Murder Monday: Johnny Gosch and The Franklin Cover-up

Every Monday, Weird Shit Blog features an unsolved or strange murder, death, or crime. I call it Murder Monday. This is a long one, and the last in the series for now. So grab something to drink and get ready, because this is a pretty strange one.

You know those pictures on the sides of milk cartons? They started that because of a kid named Etan Patz. Amber Alerts? They were because of a girl named Amber Hagerman. Code Adam is named for Adam Walsh (whose dad went on to host America’s Most Wanted.) Johnny Gosch is why police departments are required to immediately respond to kidnapping reports. Yep, before 1982, most police departments waited for at least 72 hours before launching an investigation into a missing persons report for a child.

“Eh, lady, kids just get up and walk away sometimes. He’ll be fine.”

But that’s not the only thing Johnny Gosch is known for today. He’s also known for his mother, Noreen Gosch, and her long, bizarre search in trying to find her son, and for the huge conspiracy that he may have been a part of. (And, if you believe his mother, he may be one of the few who could bring it down.)

Johnny Gosch was a 12 year old paperboy from West Des Moines, Iowa. One September morning in 1982, Johnny never came home from delivering papers. Several witnesses saw him at various points that morning, but by 6 a.m., he had vanished. When his customers began calling, complaining of undelivered newspapers, his mother and father began searching for him. After they found his wagon full of newspapers, but not him, they contacted police, who concluded that Johnny had been kidnapped, but had no suspects and no motive. Eventually, the case ran cold. The Gosch family very vocally proclaimed that police had bungled the case on several fronts.

Photograph of the West Des Moines chief inspector on the case, shortly before being attacked by a screaming Asian man.

The Gosch family then hired several of their own private investigators, including a retired FBI chief and a former NYPD detective. None came up with any solid leads, though they did discover a woman who claimed to have seen a man photographing a boy matching Johnny’s description outside of the local grade school two weeks before Johnny’s disappearance. According to Noreen Gosch, police did not take the report seriously and threw away the license plate number of the man’s vehicle. Investigators also turned up witnesses who claimed to have seen a man attempting to talk to Johnny from the window of a car just minutes before the time he was believed to have been kidnapped.

Police sketch of the vehicle based on eyewitness accounts.

Nothing further was unearthed until two years later, in 1984. Eugene Wade Martin, another paperboy from West Des Moines, was kidnapped during his morning paper route. Initially, police claimed that it was not related to Johnny Gosch’s kidnapping. Noreen Gosch, however, had heard differently. And what was, until that point, a fairly normal, (albeit still extremely tragic) story of a kidnapped boy, suddenly started to get way crazy.

You see, according to Noreen Gosch, one of her investigators, a man named Sam Soda, contacted her two weeks before Martin’s disappearance and told her that he had received information that indicated that Johnny was not kidnapped randomly, but had been chosen to be part of a child prostitution ring. The group had sought him out, and they intended to strike again in West Des Moines. Noreen Gosch claims that she brought this information to police, but they ignored her.

And again, things went cold. Police still had no suspects, had made no arrests, and had no leads. Even the Gosch family’s investigative team began to exhaust all their information. Then, in 1989, the case blew open.

As did Keanu Reeves’ career. Coincidence? You decide.

In Nebraska, a man named Paul Bonacci had been picked up for male prostitution. At first, it just seemed to be another ordinary hooker arrest. But upon being interviewed by police, Bonacci started making wild accusations. He claimed that he had been part of a sex ring since he was a boy, and that that sex ring was connected to other prostitution groups throughout the U.S., including, and this is the scary part, one in Washington, D.C. that even furnished child and male prostitutes to the White House. The more police spoke with him, the more interesting his story became. According to Bonacci, as he got older, he lost his usefulness as a child prostitute, and so had been forced by his handlers into kidnapping replacements. Paul Bonacci says that this included a young Johnny Gosch.

Holy shit. Newspapers used to be a quarter!

This child prostitution ring was not run by weirdo criminals out of the back of sleazy bars, though, but by powerful bankers at the Franklin Credit Union. a large local financial institution, and specifically, by an official at the bank named Lawrence E. King. Coincidentally, the state of Nebraska had already been looking into Franklin for doing shit they weren’t supposed to be doing with people’s money and had found some evidence that a few higher ups in the company had procured the services of male prostitutes on a few occasions, seeming to confirm some of Bonacci’s claims. As a result, they began looking more into Bonacci’s story and, within a few weeks, had decided to launch a full criminal investigation into the Franklin Credit Union sex scandal and, less than a month later, initiated grand jury proceedings against the company.

Mysteriously, two weeks before the grand jury was to convene on the matter, the lead investigator, Gary Caradori, was killed when his plane broke up over Illinois. To boot, rumor has it that the mechanic responsible for checking out his plane beforehand was later found dead in his apartment after receiving a large cash sum that he deposited in his account, which was held at the Franklin Credit Union. It appeared to be suicide, but some claim that it was a murder, meant to keep the mechanic quiet.

Within a few months, however, the Nebraska grand jury threw out the case, claiming it to be a “carefully crafted hoax.” This left some investigators scratching their heads. Why did all of this evidence seem to lead up to something? Who supposedly crafted this hoax, and why? But, regardless, they did manage to uncover enough evidence to put Lawrence E. King in jail for embezzling $38 million.

For those of you who have trouble visualizing that much money, it’s enough to feed one college student 38 million times.

