The month of October is perfect for discussing the scary, spooky, and unexplained. In celebration of Halloween and the general creepiness of the month I’d like to tell you a few stories, true stories of mystery, monstrous deeds, and murder. Allow me to take you to a German farm town in the 1920s, to a revived Cleveland, Ohio during the Great Depression, and finally, a remote mountain in Russia in 1959 where no one can hear you scream.
3. The Hinterkaifeck Murders
On April 1, 1922 in the small Bavarian town of Kaifeck, neighbors were concerned. The Gruber family residing on the Hinterkaifeck farm was known for keeping to themselves, but no one had seen or heard anything from them at all for days. However, when 7 year old Cazilia, the oldest child on the farm, didn’t come to school, and the entire family missed church, the citizens began to think something was amiss. On April 4, several neighbors led by Lorenz Schlittenbauer decided to check on the family. What they discovered not only justified the concern the townsfolk had, but shrouded the entire area in a dark shadow for years to come. In the barn the party found the four dead bodies of Viktoria Gabriel, her daughter Cazilia, and Andreas and Cazilia Gruber, Viktoria’s parents, stacked on top of each other, brutally battered and covered in hay. The party then moved inside to see if the two-year old Josef Gruber had been spared the same fate as his family in the barn. Josef was found dead in his crib similar to how the family’s maid Maria Baumgartner was found murdered in her bed. Just like the victims in the barn, the two were savagely killed with the exact same weapon, a pick axe.
There were signs before the heinous crime was committed that something was amiss on the farm. It was Maria’s first day on the job as the old maid had quit after saying that the house and farm were haunted for example. Andreas had told neighbors that he had seen strange footprints in the snow leading from the woods to the house, but none that led away. Footsteps were heard in the attic, and a newspaper was found that didn’t belong to any of the family members. Then what might have spelled the demise of the Gruber clan, the house keys vanished from the home. There is a reason though that the search party that stumbled upon the macabre scene didn’t look in on the Grubers sooner. There was still smoke coming from the chimney, the cattle had been fed and taken care of, and possibly the most disturbing, food had been eaten and one of the beds had been rather obviously slept in. Whoever had murdered the residents of the Hinterkaifeck farm had not left after his monstrous deed was done, but instead made himself comfortable at the home of his victims. This ghostly killer seemed to vanish after he finished his stay on the farm, leading police unable to find him. To this day, the murders that rocked this small town in Germany remain unsolved: a scary story of a real killer to replace the imaginary bogeyman.
- Cleveland Torso Murders
Known both as the Kingsbury Run murders and the Cleveland Torso killer, an unknown serial killer made himself at home in the neighborhood known as Kingsbury Run in Cleveland, Ohio in the year 1935 until parts of his last victim were discovered in 1938.
Cleveland was a growing city with a melting pot of laborers for new factories popping up around the city. The Great Depression, while still affecting a number of people, was allowing people to get back on their feet. Things seemed to be looking up until September when a young man discovered the lower half of a woman’s torso with legs still attached up until the knees on the shores of Lake Eerie. The coroner believed the torso belonged to a woman in her mid-thirties, but she was never identified and her head, along with the rest of her body, was never found. A year after this discovery, two teenage boys discovered the decapitated and emasculated body of Edward Andrassy at the base of Jackass Hill (Side note: Yes that was the actual name of the Hill, I can’t make that kind of thing up) naked save for a pair of socks on his feet, clean and drained almost entirely of his blood. Andrassy wasn’t unfamiliar to the police as he had an arrest record and was rumored to be a homosexual, alongside of his frequent visits to the Roaring Third, the Ohio equivalent of Whitechapel. There was a second body found nearby that was also decapitated and emasculated, this one weeks old and belonging to an unknown 40 year old white male.
In January of the next year, a woman discovered half of the body of a woman, later discovered to be Florence Polillo, a waitress and occasional prostitute, in half bushel baskets and wrapped in newspaper. The rest of Polillo would later be found in a vacant lot, save for her severed head. Once again, the victim had died of decapitation. More body parts would be found throughout the next two years, including a head found in a pair of trousers, a head, two headless corpses, multiple male and female torsos, skeletal remains of a petite black woman, various leg parts, and pairs of arms. While the murderer was never caught, Detective Elliot Ness believed he knew who the killer really was, but due to certain actions he took during the investigation of his suspect, he would never be able to arrest the man he thought was responsible.
- Dyatlov Pass
In 1959, a group of nine ski-hikers set out on an explorative journey into the Northern Urals of the Soviet Union with their intended campsite being on the Kholat Syakhl mountain (translated from Russian it means “Dead Mountain”). After the nine had been gone for weeks without word, a search party went looking for them. All nine members were eventually found…. Dead. All were in various states of undress causing much confusion at first because the temperature was well below freezing, but that wasn’t the only odd thing in this incident. The first two bodies were found only in their underclothes near the remains of a fire, the next three were found between the fire and what remained of their tent. This tent had been cut open from the inside as though the people inside were too hurried to simply unseal the tent’s flap.
Autopsies failed to find anything to indicate foul play and the cause of death for these five was decided to be hypothermia. The last four bodies would be discovered months later also in various states of undress in a forest ravine. They appeared to have suffered from various pressure or crushing injuries and one of the victim’s tongue had been ripped out. Other than those injuries, there weren’t any other external injuries to the bodies. Tests would be conducted and would reveal that all of the dead had been exposed to trace amounts of radiation. The investigators were unable to determine what had truly caused these deaths and so stated in the report that the culprit was “a natural force they were unable to overcome”.
With so few answers and so many more questions the internet decided to start giving theories. The most popular include: fireballs, aliens, homicidal natives, infrasound, avalanches, and the least likely a yeti attack (there is a documentary called Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives all about it though). No matter what you might think, the case will most likely remain unsolved for the rest of time. We will never know what truly happened on that mountain. One additional detail though: Dead Mountain wasn’t their intended destination, it was actually Goren Otorten. The English translation of the name from the original Mansi is “Don’t go there” it’s too bad those hikers didn’t listen to that warning.
There you have it. Three cases where the horrendous acts that were committed will never go punished. Three cases that leave us with more questions then answers. Three cases that may forever remain a mystery.