Idiots Guide: Notorious Unsolved Murders of the 19th/20th Century

There is something about an unsolved murder that offends society at large and this is completely understandable. It offends this author. It’s the extinguished lives that will never find justice, their voices silenced and without recourse. It’s beyond offensive, at least it should be to any human being that appreciates the glorious miracle called life. When a murderer unilaterally extinguishes a soul from earth they should be made to stand up to be judged and sentenced. To be held accountable for a crime that cannot be undone, a crime that destroys families in many ways that transcends just the life of the victim. When you add notoriety to this crime it brings light to it in a way that touches every human being of conscience. Suffice it to say that murderers suck, big time. Idiots Guide presents a list of some of the more notorious unsolved murders of the 20th century for your review. Be warned that some of this material is not for the feint of heart.

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#10.  Bob Crane  /  Murdered:  June 29, 1978

Bob Crane

Bob Crane is best known for his acting role as Colonel Robert E. Hogan on the runaway hit sitcom ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ for CBS. The series which aired from 1965 to 1971 made Crane a bonafide star as he received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations over the course of the series. Crane’s life came to an abrupt end sometime during the evening of June 28th 1978 in his apartment at Winfield Place in Scottsdale, Arizona. His corpse was found by  his co-star Victoria Ann Berry after she entered his apartment and found him bludgeoned to death by an unidentified weapon, with an electrical cord tied around his neck. Unfortunately for Crane the Scottsdale Police Department had no homicide division to properly investigate his murder. Nevertheless there was little evidence left at the crime scene. No forced entry and nothing stolen. Nobody has ever been convicted for this homicide. The murder of Bob Crane remains unsolved.

#9. Jane Stanford (Stanford University) /  Murdered: February 28, 1905

Jane Stanford

Most people are ignorant to the fact that Jane Stanford, co-founder of the esteemed Stanford University was murdered in 1905, a victim of poisoning. This lack of information was by design as the family basically covered it up. Jane combined efforts with her husband, Leland Stanford, to open Stanford University, a namesake of their only child who passed away at the age of 15.  After her husband passed away, Jane unilaterally ran the University until her sudden death in 1905. An event that would go on to become a legendary murder mystery that few people know about. The poison was strychnine, the perpetuator is unknown. What is known is that the poisoning happened in Hawaii on the island of Oahu, in a Moana Hotel room. Stanford consumed mineral water that tasted strange. She then forced herself to regurgitate it, but it was already too late. A few weeks later, tests revealed that a lethal dose of strychnine had been administered to the water. He maid Elizabeth Richmond was suspected but never charged. Jane Stanford died on February 28, 1905. To this day nobody knows for sure who poisoned her or why.

#8. The Atlas Vampire Murder ( Lilly Lindeström)  / Murdered: May 4, 1932

Lilly Lindeström and the Vampire Murder Case

The Atlas Vampire is the turn of phrase name given to the mystery assailant who murdered Lilly Lindeström, 32 years old and a reputed prostitute. The murder itself was coined the ‘Vampire Murder’ perpetrated in Stockholm, Sweden on May 4, 1932.  Lilly was found ruthlessly murdered in her modest Stockholm apartment. The bizarre nature of the condition of her body is the crux of the mystery.  Police assessed that she had been deceased for at least 2 days before her body was found. Besides the significant blunt force trauma to her head, she was also completely naked, face down on her bed, a condom protruding from her anus and basically bloodless, meaning that her body had been drained of it’s blood, all of it. Police found a gravy ladle near her body and believed that it was used in the drinking of the victim’s missing blood. Nobody has ever been charged with this murder and this murder remains unsolved to this day. How creepy can you get?

#7. The Chicago Tylenol Murders /  Date: Fall of 1982 

Death by Tylenol (1982)

The fall of 1982 was not a good time to get a headache in Chicago, Illinois. For at least seven people it was certainly the worst time to take some Tylenol for the pain. Named the  ‘Chicago Tylenol Murders’ after a series of deaths due to the poisoning of tampered Tylenol bottles in the metropolitan area. All seven victims had ingested Tylenol capsules with the active ingredient acetaminophen. All seven died as a result. The capsules turned out to be laced with potassium cyanide. There were a few copycat instances in the weeks following, but the original seven were done by an as of yet known assailant. Nobody has ever been charged with these murders, nobody knows why it was done and after 35 years   it is likely that none of us will ever know what really happened or why.

#6.  Jack the Ripper Murders / Dates: 1888 – 1891 London, England

Jack the Ripper (1888)

Jack the Ripper is the legendary murderer who we’ve all heard about ad nauseam since the days of our collective youth. He is the unidentified serial killer who tore through the Whitechapel district of London in the years between 1888 – 1891. His modus operandi included the removal of the internal organs of his victims in addition to their overall mutilation, beginning with throat slashing. He prayed on ladies of the night from the slums of East End of London. True story, the name “Jack the Ripper” originated in a letter by someone who tried to claim responsibility for these heinous murders. The media took it from there and ran with it. Nobody knows what his real name is, or frankly if he is a man at all. It is posited that the killer had some surgical knowledge due to his/her skill with organ removal. The bottom line is that whomever this person was, they died and we’ll never know who this maniac f*ck really was.

