Some deaths stick with us. Some lives are extinguished in such strange and horrifying ways that they haunt us for years. They become those famous murders that dominate headlines and airwaves around the world and haunt our collective dreams.
From the Black Dahlia to Lizzie Borden to the Hinterkaifeck Murders, the stories behind these famous murders remain haunting to this day.
1 | The Acid Bath Murderer
John George Haigh was a murderer in the UK in the 1940s who thought he could avoid getting caught if there were no bodies — so he dissolved his victims in baths of acid. Unfortunately, there was still quite a bit of evidence to prove he killed six people, so he was executed. Though, he claimed to have killed nine people in total.
Haigh battered to death or shot his victims and disposed of their bodies using sulphuric acid before forging their signatures so he could sell their possessions and collect large sums of money. Today he is notoriously known as the Acid Bath Murderer.
2 | The Reinert Murders
In June 1979, Pennsylvania high school principal Jay C. Smith murdered his coworker, Susan Reinert. Her body was found weeks later in her car. Her kids went missing too, but their bodies were never found. Smith was believed to be conspiring with Reinert’s boyfriend, William Bradfield, of the time to inherit Reinert’s life insurance.
Jay C. Smith was convicted and sentenced to death in 1986 for the 1979 murder of Susan Reinert and her two children, Karen and Michael. He spent six years on Pennsylvania’s death row until his conviction was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court due to prosecutorial misconduct. Strangely, Smith’s daughter Stephanie Hunsberger, and her husband Edward Hunsberger, were reported missing in 1978 and never have been found.
3 | Elizabeth Báthory
Also known as “The Blood Countess” in the 1600s, Báthory is often referred to as the most prolific female serial killer of all time. The Hungarian countess purportedly tortured and murdered over 650 young women with the help of four other people, and would bathe in the blood of virgins to stay young!
On December 30, 1609, Báthory and her servants were arrested. The servants were put on trial in 1611, and three were executed. Although never tried, Báthory was confined to her chambers at Castle C̆achtice. She remained there until she died.
4 | Murder Of Junko Furuta
In November 1988, 16-year-old Junko Furuta was kidnapped by four boys and held hostage in one of their homes in Tokyo. After beating, raping, and torturing her for 44 days, the boys tossed her lifeless body into a giant drum filled with concrete. Known throughout Japan as Concrete-encased High School Girl, the case of Junko Furuta drew nationwide attention owing to the sheer brutality the girl had to endure before death found her.
5 | The Dark History Behind The Lizzie Borden House
“Lizzie Border took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” This macabre rhyme will be familiar to anyone who has grown up in the Massachusetts area. In 1892, Lizzie Borden of Fall River was tried and acquitted for the gory murders of her father and mother. Her guilt has long been debated, with many believing that she did indeed carry out the killings. Though, officially she was found to be not guilty.
The story of Lizzie Borden and a visit to the scene of the unsolved murders is just the kind of grisly thing to fascinate and terrify thrillseekers. Many visitors have reported feeling ill upon staying in the home citing an oppressive feeling and a sense that they are being watched. The very brave can rent a room for the night in the infamous Borden house and test their courage.
6 | The Shoe Fetish Slayer
Jerry Brudos abducted, bludgeoned, and murdered four women. He claimed that women’s shoes were his “substitute for pornography,” and used the severed foot of one of his victims to model shoes in his home. Police also found severed breasts being used as paperweights in his home. So sick!
Jerry Brudos’ love for shoes began at the age of five after he rescued a pair of high-heel shoes from the garbage. As he grew older, his unusual interest in shoes developed into a fetish which he satisfied by breaking into homes to steal shoes and women’s underwear.
When he was in his teens he added violence to his repertoire and began knocking down girls, choking them until they were unconscious, then stealing their shoes. At age 17 he was sent to the Oregon State Hospital psychiatric ward after he confessed to holding a girl at knife-point in a hole he dug in the side of a hill for the purpose of enslaving her for sex. There he forced her to pose nude while he took pictures.
Brudos was released from the hospital after nine months, even though it was clear he had developed a need to act out his violent fantasies towards women. According to his hospital records, his violence toward women developed from a deep hatred he felt for his mother.
7 | Cleveland Torso Murders
Someone killed and dismembered at least 12 people in the 1930s, and the killer was never found. Body parts were scattered all over Cleveland, Ohio — the first parts found by kids playing in a field — and only two of the 12 victims were ever identified.
Most victims came from an area east of Kingsbury Run called The Roaring Third, known for its bars, gambling dens and brothels. Another name for this area was “Hobo Jungle”, as it was home to many vagrants. Despite an investigation of the murders, which at one time was led by famed lawman Eliot Ness, then Cleveland’s Public Safety Director, the murderer was never apprehended.
