10 Gruesome Crimes That Make You Squirm

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A Brief History

On may 21, 1936, Sada Abe, a Japanese prostitute, strangled her lover and cut his genitals off, carrying them around in her purse for 3 days before she was caught. She explained to the police that she had tried to have sex with the severed organs but for some reason it just did not work.  Every so often a crime happens that catches the attention of the public because of the brutality or the gruesome nature of the deed.  Here we list 10 of those crimes that make you cringe and squirm. What misdeeds would you include?

Digging Deeper

10. Sada Abe, et al, 1936.

As described above, the slicing off of a man’s genitals generally makes most men squirm uncomfortably just hearing about it. Women and other men have been doing this to their hapless victims since time immemorial, and yet each new report causes a shudder to go through the public. Whether it is Lorena Bobbit emasculating her husband and tossing his severed member out of her fleeing truck, or the rape victim biting off an offending part of her attacker’s anatomy, or the Ohio man who amputated and microwaved his lover’s male member after an argument, this crime seems to strike a strident chord with the squeamish crowd.

9.  Lawrence Singleton, 1978.

This incredibly depraved rapist picked up a 15 year old girl who was hitchhiking in California. After raping her, he cut off her forearms with a hatchet and tossed her over a cliff and left her to die in the desert. The 30 foot fall did not kill the brave girl who then managed to climb up the cliff where a passing motorist took the naked and nearly dead girl to the hospital. Six months later Singleton was on trial for this crime and swore he would kill this victim.  In spite of his horrific crime and threat to kill the maimed girl, Singleton received only a 14 year sentence, the maximum permitted at that time. In a sickening display of poor judgment, Singleton was released from jail after serving only 8 years.  Attempts to have this depraved creep move into normal neighborhoods met with protests, forcing him to spend his 1 year of parole (!) on the grounds of San Quentin prison in a trailer. Singleton moved to Florida where in 1997 he was convicted of killing a prostitute who he stabbed in the face and chest. This time he was given a death sentence, but died on death row in 2001 at age 73.

8.  Armin Meiwes, 2001.

In this bizarre incident, Meiwes, a German computer tech, advertised on The Cannibal Café for a willing victim that wanted to be eaten by Meiwes. Sure enough, Bern Brandes from Berlin answered the ad and presented himself as the main course.  Others had answered the ad as well, but had left when Meiwes explained that he was quite serious.  Settling only for a completely willing subject, Meiwes had one in Brandes.  Brandes had wanted Meiwes to bite off Brandes’s penis, but despite heroic efforts Meiwes was unable to, so the tasty morsel had to be amputated with a knife.  Brandes then tried and failed to eat some of his own penis but found it too chewy.  Meiwes cooked the organ in a pan, fried with fat from Brandes, but burned the hapless sex organ and subsequently fed it to his dog.  Meiwes did kill the willing Brandes and consume a large quantity of his flesh, while making a video of the entire debacle!  No, you will not see it on the internet, the police authorities in Germany have not released the video.  While Brandes was weakened from blood loss, Meiwes gave him large quantities of alcohol and sedatives, finally finishing him off by stabbing him in the  throat.  Brandes was hung up on a meat hook and consumed over the next several months.  Meiwes was arrested when he advertised for new voluntary victims and was convicted of manslaughter, sentenced to 8 years in prison.  Germany is not the US, and when the prosecutors appealed, Meiwes was retried and convicted of murder, then sentenced to life in prison.  Would you want to be his cellmate?

Cannibal (2006), a direct-to-video horror film, is based on Meiwes and Brandes, although the characters do not have names. The film, which stars actors Carsten Frank and Victor Brandl, was actually banned in Germany!

7.  John F. Kennedy, 1963.

JFK makes this list because of who he was, the serving president of the US and the fact that he was shot while a bystander filmed the murder.  Millions of people have seen the film of the young and handsome JFK riding in the back of an open convertible limousine waving to an adoring crowd, when suddenly he grabs his throat and then his head explodes.  The grisly scene of the beautiful Jacqueline Kennedy crawling onto the trunk lid to retrieve parts of JFK’s skull and brains is creepy indeed.

6.  Nick Berg, et al, 2001-2013.

Although decapitation is not all that unusual over the years, Berg and 9 others have the distinction of horrifying the public by being decapitated by Islamic terrorists and having the video posted on the internet.  The horrible scene of a helpless and innocent American (or person seen by the terrorists as allied with Americans) is enough to make strong people squirm.

5.  Raul Barrera, 2011.

This unemployed publicist, age 35, beat his gorgeous blonde girlfriend to death when she tried to break up with him.  Raul beat Sarah Coit, age 23, to the floor and then stabbed her over 30 times, disemboweled her, slashed her throat and left her still breathing with a knife in her skull. During his horrific rampage he used a total of 5 different knives before he cleaned up and left the scene.  Horrified at what he had done, instead of calling 911 or other help for Sarah, Raul instead called his family and whined until his father talked Raul into giving up.  Given a sentence of 25 years to life, the prosecutor publicly stated the murderous creep should never be released.

