker, the East Area Rapist:
Here's a journal-style notebook page found near the scene of his 42nd attack, titled "Mad Is The Word":
It's about how much he hated 6th grade, so at least we know he wasn't completely crazy.
And here's a hand-drawn map of a possibly fictional neighborhood thought to be the Stalker's fantasy about an ideal hunting ground, with the word "PUNISHMENT" scrawled on the back:
Actually, let's re-discuss that whole "completely crazy" part.
As for suspects, well, there are none. What few potential culprits the cops managed to round up were quickly eliminated from the equation. In fact, we've been so clueless about the Original Night Stalker, we weren't even able to link all of his murders to the guy until 2011.
But hey, this was decades ago. Maybe the dude got killed in a burglary attempt, or got caught for a murder never connected with the Night Stalker crimes and was sent to death row. Maybe he died of old age. We may never find out who did it, but at least the guy can't hurt anyone anymore.
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
The FBI begs to disagree. They're pretty sure that the Stalker is still out there, and their latest attempt to drum up the case is ... from this freaking year, actually. Investigators have roamed death rows and looked into burglar deaths, scrounging DNA evidence where they can and concluding that the Stalker is probably still very much alive. He's described as an athletic, dangerous yet unassuming 60- to 75-year-old man who is super proficient with firearms and probably has military training of some sort.
So, basically, all they need to do is to round up every old dude in California who seems like a combination of Dexter and Clint Eastwood's character in Gran Torino and start asking questions.
The YOGTZE Case
It's Anzhausen, Germany. On the evening of October 25, 1984, unemployed food technician Gunther Stoll and his wife were chilling at home, when he unexpectedly jumped up from his chair, yelled: "Now I've got it!" and grabbed a pen and a sheet of paper. Furiously, he scribbled down the word "YOGTZE". Then, he crossed it out, left the house, and embarked on one of the most confusing final journeys in recorded history. Here's a deliciously deadpan re-enactment of his last hours, courtesy of a German true crime show:
Stoll first drove to his favorite pub for a beer, because no matter what emotional turmoil may have been flushing through his head, the dude was still German. In the pub, he placed an order for a beer, then immediately fell to the floor hard enough to injure his face. Eyewitnesses swear Stoll seemed to be stone cold sober -- he just suddenly lost consciousness. After collecting his composure, Stoll drove away. No one knows what he did for the next two hours, but around 1 a.m., he turned up in his childhood neighborhood, six miles from the pub. Stoll knocked on the door of a woman he'd known since his youth, and gave her a monologue rant about a "horrible incident" that was about to happen. The justifiably weirded-out woman persuaded Stoll to either go home to his wife or take his problems to his parents (depends on which source you believe), until the guy took the hint and left.
Jump-cut to 3 a.m. Two truck drivers notice Stoll's wrecked car in a ditch, 62 miles away from where he was last seen. Stoll was sitting in the passenger's seat, completely naked and covered in blood. He died on the way to the hospital.
Now, Stoll was not a particularly stable dude. He had been nursing a fairly severe case of paranoia for quite some time. He genuinely believed that he was being stalked, and often complained to his wife about "them," a mysterious group that was plotting against him and would eventually try to kill him. So ... maybe he had a brain tumor or something? An undiagnosed mental illness that finally made his brain go boing?
Or just the shittiest luck in all of Germany?
It's just that Stoll totally didn't die in a car crash. He was run over by a car in a different location, and placed in his own, wrecked vehicle. Before he died, he told witnesses that he had been attacked by four people, and the truck drivers both saw an injured-looking person in a white jacket fleeing from the scene as they pulled over. It's almost like the otherwise completely unassuming guy who had been saying that a mysterious group was out to get him ... was killed by a mysterious group out to get him.
Was there a conspiracy? Was this just an unfortunate accident? Was Stoll drugged? Was he having strange premonitions of his impeding death? Or have sources just exaggerated the events over the years? Your guess is as good as the investigators', seeing as the case remains completely unsolved. Reddit can't come up with a solid theory. The mysterious "YOGTZE" (or maybe "YO6TZE", because Stoll's handwriting apparently sucked) note remains the only solid clue, and it's received its usual share of far-out interpretations. The note could mean a call-sign for Romanian amateur radio, part of Stoll's killers' license plate, a food technician reference to a yoghurt flavoring known as TZE, or just the ramblings of a maniac. We may never know.
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
Hahahahaha, wait. It could have been a yoghurt flavoring recipe? And there was a white-coated dude hovering around the crime scene? We could spin this into a "he uncovered some terrible dairy secret and Big Yoghurt sent some lab assistants to wreck his shit" conspiracy theory? Let's absolutely, totally go with that one. When in doubt, always blame yoghurt. That's my new life motto. I'll make shitty inspirational pictures and everything, see if I don't.
