’Tis the season for costumes, candy, parties, and spooky stories once again. But what if the slasher films you enjoy on Halloween actually happened at some point in history? Why is this question even a what-if? Not only did these gruesome crimes take place in real life; Halloween also marks another year since they happened. Here are 10 of the worst crimes committed on Halloween.
10 Worst Crimes Committed on Halloween
We love decorating our homes with gruesome decorations and donning imaginative costumes to work, parties, and events during this season. But somewhere in the world, sometime in history, criminals realized their immoral fantasies during this tradition of make-believe.
Warning: If you can’t handle gore, you might want to skip some parts.
Candy poisoned by Dad
Eight-year-old Timothy got a packet of Pixy Stix given to him by his father Ronald O’Bryan after a long night of trick or treating. He immediately went into convulsions and died an hour later. The police found out that the Pixy Stix that Timothy ate were laced with cyanide. After further investigation, Ronald was found to be deeply in debt and had taken out a life insurance policy on his children. Fortunately, his other children didn’t eat the Pixy Stix he gave them.
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Ronald O’Bryan was found guilty of murder, sentenced to death, and executed in 1984.
Toolbox Killers’ last victim
The night of 1979, Shirley Leford decided to hitchhike home from a Halloween party when a van pulled up and two men offered her a ride home. Little did she know that the two men were the infamous Toolbox Killers. Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris were notorious for picking up female hitchhikers and then torturing them with tools and taking videos and pictures of their victims during the process. And indeed, the sledgehammer beating, rape, and torture with a pair of pliers were recorded, as were Shirley’s shrieks of pain and fear. The wire hanger took out her life. They tossed her body onto the lawn of a house in the suburbs. A jogger found her in the morning.
By November 20, both killers were under arrest. Among the key evidence were the Polaroids and a seventeen-minute tape of Ledford’s screams. Bittaker was executed in 1981, while Norris remains incarcerated at the Donovan State Prison..
On October 31, 1981, Sister Tadea Benz’s dead body was found naked in a convent in Texas. The other nuns in the convent found a broken window in the community room, so they called the police immediately. Authorities found Benz’s clothing and a knife under a bed. The autopsy revealed multiple injuries, including contusions to the head, stab wounds to the chest, and excoriation and abrasive injuries to the front and back of the neck. The pathologist, Dr. Erdmann, determined that death was caused by manual strangulation. Dr. Erdmann also found signs of external bleeding and internal trauma in the vaginal area, revealing evidence of rape.
Gladly, a witness saw the killer, Johnny Frank Garrett, running from the convent that evening. Garrett was convicted and sentenced to death in 1992.
Abducted on the way home
In 2009, three teenage girls were abducted by a man at gunpoint on their way home from trick or treating in Woodbridge, Virginia. All three were crossing a parking lot when they were threatened with a gun, brought to a wooded area, told to drop their bags of candy, and forced to follow down a hill where the man sexually assaulted two of them. The third girl was able to text her mother, “Man raping my friend in the woods behind CVS call 911,” causing the man to flee. Two years later, police arrested Aaron Thomas, who was later found out to be the famous East Coast Rapist because of numerous reports of sexual assaults cases since 1997. Thomas pleaded guilty in 2012 to the three kidnappings and over a dozen other attacks.
Sixteen-year-old Devon Griffin came home on Halloween to play video games after attending church and spending the previous night sleeping out. When he noticed that his home was too quiet, he went to check on his family members, only to find his stepfather in bed, covered in blood. Devon was so traumatized. He could only say that the scene was like “something out of a haunted house.” When police arrived, they found the bodies of Griffin’s mother and brother. Police eventually learned the murderer was Griffin’s stepbrother, William “BJ” Liske Jr., who had a history of schizophrenia and violence. Liske bludgeoned his older stepbrother, Derek Griffin, with a hammer; shot his father, William Liske, five times; and then raped and shot his stepmother, Susan Liske.
He pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated murder to avoid the death penalty but soon committed suicide in his jail cell in 2015.
Satanic cult murder
In the early hours of Halloween 1981, Manhattan couple Ronald Sisman and Elizabeth Platzman were severely beaten in their ransacked apartment before being shot in the head. New York police first believed that drug money was involved, but the crime took a turn for the bizarre. A prisoner claimed that one of his fellow inmates had predicted the crime weeks before it actually happened. That inmate turned out to be the Son of Sam killer—David Berkowitz. According to the insider, Berkowitz had told him that his cult was planning to enter a residence near Greenwich Village on Halloween to carry out a ritual murder. Berkowitz had long been rumored to be involved with a satanic cult that helped him with some of the murders.
No evidence was ever found to support Berkowitz’s claims, but he did provide an eerily accurate description of Sisman’s apartment. The case remains unsolved.
Floating in the river in costume
Twenty-one-year-old Chris Jenkins was last seen leaving a downtown Minneapolis bar on Halloween night in 2002. After four months of being missing, his body was discovered in the Mississippi River, still wearing his Halloween costume. Chris was intoxicated that night and his cause of death appeared to be drowning, so authorities initially believed his death was either an accident or suicide. His parents refused to believe this and insisted that the case be investigated more thoroughly. In 2006, the death was reclassified as a homicide. An inmate claimed that he was present when Chris was murdered and thrown off a bridge into the river. However, there’s still not enough evidence to press charges. The case remains unsolved to this day.
In 2011, Taylor Van Diest dressed up as a zombie for Halloween. She was leaving a party in Armstrong, Canada, texting back and forth with her friend at the time. In the last text her friend received, she wrote about “being creeped,” or followed. Taylor never came home that night and was found beaten to death near a set of railroad tracks. Her death traumatized the small town of Armstrong, especially when it was revealed that her attacker intended to rape her before smashing her head in with a flashlight when she fought back.
Police managed to track down the killer through DNA they found under Taylor’s fingernails and arrested Matthew Foerster and his father, who helped cover up the crime.
Roommates Leslie Mazzara, Adriane Insogna, and Lauren Meanza went to bed after handing out candy to trick or treaters. Living in the basement, Lauren was roused from her sleep at 1:00 a.m. by the sounds of a person entering a house. She assumed it was one of her roommates’ boyfriends, so she went back to sleep. Later, she was awakened again, this time by a bloodcurdling scream. Adriane kept screaming “Oh my god, please help!”
Terrified, Lauren ran from the house and hid in the backyard, watching the assailant climb out of a window. When the coast was clear, she ran back upstairs and found both of her roommates dead. Leslie, facedown in a pile of clothes, had stab wounds all over her upper body and arms. The floor was covered in blood. Adriane was crouched behind her bed, alive, but no longer able to speak and rapidly bleeding to death from multiple stab wounds.
FBI agents spoke to nearly 1,500 persons of interest when they found no known matches in the DNA samples they got from cigarette butts and blood evidence, until the husband of Adriane’s friend refused to give a DNA sample. This man, Eric Coppola, soon confessed and turned himself in a year later but did not give any motive for the crime he committed.
Trick or treater in disguise
In 1957, Los Angeles hair stylist c opened his door for what he thought was a trick or treater but was actually a grown-up in a costume. The adult shot Fabiano in the chest with a .22 hidden in a brown paper bag before fleeing the scene. Several weeks later, Goldyne Pizer and Joan Rabel were arrested. Rabel was apparently in love with Fabiano’s wife, so both women conspired to get rid of Peter. Rabel bought Pizer a gun to carry out the murder.
The arrests attracted so much media coverage as lesbians in 1957 were seen as abnormal monsters with murderous urges.