Sitting around the fire and telling ghost stories at Christmas Eve predates Halloween, so the following are those told by Katherine Ramsland who is a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University, and who has written several books including one titled Haunted Crime Scene. She describes not only crime scenes but stories that she's heard about the ghost of serial killers, which is not surprising since these murderers had no peace in life, and it appears not in death. Following are some of the stories she's heard.
It makes sense that a property such as the old farm in La Porte, Indiana, where Belle Gunness buried over a dozen victims would gain the reputation of being haunted. However, since her actual fate is unknown and she might have died elsewhere, that her ghost supposedly shows up there (and in local stores) seems more like tales that kids tell to scare other kids.
The same with Fox Hollow Farm, also in Indiana, where Herb Baumeister burned and buried the remains of eleven men. His wife let the police investigate in June 1996, as Baumeister fled to Canada to kill himself. Their son had found a skull on the property and Herb had dismissed it as part of a medical model from his father’s collection. When detectives went to where the skull had been, they found a scorched area. Soon, they dug up human remains, along with a rusty pair of handcuffs.
Over 5,500 bones and bone fragments were collected from the burn spot, and there were more in a distant compost area. “It’s like a bomb went off in a people factory,” one searcher remarked. Some people claim to have seen Baumeister's spirit wandering the Tudor mansion and grounds. Others have seen running figures and heard cries for help. A ghost hunting team got eerie voices on tape.
Another serial killer shows up in a cemetery. As the year 1950 drew to a close, ex-convict William “Cockeyed” Cook went on a murder spree. In Missouri, he carjacked a family and made them drive him from one state to the next. Then he shot the three children and their parents. Cook then forced a salesman to drive him to California, where he killed the man. He took two men hostage in Mexico, but the authorities grabbed him before he could harm anyone else.
Cook was convicted in Missouri of the murders of the family, but California got him for the salesman and executed him in the gas chamber on December 12, 1952. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Peace Church Cemetery in Jasper County, Missouri. One story holds that Cook was buried beyond the boundaries of sacred ground, and rumors grew up that a ghostly figure stands on Cook’s grave.
On January 15, 2007, news sources featured the story that the prison cell once occupied by prolific healthcare serial killer Harold Shipman is haunted. Roy Whiting, the killer now in the cell, claimed he could not sleep, due to strange noises. He was certain it was the spirit of Shipman, one of the world’s deadliest serial killers, who had hanged himself in the cell (as had another inmate years earlier). It’s not known whether officials moved Whiting.
In another prison, we also have Ted Bundy’s ghost. Before his execution in 1989, Bundy confessed to killing at least 30 young women in six states, and hinted at more. A decade after he was executed, a guard at the prison told a reporter that several guards claimed to have seen his ghost sitting casually on the electric chair. He smiled knowingly. If anyone tried to approach him, he’d disappear. The guard said there were so many sightings at one point that the warden couldn’t find anyone willing to enter the execution chamber alone.
Bundy also showed up around his holding cell on death row. To some guards, he’d reportedly said, “Well, I beat all of you, didn’t I?”
In May 2013, I saw a report published about Bundy’s ghost showing up again. This time, the report came from an inmate. “For many years,” he stated, “I heard the rumors of Ted Bundy’s ghost appearing and didn’t believe it. Now, my mind has changed. I and other residents (including staff) have witnessed the ghost on many occasions. It is definitely Bundy. It comes in the early morning before dawn in our housing unit and in different cells. He’s always smiling. It’s a white-blue mist but very detailed. Some of the other residents claim to hear him talking.”
And one more: This week, I was working on the tale of Jack Unterweger, a journalist who covered his own murders in Austria and California during the early 1990s. Although he had a life sentence for one murder, he became a writer of some distinction, so influential people petitioned for his parole. Once out, women began to die. It seemed like a good idea to some editors to hire the paroled killer to cover these news items. Thus, Unterweger wrote about seven of his own murders in several Austrian cities.
On assignment to write about prostitution in California, he killed three prostitutes there. Finally, an Austrian investigative team put the pieces together and arrested Unterweger. Adamant that he would spend no more time in prison, when he was convicted, he killed himself. During the night following his suicide, his fiancée said she woke up and saw him standing at the foot of her bed.
A version of this article appeared on Psychology Today
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