Bonacci and Nebraska state senator John DeCamp later brought a civil suit against Lawrence King for an unspecified amount. Oddly, King made no attempt to defend himself, although he would have had no issue doing so, despite being in prison. The judge in the suit awarded Bonacci a default judgment of $1 million. Just before King’s release in 2001, he briefly filed an appeal against the judgment, but later dropped it. Popular speculation says that King perhaps felt guilty for what he supposedly did to Bonacci, but the courts of Nebraska didn’t rule one way or the other.

So was Johnny Gosch really kidnapped by a sex ring with ties to the White House and powerful bankers? Noreen Gosch sure thinks so. In fact, she claims that in 1997, she received a late-night visit from Johnny himself, now an adult, who told her that he was on the run and could implicate several people in the sex ring, powerful people that wanted him dead. Johnny had since taken on a new identity and gone into hiding, where he remains to this day.

And in yet another bizarre twist to an already bizarre case, in 2006, Noreen Gosch found Polaroid photographs on her doorstep that appear to show a teenaged Johnny Gosch, bound and gagged on a bed with two other missing children, David Leonard Johnson and another whose name remains unreleased, who had been kidnapped in the same timeframe.

And that’s where things stand today. No further activity has come out since 2006. Noreen Gosch still makes statements from time to time, and updates her website that has the latest news on Johnny’s disappearance.

But hold on a second, before we call this all done. There’s a few more things you need to know. Since the resurgence in popularity in the case from the 2006 Polaroids, some internet sleuths have done some looking back at the age old cold case, reviewing the evidence, and a few things have come to light. You see, what I just gave you above is Noreen Gosch’s version of events. Why? Well, you’ve gotta admit, it’s pretty exciting. Several other sources, however, claim things went down a little differently.

Let’s start with Eugene Wade Martin. According to Gosch’s story, she alerted the police two weeks before his kidnapping. West Des Moines police, however, claim that Gosch only came to them after Martin had disappeared. In addition, they could never find “Sam Soda” to get in touch with him about his supposed information. Police now believe he probably doesn’t exist and Gosch made him, and the story, up. They also claim that her story of a woman getting the license plate number of a vehicle believed to be Johnny’s kidnapper never happened, either.

And what about Paul Bonacci? Nebraska investigators actually ended up not even using his statements in their evidence against the Franklin Credit Union, saying that he was unreliable and frequently changed facts in his story. They also later found that he was possibly not even in Iowa when Johnny Gosch was kidnapped and that he may have only claimed to have kidnapped him after he heard that Noreen Gosch had said Johnny had been kidnapped by a pedophile group. Noreen Gosch believes him, after having spoken to him, but she also claims to have spoken to a Michael LaVey who says that his father, Satanist Church founder Anton LaVey, was involved. Michael LaVey, however, is not a real person. Anton LaVey had one son whom Noreen Gosch has never spoken to.

The mechanic who supposedly committed suicide out of guilt or was killed to hush him up apparently does not exist, as no police reports or newspaper articles from that time include any such information.

Noreen Gosch was divorced from Johnny’s father in 1993. He has publicly stated that he’s unsure if Noreen Gosch’s account of the events, specifically Johnny’s late night visit in 1997, is legitimate.

And finally, an anonymous tipster has come forward and claims that someone has pulled a cruel prank, and the boys in Noreen Gosch’s Polaroids are not missing children at all, but boys who had been involved in an “escape contest” that had previously been investigated by a Det. Nelson Zalva in Florida. Zalva turned out to be real, and confirmed this, but found that his files on the case had disappeared. Gosch claims that Zalva is involved in the cover-up and trying to discredit her. In addition, David Leonard Johnson, one of the other boys Gosch claims is in the photos with Johnny, apparently does not exist. She has also been caught doctoring the photos uploaded to her website, including photoshopping a human brand onto the arm of the boy she claims is Johnny.

So which is right? Is Johnny Gosch a man on the run and his desperate mother is the only one who’s actively trying to help him, or is Noreen Gosch just a delusional woman making up stories where her son may have been kidnapped, but now he’s out there trying to fight back?

For now, we have no way to know.

Wikipedia 1 2


Murder Monday: The Persian Princess

Every Monday, Weird Shit Blog features an unsolved or bizarre murder, death, disappearance, or crime. I call it Murder Monday.

Have you ever been looking for something and ended up finding something else you weren’t even looking for? You know, you’re digging around in the couch for a remote and you find a $5 bill. Awesome, right? In a way, that’s kind of how archaeology works. A lot of major discoveries have been complete and total accidents. It’s like a bunch of archaeologists were looking for evidence of some random city in southern Italy, and boom, they find an ancient text or something that changes how we look at history. It happens all the time. So that’s why the Persian Princess caught so much international attention when she was found, and not even by archaeologists, but by some lucky amateurs. It seemed like the find of the century, but when the scientific world got a closer look at it, things began to unravel. (DOHOHO!)

“Aw hell, is he gonna make an ‘I want my mummy’ joke, too?”

In 2000, Pakistani officials received a bizarre tip. It seemed that a videotape had been circulating around in the black market that purportedly featured a man showing off, of all things, a mummy, sarcophagus and all, for sale. The asking price? $11 million. Since this was not only fucked up, but actually illegal under Pakistani antiquity laws, the authorities became very interested. Police finally tracked down the creator of the tape, a man named Ali Aqbar, who lead them to a tribal leader, Wali Mohammed Reeki, who was the actual seller. Reeki said that he had received the mummy from an Iranian man named Sharif Shah Bakhi, who claimed to have discovered the sarcophagus sticking out of the ground after an earthquake.

