Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Back in the old days, desperate singles in search of a mate might turn to a professional matchmaker. Nowadays, they are more likely to look in the personals section of the classified ads or subscribe to an Internet dating service. Of course, when it comes to getting anything that people are peddling in newspapers or online—whether it’s a used car or themselves—it pays to take heed of the old warning: Buyer Beware! Those Handsome SWMs and Sensual DWFs who make themselves look and sound so attractive in their digital photos and printed descriptions might turn out to be very different when you meet them in person.
Occasionally, in fact, they might turn out to be serial killers.

Using classifieds as a way of snaring potential victims is a ploy that dates back at least as far as the early 1900s. That’s when the infamous American Black Widow, Belle Gunness, lured a string of unwary bachelors into her clutches by placing matrimonial ads in newspapers across the country: “Rich, good-looking widow, young, owner of a large farm, wishes to get in touch with a gentleman of wealth with cultured tastes.” There was a certain amount of misrepresentation in this classified, since Gunness was actually fat, fiftyish, and bulldog-ugly. She wasn’t lying about being a rich widow, though, since she had murdered at least fourteen husbands after separating them from their life savings.

In France, Gunness’s near contemporary, Henri Landru, known as the “Bluebeard of Paris,” also found his lover-victims through the newspapers. Some of the classifieds were matrimonial ads in which Landru presented himself as a wealthy widower searching for a mate. In others, he pretended to be a used-furniture dealer looking for merchandise. In either case, if the person who responded was a lonely woman of means, Landru would turn up the charm. The results were always the same. The woman’s money would end up in his bank account. The woman herself would end up as a pile of ashes in the stove of his country villa.

In the late 1950s, a sexual psychopath and bondage nut named Harvey Murray Glatman was able to procure victims by posing as a professional photographer and placing ads for female models. After luring an unwary woman into his “studio,” Glatman would rape her, truss her up, take pictures of her while she screamed in terror, then strangle her. (Glatman’s case served as the real-life basis for Mary Higgins Clark’s bestselling novel Loves Music, Loves to Dance, which—as the title suggests—deals with the sometimes perilous world of the personals.)

In more recent times, a vicious sociopath named Harvey Louis Carignan lured young women to their deaths by advertising for employees at the Seattle gas station he managed. Carignan’s MO earned him the nickname the “Want-Ad Killer” (the title of Ann Rule’s 1983 bestselling true crime book on the subject). At roughly the same time, an Alaskan baker named Robert Hansen—who was ultimately convicted of four savage sex killings, though he was allegedly responsible for seventeen—used the personals page of his local newspaper to attract several of his victims. Hansen, who was married with children, would send his family off on a vacation, then take out a classified, seeking women to “join me in finding what’s around the next bend.” After snaring a victim, he would fly her out to the wilderness in his private plane. Then, after raping her at knifepoint, he would strip off her clothing, give her a head start, and (in a sick, real-life duplication of Richard Connell’s famous short story “The Most Dangerous Game”) stalk her like an animal.

Even scarier was the wizened cannibal and child killer Albert Fish, who regularly scoured the classifieds in his endless search for victims. In 1928, Fish came across a Situation Wanted ad placed by a young man named Edward Budd, who was looking for a summer job in the country. Masquerading as the owner of a big Long Island farm, the monstrous old man visited the Budd household, intending to lure the youth to an abandoned house and torture him to death. Fish altered his plans when he laid eyes on Edward’s little sister, a beautiful twelve-year-old girl named Grace. It was the little girl who ended up dead, dismembered, and cannibalized—and all because her brother’s innocent ad brought a monster to their door.

Arguably the most bizarre advertising gambit in the annals of psychopathic sex crime occurred in 2002, when a forty-one-year-old German computer technician, Armin Meiwes, posted an Internet ad that read: “Wanted: Well-Built Man for Slaughter and Consumption.”

Though it is impossible to conceive of a less enticing come-on, it caught the fancy of a forty-two-year-old microchip designer named Bernd-J├╝rgen Brandes, who showed up at Meiwes’s door, eager to be butchered. With the victim’s enthusiastic cooperation, Meiwes cut off Brandes’s penis, cooked it, then served it up for the two of them to eat together. He then stabbed Brandes through the neck, chopped up the corpse, froze certain parts for future consumption, and buried the rest To describe Herr Meiwes as “disturbed” is clearly an understatement. It must be acknowledged, however, that—in contrast to such wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing as Robert Hansen and Albert Fish—at least he wasn’t guilty of false advertising.

