5 Horrifying Facts About Serial Killer H.H. Holmes’ Murder Castle

This is H. H. Holmes:

He is largely accepted to be the first American serial killer, admitting to 27 murders but suspected of committing up to 200 in his lifetime. He lived (and killed) in Chicago around 1893, and he did the majority of his murdering in a hotel he designed and built specifically for that purpose.

Creepy, right?

It’s downright disturbing, if you ask me, so let this serve as your warning if you plan to keep reading. If you’re into that sort of history (like me!), then come along for 5 of the most terrifying things about H.H. Holmes’ Chicago murder castle.

He changed contractors and workers almost constantly. Though he blamed incompetence, he also ensured that no one would know the breadth of the warren of passages the hotel hid or start to wonder what purpose they could possibly serve.

The hotel…

Aaron Hernandez Murder Conviction Officially Dismissed

9:05 AM PT — The Bristol County D.A.’s Office just said they plan to appeal the judge’s decision.Aaron Hernandez‘s conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd has officially been dismissed by a judge.

The case went before the court in Massachusetts early Tuesday morning where Hernandez’s team argued that the conviction cannot stand because he had not exhausted all of his appeals before his death. The doctrine is called abatement ab initio.

Prosecutors argued against it — claiming Hernandez knew about the rule and used it as a loophole in…

A Murder Made in Hollywood: The Case of Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato

This story was like a film noir movie come to life: it revolved around a Hollywood starlet, a shady gangster…and ultimately a murder that became the talk of Tinseltown.

The story of Lana Turner’s “discovery” is the stuff of Hollywood legend. In 1937, when Turner was 16 years old, the founder of The Hollywood Reporter spotted her at a soda counter, and she was quickly signed to a contract by Warner Bros. The young bombshell soon found her footing in the movies, landing starring roles in films by the early 1940s and becoming a famous pin-up model. Her major breakthrough as a leading lady came in 1946’s The Postman Always Rings Twice.

But by the mid-1950s, Turner’s career was suffering, leading MGM to terminate her contract in 1956. In addition to career problems, Turner’s personal life was consistently tumultuous. Turner gave birth to a daughter, Cheryl Crane, in 1943. 13 year later, at the age of 36, Turner had been married and divorced five times.

Around the time the studio dumped her, Turner met and fell in love with a man named Johnny Stompanato. While the Hollywood actress might have believed the new man in her life would be the answer to all of her problems, Stompanato was a shady character. He worked as a bodyguard and enforcer for Mickey Cohen, the most infamous gangster in Los Angeles. Stompanato had a violent temper and was extremely possessive of Turner. The couple constantly fought and reconciled, a cycle of abuse and mistreatment that Turner’s young daughter Cheryl Crane witnessed on a regular basis.

According to This Cast Member, There Might Be More Than 1 Murder on Riverdale

When the murder of Jason Blossom is solved, what comes next for Riverdale? According to Luke Perry, who plays Fred Andrews on the show, perhaps another murder will shake the group.

When asked about how the show will transpire in season two, after Jason’s killer has been revealed, Luke wasn’t quick to dismiss the idea that more tragedy could strike. “That’s a murder, for instance. Other things could happen. Riverdale is that kind of town. Bodies wash up,” said Luke at the Paley Center on Thursday.

He could be kidding, of course. The 90210 heartthrob stole the show at the panel after a screening of episode 11, joking that…

Scott Baio Pens a Touching Note to Former Costar and Ex Erin Moran After Her Death

Actress Erin Moran has died at the age of 56. The star, who was best known for her role as Joanie Cunningham in Happy Days, was found unresponsive at her Indiana home on Saturday, Us Weekly reports. Authorities responded to a 911 call to the home and pronounced her dead at the scene. “An autopsy is pending,” the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department told the Associated Press in a statement.

Erin also appeared on the Happy Days spinoff, Joanie Loves Chachi, with Scott Baio, the ’80s hit series The Love Boat, 1986’s Murder, She Wrote, and 2010’s Not Another B Movie. Ron Howard, who played Erin’s brother on…

Scotland’s Worst: Peter Manuel, “The Beast of Birkenshaw”

Peter Manuel’s ghastly murder spree lasted exactly one day short of two years. His first attack occurred on January 2, 1956, and his final assault took place on January 1, 1958. In those 729 days, the man know as the “Beast of Birkenshaw” committed acts of violence that still haunt the people of Scotland, even now. Like many serial killers, the true number of victims Peter Manuel claimed is unknown, but he is positively credited with 8 murders.

Manuel was born in New York City to Scottish immigrant parents in 1927. The family stayed in the U.S. for a while before they decided to return to their native Scotland when Peter was 5 years 0ld. The family settled in Birkenshaw. Manuel embarked on a life of crime from an early age, and he was well-known to police as a petty thief before he was even a teenager.

At the age of 16, Manuel began committing sexual assaults. He eventually attacked over a dozen women and was sent away to prison for 9 years for his crimes. After his stint behind bars, Manuel returned to Birkenshaw, but crime was never far from his mind. On January 2, 1956, Manuel committed his first murder. That day he stalked, attacked, raped, and murdered 17-year-old Anne Kneilands on a golf course. Manuel was questioned by police in the Kneilands murder, but his father provided him with an alibi, so he was crossed off the list of suspects. His father’s unfortunate lie kept Manuel on the street, where he went on to commit several more heinous acts.

