Even the most seasoned true crime aficionados probably don’t know about the similar and possibly connected murders which occurred following the months after the killing of The Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short). I surely didn’t. Hollywood & Crime uncovers these horrific murders for a crime-hungry, twenty-first-century audience.
In this podcast series, host Tracy Pattin along with a team of talented actors tell the stories of these murdered women and the investigations into these crimes. Seventy plus years later these cases remain unsolved.
The podcast focuses on several different women: an heiress, a WWII flying nurse, a wife out for a good time who met a gruesome end, and the would-be actress with a seemingly bad reputation, The Black Dahlia. Yet, they all were murdered in a similar fashion around the same time. How did such different women with different paths meet the same end? We may never know.
If these crimes happened in 2017, or even 2007 (this January marked the seventy-year anniversary of The Black Dahlia murder), we would probably know the killer (or killers) due to DNA technology and a better understanding of crime scene contamination. This was a classic serial killer case before the term serial killer was even in the lexicon.
As I listened to these stories I wondered why don’t we know about these murders, which at the time were called The Werewolf Murders, like we do The Black Dahlia or other well-known crimes before the 1970’s? In my mind, the 70’s were terrifying and the epitome of all things serial killer. I’m not sure why these cases aren’t more talked about considering how sensationalized they were at the time. The podcast implies that The Black Dahlia murder was more reported and talked about than the others at the time-history proves that correct, which is why these other murders aren’t as well-known.
This podcast also mentions the theory that Elizabeth Short’s murderer was a woman. This theory is one I’ve come across in my years of looking up weirdness and murder on the Internet. I did a little research while writing this and wasn’t able to come up with much other than this post and a short Wikipedia entry. I thought it was interesting the police didn’t rule out the possibility of a female murderer. The podcast doesn’t discuss this for very long, but I’m glad they mentioned the theory.
I can’t say much more without giving anything away. Besides, Wondery does a much better job talking about murder than I do. Give it a listen on iTunes or here.
Running a little behind. Sometimes life happens and blogging doesn’t. Continuing on with the theme of vampire killers…
Peter Kürten, the Vampire of Dusseldorf was a German killer who committed a series of murders and sexual assaults in 1929.
Peter Kürten was from an abusive background and started killing small animals as a teen, classic serial killer behavior. He repeatedly ran away from home and lived on the streets with petty criminals. Later, Kürten claimed to have committed his first murder at age 9, when he drowned a friend. He also admitted to killing an 18-year-old girl in 1899 before his killing spree which earned him his nickname began.
In 1900, he was sentenced to a prison sentence for fraud and attempted murder. A short four years later, he was drafted into the German Army and deserted soon after. Around the same time he started setting fires for his own sexual excitement and was eventually arrested again for arson and robbery. He served another prison sentence from 1905 to 1913. Upon his release, he robbed a tavern where he murdered a nine-year-old girl by slashing her throat. Two months later, he killed another girl and several days later was arrested again for arson and burglary.
After this release, he moved in with his sister who introduced him to a woman named Auguste Scharf, who had been previously convicted of killing her husband. Its as a match made in murder heaven. They married two years later. Kürten was soon bored with marriage and started having an affair with two different housemaids. The two women reported him to the police, one claiming he raped her. Off to prison again…
He was out in six months under the condition to relocate to Dusseldorf. On February 2, 1929, Kürten stabbed an elderly woman 24 times and she survived. Five days later, he strangled a nine-year-old girl, stabbed her with scissors, and set her body on fire. Another week passed before he killed again. This time it was a male, who he stabbed 20 times. It should be noted here that the randomness of the victims is not normal, or conclusive with serial killer behavior, as most have a victim profile and M.O.
Between March to July 1929, he attempted to strangle four women. He did not kill again until August, when he raped, strangled, and stabbed a woman after a date. Kürten was still married at the time. Fearful his wife would see the blood, he buried her body and attempted to nail it to a tree. Three months later, he sent a letter to the police claiming responsibility for the murder. He also drew a map to her remains, which eventually led the police to the burial site.
