The only thing creepier than a terrifying and gruesome murder with no clear suspect – is when the killer themselves decides to leave behind the creepiest of clues. These following clues have either been able to help detectives find a new lead in the investigation or sent the case into a tailspin. These sinister murders are real-life nightmare fuel with no named suspect as the killer is still very much at large.
8. Murders at Hinterkaifeck Farm
What happened at Hinterkaifeck Farm reads like a horror story. On March 31st, 1922, family members – Andreas and Cäzilia Gruber; their widowed daughter Viktoria; Viktoria’s children, 7-year-old Cäzilia and 2-year-old Josef; and the maid, Maria Baumgartner – were all bludgeoned to death with a mattock (an agricultural tool similar to a pickaxe).
Chillingly, a few days before the murders, Andreas told his neighbors he had discovered mysterious footprints in the snow leading from the edge of the forest to the farm that was located roughly 43 miles from Munich, Germany – but no footprints heading away from the farm. Also, the house keys had disappeared several days before the murders. These would all be alarm bells that would send any family running but the Grubers stayed put.
Maria had only just arrived that day as she replaced the maid who fled six months earlier, claiming the place was haunted. The previous maid said she had been kept awake all night by footsteps coming from the attic but whenever she went to check, there was nobody there. She also said that she was constantly haunted by an unpleasant feeling of being watched all the time.
What happened exactly to the family on the night of murders is still unknown, however, it is widely considered that each member of the family was lured to the barn one by one where they were slaughtered. Except for 2-year-old Josef who was murdered in his cot and the maid was also found killed in her bedroom.
The Creepy Clue: After the murders, the killer is then believed to have stayed in the house for four days as smoke could be seen by neighbors coming from the chimney for this time. Another weird twist is that the killer would have been experienced in farm work as they even continued to feed the farm animals for this time period and even milked the cows. The killer also prepared meals in the house but did not touch any of the large sums of money that were left lying around.
It wasn’t until the children failed to turn up for school that their neighbors checked out the farm and discovered the scene of the horrific crime.
In 1923, the farm was burned to the ground and the murders still remain unsolved.
7. Murder of Dorothy Jane Scott
Single mother 32-year-old Dorothy Jane Scott was deeply religious and did not date; instead preferring to spend all her time with her 4-year-old at their California home only leaving the house for work.
Despite the quiet lifestyle she led, Dorothy was plagued by a stalker for several months in 1980. The stalker would call her at work; sometimes the calls were kind and doting; other times the caller was nasty and vicious. The stalker also provided details about her daily routine to prove that he was following her throughout the day. Although she said the voice sounded familiar – she could never place a name. Dorothy decided to take karate lessons to defend herself and she also considered buying a handgun.
On May 28th, 1980, Dorothy dropped her young son off at her parent’s house and headed to work. One of her colleagues had fallen ill and Dorothy insisted she drive him to the hospital. They were at the hospital for several hours when she left to bring the car around. Then in the parking lot, her colleague saw the car coming towards him before making a sharp exit onto the road and shutting the headlights off. Several hours later, Dorothy’s car was found abandoned and on fire but she was nowhere to be seen.
Tragically in August 1984, a construction worker found a set of bones that were positively identified as Dorothy’s remains. The identity of her killer is still unknown.
The Creepy Clue: One week after Dorothy went missing, her mother received a chilling phone call at home. A man asked her, “Are you related to Dorothy Scott?” After replying yes, the man told her, “I’ve got her” and hung up. Then the editor of a local newspaper who ran the story about Dorothy’s disappearance also received a phone call. “I killed her. I killed Dorothy Scott. She was my love. I caught her cheating with another man. She denied having someone else, I killed her,” the man said.
To prove he really was the killer, the caller also provided details of what she was wearing that night. Police tried to trace the calls but the caller was never on the line long enough. He continued to call Dorothy’s parents every Wednesday in the daytime to ask “Is Dorothy home?” until he eventually stopped in 1984.
6. The Smiley Face Killers
More than 335 homicides across the U.S. have been linked to an unidentified group of serial killers, according to former New York Police Department detectives Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte. However, according to the FBI, the Center for Homicide Research, there is no active serial killer behind these deaths and the ‘Smiley Face Killers’ is nothing more than an urban legend.