The Silenced Death Of Raymond Nels Nelson
Let's say that a high-powered Washington political player and respected journalist is brutally murdered in a way that would make Kingpin proud. That would be a massive story, right? Politicians would give sympathy speeches left and right while trying to leverage the tragedy into benefiting them somehow. There would be a nationwide manhunt for the killer. The media would have a field day. Shit would generally go down, is what I'm saying.
Then again, maybe it wouldn't. Because that exact scenario already played out in 1981, and your blank expression after reading that sentence tells how well that went in terms of public outcry.
This is Raymond Nels Nelson:
Washington power player, remember.
Nelson rose to prominence as the bureau chief of The Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin. He was a towering working-class type with tons of charisma, a natural understanding of politics, and an affinity for going against the odds, which he soon proved by becoming the campaign manager for future Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell and becoming his Administrative Assistant after a successful campaign. He went on to secure Pell's foothold in Washington, and used his powers to funnel funding for education (Nelson heavily influenced the creation of the Pell Grant subsidies). On top of all that, Washington seemingly couldn't change him at all. He didn't become a faceless suit -- on the contrary, the more he spent time in the office of a Senator, the more he started to steer away from business wear in favor of the fashionable Carnaby Street style of the era, as seen above. Oh, and he also came out of the closet and became a huge gay rights activist. As a Senate employee. In 1976. Everything was going pretty well in the life of Raymond Nels Nelson, right up to the point where he was murdered. On June 1, 1981, he was found in his apartment, amidst scattered magazines and newspapers. His head had been bashed in with a large typewriter.
What, did you think the header image for this entry was hyperbole?
Holy shit. Talk about a life story! Why aren't we seeing biopics of this guy, like, every other year?
It's a good question. Of course there were news articles and sad speeches. There were rumors about love triangles gone bad and whatnot. Senator Pell was a frequent target of speculation: He and Nelson had fallen out at some point, possibly because the whole "openly gay dude in Washington" thing had caused Pell to demote Nelson and relegate him to a windowless basement office. Nelson's family even received a neat $50,000 compensation from the Senate. But while everyone did go through the motions, the officials' interest was lukewarm at best, and veiled-ly threatening at worst. Quoth Nelson's daughter:
"I remember that, with the overwhelming fear and fallout in the aftermath of the crime, there also seemed to be a tacit warning, agreed upon by family and friends, that we be silent, not ask questions, and certainly not demand answers. Over the years, when we've tried to re-kindle police and others' involvement, our efforts have first been met with initial interest, followed by promises, then unreturned calls, and, finally, silence."
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
An openly gay former journalist that looked like a hobo Kurt Vonnegut, gleefully mucking up Washington's established power circles like some sort of commoner? Poetically bludgeoned to death with a newsman's greatest weapon, while the police do their absolute minimum to solve the case? Man, I'm sorry. I know I should spin some giant, political conspiracy theory, but I really, really want this to be just some random burglary gone wrong. Or, even better, a freak accident where he ... uh, slipped, and grabbed the table, and the typewriter fell on him as he was lying on the floor?
I mean, that's almost certainly not what happened, but all other scenarios are way the hell too close to House Of Cards for comfort.
Ashley Freeman And Lauria Bible Disappear In Flames
On the night of December 29, 1999, Kathy and Danny Freeman set out to celebrate their daughter Ashley's 16th birthday in their remote mobile home in Vinita, Oklahoma. Lauria Bible, Ashley's best friend, was also present.
The next morning, the mobile home had burned down. The remains of Ashley's parents were found in the rubble. Both of them had been shot in the head. Ashley and Lauria were nowhere to be found. No $50,000 reward or TV show appearance has been able to uncover anything about their fate.
As seen in Disappeared.
The problem here is not that there are no suspects or motives. On the contrary -- it seems like half the area had the means and/or motivation to attack the Freemans, including the Freemans themselves. Pretty much the only person who can't be considered a suspect is, strangely, Ashley's boyfriend, who actually was present at the party but left around 9:30. Danny had a reputation as a small-time drug trafficker. Had the drug lords paid them a visit that had gone all Breaking Bad? Maybe! There's no evidence. What about Ashley killing her parents after an argument? Maybe! But what the hell happened to her and Lauria afterwards? It doesn't help that convicted murderers and death row prisoners like Tommy Lynn Sells and Jeremy Brian Jones have also inserted their spoons in the soup and claimed to have killed the Freemans and Lauria. Even stranger, people involved with the case have been known to mention that the area's residents seem to know (or at least suspect) more than they let on, and seem to be afraid of whoever they think either is behind the murders or doesn't want them discussed.
Lauria's mother continues to champion the investigation in social media, but at this point, things seem fairly grim. Posts about the case have yielded responses from people who claim they saw the girls alive in a car after the fire (good), but also private messages that sent the investigators searching for the girls' bones in the well of an old murder house (less good).