Unfortunately, it was not this Oprah-phagus. (Someone actually made this. I am serious.)

Police claimed the mummy and sent it to the National Museum in Karachi, Pakistan. After a preliminary investigation, the museum announced that the mummy appeared to be a princess, and, according to the inscription on the breastplate of the sarcophagus, she wasn’t even Egyptian. Apparently, she was a Persian named Rhodugune, she had possibly married an Egyptian prince (and later requested an Egyptian burial, hence the mummification), and was a previously unknown daughter of Xerxes I.

You know, the androgynous dude from 300.

Immediately after hearing this announcement, Iran got pissed. You see, Iran is the modern-day name for Persia. Since this mummy was apparently Persian royalty, she, by all rights, belonged to Iran. Pakistan disagreed, seeing as it had been found inside their borders. The Taliban, who were still in power in Afghanistan at this time, came forward with claims that the mummy had actually been smuggled out of their country. (Later, though, this turned out to be nothing more than a cash grab.) Pakistan quickly changed their story and now claimed that the mummy had been Egyptian all along. Iran returned fire by claiming that an Italian archaeologist had translated the breastplate from photographs and confirmed the Persian ancestry of the mummy. (The Italian archaeologist, Lorenzo Constantini, later said he had only said that the inscription had the word “Xerxes” in it, and that the Iranian historian he’d spoken to didn’t even know who that was.)  UNESCO, a branch of the UN concerned with education, science, and culture, was attempting to work out an agreement between the three countries, but Pakistan went ahead and put the mummy up for display anyway.

“Can we put a sign up that says ‘Fuck Iran’ too?”

The exhibit caught the attention of an American archaeologist named Oscar White Muscarella. When he heard about it, he thought something sounded awful familiar about this mummy. It seems that, a few months previous to Pakistani police finding out about the mummy, another of Reeki’s representatives had contacted Muscarella and asked if he’d like to take a look at the mummy. Muscarella agreed.

Remember that $5 bill that you found in your couch? No, not a real one, the one we talked about earlier. Yeah, now imagine a dude comes up and tells you it’s fake.

“Man, I was gonna use that to buy hookers.”

The representative sent Muscarella detailed photos of the breastplate from the sarcophagus, something the sellers hadn’t done for anyone else. That’s probably because the breastplate made no goddamned sense. Muscarella quickly noticed that the inscriptions contained two massive errors- The style of inscription wouldn’t be used for a few hundred years after Xerxes I, and the entire second part of it seemed to consist of text plagiarized from other material. When the representative sent a piece of the sarcophagus to be carbon-dated, Muscarella found it to be only 250 years old, at most. This apparently didn’t deter the representative, who still insisted that Muscarella buy it, since 250 years “could not be called modern.”

After Muscarella made his story public, Pakistan and Iran continued to bicker briefly, but Iranian scientists who had been invited to Karachi to examine the mummy also declared it a fake. Soon after, Pakistan, too admitted that they had been fooled, and, unsurprisingly, no one seemed to give a fuck about the mummy anymore.

Not unlike this Mummy.

But, hold on, because that’s not all. Did you forget what this blog is called? What’s weird about a hoax mummy? Well, that body had to come from somewhere, right? The Iranian scientists determined her age to be about 20-25 years old. Her organs had been removed (except for the brain, another clue that this mummy was not truly Egyptian), replaced with powder and, for all other intents and purposes, mummified in the traditional way. But, here’s the kicker:

She had only been mummified for two to five years. The cause of death was blunt force trauma, which had damaged her skull and broken her spine, and was most likely caused by a hammer or similar object. She wasn’t royalty or even some lady that died of natural causes and just wanted to be mummified.

She was a murder victim.



Murder Monday: Harold Holt

Every Monday, Weird Shit Blog features an unsolved or mysterious death, murder, or crime. I call it Murder Monday.

There’s been a huge shitstorm over Afghanistan these last few months. It looks more and more like we’re getting into a long, drawn-out war that we can’t just up and leave. (Because then, hey, we just left a nice power vacuum and the craziest fuck around who jumps into that spot is pretty likely to be real pissed at us in a few years.) A lot of parallels are being made to Vietnam, but Vietnam was, to date, still quite a bit worse. Lots more dead, lots more innocent civilians killed, lots more time spent over there, etc. etc.

Artist’s rendition of comparisons between Afghanistan and Vietnam.

Vietnam’s still a sore subject, even 35 years later. Popular conception today still paints it as an unnecessary war, filled with bad excuses, governments unwilling to back down from poorly formed plans, paranoia, and American zeitgeist. That last point is especially true of people from a country that I continue to find further and further crazy shit in: Australia.

This is what Australia looks like to us in America. And there went half of my Australian readers.

You see, Australians wanted to get involved in Vietnam even less than the U.S. did. The majority of them saw it as an American problem that they had no business getting involved in. But then came a man named Harold Holt. Harold Holt was the Prime Minister of Australia from the beginning of 1966 until the very end of 1967, less than two years in office. And those not-quite two years were very contentious, because Holt was very keen on ramping up Australia’s role in the Vietnam War. He was particularly mocked for his “All the way with LBJ” quote, referring to then-President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“All the way, until you start driving your car into the lake. Then we’re done.”

Today, Harold Holt is known for only two things: His previously referenced position on the Vietnam War and his mysterious disappearance. I mentioned how his term lasted less than two years, right? That whole disappearance thing, that would be why.

