Terrifying True Crime Stories Just in Time for Halloween

Andrew Roberts 31 Oct 2018

There is no shortage of creepy fictional tales to spook your family and friends this Halloween, but some folks out there need something a little more realistic.

The current excitement around true crime stories has provided a look at influences on staples of the season and actual crimes that have changed the holiday forever.

The following is just a sampling of tales that have been added to the lore of the season and its history:

Mistaken Valor

Unsplash | Ben Koorengevel

22-year-old former Marine Christopher Dabney found himself at the center of one of the tamer, but still, shocking tales that happened on Halloween. In 2012, around the classical witching hour of 2-3 AM, Dabney was still dressed in his tutu costume when he encountered a man who offended his status as a former Marine according to the Miami New Times:

Dabney spotted 35-year-old Daniel Priotti and just assumed he was wearing a disabled vet costume complete with a wheelchair. He started calling Priotti a fake and hit him twice. The blows were so hard they knocked Priotti out of his wheelchair. Priotti, who is paralyzed from the chest down, was unresponsive for at least ten seconds after the attack...

"As he was leaving I stopped him and said, man, you have to own up to this. You just hit a handicapped person twice. You made him fall over," witness Alejandro Lemoine told The Sun. "Another guy came out -- there were enough people that he didn't get away with it."

If this proves anything, you need to check your judgment when confronting other people -- especially on Halloween.

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Houston's Candy Man

Unsplash | Matt Schwartz

Any child of the '80s and '90s will know about the panic around checking your Halloween candy for possible tampering. While the stories about razor blades placed in Apples and poison candy are typically just stories, this news out of Houston in 1974 was very, very real.

Ronald O’Bryan was attempting to poison his son on Halloween to collect on a life insurance policy and get himself out of debt. To cover up his crime, he needed something for people to blame according to ABC 13:

"It was kind of a cold, and kind of a misty, damp night," remembers Harold Nassif, a former Pasadena Detective Sergeant who investigated the case. "Since it had been raining, Mr. O'Bryan had a raincoat on. Unbeknownst to his friends who he was with, he had the pixie sticks shoved up the sleeves of his raincoat."

Ronald O'Bryan gave pixie sticks to five children, including two of his own. His eight-year-old son, Timothy, asked for one first.

"He said the boy responded after he ate some of it that it was very bitter and didn't taste right," Nassif said.

His son was the only one to eat the tainted pixie sticks, sparing the lives of his daughter and the other children. O'Bryan was later sentenced and executed in 1984, but the legacy of his crime helped to continue the myth of poisoned candy at Halloween to this day.

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A Halloween Prank Gone Wrong?

Unsplash | Beth Teutschmann

The 2010 Ohio murders of the Griffin family were initially thought to be a Halloween prank by their teenage son when he returned from church on the holiday according to CBS News:

Devon Griffin discovered the bodies of his slain family members, Derek Griffin, 23, Susan Liske, and her husband, William Liske, when he returned home after attending church.

The teenager told authorities it looked like a joke from a Halloween party, Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton said.

He soon realized it wasn't, and ran outside and called an aunt, who called 911.

26-year-old son William Liske was to blame for the triple murder, found with a history of mental illness and past threats that helped to explain the crimes he had committed. He would plead guilty to the bloody slayings and would add himself to the body count by taking his own life in 2015.

During his sentencing in 2011, Liske claimed he was sorry for the crime and blamed mental illness and "Satan" for his actions.

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The Body Was Real

Unsplash | joseph tury

This is always the type of fear that is in the back of your mind during Halloween. With so many creative people out in the world and realism taking command, it is sometimes hard to tell if something is real or just a decoration.

That is what happened to the Delaware residents around the home of the 42-year-old woman at the center of this story according to WBOC 16:

According to state police spokesman Cpl. Jeff Oldham and residents who live nearby, people noticed the body about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday but dismissed it as a Halloween prank. Authorities were called to the scene shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday.

"They thought it was a Halloween decoration," Fay Glanden, wife of Mayor William Glanden, told a Wilmington newspaper.

"Really, it looked like something somebody would have rigged up," added Glanden, who was among a handful of residents who watched as authorities tended to the body.

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Ed Gein


The inspiration behind Psycho, Silence Of The Lambs, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn't a creature of Halloween despite giving life to many that highlight the holiday. Ed Gein is not a threatening presence when you see his photo and wouldn't conjure such images on his own.

