Criminal is powered by Vocal.
Vocal is a platform that provides storytelling tools and engaged communities for writers, musicians, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creators to get discovered and fund their creativity.
How does Vocal work?
Creators share their stories on Vocal’s communities. In return, creators earn money when they are tipped and when their stories are read.
How do I join Vocal?
Vocal welcomes creators of all shapes and sizes. Join for free and start creating.
To learn more about Vocal, visit our resources.Show less
Unsolved murders always seem to strike a nerve in people. They are terrifying, because they're legitimate proof that murderers are on the loose. They spark curiosity, because everyone wants to know how the murderer got away with it — and who the murderer is.
Perhaps that's why so many unsolved murders still grab national attention today.
In today's highly technological society, it's hard to imagine mysteries genetic testing, camera evidence, and cell data won't solve. But, despite all the gizmos and gadgets we have, some mysteries seem to defy every logical explanation out there.
The following unsolved murders seem almost paranormal in nature at times, and continue to baffle investigators. Who killed these people?
The Case of the Embalmed, Severed Head
In December of 2014, an elderly woman's severed head was found in Economy, Pennsylvania. At first glance, one would think this was a very standard murder case — however, this wasn't the case.
It was already embalmed, and this alone left police scratching their heads. To make matters even more bizarre, police couldn't identify the woman. All they were able to figure out was that she was local to Pennsylvania.
Part of the reason why they couldn't figure out who it was, was due to the fact that whoever had embalmed her head also removed her eyes and replaced them with rubber balls.
Morticians would tell you that this is actually somewhat standard practice in preservation — except for the fact that the eyes weren't replaced with mortuary balls, but with regular bouncy balls.
Still, many thought that there would be a chance that someone just stole an embalmed head from a hospital or mortuary. No mortuary nearby, nor any hospital, mentioned anything to police about a lost head.
This leads police to believe that the embalmer may have been an amateur with a sick hobby. To this day, no one knows who the woman is, who embalmed her, how she died, who killed her, or even if someone killed her.
Is this actually one of many unsolved murders, or did someone randomly just lose their head? Neither police nor investigators will likely ever know for sure.
Are the Grimes Sisters Really Dead?
In the mid-1950s, Barbara and Patricia Grimes were two young teenage girls who went out to the movies to see Love Me Tender. They never returned home, and a search party was sent out to find them.
Three weeks later, police found their bodies lying by the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere. They were very, very dead, and that was where the questions really began to pile up.
Doctors couldn't figure out what killed them. One of the girl's chests was covered in light stab wounds, but none of the marks would have been enough to kill them.
The postmortem inspection didn't reveal much, either, except that they died around five hours after they left the cinema.
No one spotted them before they died, and no one knew how they got so far away from home, either. It would seem like a cut-and-dry kidnapping murder...
Except for the fact that people kept seeing the two girls after they died. Days after they were allegedly deceased, reports began to come in from people who swore they saw the two girls.
In 2009, a Detroit cop decided to re-open the case to see whether anyone saw them as missing persons. Surprise, records showed that people kept seeing them after they were found dead.
In fact, two separate employees said that the girls checked into the Claremont Hotel on the 30th — two days after they died. Then, it got stranger.
January 14th, a classmate's mother answered the phone, only to hear the late Patricia Grimes ask to speak to a classmate, then promptly hang up. Remember, this was the 1950s; they didn't have technology that would allow a girl's voice to be synthesized the way we do today.
It was only the next day that investigators got an anonymous call that said that the girls were dead, and told them where to search for them. That's when investigators found their bodies.
Nothing about this makes sense.
Who knew where the girls were, and why did he call the police to tell them where they were? Why were people talking to them and seeing them when autopsies showed they were long dead?
Because of all these unanswerable questions, this will surely remain one of the strangest, creepiest unsolved murders of all time.
The Bizarre Deaths of the Jamison Family
Perhaps one of the most chilling unsolved murders happened to an entire family — and their deaths leave investigators, friends, and relatives puzzled to this very day.
Bobby, Sherilynn, and six-year-old Madyson Jamison looked like a picture-perfect family in their Oklahoma neighborhood. The family was, at the time, looking to purchase a large plot of land in nearby Red Oak.
However, things started to get strange. Very strange.
The trio began to look pale and emaciated. Video footage of them in their last days showed them wandering around in "a trance-like state." The local pastor said that the family was dealing with "spiritual warfare," and that Sherilyn Jamison had become obsessed with witches.