But allow me to back things up a little. Throughout his life, Holt was known to be a sportsman. He loved tennis, swimming, and sailing. In fact, he was particularly fond of “skindiving”.

Not as sexy as it sounds.

However, his love of sports had also caused him an old recurring injury in his shoulder. (I can dig that, I broke my collarbone in a car wreck ten years ago and that shit still hurts sometimes.) At the time of his disappearance, Holt’s shoulder had begun getting worse, causing him tremendous pain, for which he took large amounts of pain killers. (Remember that, it’s important.)

Now that you have all of the background, let’s talk about the disappearance itself. On December 17th, 1967, Harold Holt and a group of his friends drove from Melbourne down to the southern coast of Australia to see English sailor Alec Rose pass by on his solo sailing trip round the world. After Rose’s yacht passed, Holt decided to go for a swim. Conditions were poor that day, however, and the tide was especially strong, and so Holt’s friends urged him not to swim, but he brushed them off. After a few minutes, they realized that they could no longer see the Prime Minister and alerted authorities.

“Uh… fuck.”

Two days later, the Australian government declared Holt dead. Later research showed that Holt was probably hopped up on pain meds at the time he dove into the water, and he was likely unable to make a good judgment of his swimming abilities, in addition to the poor ocean conditions previously described. So what’s so weird about this? Some dude made a mistake and drowned. Big fucking deal, right? What’s so weird is the sheer number of crazy conspiracy theories involved in Holt’s disappearance. Most start with the supposition that Holt was a strong swimmer, and therefore unlikely to have been taken away by the tide so easily. In addition, the Australian government only spent two days looking for him, never found a body, and never opened an official investigation. These are the conditions for a conspiracy theory, my friend.

From there, multiple ideas branch out. Some say he committed suicide because the stress of his job was weighing on him. Others claim that he was intending to fake his death so that he could run away with his mistress. (Like any politician ever needed a fake death as an excuse for that.) Another popular belief is that some shadowy government agency, either Australian or American, had him murdered. The strangest one of all, though? He was a Chinese spy and got picked up by a submarine.

“Thanks guys. By the way, how did you open the hatch without surfacing?”

This theory was originally proposed by writer Anthony Grey in his 1983 book, “The Prime Minister Was a Spy.” (Proposed subtitle: “You Don’t Need to Pick This Shit Up to Know What It’s About. Seriously.”) Grey, however, claims he got the information that made up the meat of the book from an Australian naval officer named Ron Titcombe, (snicker) who claimed that Holt was a Chinese spy since he was a teenager and was about to be found out. (Although I’m not sure how this reconciles with Holt wanting Australia to be involved in the Vietnam War, seeing as North Vietnam was supplied by and an ally to the Chinese.) Therefore, to protect their spy, the Chinese arranged for Holt to be picked up and transported back to China. The only problem is that a) Titcombe offered no evidence to back up these claims, and b) Titcombe had left the navy “under duress” in 1968 and, in 1982, was kicked out of the Melbourne Club (a very powerful social group) because he hadn’t disclosed past financial problems, leading some to say that Titcombe was not a reliable source, including a former fellow colleague describing him as a “professional con man.”

To date, Australia still considers the case of Harold Holt to be a simple drowning.

Or maybe he just started a colony of dudes who fuck fish.

Wikipedia (Chinese propaganda)
The Age


Murder Monday: Consensual Homicides

Every Monday, Weird Shit Blog features an usual crime, death, murder, or disappearance in a feature I call Murder Monday.

It’s true, you can find anything on the internet. Inanimate objects in intimate positions, amputees dancing, little kids belting out racial slurs like it’s an 1850s Klan meeting, squids fighting dogs. If it exists, it’s on the internet, and that includes any kind of fucked-up kink you can imagine. Ever checked the “casual encounters” section on Craigslist? Holy fuck, some people are crazy. Ads for any combination of shape, size, race, whatever, many asking for really, really weird stuff.

“Hey, if I beat off on this dude’s model trains we don’t have to spend $6.50 on imitation crab next week.”

People even put up ads for rape fantasies, i.e., consenting for someone to pretend to break into your house and “rape” you, sometimes anonymously. Several years ago, a man got briefly internet-famous for putting up an eBay ad offering to let someone beat the shit out of him. Of course, though, there always has to be that one person who takes it too far. (Or, in this case, two people.) In recent years, authorities in various countries have discovered people taking out ads or posting on message boards asking for what’s now being referred to as consensual homicide.

“I want you to force feed me this donkey, then choke me with the reins. IT WILL BE AWESOME.”

Of course, comparisons have been made to euthanasia, but there’s a slight difference in that these people are A) perfectly healthy and B) usually want to be killed in a violent fashion, not with pills or an overstuffed hospital pillow. Legally, murder is murder, and anyone caught committing these crimes, whether the victim was down with it or not, is going to jail. But critics of pro-euthanasia and/or pro-suicide groups say that, if euthanasia were to be legalized, this could be the next battleground in a trend toward picking and choosing when, where, and how you leave this world.

To date, two cases have become prominent examples of consensual homicide. One comes from the United States and one from Germany.

Sharon Lopatka

In 1996, entrepreneur Sharon Lopatka of Hampstead, Maryland began searching the internet for someone to torture and kill her. Previously, she had been involved with porn rings that featured videos of men raping unconscious women, and so used some of those same communities to seek out someone who’d be totally cool with murdering her. That someone was computer analyst Bobby Glass, of Lenoir, North Carolina.