Advertising for Victims
In the 1989 film Sea of Love, a serial killer with a seductive line goes trolling for male victims in the classifieds. When a sucker bites, the killer reels him in, then leaves him facedown on the mattress, a bullet in the back of his skull.

As he did nine years earlier in Cruising, Al Pacino plays a homicide detective who goes undercover to catch the killer. By placing his own ad in the papers, he turns himself into live bait. In the process he plunges into a turbulent affair with Ellen Barkin—who may or may not be the killer.

A riveting thriller, Sea of Love is especially good at conveying the dangerous undercurrents that run beneath the surface of big-city singles life, where lonely people looking for a good catch sometimes end up with a barracuda.

Monday, April 3, 2017


Though the figure of the axe-wielding maniac is a staple of horror movies and campfire tales, he is largely a figment of the popular imagination. In reality, serial killers rarely rely on axes.

The most famous axe in American criminal history, of course, was the one that belonged to Miss Lizzie Borden, who, according to folklore, used it to give her sleeping stepmother “forty whacks” in the face (and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one). Lizzie, however, was no serial killer but a chubby, thirty-two-year-old spinster with long-simmering resentments who apparently went berserk one sweltering day in August 1892. In short, her crimes (assuming she committed them, which seems fairly certain, in spite of her acquittal) were a one-shot deal—a lifetime’s worth of stifled emotions exploding in a single savage deed.

Another fatal female who was handy with an axe was the notorious Belle Gunness, who murdered at least fourteen of her husbands and suitors. Some apparently were poisoned, others were dispatched in their sleep with a hatchet. Though the fat, ferocious Gunness cut a more frightful figure than the ladylike Miss Lizzie, she was no wild-eyed thrill killer. Rather, she was a cold-blooded mercenary, killing to collect on her spouses’ life-insurance policies or inherit their savings.

Closer than either of these lethal ladies to the popular stereotype of the axe-wielding psycho was a hard-bitten drifter named Jake Bird. Roaming around Tacoma in 1947, Bird hacked a mother and daughter to pieces with an axe he found in their woodshed. Alerted by the victims’ dying shrieks, neighbors summoned the police, who managed to subdue Bird after a violent struggle. Bird pled innocent until forensic analysis established that the stains on his trousers were human blood and brain tissue. Before his execution in 1949, he confessed to no fewer than forty-four murders throughout the United States, a number of them committed with his weapon of choice—the axe.

The most fear-provoking axe killer in the annals of American crime, however—one who kept a whole city in a state of panic for over two years—was a maniac whose identity remains unknown. This is the shadowy figure known as the “Axeman of New Orleans.”
On the night of May 23, 1918, a New Orleans couple named Maggio was butchered in bed by an intruder who smashed their skulls with an axe blade, then slit their throats with a razor, nearly severing the woman’s head. Thus began the reign of terror of the so-called Axeman, a real-life boogeyman who haunted the city for two and half years. His MO was always the same. Prowling through the darkness, he would target a house, chisel out a back-door panel, slip inside, and find his way to the bedroom. There, he would creep toward his slumbering victims, raise his weapon, and attack with demoniacal fury. Altogether, he murdered seven people and savagely wounded another eight.

Panic gripped the city, particularly since the police were helpless to locate the killer. Hysterical citizens pointed fingers at various suspects, including a supposed German spy named Louis Besumer and a father and son named Jordano, who were actually convicted on “eyewitness testimony” that later proved to be fabricated. Since many of the victims were Italian grocers, there was also a theory (wholly unsubstantiated) that the killer was a Mafia enforcer. To cope with their fears, citizens resorted to morbid humor, throwing raucous New Orleans-style “Axeman parties” and singing along to a popular tune called “The Mysterious Axeman’s Jazz.

Though the serial killer was never identified, some people believe that he was an ex-con named Joseph Mumfre, who was shot down by a woman named Pepitone, the widow of the Axeman’s last victim. Mrs. Pepitone claimed that she had seen Mumfre flee the murder scene. Whether Mumfre was really the Axeman remains a matter of dispute, but one fact is certain: the killings stopped with his death.

Bangkok Ghost

the influence of the spirit world is felt in belief, business and popular entertainment in thailand’s capital and beyond

On a popular episode of “Humans defy ghosts” – a weekly Thai TV programme that delves into the supernatural – a two-year-old girl who survived three days next to the dead body
of her mother was asked a series of questions by one of the show’s panellists. “Who prepared your milk?” Kapol Thongplab enquired. “Who played with you? Who
opened the door?” “Mummy,” the little girl replied, as genuinely convinced as her adult
interlocutors that her mother’s ghost continued to sustain her in those harrowing days. In Thailand, a show like this is more than just entertainment.

