Top 10 Intriguing Cases of Unidentified Serial Killers

Human mind can be compared to a computer program based on the fact that it can function in any possible manner. Some have a normal mindset where they work their way towards a normal enjoyable life while a few cannot do anything apart from performing unlikable activities. And then comes the third variant i.e. the murderers. Killing other people is definitely the most cruelest activity that one can think of. If we think about the reasons then revenge, hatred, jealousy and other personal reasons come to mind. Over the course of history mankind has seen several brutal cases where people went on a killing spree with or without any solid reason. The slick minds of those killers portrays the lowest grade to which a human can make himself comfortable with. Perhaps they get a feeling of pleasure but destroying somebody else’s life is the most grievous act of crime. The following 10 cases of unidentified serial killers are explored with an intention of understanding few of the most twisted minds the world has ever seen. In all these cases the murderer’s identity remains unknown till this date, although various possible identifications of varying credibility have been proposed.

 10. Alphabet Murders

This was a very peculiar case that took place in the early 70s in Rochester, New York. The murderer raped and killed three young girls. Also known as double initial murders, the case got its name from the fact that the first name and last name of all of the girls murdered started with the same letter (Wanda Walkowicz, Carmen Colon and Michelle Maenza). Another amusing similarity that was noted was that the dead bodies of those girls were found in a city whose name started with the same letter as the girl’s last name (Walkowicz in Webster, Colon in Churchville  and Maenza in Macedon). Over the years hundreds of people, including Carmen Colon’s uncle (committed suicide in 1991), have been interrogated but the killer is not caught yet. Joseph Naso, a professional photographer hailing from New York, is being looked upon as a person of interest in the Alphabet Murders case. He was arrested on April 11, 2011 for four murders in California dating back to the 70s. His alleged victims are Pamela Parsons, Tracy Tofoya, Roxene Roggash and Carmen Colon (absurd coincidence but she was a different person, not the one from Rochester).

Alphabet Murders

9. Boston Strangler

This is the name depicted to the murderer of 13 women (aged 19-85) in Boston in the 1960s. It is still not confirmed whether these murders were committed by one particular person or several people. The killer was known for his strange ability to persuade women to allow him to enter their apartments as no sign of forced entry was detected. Most of the victims were sexually assaulted and strangulated to death. It was also realized that the women killed by the strangler belonged to various ethnic groups and also his act of operation varied. The media attention to the case persuaded many frightened women to leave the town and despite all the publicity the killings didn’t stop. Later on the crimes were attributed to Albert DeSalvo after his confession but  none of the parties who have been investigating this case were satisfied and believed that these crimes were not committed by one person. Not even the people who knew him personally believed that he could have carried out such heinous crimes. The mystery might have been closed by the court (he was sent for life imprisonment in 1967) but all those who have been studying the case are still not satisfied.

Boston Strangler

8. Original Night Stalker

This is the name attributed to a series of murders that were committed in Southern California from 1979 to 1986. Law agencies have linked around 50 murders in the Sacramento County and Contra Costa County to this case. DNA tests have associated 10 murders to the Original Night Stalker and the researchers believe that at least three more murders were carried out by him. The suspect is also referred to as  The East Area Rapist. He had most probably started out as a burglar and later on committed rapes. He broke into the houses of the victims (primarily the women lived in a single story house) and prowled his way to the victims. Criminologists studied the crime scenes and created a psychological profile of the stalker. The key points from his profile are:

  • Age between 26 to 30 when the crimes were committed
  • Had a means of income, but did not work in the early morning hours
  • Dressed well and would not stand out in upscale neighborhoods
  • Would appear harmless
  • Intelligent and well spoken
  • Would have been described by those who knew him as arrogant, domineering, manipulative, and a chronic liar
  • Had some knowledge of police investigative methods and evidence gathering techniques
  • Engaged in sex with prostitutes
  • Hated women for real or perceived wrongs
Based on the profile it is believed that most likely he committed suicide later on.