Not pictured: Foresight

On October 13, 1996, Lopatka took a train from Maryland to North Carolina. For the next three days, Glass tortured her and finally killed her with a nylon cord, just like she asked. She told her husband she was going to visit relatives for a week, but he eventually find a note describing her true intentions.

“Honey, going to get killed. Won’t be back. Dinner is in the oven.”

Her husband called the police, and they quickly found and traced her correspondence to Glass. When they investigated his trailer, they found Lopatka buried in a 2 ½ foot deep grave nearby. In 2000, Glass pled guilty to a reduced manslaughter charge (plus charges of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor for kiddie porn found on his computer) and got a maximum of 79 weeks in jail. He died of a heart attack two weeks before his release.

Armin Meiwes

Instead of finding someone to kill him, Armin Meiwes decided to do things the other way around and attempt to find someone willing to be killed and eaten. Eaten? Yep, Meiwes was a frequent contributor to Cannibal Cafe, a web forum dedicated to cannibalism fantasies. (Note the fantasy part. That’s important.) Meiwes made a few posts advertising his desire, but everyone he spoke with backed on when they found out that he was for real.

Unsubstantiated rumors say that Serious Cat was attached to much of Meiwes’ correspondence.

But Meiwes finally found his victim in Bernd Jürgen Brandes. They agreed to meet on March 9, 2001 at Meiwes’ home in Rotenberg, Germany. There, Meiwes first attempted to bite off Brandes’ penis, but failed to do so. He did, however, manage to rupture both of his testicles with his teeth. (Hope none of you guys were gonna ride a bike later or anything.) Finally, he amputated Brandes’ penis and the two attempted once again to eat it, first raw, and then cooked. Unfortunately for the two of them, Meiwes is apparently a shitty cook and burned it, then fed it to his dog. (Thus proving that dogs will eat fucking anything.)

You couldn’t get pissed at that dog and tell it to eat a dick ever again.

Meiwes then read a Star Trek novel (What else would you read in that situation?) while letting Brandes bleed out in the bathtub. Finally, three hours later, Meiwes took Brandes into a back room, stabbed him in the throat, placed him on a meathook, and removed several pounds of his flesh to consume later, which he placed under pizza boxes in his freezer. (There’s some sort of Soylent Green/Digiorno joke in there.)

Apparently, no one ever came looking for Brandes, because Meiwes wasn’t arrested for nearly two years after the murder. In fact, the only reason he even got caught was because he went back to Cannibal Cafe and a few other boards, posted ads for new victims, and bragged about his escapades with Brandes. As we’ve established in the past, this is a bad idea. A college student saw the messages and, surprisingly, actually believed Meiwes. (Come on, who really believes every stupid thing they read on the internet?) He called the police who, after looking into the matter, found there really was a man named Bernd Jürgen Brandes who had gone missing and that the forum posts in question did exist. They went to Meiwes’ house to look around and found body parts and a videotape Meiwes made of the whole incident.

“Oh, that? It’s just old episodes of Knight Rider, I swear.”

Meiwes was originally tried for manslaughter, but later was retried for murder. He’s currently serving a life sentence and has assisted police on profiling other cannibals. In addition, he claims that he believes there to be 800 or more cannibals currently living in Germany. (How he came to this number is unknown. Maybe a head count at the Cannibals Anonymous meeting?) Since his imprisonment, he has expressed regret for his crime and also converted to veganism.

“Real funny, motherfuckers.”

TruTV Crime Library
Wikipedia (Where consent is everything)


Murder Monday: Carl Tanzler

Every Monday, the Weird Shit Blog features an unsolved or just generally weird murder, death, or disappearance. This phenomenon is known by people who actually read this shit as Murder Monday. Disclaimer: This one is pretty insane, so be warned if you have delicate sensibilities. And shit.

In our culture, we’re crazy for fucked-up doctors. Take Hannibal Lecter. He’s not even real, but he’s damn scary. Or he was, anyway, until they tried to explain how he got that way. Then it just got stupid. Nazi concentration camp doctors, they were some weird sons of bitches. That one from the Human Centipede, god damn. Medical experimentation and horror and doctors go together like peas in a pod.

Peas of crazy. In a pod of holy shit.

Let me give you a really great example: Where I come from, we have a local legend about a doctor. The story goes that he had this wife he wanted to divorce, but couldn’t because they were Catholic, and back in those days, that was a big no-no. So, instead, he did what any reasonable dude would do: Chained her up in his barn and performed weird experiments on her, slowly cutting off her limbs and parts of her face, then told people she had vanished. Finally, one night, he had some guests staying the night. They heard moaning outside and thought it might be a wounded animal. They found her in the barn, blind, her tongue cut out, and essentially feral. She tried to bite at them when they touched her chains. They called the police and, when she was released, she crawled right back over on her stumps and reattached the chains. She had gotten used to it after having been bound and tortured for so long. The story doesn’t cover the doctor’s fate, but the legend goes that if you visit this farmhouse at night, you can hear moans, the sounds of tools and a power saw, and occasionally see the ghost of a doctor in a blood-spattered white coat.

When I first heard that story, it sent chills up my spine. I mean, fuck, imagine what a deranged doctor could really do to someone?

Now imagine he’s on an island just chock-full of guinea pigs.

But there’s deranged, mutilating doctor crazy, and Carl Tanzler-brand crazy. 