4.  Josef Mengele, 1943-1945.

This poor excuse for a physician was a Nazi death camp “doctor” during World War II that performed horrible “experiments” on helpless prisoner.  Engaging in vivisection (cutting up people with no anesthesia while they are alive), injecting various drugs and chemicals in people to see what happened, testing how long it took prisoners to freeze to death under various circumstances, amputating limbs and various body parts to see how well the victim would do without them were some of his activities.  Bizarre stunts like amputating limbs and reattaching them on the opposite side of the body and sewing normal twins together to try to make Siamese (conjoined_ twins of them were also among his tricks.  He would inject various chemicals into the eyes of prisoners to see if he could change their eye color and intentionally injected healthy people with diseases, various chemicals, drugs and pathogens to observe the results.  This murderer escaped to South America after the war and eluded capture, finally dying from drowning while swimming and having a stroke in 1979.

3.  Cleveland Torso Murders, 1930’s.

A minimum of 12 murders from 1935 to 1938 by the same murderer where the victim would be decapitated and often dismembered. Male victims were also castrated.  Cleveland Safety Director Eliot Ness (yes, the one from the Untouchables) was dogged by pressure to catch the murderer but the murders have never been solved.  It has been speculated that another dozen or two murders in Pennsylvania and other places may be attributable to the same maniac.  Plenty of books and cultural references have been made to these gruesome killings of hoboes and poor people. The Cleveland Police Department Museum has a display about the crimes and you can find photos on the internet of some of the victims.

2.  The Black Dahlia, 1947.

The murder of Elizabeth Short, known as “The Black Dahlia,”  in Los Angeles has been portrayed in numerous books and motion pictures, several rock songs, a video game and a death metal band. This famous case has never been solved, adding to the public fascination with it. The body of Short was found by a woman with her 3 year old daughter in a vacant lot, naked and dismembered. She had been cut in half at the waist, with a large slice from each corner of her mouth creating a bizarre smile effect.  The body had been washed and posed on her back with hands over her head, her legs spread, and the two halves of her torso about a foot apart. About 5 dozen people have “confessed” to this crime, but each one has been ruled out by investigators. Numerous people had been suspected, including several celebrities, but never with anything near the evidence needed for a prosecution. The tremendous publicity and cultural references drive this case near the top. Graphic photos of her dead body at the crime scene and on the autopsy table are readily available on the internet and YouTube features videos about her case.

1.  Jeffrey Dahmer, 1978-1991.

This “man” is the undisputed champion of all weirdo’s! And to think, he was ruled to be sane enough to stand trial and be convicted of his crimes. (Psychiatrists said he had a “borderline personality disorder.”)  Those crimes include the rape and murder of 17 men and boys, many of which he had sex with after their death. Did we mention he also ate them? Is that not enough? He tried to make sex zombies out of some of them by drilling a hole in the victim’s head and pouring in various solutions. (Apparently, this did not work.)  Dahmer cut up many of his victims, cutting the flesh off the bones and smashing up the bones to make disposal easier. He kept some of the body parts in his refrigerator for sexual purposes at his leisure, and even used a boiled skull as a masturbation aid. Dahmer had murdered a man in Ohio years before the other murders in Milwaukee, but did not face trial until he was caught and the case became sensational.   He was also convicted during his killing spree of drugging and sexually fondling a 13 year old boy that he had lured into his apartment, and given only 5 years probation! (Not to preach, but seriously, people get jail time for selling their prescription drugs and Dahmer did not get jail for this?)  There are more details than we have space for. Serving life in prison for his crimes, Dahmer was beaten to death in prison in 1994, to the delight of most of the families of his victims.

Question for students (and subscribers): What was the most gruesome crime you learned about?  Also, how are people capable of committing such crimes?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, see…

Glatt, John.  The Doctor’s Wife: A True Story of Marriage, Deception and Two Gruesome Murders.  St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2007.

Glatt, John.  To Have and To Kill: Nurse Melanie McGuire, an Illicit Affair, and the Gruesome Murder of Her Husband.  St. Martin’s True Crime, 2008.

The featured image in this list, a newspaper photo taken shortly after Abe’s arrest, at Takanawa Police Station, Tokyo on May 20, 1936,  is in the public domain in Japan because its copyright has expired according to Article 23 of the 1899 Copyright Act of Japan (English translation) and Article 2 of Supplemental Provisions of Copyright Act of 1970. This is when the photograph meets one of the following conditions:

  1. It was published before January 1, 1957.
  2. It was photographed before January 1, 1947.

It is also in the public domain in the United States, because its copyright in Japan expired by 1970 and was not restored by the Uruguay Round Agreements Act.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.