I was at the bank today, and I was complimenting the tellers on their costume choices. One was a Star Wars stormtrooper, which wasn’t really done very well…but the other gal dressed up as Link from the Zelda video games and really nailed it. They asked me what my costume was and I told them I was a serial killers since “they look just like one of us”. One of them said she was fascinated by serial killers and I asked her if she had heard of Missoula’s very own serial killer, Wayne Nance. I’d met Doug Welles, the fella that cancelled Nance’s birth certificate, years ago and heard a little about it from him, and a lot from people who knew Welles. So i told them what I knew and it turned into some sort of ghost story scenario, these three bank tellers raptly leaning over the counter listening.

Then I told them the details of cannibal child-killer Nathan Bar Jonah (famous for serving children to his neighbors at potlucks). Turns out the guy who runs the coin shop across the street from me is the retired cop who arrested Bar Jonah. Again, he told me all the inside details and creepy stuff that was found (and suspected) in Bar Jonahs apartment. As I recounted it, the tellers just stood there, eyes wide, hanging on every word.

Interesting that Montana had a couple serial killers within such a short time. To be fair, though, Bar Jonah was an import (or, more accurately, an export) from Massachusetts.

Over in Idaho, the equally despicable child killer Joe Duncan came to light when he hammered a family to death and stole their kids. Unfortunately, he’s still alive because no one did the reasonable thing when his actions became known.

If you’re into the macabre histories and body counts, two extremely notable serial killers are Ed Gein (the inspiration for Norman Bates of ‘Psycho’ fame), Albert Fish, and H.H.Holmes. If you want to read a fictional thriller about chasing down a Victorian era serial killer, ‘The Alienist‘ was an enjoyable book. (And, I hear, on its way to becoming a movie.) And if you want a movie, I highly recommend “Manhunter” (1986), which introduced Hannibal Lecter to the world. (The book, Harris’ “Red Dragon”, was extremely good.)

But..hey..it’s Halloween. Best not to dwell too closely on what a human being can do when he’s got a couple crossed wires.

Human beings are fabulously dangerous critters when they want to be. Sometimes you get one who has a couple wires crossed, or someone who has been so damaged by life that they just aren’t safe to be around decent folks. They’re out there….working in furniture stores, passing you on the street as they walk to work, filling your prescriptions… never can tell.

Which is why we have hollowpoints.

11 thoughts on “Halloween

  1. “Hannibal Rising” – It explains a lt and actually makes one sympathize for the young Master Lektor/Lechter.

    What’s really fun to think about is the serial killers who haven’t been caught yet. They’re out there, like you said.

  2. Back when The Silence of the Lambs movie came out, Dallas had a working serial killer. Turned out to be Charles Albright. My mother was on the jury that convicted him.

    At the time, she was in sales and often had to go to customers’ homes. She couldn’t do it any longer after hearing what came out in trial (and what you know was only a part of what the cops knew but couldn’t present). It changed her life.

    I agree on The Alienist. Read it a while back. It has a creepiness that competes well with Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs.

  3. Netflix has a series called “Manhunters” about the formation of the Behavioral Sciences Unit in the 70’s. Pretty interesting, both for the 70’s vibe (and awesome soundtrack) and the depiction of the serial killers they interview like Ed Kemper.

    I’m not sure how historically accurate the show is, but there’s a video on Youtube of the real Kemper being interviewed interspersed with the scenes from the show.

    • I can heartily second that recommendation. The series is actually called “Mindhunter” and it’s a fictionalized adaptation of the book of the same name by John Douglas who helped form the BSU.

      The whole Hannibal Lecter series was inspired by that book, and the Jack Crawford character is based on John Douglas. Influences from the book show up all over modern crime fiction not just the various incarnations of the Lecter-verse: it had influences on the TV shows “Profiler” and “Millenium” in particular, and even the contemporary show “Blacklist” features an agent named Ressler as a nod to John Douglas’ real life partner.

      The book is a great read, and the show is immensely entertaining. It’s pure psychological crime drama and guaranteed to cause moments of utter horror and revulsion and there’s not one car chase, shoot out or even any on camera violence or gore. While the central characters of John Douglas’ real life account have been fictionalized to allow for dramatic license, the serial killers they interview are all based on the real criminals, and are perfectly cast. They all resemble their real life counterparts a great deal and, with their performance constrained to an interview room, manage to utterly embody the evil of their characters. In particular Cameron Britton – who I’m sure is a positively lovely man – is absolutely terrifying as Edmund Kemper.

      I’m anxiously awaiting the next season!

  4. A couple weeks ago someone dumped a trash bag on the side of a country road that we use regularly. The other day I commented that it’s big enough to hold a small body. Around here, killers who have half a brain cell could easily avoid being caught. The last murderer in the area was so stupid that he killed his neighbors & tracked blood back to his house hauling away the contents of the victims’ tool shed.

  5. David Meirhoffer over in Belgrade- Three Forks area, in the mid Seventies. I was in Boy Scouts at the time. His murder of a kid in a tent at Headwaters State Park changed how we camped in Scout for several years. And I worked in a furniture store in Bozeman- the owners remembered Wayne Nance, commented on him several times….

  6. My late roomie’s sister worked in the psych ward wherein Ed Gein resided. She said when Ed walked up to her and stroked her arm while telling her she “has such nice skin”, she got “just a bit creeped out”.

    A couple of winters ago, a motorist picked up a girl who was walking barefoot in pajamas in the snow. She was at death’s door from malnutrition. Her parents kept her locked in the basement where she ate feces and garbage. Two blocks north of me. Oddly, the house was repeatedly vandalized after the story broke. The child welfare folks had been there multiple times and found nothing amiss. An inside source told me the kid is doing quite well now in a foster family.

    A few houses west of me the dad killed one of his kids then himself.

    My life insurance agent killed his wife. A co-worker killed one of our clients.

    And people ask why on earth I would ever think it’s a good idea to carry…

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