Ah, Cleveland, Ohio. You’ve given us Drew Carey, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and, in 1935, headless torsos.
In September 1935, two schoolboys were walking through Kingsbury Run, a shantytown near the Cuyahoga River. They decided to race to the bottom of Jackass Hill. The winner found something else besides glory in the bushes at the bottom of the hill: the headless body of a young white man, naked except for a pair of black socks. Along with his head, his genitals were also missing.
I bet Show and Tell was interesting the next day.
The police came and began investigating the area. It didn’t take them long to find a second corpse in the near area; another man, also minus his head and genitals. After a bit more searching, the police discovered the missing body parts.
At the time, Eliot Ness was Cleveland’s Public Safety Director, a position that gave him authority over the police department and other services, including the fire department. He’d come to Cleveland after his success in Chicago, looking to clean up the city’s gambling and crime problems. He soon found that the serial killer initially dubbed the “Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run” was a tougher nut to crack.
Ness and the Cleveland P.D. pursued leads and suspects as the bodies, both male and female, began to pile up. In August of 1938, two more bodies were found, which brought the Torso Murderer’s total to thirteen, although that is an estimate; the actual count may be in the fifties, and may date from the late ’20s until 1950. Forensic science was in the stone age back then, and many of the bodies were badly decomposed. Most of the heads were also never found.
The killings stopped after the discovery of the two bodies in August 1938, at least in Cleveland. In December 1939, three decapitated bodies were found in railroad boxcars near Pittsburgh. And on July 23, 1950, the killer may have come home to Cleveland: the decapitated and de-genitaled (is that a word? It is now) body of a man was found in a lumberyard just a few miles from Kingsbury Run.
The killer was never found. Eliot Ness died of a heart attack in 1957.
more info: http://www.prairieghosts.com/torso.html