THE MAD MAN. Cleveland, Ohio
|Sept. 1936, Kingsbury Run (Pubic Domain)|
In 1926 the body of young woman was found cut to pieces just north of Medea, Pennsylvania. It was part of a rash of bodies discovered ranging from 1923 to 1939, with an interesting pause during the early 1930’s. These western Pennsylvania crimes were often around an area dubbed “Murder Swamp” in Lawrence County near Pittsburgh. Victims included men, women, and children.
During the early 1930’s , however, the papers across the country were filled with the recent discoveries of the work of someone killing in a gory fashion in Ohio. Called the “Cleveland Torso Killer”, “The Bloody Butcher” or “The Mad Killer of Kingsrun” this individual operated from 1935 to 1938. In that, nearly two dozen body parts were found in Ohio bearing a surprising similarity to those found earlier in Pennsylvania. The connection was not well recognized at the time. In this time, law officers often suffered from tunnel vision and failed to make “big picture” connections to crimes beyond their jurisdictions. Those Pennsylvania deaths seemed, in retrospect, almost prototypes for the Ohio killings.
The terms used by various newspapers differed radically based on the sensibilities of the community and the tension between the fervor to sell papers and the need to maintain the community’s confidence in its safety. Sure to sell issues terminology included “mangled”, “butchered”, and similar fear instilling terms. As a result of the Cleveland cases, the more scientific term “torso” would be able send chills down the spines of most people and provided an added term to the newspaper vocabulary.
Several of the Ohio murders featured decapitations (as cause or post death action), many were missing arms and legs and unlike what was then known about so called “sex fiends”, the victims were male and female. It was generally believed that taking the head and the hands was a means of hiding identification and thus delaying capture. The action may have had other, more ritualistic, meanings for the killer. Some bodies were bisected or cut through between the hips and the rib cage where there is only the spinal column to provide significant resistance.
The list of the victims of such a killer, or set of killers, as the one roaming Ohio may never be able to be complete. There may be victims buried in isolated areas that will never be found, their mortal remains may have been so destroyed as to make them unidentifiable, or taken to a place a great distance from the place where other victims had been taken. That being said, the list of most of his accepted victims is long and sadly filled with little beyond the tale of their last and violent moments.
There is the nameless, “Lady of the Lake”, a title given to a body found along Lake Eerie in September of 1934.
Edward Andrassy’s decapitated and emasculated body was found Sept. 23, 1935 on Jackass Hill in the Kings run area of Cleveland.
Two in 1937 are also interesting in view of other cases to be seen elsewhere. On June 6, 1937, part of the skeleton of “Victim 8” was discovered. It was in a burlap bag and contained parts of the body of a woman wrapped in a newspaper from the previous year. Then, in July of 1937, parts of a man’s body floated down stream and, for the first time, internal organs and heart had been removed. These were never found.
There would be at least 13 murders credited to this mysterious individual (although some did suggest it might have been two men) but most are considered to be copycats past 1938. There is one 1950 murder of a male in Cleveland bearing the hallmarks of the killer that has not been totally ruled out.
A killer as vicious as the one roaming Cleveland, in most cases, does not simply stop. So what happened to him? Some suggest a local doctor was responsible but others do not agree and so the subject remains open for debate. There are also always ‘copycats’ – these are deaths caused as the result of someone reading about a crime and hoping to cover their own crime using similar methods. Several stories from this era fit the profile of getting an idea from a newspaper story. These ranging from husbands getting rid of tiresome wives to victims of botched abortions being discarded in a manner hoping to conceal the true cause of their death.
If the killer was in his 20’s or 30’s during these murders he could easily have continued to roam the countryside seeking those whom he could destroy to meet his bizarre and twisted need to kill. If that was the case, it would be plausible he would not become elderly until as late as the 1960’s or early 1970’s. This leaves a possible twenty to thirty years of murder.
This work in no way suggests that the mad killer of Cleveland was responsible for all the missing women, murdered people and dismembered victims spread across the country in that ensuing time, but it does encourage the consideration of looking at some clusters of crimes for similarities. Finally, could so many murders have occurred using such a messy means and leave both killer and victim anonymous all these years?
Interestingly, in April 1939 in Baltimore, a brutally ‘dissected’ body of a woman was found in the East Baltimore sewers. Her head and parts of her upper torso were found later. It was believed the killer might have buried the head at one time.
In October 1939, the bodies of several men, dead for some time, where found in some boxcars in an area of Pennsylvania known as “Murder Swamp”. They had been dismembered and on the chest of one was carved the word “Nazi.”
It is possible the killer left Ohio when too much attention was being paid to his capture. He could have easily have drifted somewhere and killed repeatedly. The dogged detective of the killer, Merylo, believed he might have been active in at least three other locations. If he was, would there be evidence of where he might have gone and what might that evidence look like?
---Marilyn A. Hudson, 2014