8 | The Black Dahlia Murder Case
Elizabeth Short, more famously known as the Black Dahlia, was found murdered in Los Angeles, California, on January 15, 1947. Because of the grisly nature of her case, which included her corpse being mutilated and severed from the waist, it gained rapid national attention. The details surrounding Short’s life are largely unknown, rather than she was an aspiring actress. The case is one commonly cited as being one of Los Angeles County’s most infamous unsolved murders.
9 | The Woodchipper Murder
After learning of her husband’s multiple affairs, Helle Nielsen went missing in November 1986. A snowplow driver later told police he’d seen Crafts’s husband using a woodchipper recently in the woods, and human remains were soon found that confirmed that her body had been frozen and then put through the chipper. This case supposedly was an inspiration for the movie Fargo.
Helle Nielsen married Richard Crafts in 1979 and settled with him in Newtown, Connecticut, United States. Helle continued working as a flight attendant while raising their three children. By 1985, she had learned that Richard had engaged in several affairs. In September 1986, Helle met with a divorce attorney and hired a private investigator, Oliver Mayo, who snapped photos of Richard kissing another flight attendant outside her New Jersey home.
On November 18, 1986, friends dropped Helle off at the couple’s Newtown residence after she had worked for a long flight from Frankfurt, West Germany. She was never seen again. That night, a snowstorm hit the area. The next morning, Richard said he was taking Helle and their children to his sister’s house in Westport. When he arrived, Helle was not with him.
Over the next few weeks, Richard gave Helle’s friends a variety of stories as to why they were unable to reach her: that she was visiting her mother in Denmark, that she was visiting the Canary Islands with a friend, or that he simply did not know her whereabouts. Helle’s friends were aware that Richard had a volatile temper and grew concerned. Helle had told some of them, “If something happens to me, don’t think it was an accident.” She was not reported missing until December 1.
10 | The Butcher Of Hanover
Fritz Haarmann sexually assaulted, mutilated, dismembered, and murdered more than 24 boys between 1919–1924 in Germany. He was found guilty for the majority of the murders, and was sentenced to death by beheading in late 1924. In addition, in accordance with German practice, his honorary rights of citizenship were revoked. He was subsequently executed in April 1925.
Haarmann became known as the Butcher of Hanover due to the extensive mutilation and dismemberment committed upon his victims’ bodies and by such titles as the “Vampire of Hanover” and the “Wolf-Man” because of his preferred murder method of biting into or through his victims’ throats.
11 | Belle Gunness
Brynhild Paulsdatter Storset, better known as Belle Gunness is a Norwegian-American serial killer who would lure men to her farm, take out life insurance policies on them or have them bring a bunch of money so they could “invest in her growing property,” kill them, then feed them to her pigs. She also killed most of her boyfriends, her two husbands, and both of her daughters.
She was also known as Hell’s Belle, the Black Widow and Lady Bluebeard because of her infamous reputation as a murderer with an affinity for killing men who were romantically attracted to her. The exact number of men she killed is unknown ― estimated to be between 14 and 40 victims ― but one thing is for sure, men and sadly children that crossed her path were always in danger of being her next victim.
12 | The Hinterkaifeck Murders
In 1922, the gruesome murder of a family that took lives of 6 people happened in Hinterkaifeck, a small farm 70km north of Munich, Germany. Few days prior to the murder, homeowner Andreas Gruber noticed some footprints from the forest in the snow leading into the back of the family home, but none leading out.
Since then, they heard strange footsteps in the attic and discovered a newspaper they never bought. It prompted their maid to leave the house in a hurry. On the day of the murder, a new maid arrived, and along with the family, she was also killed by someone using a pickaxe. The killer was never caught despite the large-scale investigation.
13 | The Murder Of Karina Holmer
A 20-year-old Swedish au pair disappeared outside a Boston nightclub at 3 AM on June 23rd, 1996. Later that day, her upper body was found in a dumpster. The murder has never been solved, and the killer and the motive for her killing remain unknown, as are the whereabouts of the lower half of her body.
14 | Joseph Kallinger
In July 1974, Joseph Kallinger and his 12-year-old son, Michael, entered four separate families’ homes by pretending to be salesmen in Philadelphia Baltimore and New Jersey. When inside, they robbed and sexually assaulted those families and killed three people.
On January 8, 1975, they continued their crime spree in Leonia, New Jersey. Using a pistol and a knife, they overpowered and tied up the three residents. Then, when others entered the home, they were forced to strip and were bound with cords from lamps and other appliances.
This culminated in the killing of 21-year-old nurse Maria Fasching, the eighth person to arrive, when she refused to follow Kallinger’s orders he responded by stabbing her in the neck and back. Another of the residents, still bound, managed to get outside and cry for help. Neighbours saw her and called the police.
By the time they arrived the Kallingers had fled, using the city bus as their getaway vehicle and dumping their weapons and a bloody shirt along the way. Kallinger was arrested and sentenced to life in prison in 1976, and died in 1996 of heart failure.
Previously, Kallinger was arrested and imprisoned in 1972 when his children went to the police. While in jail, Kallinger had scored 82 on an IQ test and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and state psychiatrists recommended that he be supervised with his family. The children later recanted their allegations.