Tanzler was born in 1877 in Dresden, Germany under the name Georg Karl Tanzler. He kicked around Germany for a while growing up, then got out into the world for a bit, even ending up as far away as Australia for a brief time. (It’s speculated that he may have been in prison there.) At various points during his youth, he claimed to have seen a vision of his dead ancestor, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel. According to his account, she guided him, giving him advice, and once showed him the face of his true love; a dark-skinned and dark-haired woman.

He married in 1920, and in 1926, he emigrated to America, possibly under instruction from the Countess. (He registered his name with immigration authorities as Carl Tanzler von Cosel, and frequently referred to himself as a Count during his time in the U.S.) His wife and two children joined him a year later in Zephyrhills, FL. Shortly thereafter, though, he left them to pursue a career as a radiologist in Key West.

Dick of the Year Award, 1927: Carl Tanzler.

In 1930, Tanzler met the woman of his dreams. Literally. According to him, she was the woman shown to him by his ancestor, and her name was Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos, or “Helen” for short. Her mother had brought her in for a routine examination. Tanzler was enamored with her immediately, and tried to find out all he could about her. He found out that she was married, but had become estranged from her husband after she had a miscarriage. She had been considered a local beauty, and the fact that she hadn’t been snapped back up immediately was seen as a curious thing by Tanzler. If she could have any man she wanted, why wouldn’t she have remarried unless she was waiting for someone like him? (Because that’s totally a logical conclusion.)

Unfortunately, Helen’s examination revealed that she had tuberculosis. Not as big of a deal nowadays, but if you’ve seen any tragic love story films set anywhere from 1700-1945, you know that TB was a fucking death sentence.

“Those? Those are just grains of rice. Just kidding! You’re gonna die.”

Tanzler went to Helen’s family and claimed that he had the means to cure her. He was allowed home visits for months, where he performed various half-assed medical procedures. You know, the kind you do when you’re not really sure what you’re doing but you say you do and her family doesn’t seek real medical treatment because they think you’re giving it to her. That kind. But Tanzler figured he’d seen and heard enough from his fellow medical professionals to know what he was doing.

Kinda like if Hugh Laurie broke into an ER and started telling people what to do, but not as cool.

Tanzler even reportedly confessed his love to her, but it’s never been established that she reciprocated it. Tragically, Helen succumbed to her disease in October of 1931, and Tanzler was devastated. He was so heartbroken that he agreed to pay for her funeral and even bought her a mausoleum, which he visited nightly. Are you sensing the crazy yet? If not, then get ready.

In 1933, two years after Helen’s death, Tanzler broke into the crypt and stole Helen’s corpse.

“I paid for this shit, that makes it pretty much mine, right? Right.”

Why would he do such a thing? Because her ghost told him to, duh! Tanzler claimed that when he visited Helen’s grave every night, her spirit would sing songs with him and occasionally insist that he remove her from his grave and take her to his home. So, when he finally did it, he slapped her in a red toy wagon (seriously) and took her home. When he got her there, he naturally found that the corpse had kinda, you know, decayed. But that didn’t stop Carl Tanzler, no sir. He tied her bones back together with wire and coat hangers, replaced her eyes with glass ones, replaced her skin with wax and plaster of paris, made her a wig out of her own hair, which Tanzler had gotten from her mother after Helen’s death (How the fuck did he even go about asking for that?), and stuffed her chest cavity with rags. He then proceeded to dress her up in fancy clothes and jewelry. Oh, and he kept her in his bed and slept with her.

“Hello, gorgeous. You are looking fantastic tonight.”

In 1940, after 7 fucking years of this, Helen’s sister heard rumors that Tanzler had been sleeping with Helen’s corpse. (What in the fuck? Did he brag about this to other people? Shouldn’t that be something you should, I don’t know, keep to yourself?) She confronted Carl Tanzler and discovered that it was true. She called the police, who immediately came and arrested Tanzler. His story created a sensation, with most newspaper reports casting Tanzler as an eccentric romantic. He was put on trial and charged with “wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization”, which is quite possibly the most insane thing you can stand trial for. (While it was claimed in a 1972 investigation that Tanzler had inserted a cardboard tube into Helen’s vagina to commit necrophilia with her body, it was never mentioned in the medical reports done at e time of his arrest, and it was not implicitly included in the charges.) Carl, however, never stood trial, as it was determined that the statute of limitations had passed for his crime, and he was free to go.

This picture is only to distract you from the gorilla-shit crazy you just read.
…Hey, does that hot dog have a butthole?

Not only did Carl Tanzler never stand trial, he was even awarded U.S. citizenship three years later and wrote an autobiography. In his later years, his estranged wife supported him (what. Just what. No question mark.) Helen was re-buried in an unmarked tomb in secret, so as to prevent Tanzler or others from returning to do more fucked up crap to her. Tanzler was disappointed by this and, using a death mask (Where the hell does he keep getting this shit?) created a wax effigy of Helen that he lived with until his death.

Observe, the labor of total madness.

Wikipedia (Robbed the grave of human knowledge long ago)
The Examiner


Murder Monday: Percy Fawcett

Every Monday, Weird Shit Blog features mysterious murders, disappearances, crimes, or just weird deaths. I call it Murder Monday. (Even if it’s not a murder. Shut up, it’s my blog and I like alliteration. Alliteration is always awesomely, amazingly appropriate. Asshole.)

