Serial killers are already spooky enough, out there prowling about, hiding amongst us to prey upon us and sow terror. Throughout history we have been haunted by such madmen and women, and we probably will be forever more. However, what makes a serial killer or killers even scarier is when their dark and bloody stories are steeped in the world of the occult and the supernatural, and there have been many of these human monsters who have sought to consort with magical forces and monsters of a less human kind. From self-proclaimed werewolves to strange and sinister killer cults, these are the stories of societies darkest elements propelling themselves into the realms of mysticism, magic, demons, and more.
The earliest case we will look at here goes way back to the late 1500s, when the rural village of Bedburg, Germany was seemingly being stalked by a bloodthirsty nocturnal creature of some sort. It started with farmers finding their livestock ruthlessly slaughtered and torn open with abandon, as if they had been killed by some terrifying beast, and the whole region became convinced that there was a pack of ravenous wolves marauding about. Not long after the cattle deaths, women and children began to go missing while walking near their homes at night, and some of these turned up in a similarly gruesomely mutilated state as the animals that had been found. Among the dead were at least 13 children and women, two of whom had been pregnant and their unborn babies eaten, and in every gory case the amount of savagery on display was staggering, the corpses ripped asunder with breathtaking barbarity. At times there was no real corpse to be found at all, but rather just partially chewed or eaten body parts strewn about, and there was no way to calculate just how many had actually died at the hands and teeth of this evil.
The viciousness and animalistic nature of these attacks cemented the idea that some sort of fearsome animal such as wolves was stalking the area, but there were also whispers amongst the more superstitious folk that it was the doing of a werewolf. A group of armed men was sent out into the wilderness to track the mysterious beast down, and they did manage to find a wolf and chase it down with dogs, yet when the creature was finally cornered it was found to be a man draped in ragged animal skins and snarling like an animal. Even more surprising than this was that this feral, growling thing was none other than a wealthy and respected farmer of the area by the name of Peter Stumpp.
Stumpp was captured and brought in for questioning, where the story would descend even more into the bizarre still. Although he at first denied any wrongdoing, the trial that ensued saw him tortured until Stumpp came forward with the admission that not only was he indeed responsible for the heinous crimes and a practitioner of sorcery from a young age, but that he was also under the influence of the Devil and had in his possession a magical belt given to him by the Dark One to sow chaos and death. He claimed that the belt had given him the power to transform himself into, in his own words, “a greedy, devouring wolf, strong and mighty, with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like brands of fire; a mouth great and wide, with most sharp and cruel teeth; a huge body and mighty paws.” The magical belt that he spoke of unfortunately could not be located.
At the trial it would be found that over the course of 25 years Stumpp had not only killed countless cattle, women, and children, but also men and even his own son in this fierce “werewolf” state, and there were thought to have been dozens or even hundreds of victims, many of which were fully or partially devoured and only one who is known to have ever escaped. It was all particularly surreal as Stumpp had managed to maintain the facade of a peaceful and respected member of the community throughout, with the writer George Bores remarking at the time:
And sundry times he would go through the streets of Collin, Bedbur, and Cperadt, in comely habit, and very civilly, as one well known to all the inhabitants thereabout, and oftentimes was he saluted of those whose friends and children he had butchered, though nothing suspected for the same.
In the end Stumpp, who became widely known as “The Werewolf of Bedburg,” was found guilty of murder, cannibalism, witchcraft, and sorcery, and sentenced to die for his crimes, along with his mistress, who is thought to have aided him, and his daughter, with who he was accused of having had an incestuous relationship. Many still truly believed him to be a werewolf, due to the superhuman strength seemingly displayed in the horrific mutilations and the fact that his pursuers when he was captured allegedly insisted that they had been chasing an actual wolf until they had cornered him.
Stumpp’s execution mirrored the savagery of his own crimes, and his body was broken on a giant wheel as he was poked with hot irons, his arms chopped off, and finally ending with him being decapitated and the head placed on a stick as a warning to all potential devil worshipers. All three of the condemned were finally burned at the stake just to be sure, making them deader than dead and ending one of the most brutal and beastly killing sprees in history. It is not known if he was really the killer, or to what depths of depravity his crimes may have reached, as the confession had been gleaned from torture, but the sadistic killings supposedly ceased after Stumpp’s death.