The victims were all college-aged and had been out drinking at night with friends. Their bodies were recovered from rivers and lakes, and the cause of death believed to be drowning. The theory also states that the victims were abducted then given substances to render them unconscious as in at least two cases the victims still had the date-rape drug GHB in their system.
All of the victims were well-liked and performed well academically, which is why it is believed they were targeted by the group of serial killers who are suspected underachievers. The former investigators also believe the crime scenes were ‘staged’ due to the decomposition timelines. They believe the victims were murdered before being placed in the water – for example, Dakota James was missing for 40 days but showed decomposition of only around three days, and Todd Geib, who had been missing for 21 days only showed decomposition of around 2 days.
Gannon said, “What we’ve determined is (the killers are) a well-structured, organized gang with cells in major cities across the United States who drug, abduct, hold the victims for a period of time alive before they murder them and then place them in the water.”
The Creepy Clue: Near where the bodies were found, spray-painted smiley faces – differing in size, shape, and color, and often accompanied by devil horns were discovered. Gannon and Durate believe these symbols were left behind to taunt the police as if they were mocking them.
5. The Mad Axeman of New Orleans
During the early 1900s, The Mad Axeman of New Orleans was a terrifying yet unidentified serial killer who brutally split open the heads of his victims and chopped off the limbs of twelve men and women. He would enter their homes through the back doors and slay them with either an axe (which often belonged to the household) or a straight razor.
Criminologists Colin and Damon Wilson, who authored the book ‘An End to Murder: A Criminologist’s View of Violence Throughout History’, explained that the Axeman only killed male victims only when they disrupted his attempts to murder women.
Another theory is the killings were motivated by the murderer’s love of jazz music. This was made public after the killer wrote a letter to the newspapers claiming the date he would next kill and said those who play loud jazz music from their homes would be spared his axe.
The Creepy Clue: The following letter is believed to be from the Mad Axeman
His letter read:
Hell, March 13, 1919
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.
When I see fit, I shall come and claim other victims. I alone know whom they shall be. I shall leave no clue except my bloody axe, besmeared with blood and brains of he whom I have sent below to keep me company.
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.
Then the murders stopped just as quickly as they had started. The Mad Axeman was never caught, his identity never revealed, but the citizens of New Orleans still shudder when they think about this brutal time in history.
4. Lady of the Dunes
Lady of the Dunes is one of Massachusetts’ most famous unsolved murders. In July 1974, two teenage girls found the body of an unidentified woman at Cape Cod National Seashore. Her hands were severed; a forearm was missing alongside her skull crushed and nearly decapitated. Reconstruction efforts also revealed she had red hair, was of medium build, and was in her mid-30s.
She also had “New York-style” dental work done estimated to have cost $7,000 but some of the teeth were missing. Her Wrangler jeans were left folded to the side of the body. There were also no signs of a struggle which led investigators to believe the victim was either familiar with her killer or murdered in her sleep and the body was moved later.
Investigators also believed the victim must have had a criminal record and her killer feared that the fingerprints would easily identify the body.
The victim’s body was buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Provincetown and despite many reconstructions of the ‘Lady of the Dunes’ face – the case was never solved. Warren Alexander, a 60-year-old lifelong resident of Provincetown, said, “No mystery around here has had quite the longevity as this one. It will feel nice to have this one solved.”
The Creepy Clue: In 2015, author Joe Hill (the son of horror author Stephen King) told an FBI investigator that he believed Lady of the Dunes was an extra in the 1975 film ‘Jaws’. Hill said in the film’s “July 4th Crowd Arrives” sequence, a woman can be seen who resembles the reconstructions of the victim.
She matches the description: a blue bandanna, jeans, about 145 pounds and 30 years old. ‘Jaws’ was shot between May and October 1974 about 160 km south of Provincetown.
Although Hill’s lead was dismissed, the speculation online was enough to bring this case back into the public eye.
3. Girl Scout Murders
One of the most tragic and disturbing unsolved mysteries is the Girl Scout Murders. On June 13th, 1977, three young girls, 9-year-old Michelle Guse, 10-year-old Doris Milner, and 8-year-old Lorie Farmer, were killed while at Camp Scott camp in Locust Grove, Oklahoma.
At around 7 pm, a thunderstorm hit the camp and the girls were sent to their tent – Tent 8 – to wait it out. Tent 8 was located farthest from the camp counselors and partially hidden from view because of the showers. Girl Scouts were assigned to their tents depending on their birth dates. There were 4 girls per tent, but tent 8 was short of one girl.
