Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Octoberfest Five: 5 Puzzling Unsolved Crimes

~by Marie Robinson
Unsolved crimes are as interesting as they are disturbing. It is often the bizarre details, as well as the open end, that makes them so haunting. These five mysteries are sure to intrigue, frighten, and tug at your heartstrings, for behind each crime we must never forget there is are victims and their families, who must live in a terrible state of limbo.

1. Tara Calico 

Tara Calico, a 19-year-old girl from Belen, New Mexico, vanished on September 20th, 1988 while on a bike ride. Before leaving, Tara told her mother to come pick her up at noon if she hadn’t arrived back at home yet; when she failed to return, Patty Doel (Tara’s mother), drove along her daughter’s normal bike route but contacted the police upon finding her missing. The only thing that was found that day was pieces of Tara’s Walkman and cassette tape. Several witness claimed to have seen Calico riding her bike, and a few of them even observed a Ford pick-up following her, although none of them assumed Tara to have been abducted. This pick-up truck has never been located.

There were no leads on the case, and nothing new to report until June of the next year, when a disturbing Polaroid photo was found in the parking lot of a drug store in Port St. Joe, Florida. The picture was found in a parking space where a windowless white Toyota van had been parked, and then driven away by a man with a mustache. The photograph was of a teenage or slightly older girl and a young boy, both gagged with black tape over their mouths and their hands seemingly tied behind their backs. Although no was entirely sure, it was believed that the girl in the photo was Tara, and the boy was another missing child from New Mexico named Michael Henley; however, Michael Henley’s remains were discovered in 1990 several miles from the campsite his family was staying at his time of disappearance, so it is unlikely that the boy in the picture is him.

It was never firmly decided that the girl in the photograph was Tara, but two other Polaroid’s of a similar unidentified girl have turned up over the years, but they have never been released to the public.
Several sightings of Calico were reported in the first two years of her disappearance, but none of the sightings have been confirmed and there has been no further evidence towards her case.

2. Hinterkaifeck Farm Massacre 

Equal parts brutal and bizarre is the case of the Hinterkaifeck Farm murders, which involved the killing of an entire family with a mattock (type of pickaxe). The Gruber family was made up of father Andreas, wife Cäzilia, their daughter Viktoria, and her two children—a daughter also named Cäzilia who was seven-years-old and a son named Josef who was two. Their maid, Maria Baumgartner, was on her first day on the job on March 31st, 1922; she was only employed a few hours before she was murdered along with the rest of the family.

The Grubers’ were a wealthy family that lived on a Bavarian farmstead around 40 miles north of Munich. Although they were solitary they were well known among the locals. Andreas was said to have been abusive to his wife and had an obsession with his daughter Viktoria, who was widowed. It was even rumored that her child, Josef, was the result of incest, and that Andreas forbid Viktoria to marry again and made her stay in the house. Viktoria was well liked among the community and she was known for singing in the church choir.

The family had also had an unusual run with their previous maid. She had claimed to hear footsteps and disembodied voices in the attic, and believed the house to be haunted and eventually left out of fright. Their new maid, Maria, was hired six months later.

Strange things began to happen at the farmhouse a few days prior to the murders. The first occurrence was after a snowstorm; Andreas was checking the property for damage when he found a set of footprints lead from the woods up to the house, but there was no set going back. However, upon a thorough inspection Andreas found no intruder. Andreas also told the locals about hearing footsteps in the attic, finding a set of scratches on the barn’s lock—as if someone had tried picking it—and a set of keys going missing. He never alerted the authorities about any of these peculiar happenings.

On March 31st, 1922 the Gruber family, along with their maid Maria, was murdered with single blows to the head and discovered by the townsfolk several days later. Andreas, both Cäzilias’, and Viktoria were found in the barn, stacked on top of one another and covered with hay. Investigators believed that they were lured one by one to the barn, where they were then killed. Maria and little Josef were killed in their beds and were each covered, respectively, with a sheet and one of his mother’s skirts.

Even stranger was that although locals hadn’t seen the Grubers’ in several days (which is the reason they went out searching for them), it had appeared that someone had been living in the house. Smoke had been seen coming from the chimney over the weekend, one of the beds had been used, and the animals had been fed and taken care of, and none of them had been harmed, including the family dog that was tied up. Locals had only started to become curious when Viktoria had not showed up for church on Sunday and little Cäzilia had not come to school on Monday.

 No real evidence was found and no suspects were ever confirmed. The family was buried in Waidhofen, though disturbingly enough without their heads, as they were sent to Munich to be analyzed and examined by clairvoyants. The farm was demolished in 1923.

3. Elisa Lam 

This is one of my “favorite” unsolved cases because of how absolutely bizarre it is. Elisa Lam was a 21-year-old Canadian student who was traveling the West Coast on her own. She was planning on visiting San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and San Francisco, but never made it past L.A where she stayed at the Cecil Hotel. The Cecil was already a tainted place by a previous unsolved murder, several suicides, and visits from serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger.