Another bizarre case of the supernatural intertwined with murder comes from the 1930s, when a woman from the quaint town of Correggio, Italy, by the name of Leonarda Cianciulli visited a fortune teller and was given the grave news that all of her children were going to die before she did. This grim portent turned out to have been oddly accurate, as during her marriage to a registry office clerk named Raffaele Pansardi she had had four children, but had been pregnant 17 times, with three of these ending in miscarriages and the others all dying during childhood, and this only added to Leonarda’s conviction that her mother had cursed her for marrying her husband without consent. This dire fortune telling session must have really struck a chord in the superstitious Cianciulli, as she began to truly think that her remaining children’s lives were in mortal danger, especially that of her son Giuseppe, who had just shipped off to fight in the Italian Army as World War II loomed large and she became convinced that he was fated to die. The woman was by all accounts a well-liked shopkeeper in her town, but these grisly premonitions were to send her careening down a dark path.
As she fretted and became absolutely consumed by what she believed to be the inexorable doom of her four surviving children, Leonarda became somehow convinced that the only way to save them was to perform blood sacrifices to appease whatever dark forces were circling her and her family. In 1939 she concocted a sinister plan to lure in a friend and customer by the name of Faustina Setti by telling her that she had found the single woman a potential husband. This was all a clever ruse, and when Setti arrived, instead of introducing her to a man Leonarda introduced her to the business end of an axe. She then emptied the dead woman’s life savings for herself. Her first blood sacrifice completed, Leonarda did the sensible thing with the body and made it into candles and cakes. According to her own admission of this first killing she said:
I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the whole mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank. As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.
One was down, and for Leonarda, who would come to be known by the grim nickname of the “Soap-Maker of Correggio,” there were inevitably more that had to made to save her children from the dark forces of death targeting her family, especially her beloved Giuseppe. Her next victim was a friend of her’s named Francesca Soavi, who she brought over under the pretense of having found her a job, before drugging her, killing her, and dismembering the corpse, which was similarly made into candles and cakes and the victim again being robbed. One more victim followed in the form of yet another supposed friend and neighbor of Leonarda’s named Virginia Cacioppo, who was disposed of in the same way and who seems to have been particularly delicious, with the killer later chillingly saying of Cacioppo:
She ended up in the pot, like the other two. Her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbors and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet.
It is unclear just how many more blood sacrifices Leonarda believed she needed to protect her children, but whatever that number was she would not reach it. After Cacioppo’s disappearance her sister-in-law became suspicious and reported to authorities that Leonarda was the last person the missing woman had been seen with. When police arrived to question her, the demented killer eventually confessed to her crimes and went to trial, where she remained completely unrepentant about what she had done and was finally sentenced to 30 years in prison and 3 years in a mental asylum. On October 15, 1970 Leonarda Cianciulli would die at the age of 76 while interred at a mental institution in Pozzuoli, having never shown even the slightest ounce of remorse for what she had done. Spookily, she had once told of a palm-reading session from her youth, long before all of these grim killings, in which the fortune teller had eerily told her “In your right hand I see prison, in your left a criminal asylum.”
In later years we see more of the same, and 1981 there was a spate of ritualistic killings originating in Singapore. The whole sordid tale started on January 25th of that year, when the body of a 9-year-old girl named Agnes Ng was uncovered stuffed into a travel bag in the town of To a Payoh, and the girl had apparently been sexually assaulted and suffocated. This gruesome discovery would be followed by more dead bodies of children, with the discovery of a 10-year-old boy named Ghazali Marzuki found two weeks later, not far at all from where Ng’s body had been found, and whose corpse had puncture and burn marks upon it, as well as evidence that he had been drugged and drowned. This body, however, would offer a tantalizing clue in death.
It turned out that Marzuki’s corpse was dripping blood from the nose, which had left a trail leading all the way to an apartment block not far away. Quizzical authorities followed this clear trail of blood all the way to the flat of a 39-year-old man named Adrian Lim, who was under investigation for an alleged rape and who they found decked out in a shirt and pants seemingly about to try and bolt. It was suspicious to say the least. Within the flat were found a plethora of arcane and ritualistic items, such as crucifixes and Hindu and Chinese arcane symbols and idols, and it was found that some of these had smatterings of blood upon them. There was also found a spot of blood in the kitchen, but when Lim was confronted about it he merely replied that he had been slaughtering chickens in there as a part of the New Year’s festivities. Skeptical police then found a piece of paper with the names of both Ng and Marzuki scrawled upon it, as well as traces of pills containing an incapacitating drug and hairs belonging to the victims, and this was enough to give them reason to arrest Lim. It was all rather damning to be sure.
It turned out that Lim was an active spirit medium and psychic healer and that he had been consorting with two female accomplices named Tan Mui Choo and Hoe Kah Hong, who he had apparently wooed with his self-professed supernatural powers and who were amongst his several “Holy Wives.” It came to light that Lim and company had abducted Ng and then drugged and then sexually assaulted her before killing her, and a similar fate had awaited Marzuki, although he was not assaulted. It would also come to light that the trio had often been performing noisy rituals late at night, which authorities had been notified of. Lim and his accomplices would claim that they had offered the children as blood sacrifices to the Hindu goddess Kali to gain supernatural powers.