The spiritual warfare they were acting out seems far-fetched, but something was definitely not right. Madyson claimed she would talk to a dead girl in her home — a rather dark hobby for your average six-year-old. The pastor also said that the father, Bobby, had asked the pastor for "special bullets" to hunt dark forces.
Sherilynn had also told her best friend that Bobby's eyes would turn coal black in fits of rage. Sherilynn also claimed that the house was haunted.
Then, one day, the entire family disappeared. Their home was left in disarray, with a "Witches' Bible" in the middle of the room. It appeared that they did not leave of their own accord. No one saw them alive again, and they never returned home.
A couple days later, police found their abandoned truck. The truck contained their IDs, phones, $32,000 in cash, and the almost-dead family dog. However, investigators and search parties didn't find them nearby.
Their dead bodies were all found four years later, in 2013, barely recognizable due to heavy decomposition. No cause of death was ever determined, and no one has any explanation for the bizarre behavior the Jamison family exhibited during their final days.
Everything from underhanded crystal meth dealings to falling victim to local cults has been suggested as a motive. However, to this day, their deaths are still filed as unsolved murders with no suspects, no cause of death, and no motives.
The Disappearance of the Sodder Children
Much like other mysteries on this list, the disappearance of the Sodder children might be unsolved murders or may actually be a cover up for something much stranger.
George and Jennie Sodder were a couple of Italian immigrants who came to the states to get better opportunities. By the 1940s, they met, married, and settled into Fayetteville, West Virginia. The two ended up having a total of 10 children, and everything seemed great.
Until the mid-40s, that is.
George Sodder was a vocal anti-fascist, and regularly got into arguments with fellow Italians who supported Benito Mussolini. This often made him a target among fascists, and he regularly got threatened because of his political beliefs.
Worse, many of the people who threatened him were involved with the Mafia. One shady salesman offering "fire insurance" threatened the Sodders, saying that their "house will go up in smoke" if they didn't buy insurance or stop insulting Mussolini.
On Christmas Day of 1945, the Sodder family woke up to a loud noise on the top of the roof, followed by the smell of smoke. Jennie Sodder found a fire starting near the fusebox in George's office. It got stranger, and it became clear that something seemed oddly deliberate about the fire.
The ladder on the second floor went missing, making a quick escape impossible. The phone line was dead — apparently cut. The bucket of water they kept to put out any errant fires was frozen. When George tried to start the family truck to get help, the engine wouldn't run.
Jennie was able to get five of her kids out, then shouted to the other five to leave the house. When they all got outside, something terrible sank in: of the 10 children in the Sodder family, only five were present.
So began one of the strangest unsolved murders of all time.
A quick search showed that there were no bodies or bones in or near the site of the fire. The family assumed that five of the children didn't make it out. Firefighters were only able to arrive the morning after, because the local fire trucks were also disabled.
Investigators claimed that the house fire was started by faulty wires, despite the Sodders having hired an electrician only days before. The family home was quickly bulldozed.
Jennie had spoken to a crematorium employee, only to find out that even cremations have bones sticking out of the ashes. No bones at the site meant that the children didn't burn to death in the house fire.
George Sodder began to believe something was amiss about the entire situation, and hired a private investigator, who found out that the fire chief had found a heart in a box outside the house. Upon further inspection, heart ended up being a cow's liver exposed to extreme heat.
Someone was trying to make the Sodders believe that the five missing children were dead, and they had a huge group of people helping them. Hoteliers said that they saw the children check into a hotel with two strange men. A young man later came to the Sodders claiming to be one of the "dead" children.
Even so, no official record of what happened to the five kids ever came to be. Are they unsolved murders, or is this an unsolved kidnapping case? The world may never know.
The Hinterkaifeck Massacre
The following story remains one of the creepiest unsolved murders of the 20th century, and you might've heard of it before. It's known as the Hinterkaifeck Massacre, and it's pretty terrifying.
The Hinterkaifeck family lived in a rural town in Bavaria back in the 1920s. One day, the entire family just stopped showing up to school, church, and the market. This wasn't normal for the family.
So, a group decided to go to their house for a wellness check. What they found terrified them.
Gruber Hinterkaifeck, his wife, daughter, two grandchildren, and the maid all were found stabbed to death in various parts of the home. What really made everyone's blood run cold was when they realized the farm was still maintained despite the family being dead for weeks.