Elisa was keeping in touch with her family, and was supposed to contact them on the day of her scheduled checkout, January 31st, 2013; when she didn’t, Lam’s family contacted the LAPD and flew down to California to help search for her.

Several weeks went by without a trace of Lam, although hotel staff had seen her on the day of her disappearance, but had not seen her since. An employee at a nearby bookstore had seen her on January 31st, and commented that she was very friendly and lively.

The next bit of evidence would surface on February 14th, through the hotel’s surveillance video of one of the elevators. The video was from February 1st, and shows Lam entering the empty elevator by herself and presses several buttons on the control panel. I won’t describe the whole video to you, but I highly recommend you watch it HERE, as it is one of the strangest and most unsettling pieces of footage I have ever seen. Lam’s behavior in the elevator is very concerning, and some people believe it displays a psychotic episode (Lam was medicated for bipolar disorder and depression), others indicate that she is hiding from a pursuer.

Around the same time, guests at the Cecil were complaining of low water pressure and oddly colored and tasting water. The cause was investigated and Elisa Lam’s body was found in the one of the water tanks on the roof of the hotel. She was found naked in the tank, with the clothes she was wearing in the surveillance tape floating beside her. Pathologists ruled the death as an accidental drowning and found no evidence of suicide, physical or sexual assault, or any recreational drugs or alcohol in her system.

However, it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, that Elisa could have gotten in to the water tank unassisted. The only ways to access the roof are through doors and stairs that are locked with passcodes, and that will set off an alarm when tried. These security measures could be avoided if one were to take the fire escape, but it seems unlikely that Lam would have this knowledge. The tanks, themselves, are 4-feet-high and have no fixed ladder or step on them, and when inspecting the water in response to customer complaints, the staff had to bring up them own ladder to inspect the inside. Lastly, the tanks are covered with heavy lids that would have been very difficult to replace from within.

There are tons of theories on Elisa Lam’s death, both compelling and juvenile, but what truly interests me about this case is the video. It’s downright creepy, and not knowing the whole story behind it, is truly terrifying.

4. Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm? 

In 1943, an unidentified woman was found in the hollow trunk of a tree (specifically a Wych elm) by four boys who were hunting on the estate of Hagley Hall in Stourbridge, UK. One of them had climbed up into the tree to look for birds’ nests, but when they looked down into the trunk they saw a human skull with hair, but since they were trespassing on the property they told no one. Eventually, one of the boys, named Tommy Willetts, felt guilt about keeping their discovery a secret, so he told his parents, who then reported it to the police.

When police returned to the tree they found a nearly complete human skeleton with a few fragments of cloth and a gold wedding band. A hand was missing but was found buried at the foot of the tree. She was believed to have died of asphyxiation as they found taffeta shoved in her mouth, and guessed her to have died around October 1941. With all the people reported missing during World War II it was impossible to identify the woman, and no real suspects were established.

The name came from a prostitute who was said to have gone missing around the time of the woman’s supposed death, and thus the skeleton was dubbed, “Bella”.

What gives this cold case a little quirk is that it generated a string of reoccurring vandalism in the form of graffiti, with the first appearing in 1944. The words “Who Put Bella in the Witch Elm?” appeared throughout London up until 1999, a message from those who wish to see Bella find justice and peace.

5. Charles Walton 

 Charles Walton was a 74-year-old farmhand from Warwickshire, England. He lived with his 33-year-old niece, Edith whom he adopted after the death of her mother when she was three. Charles lived a solitary life, and though he had no friends he was not disliked, although he did have a reputation for being a witch, and was feared by some villagers. The area in which Charles lived, Meon Hill, was rumored to be haunted, and had a heavy presence of phantom black dogs roaming the woods.

Charles did various jobs for a local farmer named Alfred Potter, and he set out on February 14th, 1945 with a pitchfork and a slash hook to continue working on a hedgerow at Mr. Potter’s farm. When Charles did not return home that evening, his niece, Edith, went out the farm to look for him, bringing with her a neighbor of theirs named Harry Beasley.

When they got to the farm they found Charles dead beside the hedgerow, killed by him own belongings. He was beaten over the head with his own walking stick, his slash hook was buried in his neck, and the pitchfork stabbing him through the neck and pinning him to the ground.

Walton’s murder was believed to be a part of a ritual or sacrifice, but his murder was never solved. Alfred Potter, the farmer, was questioned heavily, but never arrested, and Walton’s mysterious and grisly killing just added more folklore to an already haunted region, and a warning to locals to shy away from witchcraft.


ShellHawk said...

Wow! Never heard of any of these! Thanks for sharing those weird cases.

Christine Hadden said...

Unsolved crimes are a favorite of both Marie and I. Marie did the work on this post, she did a great job!
Thanks for reading!!

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