The trial that would commence was one of the longest Singapore had ever seen, and the case invoked shock and anger in a populace not used to such violent crime, and there were virtual riots outside of the courtroom during the media frenzy. Although the whole thing had occult and ritualistic undertones, Lim would also later claim that the murders had been carried out in part because he felt he had been framed for rape, and he would say:
I felt that I had been framed and that the police had been blind. We (with Tan and Hoe) wanted revenge and had a meeting. At the meeting, we decided to kill small children.
He would also freely admit to using trickery and lies to convince women to believe he had magical powers and sleep with him, something that no doubt did not go over with his “wives.” The trio would be condemned to hang on May 23, 1983, and while the the two women tried to beat the charges with an insanity plea the court was having none of it, and they would be put to death on November 25, 1988, at Changi Prison. Lim himself reportedly fully accepted his fate, and showed not one iota of remorse. It was a shocking case at the time, of which one police officer would say:
In all my years as a police officer, I never came across anything else like this. People were so scared that some of them did not want to send their children to school.
At around the same time was a perhaps even more infamous spate of mysterious disappearances and murders in the state of Illinois, in the United States. In the early 1980s, a cabal of Satan worshiping men consisting of group leader Robin Gecht and his main followers Edward Spreitzer and brothers Andrew and Thomas Kokoraleis had a routine of meeting up at Gecht’s home to perform dark rituals and pray at his “Satanic Chapel,” which was adorned with all manner of imagery and artifacts concerned with the Devil. However, this was not just some odd hobby, and it would quickly graduate to sadistic murder.
On May 23, 1981, the body of 28-year-old Linda Sutton was found dumped in an abandoned field near Villa Park, Illinois. The corpse was in quite a grisly state, with one of her breasts completely amputated. About a year later, a missing woman named Lorraine Borowski would also be found dead in a cemetery in the area, 5 months after she had disappeared, and another woman named Shui Mak would be found dead four months after vanishing. Police were at first dumbfounded by these killings, until a prostitute named Angel York was found stabbed, strangled, and half-dead by the Chicago River, with one of her breasts having been cut. She gave a description of her attackers to police but it was not enough to get them anywhere. The body of another prostitute named Sandra Delaware was found on August 28, 1982, also stabbed, strangled, and with a breast sliced off.
Several other victims would appear, including a 31-year-old Rose Davis, and a survivor named Beverley Washington, both of whom had suffered very similar injuries to the previous victims. However, this time Washington’s testimony would bear enough details to track down who was responsible, and this led investigators to a man named Robin Gecht and then Edward Spreitzer and the Kokoraleis brothers. Under interrogation Thomas Kokoraleis cracked and admitted that the group had taken women back to Gecht’s “Satanic Chapel” to torture and rape them, as well as cut off their breasts, which they would then eat portions of and put the rest into a box. The others would come forward as well, except Gecht, and would also claim that their leader had possessed supernatural powers, including the ability to charm people and keep them in thrall to do his bidding, and to control both mental and physically. They claimed that through such rituals that they too could harness such amazing powers.
Gecht himself fully denied all of these allegations, calling them silly nonsense, but he was still nevertheless convicted of murder, and the group is still thought to be responsible for around 18 murders and disappearances. What would be called the “Ripper crew” or “Chicago Rippers” were eventually convicted, and Andrew Kokoraleis was sentenced to death while Gecht received 120 years in prison and Thomas Kokoraleis and Spreitzer life in prison without parole. Satanic powers did not help them in this case, it would seem.
In spring of 1989 there was a spate of missing person cases originating from the U.S.- Mexican border, in the area of Matamoros, Mexico. At the time by far the most widely publicized and talked about of these was the vanishing of an American named Mark Kilroy, a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, who had gone off along with friends Bill Huddleston and Bradley Moore for a vacation at a popular resort area on the border of Texas and Mexico called South Padre Island. During their trip they decided to stop by Brownsville and a town just over the Rio Grande called Matamoros.
Things started off just how they had planned, with fun in the sun and drinking, and then after visiting a bar on the evening of March 11, 1989, Kilroy went off to urinate behind a tree and proceeded to vanish off the face of the earth. Considering the disappearance of a well-off, clean-cut American college student, the news got out fast and the Mexican government was put under a great deal to pressure to find out just what had happened, but there were very few clues to go on except a witness claiming that Kilroy had been seen talking to an unknown Mexican man with a scar on his face shortly before his vanishing. Leaflets and posters were circulated all over the area as well a cash reward posted for information and even an appearance on the popular television crime program America’s Most Wanted but these ultimately produced no useful leads, and this was all happening as other disappearances were occurring in the same area under the public radar.