The explorers of the early 20th century are the stuff of legends. Dudes in pith helmets, wandering around in jungles and ancient temples, touching stuff, getting cursed. It’s awesome. Some of those guys got turned into characters like Indiana Jones. Some of them were awesome enough that they didn’t have to get fictionalized, like Howard Carter. Those were times of high adventure, when the world was ours to explore. There was always some new vista, just waiting for a dude with a superb moustache and/or monocle to come and stick a flag in it and say, “Fuck you all, I was here first… among white people, I mean.” Nowadays, we don’t really have those unexplored frontiers.

God damn it. At least we’ve still got space. And the ocean, Cthulhu willing.

Percy Fawcett was one such legendary explorer. It ran in his veins. His dad was an explorer before him, and a member of the Royal Geographic Society. His brother was an expert mountain climber and even wrote adventure novels. Percy had plenty of his own accolades, though. He was a surveyor for the Royal Army, where he earned the rank of Colonel and served in World War I, leading an artillery brigade at the age of 50. He also joined the RGS, like his father, and was even a member of the British Secret Service. On top of all that, he was friends with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which is another way of saying “He was friends with one of the baddest motherfuckers to ever walk the planet Earth.”

And he took pictures with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, just to show how cool he was.

He was one of the earliest contemporary explorers of South America. Specifically, he scouted out huge sections of the jungles of Brazil for map-making purposes. He also discovered dozens of species, including some that had been previously assumed to be native legends. Two of his finds have still not been re-discovered: The Mitla, a small creature, around the size of a foxhound, with both cat- and dog-like characteristics, and the Giant Anaconda, which has been apocryphally spotted many times since, but never proven. His Giant Anaconda was supposedly 62 feet long (cue teenagers laughing), and so huge that he couldn’t bring its body back.

Fawcett, unfortunately, was not believed on these two accounts, and while many explorers of those days liked to make shit up, Fawcett’s writings are considered to be genuine today. There’s a very good chance we just haven’t seen them again since (as those jungles are still full of undiscovered animals) or they went extinct.

He made seven successful expeditions of the jungle, often encountering natives and winning their trust by methods that seemed revolutionary at the time: He was nice to them and gave them stuff. Who knew that that kept people from killing you?

“Dear diary, the natives have informed me that they’re not fond of being called ‘brown motherfuckers.’”

But notice how I said “successful” expeditions up there. “That implies he had unsuccessful ones, right?”, you might ask, and you would be correct in that deduction. In 1925, Fawcett set out to find a lost city that he believed existed in the Mato Grosso region of Brazil, thanks to funding from a group of financiers called “The Glove.”

Artist’s rendition of “The Glove.”

Fawcett originally heard about the city from a manuscript written by Portuguese explorer João da Silva Guimarães, who claimed to visit the city in 1753. Although Guimarães wrote detailed accounts about the city, he forgot to include, you know, where the fuck it’s actually at and what the fuck it’s called. Fawcett became obsessed with the idea of finding it after first hearing about it in the early 1900s. In fact, the 1925 attempt was not Fawcett’s first to find the city. He had tried twice before. The first expedition couldn’t find it and the second got cancelled due to the outbreak of World War I.  Fawcett dubbed the lost city “Z”.

Many years after his disappearance, a children’s television show discovered the location of Z, just past Y.

Reportedly, Fawcett said before his expedition set forth that, should he go missing, he did not wish for a rescue team to come after him, lest they suffer the same fate. Are you sensing dramatic irony? Because I am.

Fawcett, as has been established, was pretty familiar with the area and how to traverse it. As such, he brought just what he needed and nothing more and kept his party small to keep their noise level low. He finally set out from known areas, after telegraphing his wife, on May 29, 1925. Afterward, neither he, nor his companions, was ever heard from again. Most researchers and subsequent explorers have assumed, probably rightly, that Fawcett was killed by a local, unfriendly tribe, as some of the groups in the area had never even seen white men before. (A fictionalized story similar to this was the basis for the film Cannibal Holocaust.) It’s even suspected that his purposefully limited supplies doomed him in an unexpected way- he may have lost all his gifts for the natives due to an accident while crossing the Amazon.

Another proposed scenario is that Fawcett and his two male companions started a theosophical commune based around the worship of his son.

They should have brought women or something in that case.

And for the theory most likely to be the plot of a comedy from the 1980s, we have some speculation that Fawcett may have gotten some kind of head injury and came to believe that he was the chief of one of the native tribes and took over leadership of them.

The native tribes claim no knowledge of what happened to Fawcett or his companions, and to date, no one has found any sort of remains of any of the three. Though some artifacts have been discovered, so far they have all been found to have been items from Fawcett’s many previous expeditions or things left behind prior to the group’s disappearance.

Oh, and remember what I said earlier about Fawcett warning people not to come try to rescue him? There was a really good reason for that, and it’s probably the most important thing to take from this little tale: Over 100 people have died in the Amazon trying to find out what happened to Percy Fawcett and discover the location of the Lost City of Z.

Wikipedia (The Lost Encyclopedia of Horseshit)


Murder Monday: The Taman Shud Case

If crime shows have taught us anything, it’s that DNA evidence, computer simulations, and cameras with zoom levels higher than a microscope can solve any crime in about a week or so. (Don’t forget snappy one-liners, constant removal and re-placing of sunglasses, and excessive standing around with your hands on your hips.) Even a hard-nosed cop and a series of really, really unlikely events can put away even the most dastardly of crooks.

And so, to fly in the face of that Hollywood tradition, I’m starting a new feature here at the Weird Shit Blog: Murder Mondays. Every Monday, I’ll be featuring unsolved murders, crimes, and deaths from all over the world. (Yes, it’s still Murder Monday even if they’re not technically murders.) Sherlock Holmes, Batman, even motherfucking Robert Stack wouldn’t know what to think of these.