Original Night Stalker

7. Doodler

Also known as the Black Doodler, the killer is blamed responsible for 14 murders and 3 assaults on men in the gay community of San Francisco. He was given this nickname because of his weird habit of sketching his victims before having sex with them and later on stabbing them to death. The murders took place between January 1974 and September 1975. The killer supposedly met his victims at gay nightclubs, restaurants and bars. Out of all the victims, three people (one was a diplomat and another one an entertainer) managed to survive the slayings. Police captured a suspect but could not testify him as the survivors were not ready to appear in the court. Even the suspect cooperated with the Police but did not admit to the murders. Due to lack of evidence nobody was charged with these murders and it has turned into a cold case and is still open in the concerned homicide division.


6. Phantom of Heilbronn

Also known as the “Woman without a face”, a female serial killer was held responsible for various crimes ranging from theft to murder between 1993 to 2009. Authorities expected a female suspect based on the laboratory tests of the DNA evidences found at 40 crimes scenes in Austria, Germany and France. In March 2009, investigators came to a conclusion that the so-called Phantom killer did not exist and the DNA evidence that was found was already present on the cotton swabs that were used to retrieve DNA samples. A research concluded that a particular type of mitochondrial DNA is found in people from East Europe and neighboring Russia. Thus DNA reports cannot be used in criminal proceedings to determine anything other than sex. It was later realized that all the swabs came from the same factory which employed European women who fit the type of DNA sequence. This misleading caused due to the DNA samples proved fatal for the authorities as they went on the wrong course and the real killer easily avoided detection.

Phantom of Heilbronn

5. Freeway Phantom

In this case six African-American girls (aged 10-18) were kidnapped, raped and then strangulated to death by an unknown killer. The killings took place in Washington D.C. from April 1971 to September 1972.

[quote]This is tantamount to my insensititivity [sic] to people especially women.
I will admit the others when you catch me if you can!

Free-way Phantom[/quote]

This note was found kept inside a jacket along with the dead body of his fifth victim Brenda Woodward (aged 18). Authorities concluded that this note was dictated to Brenda by the killer and she wrote it down by tearing off a piece of paper from her notebook. His second victim Brenda Crockett (aged 10) called her sister after being abducted and said, “A white man picked me up, and I’m heading home in a cab” and gave a hint that she was probably in Virginia.

Several investigators have showed a keen interest in this killer but none could find out who he was. Numerous tips were given by common public by the use of a phone hotline operated by Metropolitan Police Department and by the U.S. postal service. All the tips were studied and logical conclusions were derived. Many individuals and a group called Green Vega Rapists were considered and interrogated but none were convicted due to the lack of significant evidence. At that time the case files used to be kept by the Detectives assigned to the case and not the Police. As time passed, various case files along with the leads were lost and many investigators who studied this case either retired or passed away and the case never got solved.

Freeway Phantom

4. Servant Girl Annihilator

This serial killer haunted the city of Austin, Texas during 1884 and 1885. Texas Monthly reported the death of seven women (5 black, 2 white) and one black male. Also, two men and six women were seriously injured. All of the victims were attacked inside the house while they were asleep. According to the reports, all of the victims faced a similar brutal beat down and a sharp object was found inserted into the ears of six female victims. The killings stopped after the murder of two white women in December 1985. During the next one year at least 400 individuals were arrested and interrogated. Many people including authors Shirley Harrison and Phillip Sugden believed that the Texas murderer and Jack the Ripper were the same person (Texas killings took place three years before Jack the Ripper murders). In June 2000, Texas Monthly reported that there was an eye witness who said that he saw the murders taking place. But his statement was not testified as he reported logically opposite details to the Detectives and Police. It was also believed that the killer worked with an aide or could have even been a part of a gang. The murders stopped after the Police force was expanded, rewards were declared for those who provided information and the citizens formed a surveillance committee to patrol the town at night.

