5 Creepy Crimes We Can Never Solve
Hi, friend! Do you remember that time you were murdered in such a ruthless, strange manner that the crime is destined to mystify law enforcement for decades to come? No? Really? Uh, my time machine's probably off by a few weeks. Forget I said anything.
Still, while you're here, maybe you can help me in a related matter. I've been looking into strange, unsolved deaths and trying to figure them out. However, it turns out that I'm way better at committing crimes than solving them, so I really could use another brain. Here, grab this deerstalker hat and join me as we try to solve some of the strangest bullshit in the history of murder mysteries.
The Mysterious Mauling Of Sir Harry Oakes
Harry Oakes was as close to a real-world Scrooge McDuck as it gets. He earned his first fortune as a prospector in the great gold rush to the Klondike, and then went on to amass several others with a number of savvy business moves. By the 1940s, he was one of the richest men in the world, living in luxury in the Bahamas.
Still, not everyone liked the man. On July 8, 1943, Oakes was found dead in his mansion. The 68-year-old magnate had been brutally bludgeoned to death and partially burned. Apparently, the Scrooge McDuck connotations had not gone unnoticed by the murderer, because the body had also been strewn with feathers.
"Burning? Feathers? Case fucking closed, it was clearly a tumor." -- WebMD armchair detectives everywhere
As tends to be the case with grisly high-profile murders, the news exploded all over the media like a fleet of manure trucks crashing into a wind turbine factory. Authorities managed to locate a potential culprit in Count Alfred de Marigny, Oakes' troublesome playboy son-in-law who was on notoriously bad terms with him. However, a trial uncovered both a rock-tight alibi and crooked investigators who had planted de Marigny's fingerprint on the murder scene in an attempt to frame him, so he was soon in the clear.
No other suspect was ever located, let alone brought to court. Still, that doesn't mean that suspicious people weren't aplenty. One of the most famous and creepy people hovering around the case is none other than, oh, the freaking Duke of Windsor. The abdicated King Edward VIII was serving as Governor-General of the Bahamas at the time, and happened to be a close personal friend of Oakes. According to writer William Boyd's investigations, immediately after hearing about the case, the ol' duke descended upon the investigation like a squadron of Inspector Clouseaus, making decisions so baffling that even Frank Drebin would call bullshit. He personally visited the crime scene for literally no reason. He overruled the local police by inexplicably summoning two detectives from Miami, both of whom were personal acquaintances of his. (Hey, can you guess who "found" that planted fingerprint?) He even initially attempted to prevent the media from writing about the murder, and despite his prominence in handling the case, he arranged a trip away from the island during the court proceedings so he wouldn't have to attend.
"I had a note from my doctor. I'm allergic to blatant horseshit."
Still, while this is all highly suspicious, it's unlikely that an ex-king accidentally maimed a rich dude to death in a game of flame pillow war (although you're all free to enjoy that mental image). Most sources seem to agree that the duke was most likely operating out of panic. For an already scandal-drenched member of the royal family, a highly-publicized murder of his domain's wealthiest resident is the equivalent of pooping your pants at a party. There's also the fact that he might have had some shady business dealings with Oakes, which might have motivated the attempt to frame de Marigny (whose guts the duke just so happened to hate).
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
The case has sprouted the exact sea of wild-ass theories you'd assume. Some say the gangster Lucky Luciano offed Oakes in a mob message to the fools resisting his attempts to turn the Bahamas into a gambling paradise. Others claim the murderer was a vengeful voodoo priest whose wife the victim was boning. Or maybe it was Oakes' lawyer. Or his estranged wife. Hell, here's me throwing my own bullshit theory in the mix: It was the asshole poodle of the billionaire next door.
"Can you at least jail the poodle anyway? It kept shitting on my lawn."
Or I guess it might have been Oakes' business partner, who appears to have actually been in the house during the murder. No one ever thought to accuse him because he was totally sleeping soundly two bedrooms away during the killing, honestly, guys.
But that would be just insane, wouldn't it?