The bodies were then carried away from their tent and twelve hours later found by a camp counselor laying on a trail on their way to the showers. All the other children at the camp were sent home early that day but with no explanation why as the true horror of what had been discovered was not yet made public.
A large red flashlight was found on top of the bodies with a distinct fingerprint on the lens; this was never identified. The bloody 9.5 size shoe prints left behind at the crime scene were also never identified.
Nobody had heard any commotion the night before but this was likely due to the thunderstorm overhead. The campsite was very remote and covered 410 acres but it was later determined that the killer would have had to pass the counselor’s tent base to get to Tent 8.
The Creepy Clue: Two months before the murders; someone had broken into one of the counselors’ tents, ransacked personal belongings, and stolen food. There was a sinister note left inside an empty food box threatening three of the campers would be murdered. There was never any follow up to the note as they believed this was just a prank letter.
After nearly 50 years of hosting Girl Scout trips, Camp Scott closed and was never reopened. Still, no one has ever been charged with the murders.
2. The Black Dahlia
On the morning of 15th January 1947, a young woman and her 3-year-old daughter were walking through Leimert Park, Los Angeles, when she discovered what she thought was a discarded store mannequin. Much to her horror, she was actually looking at a dismembered corpse – discarded in such a brutal manner that the image would haunt her and many others for years to come.
The beautiful, slain woman was identified as 22-year-old Elizabeth Short (born July 29th, 1924, in Hyde Park, Boston). Short’s body was mutilated, sliced in half at the waist, and entirely drained of blood. Her face had been slashed from the corners of her mouth to her ears to create a smile effect.
The Creepy Clue: Nine days after the body was found, the Los Angeles Examiner received an envelope that contained some of Short’s personal belongings including her birth certificate, social security card, photos of male acquaintances, and an address book – they believed there was nobody else who could have sent these items other than the killer. Also with the letter was newspaper clippings of letters that spelled out: “Heaven is HERE!”
When the address book was handed over to the police as evidence, they found seventy-five men had met with Short leading up to her death. They had either socialized with her over dinner or at a club – but they all claimed they had not heard from her again after the meeting. With no evidence tying any them to the murder, the investigation hit another wall.
Short’s murder has been the inspiration for many books, television, and film adaptations. The chilling and gruesome case is now known as ‘The Black Dahlia’ one of the oldest unsolved murder cases in Los Angeles history.
1. The Ice Box Murders
On Father’s Day 1965, Fred and Edwina Rogers were murdered by an unknown subject in their home in Houston, Texas. It was later discovered that Edwina was shot execution-style in the head and Fred was beaten to death then his eyes gouged out and genitalia removed. The bodies of the slain couple were dragged to the master bedroom where they were drained of blood and dismembered.
Some of the couple’s body parts were then placed in the refrigerator and the officer who arrived at the scene initially thought the remains were cuts of hog meat. Other organs had been removed, cut up, and flushed down the toilet. The brutal murders became known as ‘The Ice Box Murders’.
The main suspect was Fred and Edwina’s son – Charles. He was described as the reclusive type who rarely left the family home. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nuclear physics at the University of Houston and later worked as a seismologist for Shell Oil for nine years before abruptly quitting his job in 1957 with no explanation.
Shortly after this gruesome discovery, Charles disappeared, never to be seen publicly ever again.
In 1997, true crime sleuths Hugh and Martha Gardenier began to reinvestigate the case and came to the conclusion that Charles was responsible for the heinous crimes. They alleged that Charles was constantly abused and ridiculed by his parents all the way into adulthood.
Leading up to the murders, Fred and Edwina allegedly forged his signature on the deeds of land that he had owned. Apparently the house they all lived in was really owned by Charles and not his parents (most likely through inheritance from his grandparents). There was also talk of Edwina again forging his signature and taking out loans in his name and keeping the money for herself.
In June 1975, Charles was declared dead in absentia and the case still remains unsolved.
The Creepy Clue: The skill used to dismembered in the upstairs bathroom was at the hands of someone “with some knowledge of anatomy”. The entire house had been scrubbed leaving the property spotlessly clean. But the unidentified suspect had missed just one spot – a tiny spot of blood in the keyhole of Charles’ bedroom door. Whoever the suspect was; they had the time and patience to scrub the entire crime scene.