Two years later, one of his children, Joseph, Jr., was found dead in an abandoned construction building, two weeks after Kallinger took out a large life insurance policy on his sons. Though Kallinger claimed that Joseph, Jr. had run away from home, the insurance company, suspecting foul play, refused to pay out the claim.
15 | Dean Corll – The Candy Man
Dean Arnold Corll was an American serial killer who abducted, raped, tortured, and murdered at least 29 teenage boys and young men between 1970 and 1973 in Houston, Texas. He used two teen accomplices, David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley, to lure boys to his house with promises of a party or a ride home. The crimes, which became known as the Houston Mass Murders, came to light after his accomplice Wayne Henley eventually had enough with it, and fatally shot Croll. Upon discovery, it was considered the worst example of serial murder in US history.
16 | The Brides In The Bath Murders
George Joseph Smith was an English serial killer and bigamist. In the 1910s, George would find a nice rich lady to marry, make sure she had life insurance that named him as the beneficiary — and then they’d mysteriously all die in bathtubs. The case becomes known as the Brides in the Bath Murders. George was suspected of having murdered three of his wives, but due to laws of the time, was only convicted of one.
Being widely reported in the media, the case was significant in the history of forensic pathology and detection. It was also one of the first cases in which similarities between connected crimes were used to prove deliberation, a technique used in subsequent prosecutions.
17 | Vlado Taneski
Vlado Taneski was a journalist from a small town in Macedonia who murdered three women between the ages of 50 and 70. After their bodies were found, he’d go to the women’s families and write about them for the paper. These articles had aroused the suspicion of the police, since they contained information which had not been released to the public. After DNA tests connected Taneski to the murders, he was arrested in June 2008 in his hometown of Kičevo. The day after he was imprisoned, he committed suicide, but there are theories that he was killed.
18 | The Murder Of Betsy Aardsma
In November 1969, 22-year-old student Aardsma was in the “Stacks” area of Pattee Library at the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) when she was stabbed once in the chest. There was so little blood that no one knew she’d been stabbed until she arrived at the hospital. 47 years later, police are still actively taking information on the case. Though Aardsma’s murder remains officially unsolved, local investigative reporters and two different authors have published testimony and reports of circumstantial evidence which incriminate Penn State geology professor Richard Haefner.
19 | The Murder Of Sylvia Likens
16-year-old Sylvia Likens was entrusted to a family friend, Gertrude Baniszewski, while her parents travelled. But the caregiver could not, in fact, be trusted. The Indiana murderer Gertrude facilitated the torture and murder of teen Sylvia Likens. She managed to involve an entire neighbourhood of kids ― including her own seven children, Likens’s other friends, boyfriend, and even her sister Jenny ― to help her kill Sylvia. The case has been called the “single worst crime perpetrated against an individual in the state’s history.”
20 | The Dupont de Ligonnès Murders And Disappearance
Five members of the same family in Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, France, were mysteriously murdered on April 21, 2011. The exact nature of the events has never been determined, but the father of the family, Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, has been missing ever since. He is the subject of an international arrest warrant and is considered the prime suspect in the murders. Even creepier! The family home’s lease had been completely terminated, and all bank accounts closed, with a note on the mailbox that said, “Return all mail to sender.”
21 | Katherine Knight
Katherine Mary Knight is the first Australian woman to be given life imprisonment without parole, who in October 2001, stabbed her husband John Charles Thomas Price to death, skinned him, cooked him, and placed his body parts on plates along with name place cards next to them with the intention of feeding them to his children. Knight is currently imprisoned at the Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre in New South Wales.
Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm?
On April 18, 1943, four local boys by the named of Robert Hart, Thomas Willetts, Bob Farmer and Fred Payne, were poaching or bird–nesting in Hagley Wood, part of the Hagley estate belonging to Lord Cobham near to Wychbury Hill, the UK when they came across a large wych elm tree where they found a human skeleton in its hollow trunk. One of them reported this discovery to the police.
Upon investigation, it was revealed that the corpse’s mouth was stuffed with taffeta, and hidden along with her body, a gold wedding ring and a shoe. The cause of death was suffocation and the body was placed in the elm when it was still warm. But when strange graffiti started appearing in crooks of the town with the question, “Who put Bella in the wych-elm?” the town turned into a living nightmare, making it one of those unsolved mysteries that never got an answer.
The Bear Brook Murders
On November 10, 1985, a hunter found a metal 55-gallon drum near the site of a burned-down store at Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, New Hampshire. Inside were either partially or completely skeletonized bodies of an adult female and young girl, wrapped in plastic. Autopsies determined both had died of blunt trauma between 1977 and 1985. 15 years later, another metal drum was discovered 100 feet away, this one containing the bodies of two more young girls ― one of whom was related to the people found in 1985. The fourth victim bore no relation to the others. The killer has never been identified and the case is still unsolved.