He soon killed 5 people in two days, including a five-year-old girl. He attached her teenaged foster sister who survived and was able to give a description to the police. Around this time, is when he started sucking blood from victims. A month later, he killed 4 women in hammer attacks and attempted 2 more. The first victim survived, the second escaped because his hammer broke. In November 1929, he killed another five-year-old girl, with a pair of scissors. She would be his last victim.
During this time, the public was outraged the vicious killer had not yet been caught. The Düsseldorf Police received 13,000 letters in 1929 and had interviewed 9,000 people about the murders and attacks. Kürten had the infamous cooling off period and didn’t strike again until May 1930. This time, he picked up a young girl and attempted to rape and strangle her. She was able to get away when he released his grip on her throat.
The girl did not go to the police. This led to Kürten being caught by pure accident. The girl who escaped wrote a letter to her friend describing what happened. She addressed the letter incorrectly. A post office worker opened the letter, read it, reported it to the police. The police contacted the girl who led them to Kürten’s apartment where the attack at taken place. Kürten was caught t in the lobby of his apartmetn builidng. He confessed to police and to his wife that he was The Vampire of Dusseldorf.
After his arrest, Kürten was interviewed by a psychologist, who noted his acts were for sexual pleasure and he had a blood fetish. This information was the first psychological study conducted on a sexually-motivated killer. Kürten admitted to switching weapons in an attempt to throw off the police. He was declared sane and was able to stand trial. Kürten plead not guilty by reason of insanity, which did not work due to his earlier diagnosis. A jury found him guilty on April 22,1931 and he was sentenced to death. He tried to appeal, but it was denied. He was executed in July of that year by guillotine.
In the moments leading up to his death, he asked: “Tell me… after my head is chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures.”
He probably died a happy man.
After his death, his head was mummified and is currently on display at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum in Wisconsin Dells.
This serial killing duo should probably be more talked about than it is. I recently read about this one a few years ago, and it has stuck with me since. Carol Bundy (no relation to Ted) and Doug Clark, known as the Sunset Strip Killers went on a killing spree in the summer of 1980, resulting in the death of at least 9 people.
Carol Bundy had a troubled childhood, and was seemingly destined for a life of crime. She was abused by her family and married to a 56 year-old man. By the time the killings began, she’d been married and divorced 3 times and had two young sons. Before the killings, Bundy had an affair with Jack Murray, her apartment complex manager and a country singer. Bundy even tried to bribe Murray’s wife to leave him. She also became obsessed with Murray, having elaborate fantasies about their life together.
Doug Clark was the son of a U.S. Naval officer who lived a life of privilege. He attended a Swiss boarding school as a child and traveled the world with his family. Clark showed signs of psychopathic behavior from a young age. He would often lie to his parents, and as a teenager, he would record himself having sex with girls and show the footage to his friends. Clark joined the Air Force in 1967. After he was discharged, Clark drifted and worked as a mechanic, all while calling himself “the king of one-night stands”. He moved to Los Angeles and met Carol Bundy in 1980.
Bundy and Clark met a bar in L.A. where Jack Murray would often perform. After spending a short time together, Bundy and Clark moved in together and soon discovered one another’s dark sexual fantasies. They had a very volatile and abusive relationship rooted in jealousy. Clark had a habit of seeking out divorced women with self esteem issues and essentially becoming a mooch, which is what he did to Carol Bundy.
This is where it gets super gross, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Clark started bringing sex workers back to their house for a threesome. He then lured an eleven year-old girl back to their house where he took sexually explicit photos of her. He also started talking about wanting to kill a girl during sex and convinced Bundy to buy them matching pistols. Clark claimed he wanted to feel vaginal contractions of a woman during death spasms. WTF.