The Daylight Slaying Of Ken McElroy
Picture, if you will, the most stereotypically ogrish small town oaf, with all the trimmings. A huge, illiterate guy who constantly carries a gun and liberally threatens to violence-punch anyone and everyone at the slightest provocation. Congratulations! You've just painted a mental picture of Ken Rex McElroy, dickhole extraordinaire. For years and years, Ken terrorized the town of Skidmore, MO with the kind of imaginative cruelty that would make Trevor from GTA V raise an eyebrow. He indulged in all sorts of drunken villainy, and gleefully picked up dozens of felony accusations -- none of which stuck, because when you're living in a small town with a crazy violent guy who would eventually be played in a movie by Brian fucking Dennehy, you tend to think twice before pressing charges.
The only charge he knows is directly toward you, screaming.
After decades of establishing himself as Skidmore's own Gaston-with-a-lot-more-statutory-rape, Brian Denne-- uh, Ken McElroy was caught because of the minor technicality of shooting a 70-year-old grocery store guy halfway to death because he'd complained about Ken's shoplifting kids. And that was the end of the Bully of Skidmore.
... for about five minutes. He appealed, was released on bond, and immediately went on a berserk harassment campaign against the grocer dude and everyone in town who had shown sympathy to him. Because who's going to defend a man's right to shotgun people in the neck, if not the man himself? He went as far as confronting his victim at a local bar, brandishing a gun and threatening to kill him. At this point, someone presumably had enough of his shit. I'm saying "presumably," because although we don't know for sure, the fact that someone killed him the very next day kind of hints at that.
On July 10, 1981, McElroy got drunk at a bar, bought a six-pack, and was sitting in his pickup truck with his wife when suddenly a hail of bullets peppered his vehicle, and him.
That's, uh, certainly an outcome.
This happened in broad daylight, in front of an estimated 40 townspeople, and the assailant(s) aimed the bullet storm directly at him (the wife survived). After the bully dropped down, his lifeless foot on the gas pedal still revving up the engine, everyone wandered off to go about their day. Mysteriously, none of them saw a thing.
The murder goes unsolved to this day.
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
Although no one can prove anything (and no one seems to be in a great hurry to do so), let's be honest here. This was a mob justice thing by the folks Ken kept assaulting and threatening, and probably as close to justified as such things will ever be. It's obvious.
In fact, a little too obvious, isn't it? Look at this picture of Ken McElroy:
Immediately after this was taken, he ate the dog.
Isn't that the dude from every 1980s B-action movie who starts giving shit to a passing Steven Seagal right before getting beaten with a cue ball and strangled with his own urethra? The exact guy whom you'd assume would pull a "Hey, buddy, we don't take kindly to strangers here" on a traveler at a local bar, only to find out they just pissed off the Punisher?
Sure is! I'm not saying that McElroy started giving his usual shit to a passing Frank Castle, only to get sprayed with bullets as the locals watched on. I'm just heavily implying it.
The West Mesa Murders
In 2009, Albuquerque, New Mexico went a long way toward establishing Breaking Bad as a documentary. A vacant 92-acre lot on the outskirts of the city turned out to play shallow grave to 11 badly decomposed bodies. The victims were mostly Hispanic prostitutes with a host of substance abuse issues, apart from the one who was recognized as a 15-year-old who disappeared in 2004. Although their cause of death was ultimately unclear (cops ended up just listing it as "homicidal violence"), the case immediately raised a whole bunch of serial killer flags, and the media dubbed the perpetrator the "West Mesa Bone Collector."
"Shit, they're on to me."
Ordinarily, 11 dead women with a mysterious cause of death would be the starter pistol for a months-long media feeding frenzy, but since the find was in the ass end of nowhere, even from the Albuquerque residents' point of view, and the victims were not exactly on the upper rungs of the social ladder, the case received surprisingly little attention. The investigators did manage to tie the fates of the ladies to the New Mexico State Fair, which attracted large numbers of prostitutes in the area. They investigated a photographer who frequented the festival, but ultimately were unable to connect him to the case.
