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.
Kent State University Press
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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