“I don’t even know what street Canada is on.” — Al Capone
On New Year’s Day, 1963, two bodies were found in a lovers’ lane in Sydney, Australia. They belonged to Gilbert Bogle, a top research physicist, and his mistress. Both were partially undressed and covered with clothes and cardboard. Police could find no trace of poison; their hearts had simply stopped beating.
To this day, no one has determined whether they were murdered, and if so, how or why. It is a perfect mystery.
“When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things: One part of me wants to take her home, be real nice and treat her right; the other part wonders what her head would look like on a stick.” — Serial killer Edmund Kemper
In 1955, the merchant vessel Joyita disappeared en route from Samoa to the Tokelau Islands, about 270 miles away.
A search and rescue mission found nothing, but five weeks later she was sighted more than 600 miles from her scheduled route. The ship was partially submerged and there was no trace of her 16 crewmembers or 9 passengers, including two children.
An inquiry found that the disappearance of the passengers and crew was “inexplicable on the evidence submitted.” But the Fiji Times and Herald quoted an “impeccable source” saying that the Joyita had passed through a fleet of Japanese fishing boats and “had observed something the Japanese did not want them to see.”
What was it? No one knows.
Rumored whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa’s body:
- Buried in northern Michigan
- Buried under the New Jersey Turnpike
- Buried in an abandoned coal mine near Pittston, Pa.
- Buried in Fresh Kills landfill, Staten Island, New York
- Buried under the end zone at Giants Stadium in New Jersey
- Buried in PJP Landfill in Jersey City, underneath the Pulaski Skyway
- Mechanically converted to cement
- Dissolved in an acid tank used to rechrome car bumpers
- Rendered into fat at a rendering plant
His body has never been found, and in 1982 he was declared legally dead.
Ironically, his middle name was Riddle.
The world’s oldest active bank robber was 91-year-old J.L. Hunter, who robbed the First American Bank in Abilene, Texas, of $2,000 in 2003. It was his third robbery in five years.
When asked why he did it, he said he hadn’t liked banks since they forced him into bankruptcy.
Willie Sutton did not rob banks “because that’s where the money is.”
He never said that–he credits it to “some enterprising reporter who apparently felt a need to fill out his copy.”
Why did he rob banks? “Because I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was more alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, than at any other time in my life. I enjoyed everything about it so much that one or two weeks later I’d be out looking for the next job. But to me the money was the chips, that’s all.”
In any case, Sutton certainly knew what he was doing. Between the late 1920s and his final arrest in 1952, he robbed 100 banks of $2 million.
He would bring a gun, but he prided himself on never using it. “You can’t rob a bank on charm and personality,” he said.
Excerpt from a letter sent by serial killer Albert Fish to a victim’s mother, November 1934:
On Sunday June the 3 –1928 I called on you at 406 W 15 St. Brought you pot cheese — strawberries. We had lunch. Grace sat in my lap and kissed me. I made up my mind to eat her.
On the pretense of taking her to a party. You said Yes she could go. I took her to an empty house in Westchester I had already picked out. When we got there, I told her to remain outside. She picked wildflowers. I went upstairs and stripped all my clothes off. I knew if I did not I would get her blood on them.
When all was ready I went to the window and Called her. Then I hid in a closet until she was in the room. When she saw me all naked she began to cry and tried to run down the stairs. I grabbed her and she said she would tell her mamma.
First I stripped her naked. How she did kick — bite and scratch. I choked her to death, then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms. Cook and eat it. How sweet and tender her little ass was roasted in the oven. It took me 9 days to eat her entire body.
The police traced the letter to Fish, and they found Grace’s skull buried in his garden.
The Eiffel Tower has been getting some alarming press lately: Its nighttime image has been copyrighted, and Islamists admitted they’d planned an attack on the Paris landmark in 2002. But these still can’t compete with the most outrageous episode in the tower’s history, when a Bohemian con man sold the whole thing for scrap — twice.
The tower was built for the Paris Exhibition of 1889, and by 1925 its upkeep was becoming a burden. So Victor Lustig posed as a government official and summoned six scrap dealers to a secret meeting, where he told them the city wanted to dismantle it. He led a convincing tour of the site, and even induced one eager dealer to “bribe” him for the job.
Lustig fled to Vienna with the cash, and the embarrassed scrap dealer never called the cops. So the con man came back six months later and ran the same scam again, with six new dealers. This time the suspicious mark went to the police, but Lustig still escaped.
An even more successful salesman was at work elsewhere in the early 1920s: Arthur Ferguson sold Nelson’s Column, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace, then sailed to America and marketed the White House and the Statue of Liberty. Sometimes the best salesmen are the most audacious ones.
The Depravity Scale is an attempt to reach a scientific definition of evil. What makes a crime “heinous”? If “horrible” or “atrocious” crimes get longer sentences, what counts? The Supreme Court says that sentences must reflect societal attitudes, but right now there’s no legal definition of a “heinous, atrocious, or cruel” act; jurors have to rely on their emotions.
New York forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner put together a list of 26 things that might characterize an act as depraved. Does the criminal maximize the victim’s fear or pain? Does he boast about his act? So far, Welner has found more than 90 percent consensus that 16 of the items indicate depravity. Interestingly, the results seem consistent across states, but not between countries.
“We need consistency, and in particular consistency that reflects the best that forensics has to offer,” Welner says. “From my own vantage point of working within the cases, juries and judges don’t see near as much as they should be seeing when it comes to forensic evidence about what a person’s intent was, what a person actually did, and what a person’s attitude was about what he did. Even from a mental health standpoint, there’s far more effort devoted to the question of who a person is or why that person did something rather than just look at what the person did.”
And Welner has no problem with the concept of evil. “I have no problem with the word being used,” he says. “If you look in the literature, there’s a startling lack of effort to try to flesh out what evil is, and I think it’s our responsibility as behavioral scientists to try to understand it. This issue gets neglected because therapeutic professions like psychiatry inherently must focus on the good in order to be therapeutic. Another reason for this neglect is because to wade in and wrestle with it means to confront it in ourselves, and that’s a painful prospect even for the most stable of us. When I first began exploring this, I never enjoyed it, and I appreciated walking away from it. The more I studied it, the more it affected even my dreams. It’s an unpalatable exercise.”