The cops are still technically investigating what they officially call the 118th Street Homicides, but a tight budget, a number of internal scandals, and virtually no public pressure to crack the case have pretty much guaranteed that it will never be solved, unless the perpetrator is caught burying 11 new victims on a neighboring lot or someone stumbles on a million-to-one clue. The closest things to actual suspects that we've had are unsavory local resident Lorenzo Montoya and Joseph Blea, a hardcore sex offender who stalked the area with a ski mask, knife, and the charming nickname "Mckinley Middle School Rapist." However, since the former was shot by a pimp in 2006 (to be fair, Montoya was strangling a prostitute at the time) and the latter is a 58-year-old who has recently been slapped with a 36-year prison sentence for being far too rapey for anyone's good, these lines of investigation are unlikely to yield any significant outcome.
"Are you crazy, man? There's no way we can connect this guy to any prostitute murders."
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
I'm conflicted. On the one hand, killer carnies from the state fair are an enticing idea, but ... come on, people. Proper horror movie murders in an area where there's already a guy stalking away with a damn mask and a knife? One who already has a fear-inducing nickname? Man, my money's totally on Joseph Blea. The best move authorities ever made was hauling his ass to jail before the mob figured things out and chased him down with pitchforks, because mark my words: A guy with that resume is going to Freddy Krueger the shit out of the area when he dies.
Bible John, The Ballroom Killer
Bible John is a serial killer you'd expect to see in a no-budget ripoff version of Se7en, starring "Bradley Pit" and "Corgan Freenun." But for the residents of Glasgow in 1969, the name was fear itself. The first of his three victims was a 25-year-old nurse found naked and strangled in a lane close to her home on February 23, 1968. She had been dancing at the Barrowland Ballroom, where she presumably met the killer.
"Murders and ballroom dancing? Overkill, dude." -- the devil, probably
In August 15, 1969, the killer struck again, now strangling, assaulting, and beating to death a 32-year-old woman. Once again, the killer had hooked up with his victim at the same dance club. This time, there were witnesses, as several people said they'd seen the woman leave the place with a tall red-haired man. A couple of months later, the pattern repeated, once again at Barrowland Ballroom. This time, the victim and the killer apparently had taken a taxi drive with the victim's sister, whom they dropped off at her home. The sister described the man as a well-spoken, extremely religious guy who introduced himself as "John Templeton" and had a penchant for quoting the Bible in a conversation (this apparently raised no red flags for anyone). She was even able to provide a description for a portrait:
"So the guy's name was John, and he liked to quote the Bible. Shit, how will we ever come up with a nickname for him?"
Now armed with a face to attach the nickname to (and assisted by the extra layer of creepy that all the victims were on their periods), the police (and the media) embarked on the largest manhunt in Scotland's history. Over 100 detectives worked on the case, collecting over 50,000 statements from door-to-door inquiries alone. There was just one problem: Despite all the manpower assigned to the case, there were precisely zero proper leads. Also, the killer apparently got the hint and stopped his attacks.
Suspects did emerge, because how could they not in a manhunt that big? However, all of them were duds. Though the case is still nominally open and DNA inquiries are being made, these days, many just sort of assume the murders were the early work of serial killer Peter Tobin -- a noted sex criminal responsible for three similar killings between 1991 and 2006 -- and leave it at that.
He doesn't look like a ballroom dancer, though I wouldn't put it past him.
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
It's weird. There are tons of contradicting evidence around the case. For instance, we've probably been searching for the wrong-looking person all along. According to retired Glasgow detective Bryan McLaughlin, cops shot the investigation in the leg right from the get-go by relying nigh-solely on a portrait made according to a description from an eyewitness who'd, by her own admission, had a few (although she insisted she was "barely tipsy" at the time). Not that being absolutely hammered would have hampered her chances of giving an accurate description, though, because even at their best and most sober, eyewitness accounts are unreliable as hell. Besides, the sister estimated that the man was around 5'10'' -- hardly the super-tall dude the second victim was seen leaving with.
Oh, and McLaughlin also points out that Peter Tobin, the serial killer everyone seems to secretly suspect is the culprit, is far too young and short to match literally any description of the killer. It's almost like the killers were different people ...
