5 Terrifying Serial Killers You Haven't Heard Of
There are only 39 shopping days until Halloween, and you know what that means — the time to throw all your responsibilities to the wind and spend all day reading about creepy stuff on the internet has finally arrived! But as you engage in your annual obsession with ghosts, ax murderers, and other stuff that makes you check that your front door locks, liven things up (pardon the expression) by learning about some different serial killers this year. Sure, you're an expert on Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, the Black Dahlia murder, and that individual who is most emphatically not Ted Cruz, the Zodiac Killer. But this Halloween season, why not mix up your morbidity by learning about the Alphabet Murderer? Or the Winesville Chicken Coop Murders? If you're going to spend the next month or so terrifying yourself by reading about the darkest crimes that human beings are capable of (and be honest — you totally are), you might as well take a moment to learn about some new horrific killers who will haunt your nightmares, too.
And if you're a hardcore true crime aficionado who is annoyed because you already totally know about all these serial killers: my apologies. Come by my house some time and we can have some nachos and discuss Locusta of Gaul.
1. Richard Chase: The Vampire Of Sacramento
You might believe that Chase's nickname, "the Vampire of Sacramento," tells you all you need to know about the crimes that landed him on this list. But actually, the term "vampire" barely scratches the surface of his bizarre behavior. Born in 1950, Chase was deeply paranoid about a wide variety of subjects, from his belief that Nazis were following him to his belief that his mother was trying to poison him. The only solution to all of his problems? To consume fresh blood, clearly.
In fact, Chase supposedly scared off a group of roommates in the early '70s with his habit of killing neighborhood animals and pureeing their internal organs in a blender so that he could drink them (sometimes with a shot of cola to sweeten the concoction) — they were so freaked out, they moved out as a group, leaving Chase to his own devices.
In 1975, after an attempt to inject himself with fresh blood from a rabbit went awry, he was committed to a psychiatric hospital, where he stayed for a year and was reputed to keep himself busy by biting the heads off birds. After he was released in 1976, Chase began living on his own; a year later, he was stopped by police for wandering around a neighborhood smeared with blood, and was found to have a bucket of plasma in his truck — but after it was revealed to be cow blood, no charges were filed.
However, Chase's first murder had nothing to do with blood — he shot a man from his car in 1977. After this, Chase began experimenting with home invasion, but with an odd twist — if a house's front door was locked, he retreated, due to his belief that unlocked doors meant he was destined to enter the home, while locked doors meant he was unwelcome. In 1978, he committed his first home invasion murder, killing a young pregnant woman in North Sacramento, CA, allegedly drinking her blood and cannibalizing parts of her body.
Later that week, Chase committed his final murders, killing a woman, her son, her nephew, and a family friend, also consuming their blood and body parts. He was apprehended soon after, due to clear fingerprints he left in a victim's blood at the crime scene. Though his acts could hardly be called reasonable, Chase was found sane enough to stand trial and was sentenced to death in 1979. But his sentence could never be enacted — he died by suicide in prison in 1980.
2. Gordon Stewart Northcott: The Winesville Chicken Coop Murders
If you watched AHS: Hotel, you may remember one strange side plot about a ghostly character whose son was kidnapped and killed by someone who was serially murdering children during the '20s. Though on the show it was merely a brief aside used to explain yet another character's ghastly madness, you might not know that it was actually based on a real crime — one far worse than what was alluded to on the show.
Norcott was a chicken rancher based out of the California town of Winesville. In 1926, when he was 19, he convinced his sister and brother-in-law to send their 13-year-old son, Sanford Clark, down from Canada to help him out around the ranch. However, when Clark's older sister, Jessie, came to check in on him two years later, she learned that Clark hadn't been doing yard work; instead, he'd been watching his uncle kidnap, sexually assault, and murder a number of boys. He said he feared for his life.
Jessie returned to the Clark family home in Canada and reported the situation to the American consul; the information eventually made its way down to the LAPD, who sent two immigration officers to the ranch to assess the situation. The officers rescued Clark while Norcott ran away with his mother, Sarah Louise Norcott; they made their way to British Columbia, but were quickly found, arrested, and sent back to the U.S. to stand trial in 1928.
Sanford Clark claimed that Gordon Norcott had murdered at least four boys; according to Clark, sometimes Sarah Louise joined in, and sometimes, Clark himself was forced to take part in the killings, assisting his uncle. Clark described graves on the Norcott ranch property, which police found contained not complete bodies but collections of body parts from murdered children. Though Gordon Norcott was only convicted of three murders (his mother confessed to the fourth), some believed him responsible for up to 20 murders. His mother was sentenced to life in prison and Norcott was sentenced to death. He died by hanging in 1930.
Norcott's murders were also tied to one bizarre historical footnote that had nothing to do with Norcott at all. One of Norcott's victims, Walter Collins, was the subject of an impersonation scam that seems almost too bizarre to be true — after Collins was kidnapped by Norcott, another boy showed up claiming to be Walter Collins. After his mother, Christine Collins, protested that the boy wasn't her son, she was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital by the LAPD; shortly afterwards, her "son" admitted to being a runaway named Arthur Hutchins Jr. The Collins story was dramatized in the 2008 Angelina Jolie movie Changeling.