In September 1956, Manuel committed a triple murder, taking the lives of Marion Watt, her sister Margaret Brown, and her 17-year-old daughter,…

Podcast Episode 148: The Perfect Murder

william herbert wallace

Insurance agent William Herbert Wallace had a terrible night in January 1931 — summoned to a nonexistent address in Liverpool, he returned home to find that his wife had been murdered in his absence. An investigation seemed to show a senseless crime with no weapon, no motive, and no likely suspects. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll revisit the slaying of Julia Wallace, which Raymond Chandler called “the impossible murder.”

We’ll also recount some wobbly oaths and puzzle over an eccentric golfer.


In the 1960s, Washington state televised the World Octopus Wrestling Championships.

Kansas schoolteacher Samuel Dinsmoor spent two decades fashioning a Garden of Eden out of concrete.

Sources for our feature on William Herbert Wallace:

W.F. Wyndham-Brown, ed., The Trial of William Herbert Wallace, 1933.

Yseult Bridges, Two Studies in Crime, 1959.

Roger Wilkes, Wallace: The Final Verdict, 1984.

Ronald Bartle, The Telephone Murder,…

15 Killer Facts About Zodiac

“This is the Zodiac speaking …”

So began one of the first cryptic letters from one of history’s most notorious murderers, whose identity remains unknown but whose story was brilliantly immortalized onscreen in David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac. The unsung masterpiece about a serial killer in 1960s San Francisco who manages to evade police, all while sending taunting letters to the media to further promote his agenda, just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. We’re no closer to solving the mystery of the Zodiac’s identity, but we can solve the mystery of how Fincher and his collaborators—including stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr.—created one of the greatest procedural thrillers ever made.

Here are 15 facts to help you decode Zodiac.


Disney owned the rights to former San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist and author Robert Graysmith’s source material and tried to make the film for over a decade before the rights to the books, 1986’s Zodiac and 2002’s Zodiac Unmasked, lapsed back to Graysmith in the mid-2000s. According to This is the Zodiac Speaking, the feature-length documentary found on the Blu-ray release, that gave screenwriter James Vanderbilt and producer Bradley Fischer the opportunity to approach Graysmith themselves to option the books to potentially make a film without the Mouse House.


According to the same Blu-ray documentary, Graysmith informed Vanderbilt and Fischer that he was personally taking pitches from a handful of filmmakers now that he owned the rights to his books again, but only via a fax number through a local Kinko’s. The pair built their pitch—which Vanderbilt described as asking, “What if Garry Trudeau woke up one morning and tried to solve the Son of Sam”?—and eventually won the rights to make the film after they successfully sent the fax.

Vanderbilt explained that, “Getting to know Robert during this process was actually invaluable because the script changed as we became friends; and very rarely in order to make him look better. Robert truly invited us into his life warts and all, and that’s how I think we ended up portraying him onscreen.”


After directing the 2002 thriller Panic Room, starring Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart, Fincher began work on a five-hour, $80 million miniseries adaptation of author James Ellroy’s true crime novel The Black Dahlia. That project, chronicling the infamous unsolved 1947 murder of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, eventually fell through (it was later made into a 2006 feature film by Brian De Palma). But according to This is the Zodiac Speaking, Fincher’s newly minted freedom led Vanderbilt and Fischer to approach him about directing Zodiac because it dealt with similar, noir-tinged police procedural themes.


In addition to having an interest in the Zodiac Killer’s story from a filmmaking perspective, Fincher had a personal connection to the story, too. Though the director was born in Denver in 1962, his family relocated to California when he was two years old—just a few years before the Zodiac committed his first murder. So he grew up fearing the serial killer.

“I grew up in Marin and now I know the geography of where the crimes took place, but when you’re in grade school, children don’t think about that,” Fincher said in the film’s production notes. “They think, ‘He’s going to show up at our school.’”

In an interview with The New York Times, Fincher recalled that what drew him to Zodiac was the same thing that drew him to Se7en: the fear that you never knew what the people around you were capable of. “That’s what Zodiac was for a 7-year-old growing up in San Anselmo,” Fincher said. “He was the ultimate bogeyman.”


Once Fincher was on board, he, Vanderbilt, and Fischer agreed to develop further drafts of the screenplay to emphasize fact over fiction. They spent months poring over police documents and interviewing witnesses, investigators, and the case’s two surviving victims: Mike Mageau and Bryan Hartnell.

“It was really quite simple,” Fischer said of their approach. “Let’s find everyone we can who was materially involved in the investigation, and let’s sit down across from them, look them in the eye, ask them direct and sometimes difficult questions, and then hear what they have to say … We did our best to get it right.”

“I said, ‘I won’t use anything in this book that we don’t have a police report for,’” Fincher told The New York Times. “There’s an enormous amount of hearsay in any circumstantial case, and I wanted to look some of these people in the eye and see if I believed them.”


Fincher wanted absolute verisimilitude in depicting the Zodiac attacks, so the only time the killer appears onscreen is during incidents where there are on-the-record survivors or witnesses to the real-life events. This includes the opening attack on Darlene Ferrin and Mike Mageau at Blue Rock Springs, the attack on Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepherd at Lake Berryessa, and the killing of taxi driver Paul Stine at Washington and Cherry Streets in San Francisco.


Serial Creators Announce Release Date for S-Town, Their New Murder Mystery Podcast

It has been more than two years since the creators of Serial captured listeners’ attention with season one of their investigative podcast. Now USA Today reports that the team behind the true crime sensation is returning this March with a brand-new story.

Titled S-Town, the new podcast from Serial Productions will center around murder rumors that have been percolating in a small Alabama town. It starts when…