For many of Thailand’s soothsayers, astrologers and its huge monastic network, belief in superstitions is undoubtedly lucrative. Exorcisms, protective spells and trinkets are all readily available at a price, while books and films about haunting spirits are hugely popular. Businesses often pay monks to make annual visits to chase away evil spirits. Thais believe a violent or unexpected death is more likely than a peaceful death to result in the creation of an angry ghost when a soul departs.

Few ghosts are more famous than ‘Nak’, a woman who Thais believe lived in Bangkok in the
19th century and died during childbirth while her husband was away fighting a war. There are many versions of the story, but in general they all describe how the husband returned to find his wife seemingly still alive. Nak was so devoted to him that she had remained as a ghost, but became a malevolent spirit when her husband discovered the truth and ran away.

“On the eve of a lottery, this temple is open all night,” reads the sign on a shrine dedicated to Nak in Bangkok where locals make offerings to the ghost asking for cures, good luck and exemption from military service. Fortune-tellers ply their trade outside the shrine and devotees also release fish, turtlesand frogs into a nearby canal to earn ‘merit’. According to the merchants selling the animals, the release of an eel will bring professional success and a frog can reduce sins. [AFP] 2 Feb 2015.

• Sinsakorn Aroon, a 60-year-old official, said he saw a ghostly phenomenon inside Bangkok’s Government House at around 6pm on 10 September 2014. Mr Sinsakorn, who is in charge of the audio system in the press conference room, said he was preparing to leave when he spotted a woman sweeping the floor near the reception room. He told her he was leaving and asked her to lock the door behind her – but then suddenly felt cold and wondered why someone was cleaning at that hour. “The repair workers were already done and the building’s housekeepers had already gone home,” he said. The figure then walked into a set of doors and disappeared right in front of him. “If she were human, I would have heard the door move,” he said. “I was frozen on the spot. I could only hear traditional Thai music, even though I didn’t hear that sound earlier. Once I came to my senses, I ran off and shut the door.”

Mr Sinsakorn said he had heard tales about Government House ghosts from other officials,
including a painter who claimed a female ghost told him in his dream to use “dark colours” when he painted inside the building, and an official who said workers noticed a scent of mysterious “ancient perfume” during the recent renovation. “I think I saw the ghost because she wants to instruct me to keep the building clean,” Mr Sinsakorn said. “I plan to make merits for her soul.” This latest apparition manifested despite the fact that a feng shui master had recently been hired to oversee the realignment of plants and furniture inside Government House. Military junta chairman and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had also prayed to spirits at several different altars in the complex on his official first day of work just
days before Mr Sinsakorn’s ghostly encounter.

A number of Government House officials believed the ghost had appeared because the ceremonies needed to appease the supernatural entities watching over the area had not been properly conducted. The spirit world is everywhere in Thailand where animism and folk beliefs are deeply infused with Buddhism. Most buildings boast a ‘spirit house’ – a shrine placed in an auspicious corner of a property where offerings can be made to appease ghosts lest they turn malevolent. thaivisa.com, 12 Sept 2014.

• For several nights running, construction worker Nopchakorn Sangkong, 33, experienced a strange phenomenon he described as “seeing white smoke at his feet” and hearing a voice beckoning him toward an abandoned house nearby. Finally, on 12 November 2014 he entered the house – Soi Lat Phrao 74, in Bangkok – and found a skeleton on the second floor, prompting him to call the police. The remains were believed to be those of Wasinee Haemopas, 71, who owned the house and had probably died there of natural causes about three years earlier. She lived alone and never interacted with her neighbours. bangkok. coconuts.co, via thaivisa.com, 12 Nov 2014.

• Inhabitants of Baan Tai village in Thailand’s Krabi province suddenly started fainting in July 2015. Some later died. Local people blamed ghosts. Homeowner Rayong Boonroong, 70, said that she had fainted and became fearful for her life, especially after a relative dreamed the God of the Underground was out harvesting fresh souls from the living. To
discourage the wraiths from entering their homes, residents started hanging red T-shirts and signs to scare off the gullible ghosts. “This household has no faint-hearted people!” read one of the signs. “Only strong persons live here!”

The ghosts were believed to be targeting residents born on Wednesdays – just like Rayong. “This helps me feel more secure,” she said of the spirit-repelling shirt. Darunee Wangsop, 26, erected a scarecrow wearing a red T-shirt atop a motorcycle in front of her home. “It looks like someone is guarding us all the time,” she explained. The previous year, villagers in Buriram province had used T-shirts to protect themselves from a tall, headless man who claimed several souls while they slept. Phuket News (Thailand), 4 Aug 2015.