... In fact, you know what? Never mind that trail of thought. I'm going to go ahead and say that the victims were all systematically stalked by a ruthless killer with a very strict quota, a penchant for elevator shoes of varying heights, and, uh, the ability to smell blood or whatever. Because the idea that there exists three separate dickheads who'd drunkenly rape and kill a girl after a night out just because her menstrual cycle doesn't match their idea of a side alley quickie is just too far-fetched to believe.
The Keddie Murders
Since 1981, the good people of Keddie, Northern California have been living right next door to a real-life version of Camp Crystal Lake: Keddie Resort, a beautiful and popular mountainside enclave that was considered such a gem that people drove hundreds of miles just to dine there.
At least, until the murders.
In the evening of April 11, 1981, Sue Sharp, her four children, and two of the kids' friends retired to the lodge the Sharps were renting. Only three of them would walk out.
At some point during the night, someone entered the cabin and tied up Sue, her eldest children Tina (12) and John (15), and John's friend Dana Wingate (17). What happened next involved claw hammers, blunt instruments, knives (one of which was found bent useless from the force of the blows), enough blood to warrant the descriptive "everywhere," and vicious inventiveness that left such a mess that it took a while for the sheriff's deputies to realize that only three of the bodies were actually present. Whoever had done this had also taken Tina, whose bones would be found three years later and 29 miles from Keddie, near another camp site.
It gets stranger, so now's a good time to hide under the blanket for a while.
Now here's the creepy part (well, creepier part): There were plenty of other cabins around, but throughout all the splatter movie insanity, no one heard anything from Cabin 28, where Sue and her charges were staying. In fact, no one even heard anything in the cabin -- the two youngest Sharp kids and their friend were found unharmed in their bedroom, presumably (and hopefully) having slept through the entire ordeal. Someone turned several people into human soup overnight, and even the people inside didn't hear a sound.
The Stephen King story of the crime soon gave way to a Tom Clancy tome's worth of a response. Every imaginable government agency piled on top of one another in an enthusiastic but ultimately futile effort to find the culprit. It soon became apparent that their investigations were little more than a choreographed display of Keystone-Cops-level ineptitude. The case grew cold, then briefly reheated with the discovery of Tina's skull in 1989, and then sunk into oblivion once more. Although the rumor mill found 13 "certain" culprits (mostly, the rumor mill revolved around drug mishaps, because come on, it was a campsite in the 1980s), the killer was never caught. Keddie was left with a resort no one would go near and which no one would buy, and many locals now think it is haunted as fuck.
And that, friend, is how you create a real-life horror movie town.
Feel free to spice it up with clowns if you like.
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
Why didn't the closest neigbors hear the murders? Because they were too busy committing them.
According to some sources, the people next door -- Martin and Marilyn Smartt, and their friend John Boubede -- were on good terms with the Sharps, to the point where Boubede wanted to know Sue, uh, a little better. On what I'm going to just up and call "that fateful night," Boubede and Martin -- both Vietnam vets and presumably drunk as shit -- visited Cabin 28 with shenanigans in mind. The situation escalated, rage ensued, and the rest is history. How do we know this? Because Marilyn Smartt has heavily insinuated that her husband and Boubede were involved, and also one of the kids who survived the cabin talked about the encounter. (Yeah, according to this theory, at least one of the kids was totally awake and witnessed the entire ordeal. Sorry.) Is there any truth to it? Hard to say. I certainly hope not, because that would mean the most obvious suspects for a bloodiest quadruple homicide in the history of the county managed to dodge everything law enforcement could throw at them while still scraping brain matter from under their nails. Still, whatever else this theory may have produced, at least it left us with a police sketch of the possible killers:
Now hold on just a second. That's it. The case is closed. Clearly, John Lennon faked his death and hit the West Coast with Ringo in tow to prove the Stones aren't the "tough" ones after all.
For more unexplained mysteries, learn how a blimp crashed with seemingly no one inside in 5 Creepy Unsolved Disappearances That Nobody Can Explain, and see why Pauli is our resident unsolved crimes expert in 4 Terrifying Crimes (That We'll Never Solve).
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