In June 1980, Clark admitted to Bundy that he killed two teenage girls, Gina Narano and Cynthia Chandler, who he picked up on the Sunset Strip. He forced them to perform oral sex on him, shot them in the head, raped their dead bodies in a garage, and dumped them on the Ventura Freeway. They were found the next day. Bundy, growing apprehension, called the police claiming to have knowledge about the murdered girls, but refused to give them Clark’s name.
Twelve days later, Clark killed two more sex workers in the same fashion, Karen Jones and Exxie Wilson. This time, Bundy didn’t call the police. Clark kept Wilson’s head in the refrigerator. Bundy put makeup on the head, placed the head in a wooden box, and dumped it in an alley. It was found the next day. Clark had also killed another sex worker who was found three weeks after Exxie Wilson and Karen Jones were killed, making her her the first known victim. While all of this was happening, Clark was having a sexual relationship with the eleven year-old girl who lived next door, who be bribed with money and gifts to keep their relationship secret from everyone but Bundy.
A month later, Clark and Bundy went to go see Jack Murray after his performance at a local bar. Bundy hinted at what she and Clark had been doing. Murray threatened to call the police. Bundy later claimed she’d been joking and in exchange for not reporting them, Bundy offered him sex. Jack said he would only if there was another woman. Warning! Again, it gets more disgusting. Bundy brought the eleven year-old neighbor with her for the encounter. Apparently, all these people are scumbag pedophiles. Bundy refused to let Murray have sex with the girl, she believed that was only for Clark. It was then she decided Murray had to die.
Bundy psyched herself up to kill Jack Murray as a way to prove her devotion to Clark, as well as prove she was smart enough to kill on her own as Clark often berated her intelligence. On August 3, 1980, Bundy went back to the bar where Murray was performing again. She lured him into her van with the promise of sex with her and the neighbor girl. She shot and decapitated Murray in the back of her van. She took the head home with her in a plastic bag, believing the bullets in his head would lead back to her.
On August 20, Bundy broke down and confessed to a co-worker who called the police. Bundy, a nurse, had escaped from the hospital where she worked and was on the way to Clark’s work at the Jergen’s factory. When she arrived, she told Clark she was turning herself in. She offered him all her money so he could get away. Bundy and Clark had already been questioned in Murray’s murder, and Clark had given an alibi for Bundy. When Bundy left the factory, Clark called the police and recanted his statement about the alibi. Bundy soon called the police herself and turned them both in.
During questioning, Bundy confessed to the crimes and claimed to have enjoyed killing Jack Murray. Clark, on the other hand, was smug, arrogant and tried to claim Bundy was crazy, that they had never had a romantic relationship.He also claimed Jack Murray and Bundy had been committing the murders all along and that Bundy was trying to frame him. However, there was already too much evidence linking them together.
They were both found guilty of the murders. Doug Clark was charged with seven murders total and sentenced to death. He is still currently on death row in California. Carol Bundy testified against Clark in exchange for a shorter sentence. She received twenty-five years to life. She died in prison in 2003.
Doug Clark still claims his innocence and is still blaming the murders on Bundy and Jack Murray. He also denies ever having a romantic involvement with Bundy and believes DNA evidence will soon exonerate him. Good luck with that, buddy.
Look for a post about serial killer collectables, aka murderabilia soon!
In researching this, I couldn’t find any information about the eleven year-old girl. I can only hope she is living a good life now and is mentally healthy.
Carol Bundy’s behavior is baffling, even to a true crime weirdo. Roy Hazelwood, the famed FBI profiler who taught us everything we know about Forensic Psychology, has a study and theory on female accomplices, mainly to sex offenders. Hazelwood’s study claims these women suffer from low self-esteem and are focused on pleasing their male partners who are the instigators in the crimes.
Hazelwood developed a theory which includes the following processes that turned these women into accomplices:
- Identification: Identifying a vulnerable, easily-controlled person
- Seduction: Getting the woman to fall in love.