It wasn't until he was declared mentally unfit and incompetent during his trial, and his crimes were made public, that he truly became the boogie man he's considered in true crime circles according to The Update:

As Gein was the store’s most recent customer, he became a suspect and upon searching his home the police found Bernice’s decapitated and severely mutilated body along with many different body parts such as skulls (which he hung on his bedpost and made bowls out of), that Gein had taken from corpses that he exhumed from a nearby graveyard. Supposedly, the women he took these parts from resembled his mother, and he even stated that after her death he wanted to create a “woman suit” so he could “become his mother-to literally crawl into her skin."

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Son Of Sam Again?


The Son of Sam held New York City in the grip of fear from the summer of 1976 into the following year through August. David Berkowitz killed six and wounded seven using a .44 revolver, but it was the mythology, and Satanic aspects of his being that seemed to launch him into a higher status as a killer.

That plays into the slayings of Ronald Sisman and Elizabeth Platzman on Halloween 1981. Here is a description of the crime as published in the New York Times at the time:

Both victims had been beaten severely and shot once in the back of their heads at close range, the police said. The apartment had been ransacked.

The Smith student, Elizabeth Platzman, 20 years old, of Roslyn, L. I., and the photographer, Ronald Sisman, 39, were found at 7:40 P.M., Saturday, in Mr. Sisman's third-floor duplex apartment...

Son of Sam enters the discussion because he made a jailhouse prediction about the murder and claimed members of his cult were going to commit the crime as a sort of Satanic ritual. While the case remains unsolved and there is no evidence that Berkowitz is telling the truth, many questions still linger.

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Halloween Intruder


October 2005 saw a situation play out that would remind many of a slasher film. Leslie Mazzara, Adriane Insogna, and Lauren Meanza had gone to bed for the night when a dog barked and the security light woke up Lauren according to ABC News:

"He was just flying down the stairs, breaking stuff as he came around," Lauren said. In response, she ran. But in her panic, she ran the wrong way -- out the back door, surrounded by a 6-foot fence, and no way to get out...

Without knowing if the intruder had left, Lauren went back into the house to tend to her roommate. She tried to call 911, but the line in the kitchen was dead. Nevertheless, she tiptoed up the stairs, to Insogna's room, and was met with a ghoulish sight.

The entire bedroom floor was covered in blood. Mazzara was facedown in a pile of clothes with stab wounds all over her upper body and arms.

A few feet away, Insogna was crouched behind her bed -- alive -- but no longer able to speak and rapidly bleeding to death from multiple stab wounds.

Leslie and Adriane both died from their wounds, and cigarette butts at the scene left DNA evidence that led to the murderer: Eric Copple.

Out of 1,500 persons of interests, Copple finally admitted to the crimes stemming from their relationship to his fiance. There was no motive for the murders.

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Slender Man


Slender Man is a fictional creation of the internet that has now taken a twist into reality in the worst of ways. While Slender Man should just be the type of ghoul that haunts tales told around the fire on Halloween, he became something more for two disturbed Wisconsin girls.

The attempted murder of Wisconsin girl Payton Leutner by Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier grabbed headlines in 2014, mostly for their motives behind the horrifying crime according to the Chicago Tribune:

Geyser and another girl, Anissa Weier, admitted that they lured Leutner into some woods near a suburban Milwaukee park. Geyser stabbed Leutner 19 times while Weier urged her on, according to investigators. They left Leutner for dead, but she crawled out of the woods and got help from a passing bicyclist. All three girls were 12 at the time.

Geyser and Weier said they carried out the attack to appease Slender Man, a fictional online horror character who they said they feared would otherwise harm them and their families. Slender Man is often typified by spidery limbs and a blank white face.

Weier was sentenced to 25 years in a mental hospital back in December 2017, while Geyser received the maximum 40-year sentence in a mental hospital for her part in the crime. The victim survived, but she is still carrying the scars of the attack and has had her life changed forever.

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East Coast Rapist

Unsplash | Sebastian Unrau

Aaron Thomas became known as the East Coast Rapist for terrorizing the Mid-Atlantic and New England for 14 years.

Thomas was apprehended in New Haven, Conn. in March 2011, and he was eventually indicted on 54 charges two years later, according to NBC News. Included in those were two counts of rape and three counts of abduction in connection to a case in Prince William County, Va., in which Thomas attacked three teenagers that were out trick or treating. He then forcibly took them to a wooded area and violently raped two of them, both aged 17.

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Unsplash | Jason Abdilla

The Axeman killed six people and injured 12 more in New Orleans between May 1918 and October 1919. He was never caught and his identity remains a mystery to this day.

His final murder happened just days before Halloween:

The Axeman’s last murder was on the night of October 27th 1919. The wife of Mike Pepitone woke up to find her husband with various head injuries, his blood covering the entirety of the room and an axe-wielding man fleeing their house.

After that killing, his murders suddenly stopped for good.

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