It would not be until a few weeks later that police would make a macabre discovery during a massive anti-drug operation along the border that had had nothing at all to do with the Kilroy case at all. During the operation police detained a local man named Elio Hernandez Rivera, who was suspected of smuggling marijuana, and when his family’s ranch was raided they found 75 pounds of weed. This was pretty much what the police expected to find, but what they maybe did not see coming was when they showed the ranch caretaker a picture of Kilroy as a sheer formality and did a double take when he said that he had indeed seen the missing man there at that very ranch.
The caretaker then guided the police to an isolated shack on the property, where they would make the grim discovery of over a dozen rotting human corpses in various states of sickening mutilation buried around the area, including that of Mark Kilroy, whose brain and spine had been removed. There were 15 bodies found in all, with every one of them showing signs of brutal disfigurement and savagery, including one that had had its heart ripped out and another that had been decapitated. Carlos Tapia, Chief Deputy of Cameron County, Texas, would later say of the horrifying discovery:
I thought in my twenty-two years of law enforcement I had seen everything. I hadn’t. As we drew near, you could smell the stench…blood and decomposing organs. In a big, cast iron pot there were pieces of human bodies and a goat’s head with horns.
The whole scene would get even more gruesome and surreal when within the shack was found various signs of some sort of insidious occult cult, including burning candles, a ceremonial cauldron filled with blood with wooden spikes protruding from it, various human body parts that had been charred, including a human brain, a cooked turtle, animal bones, chicken and goat heads, and creepy voodoo dolls, all laid out on a blood stained floor and which were described by shocked authorities as “voodoo paraphernalia.” On top of this was found plenty of incriminating evidence that this dim, windowless shack had been where all of the killings had actually been carried out, including a hammer and machete that were absolutely encrusted with blood and a large drum that seemed to have been used to boil the victims.
By all appearances it seemed as if the corpses had been of victims killed in some sort of arcane cult rituals, and police immediately began arresting those on the property for questioning, which would unearth a world of dark magic, supernatural beliefs, and sadistic ritual killings. It would turn out that the whole thing had been orchestrated by a Cuban American occultist named Adolfo Constanzo, known to them as and “El Padrino,” the godfather, and his second in command Sara Aldrete, who they labelled as a witch and called “La Madrina,” or godmother.
The two had built up a ruthless drug dealing empire and had incorporated their various occult beliefs into protecting their reign, mostly derived from a voodoo type religion known as Santeria, which is most common in the Caribbean. According to the cult members, they fully believed that through various blood rituals and sacrifices they could achieve a range of magical powers including invincibility and invisibility, among others. Some of the cult members who were arrested even had macabre charms fashioned out of human body parts on them. One investigator said of this belief:
In their wicked, distorted minds there was no seriousness. They thought they had performed some kind of heroic deed for the Devil. They believed that by sacrificing innocent human beings, their loads of marijuana would have an invisible shield of protection from law enforcement officers. They were moving an average of one thousand pounds a week across the border.
Constanzo’s followers truly seemed to believe that their leaders in particular had vast magical powers, and they were absolutely terrified of them, as were other drug dealers in the region. Police were able to eventually track down Constanzo and Aldrete in Mexico City after an intense investigation, interestingly by chance when they went to break up a domestic disturbance and Constanzo opened fire when he thought they were coming for him. He then quickly proved that their magic did not make them bullet proof when he was shot and killed in the subsequent shootout with police. Aldrete and other cult members were arrested and tried for their grisly crimes in 1990 and she would end up being sentenced to 30 years in prison. 14 other cult members were also arrested and charged with murder. The ritual shack of horrors was also destroyed after being purified with a magical rite in order to end its aura of evil.
There are obviously more of such cases, and with the recent death of Charles Manson such occult shadows hanging over vicious crimes are perhaps on everyone’s mind. Brutal murders are already quite well enough infused with unspeakable evil, but they take on an even darker dimension somewhat when they careen down into the depths of arcane mysticism, magic, and demon worship. There is a certain unsettling sting to it all that comes from the knowledge that these people died at the hands in thrall to such ominous forces, and whether or not magic was really involved that the very strong belief in such things could send these people into their bloodthirsty destinies. The reason why people kill again and again will always have some shadowy veneer of impenetrable mystery to us, but in cases such as these it feels as if that shadow is even deeper still.