- Reshaping the woman’s sexual norms: Introducing her to sexual images and acts that may offend or frighten her, but which she must do to please the man and keep him involved.
- Social isolation: Cutting her off from family and friends.
- Punishment: Physical, verbal, and sexual, which further erodes the woman’s self-esteem and ability to act on her own.
Thanks for sticking around and reading that (if you didn’t, I don’t blame you). Here’s a basket of smooshy-faced puppies to cheer you up.
Lovebirds Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck make up the killing duo dubbed the Lonely Hearts Killers. From 1947-1949, they are believed to have killed at least 17 women by answering lonely hearts, which was like Tinder but somehow even creepier (at least in this case).
It should be noted that in the forgettable 2006 movie about the killings, Beck is played by the always hot Salma Hayek. Go figure.
Fernandez was born in Hawaii to Spanish parents in 1914. He served in WWII in both the Spanish and British militaries. He had a wife and four children in Spain, which he abandoned during the war. After serving in the military, he decided to return to America. While on a ship, he fell injuring his frontal lobe. This injury is said to have affected his behavior, which led to the murders, a common occurrence in killers.
After spending some time in the hospital, he was arrested for stealing clothing and spent some time in jail. His cell mate thought him about voodoo and black magic, which Fernandez believed he could use to charm and manipulate women.
Martha Beck was a teen runaway from Florida. She became a single mother and worked as a nurse and a mortician’s assistant. The father of her daughter refused to marry her and she told everyone she was a war widow. Eventually, she married a bus driver from Pensacola, had a son, and was divorced six months later. Beck became enamored with romantic novels and movies. In 1947, she placed a lonely hearts ad, which was answered by Fernandez.
Beck and Fernandez soon fell in love, prompting Beck to abandon her children for him. He took this as a sign of love, and confided in Beck about his crimes. At this point, he had been robbing various women who answered his ads. Beck moved from Florida to New York to be with Fernandez. She posed as his sister when the women who answered the ads would come over, as to make them feel more comfortable.
They were only tried for 3 murders, all of which were committed in 1949. The first was Janet Fay, 66 who became engaged to Fernandez and lived with he and Beck. Beck attacked Fay with a hammer when she saw her in bed with Fernandez. Fay didn’t die immediately, so Fernandez strangled her with a scarf. When Fay’s family started looking for her, the killers fled to a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
There, they met and lived with a young widow named Delphine Downing and her two year-old daughter. On February 26, 1949, Fernandez drugged Downing with some sleeping pills. When her daughter started crying, Beck choked her, but didn’t kill her. Beck realized she might become suspicious of bruises on her daughter. Fernandez shot Downing while she was unconscious. Beck then drowned the daughter in a sink.
Beck and Fernandez were arrested on March 1, 1949. They were extradited to New York, as Michigan had no death penalty. Fernandez confessed and then retracted his statement. Police suspected them of 17 total murders, but were only tried for the murder of Janet Fay as the prosecutors wanted to pursue the death penalty (why they were extradited to NY).
Both were executed by the electric chair on March 8, 1951, professing their love for one another until the end.
This starts the first in a series of posts about female killers, which are a source of fascination, and are often more interesting than their male counterparts. Even with the abundance of violent female offenders, it is still difficult for many to stomach women can be just as evil (if not more so) than men. This reminds me of a quote by Louis CK:
When girls go wild, they show their tits to people. When women go wild, they kill men and drown their kids in a tub.
Not all the time, but you know what I mean.
In the coming weeks, there will be plenty of women killing men, and a few drowning kids in a tub. Just giving everyone a fair warning.
The individual known by all the above names is the perpetrator in one of the most well-known unsolved serial killing, rape, and burglary sprees in America. Between 1976-1986, The East Area Rapist committed 12 murders, 45 rapes, and more than 120 burglaries in different areas of California east of Sacramento. Since June 2016, the F.B.I has been offering a $50,000 reward for the capture of the East Area Rapist.