3. Joseph Naso: The Alphabet Murderer
In the 1970s, two sets of murders occurred in two different parts of the country, with a striking number of similarities. In upstate New York, three female children with the same first and last initial — Carmen Colon, Michelle Maenza, and Wanda Walkowicz — were killed from 1971 to 1973. As Rochester area paper Democrat & Chronicle reported in 2009, each victim's initials also played a strange role in where her body was left: "Each girl was found in or near an area matching their initials: Carmen near Chili, Wanda in Webster, and Michelle in the town of Macedon."
Also known as the "Double Initial Murders," the crimes are still considered unsolved.
Several years later, across the country in California, someone else began murdering adult women with the same first and last initial — Roxene Roggasch in 1977, Carmen Colon in 1978, and then, after a long break, Pamela Parsons in 1993 and Tracy Tofoya in 1994. No, that wasn't a typo — women named "Carmen Colon" were killed on both coasts.
Though a suspect was never formally charged in the New York Alphabet Murders, in 2010, an arrest was made in the California Alphabet Murders — an elderly man named Joseph Naso, who was raised in New York and had previously worked as a photographer who often traveled between California and New York. Naso had been on parole for shoplifting from a local grocery store; however, a routine parole check of his residence revealed a vast library of photos of women, some of whom appeared to unconscious or deceased, and a few of whom appeared to be bound with rope. The search also yielded driver's licenses, passports, and other identification materials belonging to a number of women, as well as notebooks filled with chilling descriptions of women, places, and attacks, like "Girl in north Buffalo woods. She was real pretty. Front seat of my car. Had to knock her out first. 1958."
Most horrifically, the search revealed the existence of a room in Naso's home that was outfitted with metal bars and a lock that could only be opened from the outside, as well as a small "flap" for items to be passed back and forth.
Naso was ultimately sentenced to death for the murders of four women in 2013, but many believe he is responsible for many more attacks, assaults, and murders, including, potentially, the New York Alphabet Murders (though the DNA collected in those crimes did not match Naso's). Naso remains in prison, and maintains his innocence.
4. Dean Corrl: The Candy Man
It's surprising that Corrl's crimes aren't well-known today; at the time, his murders of at least 28 teenaged boys in Texas between 1970 and 1973 were considered the worst serial killing in American history. Corll's family owned and operated a candy factory in a Houston neighborhood; he employed some local youths at the factory, and regularly gave free candy away to others.
He began to molest one of those children, David Owen Brooks, whom he met in 1967, when Brooks was 12; Brooks reported that Corll supported him emotionally and financially, and served as something of a father figure to him. Brooks, along with another local teenaged boy, Elmer Wayne Henley, went on to assist Corll with his murders. Brooks and Henley were offered $200 for each boy they lured to Corll's home.
Many of Corll's victims were from the neighborhood where Corll, Brooks, and Henley lived; some were friends of Brooks and Henley, and some were former employees of the Corll family's candy company, which had since closed. After luring the boys to his home with offers of alcohol or drugs, Corll bound the young men, tortured them, sexually assaulted them, and eventually murdered them; sometimes, Corll forced the boys to write letters to their families before he killed them, assuring their families of their safety. Local police largely ignored the disappearances, telling concerned parents that their sons had simply run away.
In August 1973, Brooks's girlfriend became pregnant, and the two married and moved away; shortly after, Corll turned on Henley. Henley brought two friends to Corll's house and passed out after abusing drugs, then awoke to find that he as well as his friends had been bound and gagged. Henley claims that Corll told Henley he was going to kill him because one of the friends Henley had brought to his house was a young woman; Corll then said that he would spare Henley if Henley assaulted and murdered his female friend while Corll assaulted and murdered his male friend. Corll began attacking Henley's male friend; Henley and Corll exchanged words, and then Henley shot Corll to death.
After calling the cops, Henley came to confess to his role in the murders, and then lead police to the various burial sites Corll used to hide his victims. Brooks also turned himself in. Henley is currently serving a life sentence for his role in the murders, as is Brooks.
5. Danny Rolling: The Gainesville Ripper
For some reason, Florida has hosted a number of notorious killers through the decades. A 2015 study found that, among all U.S. states, Florida was ranked number three overall for most serial killer murders; Ted Bundy and Aileen Wuornos are just two of the famous murderers who made the Sunshine State their stomping ground. Less famous, but just as horrifying, is Danny Rolling, a man who committed at least five murders and is known as "the Gainesville Ripper."
Over the course of one terrible month, Rolling killed five area college students — breaking into their homes, attacking and binding them, often sexually assaulting them, and then stabbing them to death and contorting their bodies into shocking poses, all in August 1990. The media initially blamed a number of other suspects, including a fellow student who had been disfigured in an accident and suffered from mental health issues. Rolling was arrested later in 1990 for burglary, and cops connected his DNA with that left in the homes of the "Ripper" victims. Police also found audio diaries Rolling had kept where he seemed to refer to the crimes.
Rolling pled guilty to all charges in the Gainesville murders; later on, police suspected him in an additional triple homicide committed in Louisiana in 1989, but while an arrest warrant was issued for him, Rolling was never extradited to be tried for the case. He received the death penalty, and died by lethal injection in 2006.
Though you may have not heard of Rolling before reading this piece, odds are high that you're familiar with a film tied to his crimes — Kevin Williamson was supposedly partially inspired to write the script for Scream after hearing about Rolling's murders.