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
Look, you're not fooling me with fires and gunshots. I was 12 when the It miniseries came out. I know there's only one explanation when kids disappear in mysterious conditions without a trace, and the whole town seems eerily oblivious to the whole situation.
"They all float here."
Fuck you, Pennywise. Serves you right they're turning you into a low-rent Shakespeare actor with an overbite.
Then again, the Freeman family just so happened to have a longstanding feud with the county's Sheriff's department, because a deputy shot their son after he stole a neighbor's truck and rifle. They were planning to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the department, and shortly before the incident, the father allegedly told his brother that if something happened to him, the Sheriff's men would probably be responsible. But surely, that's pure fantasy. Surely, something like the guys tasked with upholding the law in the area actually committing murders and abducting minors wouldn't be enough to turn the investigation into a complete clusterfuck and spread fear in the area.
Cleveland Torso Murders
You don't get nicknames like "Mad Butcher Of Kingsbury Run" or "Cleveland Torso Murderer" if your method of mayhem is tickling your victims to death with lilies. As such, whoever was behind the nickname was brutal enough to make Jack The Ripper scoff and say, "Whoa, chill a bit, dude, why don't you?" For starters, we don't know how many people the guy killed. He may have been active between the 1920s and 1950s, and accumulated at least 20 victims over that time. Depending on which investigator you ask, the same person may also have been behind several other era-famous cases like the Lady Of The Lake murder of 1934, the decapitation slayings of New Castle, Pennsylvania, and even the famous Black Dahlia murder.
Personally, I like to believe that the same person was behind all of those, if only because the culprit of the New Castle murders was dubbed "The Murder Swamp Killer," which would have completed this guy's trifecta of insane horror movie nicknames. However, for the purpose of keeping things simple, we'll focus on the "official" 12 murders, which took place between 1935 and 1938 in Cleveland's Kingsbury Run area.
Giving a whole new meaning to the term "rough neighborhood."
For all intents and purposes, the Torso Murderer may have been the OG superstrong, crazed ax murderer, the one few scary movies touch today because the trope has been beaten to death. He decapitated and dismembered his victims, generally while they were still alive. (The dismembering bit. Once you are decapitated you are usually pretty dead.) He castrated the male ones. He stole the occasional rib, and presumably a whole bunch of other body parts, because not nearly all the heads and limbs were recovered. At least one victim was covered in a strange chemical coating that turned his skin leathery, because fuck you, everything's a horror movie now. Finally, he hid his disassembled victims in various creepy locations. Some victims were found under bridges, a year after their death. Others were found decomposing in burlap sacks, others still were left on nearby dumps, their head hidden in a can.
"Dude, seriously, stop overachieving. You're giving the rest of us a bad name." -- Ed Gein, probably.
Despite massive manhunts where even a certain Eliot Ness found himself associated with the case, the fact that most of the bodies were in bad shape and massively decomposed (and, presumably, because the killer exclusively targeted the city's shantytown-dwelling working poor), finding valid leads turned out to be difficult. Eventually, a 52-year-old bricklayer called Frank Dolezal emerged as the likely culprit, confessed, and nigh-immediately died mysteriously in his cell with six broken ribs his friends swear he didn't have when they took him in. Shockingly enough, his name has since been cleared.
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
I've always had an affinity for armchair investigators who lose themselves over a single case, study it for years, and then waltz in the limelight with a revolutionary new theory that totally solves the case, usually while marketing their new book. With that in mind, here's teacher and true crime writer James Badal.
When a guy who looks like this tells you that he has answers, you listen and say thank you.
Badal has been investigating the case for 18 years and four books, and has uncovered a potential new suspect -- a local mad doctor called Francis E. Sweeney. According to his research, Eliot Ness actually secretly suspected Sweeney and interviewed him at least once, during which Sweeney failed an early version of a lie detector test twice. Ness' suspicion apparently wasn't enough to look more carefully into Sweeney, but Badal kept digging. In 2014, he concluded that Sweeney is far and away the most likely culprit: Not only did a vagrant called Emil Fronek claim that Sweeney tried to drug him just before the killings started, but Badal's evidence also indicates that the doctor actually had a bona fide evil lair where he performed murderous experiments on his victims, This, of course ... uh, actually makes complete sense when you remember that the human body has all sorts of hard bits that make dismemberment pretty hard to pull off on the fly. And, just like that, a hulking, ax-wielding brute roaming the streets becomes a deranged scientist, stalking his hapless victims and dragging them to his terror dungeon for eldritch experiments.
Wait, hold on. That's actually worse.
Pauli Poisuo is a Cracked weekly columnist and freelance editor. Here he is on Facebook and Twitter.
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