What started as multiple burglaries, escalated to a ten-year reign of terror. His primary targets were women alone in suburban homes and later began attacking couples. His M.O. was to break into a home, wake up a couple by threatening them with a gun, force the female to tie up the male, rape the female, and eventually kill both. He was often known to stack dishes on the males back and claim if he heard them rattle, he’d kill everyone in the house. He would also stay in the house for hours, stealing coins, jewelry, and eating food from the victim’s refrigerators.
In Zodiac Killer fashion, he sent letters to the Sacramento Bee in December 1977 claiming his crimes and referring to himself as The East Area Rapist. In the same letter, he warned of another attack which he carried out. The letter includes a poem where he mentions Son of Sam. At the next crime scene, an essay about General Custer was found as well as a map of the neighborhood in which the crime took place in. The Zodiac Killer also referred to himself by his media nickname. Maybe E.A.R. was paying homage? We’ll never know. Although, writing to media outlets isn’t uncommon for serial killers of this magnitude.
He was also known to call victims before an attack. The super creepy audio below is a well-known recording which has made its way into many Internet list articles.
The crimes of the East Area Rapist theoretically stopped in 1986. All suspects have been cleared by DNA. The DNA of the killer is on file and has yet to match any in the F.B.I’s database. In 2002, Detective Larry Pool of the Orange County, California Sheriff’s Department visited death row inmates at San Quentin to collect DNA, believing the East Area Rapist had been arrested and sentenced for another violent crime. None of the samples collected were a match.
Currently, there are no concrete suspects.
The precise definitions of serial, mass, and spree murders are a common misconception among those not versed in the technical terminology. Once I mentioned how James Holmes, the Aurora theatre shooter was not a serial killer and got a confused look. I don’t remember who I said this too. Without trying to sound like a know it all, I explained the difference. I probably did come across as a know it all *blushing, embarrassed emoji*.
Here’s a quick breakdown…
-The FBI defines a serial homicide offender as having committed 3 or more homicides over a period of time.
-Killings occur at separate events and places.
-Experiences a “cooling off” phase between crimes, unlike mass and spree homicides. This phase varies between 3 months to several years.
The “cooling off period” is one of the most important and defining characteristics of serial murders. This is what separates serial killings from spree and mass killings and is potentially what makes serial killings so difficult to solve because of the period of inactivity.
-All crimes have the same or a similar modus operandi. This includes weapons used, type of victim (sex, age, physical characteristics), and similar crime scene.
-Motives include revenge, sexual gratification, power/control, anger, criminal enterprise, and financial gain.
-Potential causes of serial homicide offending: mental illness (sociopathic and antisocial personality disorders), abuse, sexual dysfunction, past criminal behavior, biological, social, and environmental influences.
Before the term serial killer was coined in the 1970s, they were referred to as mass murderers. Now, the term has a different meaning and sadly something we are all too familiar with.
-Four or more murders at a single event at one time. Can include more than one assailant. Event lasts from a few minutes to several hours.
-Assailant usually commits suicide, is shot by police, or easily surrenders.
-Motivations include anger, frustration, mental illness, religion, gang activity, and cult associations.
-The offender usually commits a mass murder in order to complete a “mission”.
-The “mission” the mass homicide offender is carried out or “completed” based on one of the motives.
-Mass homicide offenders easily surrender due to the fact they view their killings as the completion of their “mission”.
-Victims can be random, family members, or members of a certain group, religion, ethnicity, or sex.
I explained this in my last post about Charles Manson and how the Manson Murders are actually spree killings instead of serial killings. Spree killings are completed at two or more locations with almost no time in between. However, killings that last for several days, hence the word spree, are still considered spree killings. Those who engage in spree killings are often motivated by rage and revenge. They often tend to target someone who betrayed them such as a former lover, boss, classmate, etc.
Fox, J. A., & Levin, J. (1998). Multiple homicide: Patterns of serial and mass murder. Crime and Justice, 407-455.