#5. Tupac Shakur & Christopher Wallace / Dates: Sept 7th, 1996 & March 9th, 1997

Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls

The tragic deaths of Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace occurred almost 6 months to the day apart. This is significant. The irony of these deaths is that nobody has ever been charged and/or convicted in either case, it’s also an outrage. The tragedy of these deaths represent the end of days for two of the very best of the genre from the ‘Golden Age’ of  Hip-Hop. As a fan of their work and influence, I for one couldn’t miss them anymore than I already do. Tupac’s untimely death occurred on the night of September 7th, 1996 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Christopher Wallace aka (Notorious B.I.G.) was murdered on the night of March 9th of 1997 on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, California. Both men died from gunshot wounds inflicted in ubiquitous ‘drive-by’ shootings. I find it difficult to stomach the lack of law enforcement investigation in these murders. The sad fact of the matter is that nobody has ever been charged and/or convicted in either of these murders and it is highly likely that nobody ever will. Justice it seems, isn’t a universal concept.

#4.  The Zodiac Killer Murders / Dates: December 1968 – October 1969

The Zodiac Killings 2

The Zodiac Killer was a diabolical serial killer who terrorized northern California citizens, baffled law enforcement and played games with the media during the late 1960s and into early 1970s. Between December of 1968 and October of 1969 he murdered innocent young people between the ages of 16 and 29 from the Benicia, Vallejo and Lake Berryessa areas outside of San Francisco. The name “Zodiac” was coined as part of a series of cryptic, instigating letters sent to the Bay Area media. They included cryptic ciphers for law enforcement to figure out, which only one was ever solved. Zodiac’s actual number of victims is unknown as he claims over 35 and police have noted at least 7 with 2 known survivors. His method of mayhem included multiple stabbing and gunshots. What has never been uncovered is the identity of this murderer. The California Department of Justice still considers this to be an open case and has since 1969. It’s likely that this person has since died or is elderly beyond threat. Although there have been ‘persons of interest’ and/or suspects over the years, nobody has ever been charged and/or convicted.

#3.  The Black Dahlia  / Murdered: January 15, 1947

The Black Dahlia

It is highly likely that Elizabeth Short never imagined that the end of her life would be so abrupt, violent and legendary. Media dubbed her “The Black Dahlia” presumably after a popular film noir murder mystery of the era. Short was the unfortunate victim of a brutal murder which saw her body mutilated to the point of being cut in half at the waistline. Yes, it was that horrific. Her body was found in mutilated fashion on the morning of January 15, 1947, in the Leimert Park section of Los Angeles, California. Short’s murder has spawned a wave of speculation, from the absurd to the unsettling sinister over the years.  Several books have been written along with television and film adaptations. What has never happened is any arrest and/or conviction in her murder. Elizabeth Short’s murder is  one of the oldest and most bizarre unsolved cases in the history of the ‘City of Angels’.

#2. The Axeman of New Orleans Murders / Dates: May 1918 – October 1919  

The Axeman of New Orleans

Much like ‘Jack the Ripper’, The Axeman of New Orleans was a ruthless serial killer who terrorized the city of New Orleans, Louisiana during a stretch of time from approximately May 1918 to October 1919. A total of 12 gruesome murders caused a major public panic at the time, and a huge mystery ever since. His weapon of choice is just as his coined name would suggest, a woodman’s axe and/or a straight razor. A gnarly way to die for sure. It has been speculated that perhaps these murders were racially motivated as most of the victims were of Italian-American descent. Nobody knows for sure because nobody has ever been charged and/or convicted of these heinous murders. There is always the saving grace of hope that this kind of crime would today be difficult to escape justice with modern crime fighting techniques and technology. For the victims of The Axeman however, this means very little. Time has made it likely that nobody will ever be brought to justice.

#1. The (Lizzie) Borden Family Murders / Murdered: August 4, 1892

Andrew and Abby Borden

The question on everyone’s mind since the morning of Thursday, August 4, 1892 is simple, ‘Did Lizzie Borden murder her parents?’. Nobody will ever know for sure. What is certain is that somebody or a group of somebodies murdered Abby and Andrew Borden in their home over the course of a few hours that fateful morning. Their daughter Lizzie Andrew Borden was charged and tried for the murders, then she was acquitted and released from jail after the trial. Which then begged the question that has remained eve since, if not Lizzie then ‘Who dun it?’.  Whomever it was that committed this heinous murder has long since passed through this mighty coil called earth and got away with double murder.