Servant Girl Annihilator

3. The Axeman of New Orleans

From May 1918 to October 1919 a guy popularly referred to as the Axeman went on a killing spree in New Orleans and nearby areas. Just like the pseudo name tells us, the killer used an axe to attack his targets. Although bizarre, but in few cases the axe belonged to the victim itself. In many of the cases, the murderer made his way into the victims house by destroying the back entrance and then attacked the residents using an axe. Most of the victims were Italian-American which gives us an hint that the killer might have been racially influenced. Criminologists have inferred (hypothetically) that the Axeman killed men only when they tried to block him from attacking the women resident of the house. Few suggest that he might have been a sadist who seeks female victims. Another bizarre theory is that he committed murders in an attempt to promote jazz music as he stated that he would spare the lives of those who would play jazz music in their houses in one of his letters.

Excerpts from his letter –

[quote]They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman.[/quote]

[quote]Now, to be exact, at 12:15 (earthly time) on next Tuesday night, I am going to pass over New Orleans. In my infinite mercy, I am going to make a little proposition to you people. Here it is:
I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have just mentioned. If everyone has a jazz band going, well, then, so much the better for you people. One thing is certain and that is that some of your people who do not jazz it on Tuesday night (if there be any) will get the axe.[/quote]

The Axeman of New Orleans

2. Jack The Ripper

This is the name given to the serial killer who targeted the areas in and around Whitechapel district of London in 1988. The attacks primarily focused the prostitutes in the slums of London. The modus operandi of the killer was quite treacherous as he used to first slit the throats open and then heavily damage the abdominal parts of his targets. This act made the investigators believe that the killer possessed surgical knowledge. A few letters received by the media agencies at that time contributed to the notoriety as the writer of those letters claimed to be the killer. These letters were disregarded and considered to be  an hoax initiated by a journalist in an attempt to brighten the interest in the story. Eleven cases of murder ranging from 3 April 1888 to 13 February 1891 took place  in Whitechapel but all of these are not believed to be the acts of The Ripper. Only 5 out of the 11 murders are believed to be the works of The Ripper and they are popularly referred to as the “Canonical Five”. He is definitely not the first serial killer but his crimes grabbed massive media coverage worldwide. Background studies reveal that England witnessed the arrival of thousands of immigrants during that era. As a result even the Whitechapel area turned highly overcrowded and a compelling low class of society developed. Thefts, assaults and alcohol dependency turned common and poverty led many women to turn into prostitutes. These tough conditions are attributed as the source of motivation of the killer by many investigators. The investigation was carried out from house to house and several forensic evidences were studied. More than 2000 people were questioned, over 200 were interrogated and around 80 were apprehended in this case. But even after sensational investigation and media coverage no one was ever charged with these murders.

Jack The Ripper

1. Zodiac Killer

The Zodiac Killer operated in the Northern California region during the 1960s and 1970s. The name originated in the series of letters that he had sent to several press offices in the San Francisco Bay Area. His letters included four ciphers which he claimed would help to identify him. But only one of his cipher was decoded and the rest still remain a mystery. This case has been marked as inactive and re-opened several times at different Police departments till now. The chain of letters started on August 1, 1969 when three letters written by the killer were received at the San Francisco Chronicle, the Vallejo Times Herald and The San Francisco Examiner. The killer demanded that the letters must be published on each newspaper’s front page or else he would go on a killing spree. San Francisco Chronicle published the letter on page 4 along with a note by Vallejo Police Chief Jack E. Stiltz saying “We’re not satisfied that the letter was written by the murderer” and asked the killer to send another note to confirm his identity. Meanwhile rest of the letters were published and on  August 7, 1969 another letter was received at the Examiner‘s office in a response to Chief Stiltz’s request. Over the time many other letters were received at different places from the killer where sometimes he confessed to murder he committed and in others warned the authorities about the murders he was about to commit. For many years he continued to communicate with various authorities by using letters, greeting cards and even called a talk show once. His last letter was received by the Chronicle (postmarked ‘January 29, 1974) in which he praised “The Exorcist” as ‘the best saterical comidy’ that he had ever seen. Many more letters from people claiming themselves to be the Zodiac Killer were received but their ownership is highly doubted. In total the killer has taken the responsibility of 37 murders but the investigators have linked only 7 attacks to him out of which 2 of the victims survived. Over the years the curious case of the Zodiac Killer has captured the interest of numerous investigators but all of them have failed to identify him.

Zodiac Killer

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