Pictured: Motherfucking Robert Stack, esq.

To set things off, we’re gonna take a look at a death that’s remained unsolved for more than 60 years, and it’s a hell of a case. So put on your deerstalker, blue jeans and white sweater, or (God help you) cheesy sunglasses and leisure suit, and get ready to make some brilliant deductions… or probably not. You know, whatever.

On December 1, 1948, in Adelaide, Australia, a man was found dead on a stretch of beach called Somerton. He appeared to be approximately 40 to 45 years old, average height, average build. In fact, everything about him was pretty average, except that no one knew who the fuck he was. He had no identification, even his dental records didn’t match any known living person in the whole damn country. Weirder still, he had on a suit with a sweater (despite December being summertime in Australia) and no hat, which was apparently uncommon in 1948.

“That’s a bold fashion choice, Tom.” “Go suck a bag of dicks, Bill.”

And even weirder than that, all the tags on his clothes had been removed, making them unidentifiable. The contents of his pockets included cigarettes, matches, a comb, some gum, one used bus ticket to Glenelg (Which is totally a palindrome. Just look at it.), and an unused ticket to Henley Beach.

I’m just saying. Maybe he built a time machine or something.

So, they did what you always do when you find an unknown dead dude on the beach: Threw him in a dumpster and called it a day. Wait, I mean, they did an autopsy. (What I said before, don’t worry about that.) And when you do an autopsy you can usually find some trauma or wounds or poison in the stomach or something. In the case of The Somerton Man, as he came to be known, they found… absolutely jack shit. Apparently, the dude just quit living. That’s totally a medical conclusion that can be reached.

“It was the opposite of being ‘too legit.’”

Since they didn’t find any real cause of death, (although some heretofore unknown poison was decided to be most likely) they sewed his ass back up, pumped him full of chemicals and let him sit around for nine months while they investigated. They briefly believed that a man named E.C. Johnson might have been their victim, but he kinda ruined that when he showed up to the police station alive. Things were at a dead (hah) end at that point until two weeks later, when train station workers found a briefcase with its label removed that had been checked into their cloak room the day before the Somerton Man had showed up on the beach.

Inside, police found more clothes with the tags cut out, an electrician’s screwdriver, stenciling scissors and brush, a table knife fashioned into a sharp instrument (probably also used for stenciling), and a bit of thread, which had also been used to repair a pocket in the dead man’s trousers. Also found were a tie, laundry bag, and singlet, each with a dry cleaning tag bearing the name Tom Keane on them. Unfortunately, the only missing Tom Keane anywhere in the world wasn’t their guy, and so police assumed that the killer left that name behind because that wasn’t the victim.

“Samsonite! I was way off.”

However, the man’s coat was American-made, and not imported. Presumably, that meant the coat had been fitted to him, as was the practice with this style of coat, but police couldn’t rule out that it had been originally tailored for someone with the same measurements as the victim and that he had bought it second-hand. And so it was back to the drawing board, until someone took a look at that repaired pocket and found that it wasn’t a repair at all.

A secret pocket had been sewn into the victim’s trouser pocket, and inside was a slip of paper that read “Taman Shud”. (This became the popular name by which to refer to the case in later years.) They soon found out that the phrase was Persian, and that it was the last line of a book of poetry called “The Rubaiyat”, by a man named Omar Khayyam. Roughly translated, it means “The end” or “Finished.” Since the scrap of paper did appear to be from a printed book, police set out to find the copy it had been clipped from.

Soon after, an anonymous man contacted police and told them that he had a copy of the book mysteriously appear in his unlocked car the night before the Somerton Man was found. After examining the book, authorities determined that this copy of the book was indeed the one they had been looking for. In addition, the back cover page had faint pencil markings in it, which appeared to be some sort of code.

“Dear diary, my alphabet soup and I had a fight again today.”

The code was examined by cryptographers all over the world. While most agreed that it was some sort of code, they didn’t have enough information to crack it. (It remains unsolved today.) In addition to the code, police found an unlisted phone number belonging to a former nurse (whose name was unreleased) who lived less than a mile from the beach where the body had been found. When she was questioned about the case, she confirmed that she had once owned a copy of “The Rubaiyat”, but had given it to a soldier named Alfred Boxall back during World War II. Investigators then came to believe that Boxall was the Somerton Man.

Except he wasn’t, because Alfred Boxall was still alive and working at a bus station near Sydney. In fact, when police came to Boxall, not only was he still alive, but he had his copy of “The Rubaiyat” and showed it to them. It had a dedication from the unnamed nurse on the front inside cover and the Taman Shud verse in the back was intact. He and the nurse both claimed to know nothing of the dead man. Rumors stated that Boxall may have been a former intelligence officer (which he did not deny in at least one interview) and that the Somerton Man had been some sort of Russian spy, but neither was ever confirmed.

And that’s where the trail ends. 60 years later, there’s still no positive identification of the victim, no cause of death, no firm evidence that it wasn’t just a suicide, an uncracked code, an unidentified woman, and an unmarked grave where the body was finally buried. Television programs and criminal justice students have attempted, time and again, to uncover new evidence, but none have. Australia even opened its own intelligence agency as a result of the Taman Shud case. The case is still considered open to this day.

“I guess I’ll just wait here until you guys are finished.”

Wikipedia (Because knowing is half the battle)