The cows were milked, food was freshly cooked, everything was cleaned up, and smoke was coming out of the chimney. It became clear that someone was living on the farm after the killings were committed.
In the days leading up to the murders, Gruber had actually mentioned that he heard strange noises coming from the attic, and that he spotted strange footprints on newspapers throughout his farm.
The killer was never caught, and no leads were uncovered. Due to the lack of evidence, it's likely that the Hinterkaifeck family's unsolved murders will continue to stay a mystery indefinitely.
The Boy in the Box
The saddest of all the unsolved cases out there deal with children, and such is the case with The Boy in the Box.
In 1957, a box was found labeled "Fragile" by a bunch of kids out in a park. Curious as kids are, they opened the box — and they didn't like what they saw. Inside was a bassinet and the body of a young boy, perhaps four years of age.
At around 40 inches in height, the deceased boy weighed only 30 pounds and showed serious signs of abuse. He also had a number of scars that appeared to be from surgery, and a black substance was found in his throat.
This alone is horrific to hear, but it gets worse. No one ever came forward to identify the child. The box was traced to a local J.C Penny, where the bassinet appeared to be from. Police questioned the people who they figured they could trace the bassinet to, but to no avail.
Neither the boy's identity, nor his murderer, was ever discovered. This makes it one of the saddest unsolved murders of all time.
The Murder in Broad Daylight
Most of the time, a person's murder tends to come as a shock — but not always. Whether it's legal or not, the concept of "street justice" has always been real. And, it seems like that may be what caused the death of Ken Rex McElroy.
McElroy was not a popular man when he was alive. In fact, he was known as a neighborhood bully who regularly would torture animals, steal from neighbors, and worse — he was arrested for child molestation and rape a number of times.
Despite the many charges he faced, McElroy never quite got jail time, except for the last time he got cuffed, when he shot a 70-year-old grocer, police finally had enough evidence to book him.
He then got out on bail, and began to harass the local pastor and others who were sympathetic to the old man's plight. After that, he appeared in a bar with a gun, and threatened to finish off the grocer he shot.
The next day, he was shot to death in broad daylight, in the middle of a public setting.
Police questioned everyone, but no one was willing to say a word. Many of the people present clearly did not want the murder to ever be solved — and have worked to make sure it won't. So, it remains unsolved.
While most unsolved murders will tug at heartstrings, it's pretty easy to see that this is one most people won't mourn.
The Silent Film Director's Death
William Desmond Taylor was one of the best directors in the world during the era of silent films. Often working with the Hollywood elite, he was considered to be a mastermind of the movie world by everyone involved.
When he was found dead in his apartment from a gunshot to the back, the world seemed to go berserk. Newspapers and tabloids exploded with theories, including jilted lovers, angry actors, and even scandalous ties to the Mafia.
All his belongings were still in the apartment, so it wasn't like he was robbed. In fact, a large sum of unaccounted-for money was in his apartment when police arrived. No murder weapon was found, but it was believed to be a small-caliber gun.
No one could imagine Taylor to have enemies, or even a sordid past. Many suspects were questioned, but none ever were arrested, nor was any motive ever established.
It was one of the glitziest, most sensationalized stories of the 1920s media world. Oddly enough, his death ended up being the basis for a number of movies and books dealing with unsolved murders.
The Locked Room Murder
In the 1920s, police were baffled by a strange murder. A man was found, dead from a gunshot wound to the back, in a room that was locked from the inside. It was a lock that didn't allow for keys, which means that someone manually locked it from inside the room.
No gun was found inside the room, and it's not certain that escape from the room was even possible without going through the door, which meant that the door couldn't have stayed locked.
Accessing the room was incredibly hard. In order to even access the room and the body, police had to have a child crawl through the air ducts to get inside and unlock the door.
No one knows how this murder happened, nor how the door got locked, making it one of the stranger unsolved murders in history.
Etan Patz was the original "Boy on the Milk Carton," and his case is one that lives in infamy as one of the main reasons many child protection laws came into being.
One day in 1976, he went to school by walking to the bus stop. He never was seen again, and was presumed to be kidnapped.
Many suspects were questioned.
One of Etan's former babysitters, a man by the name of Jose Ramos, got a lot of attention after investigators revealed that he was a sex offender. However, it became clear later on that Ramos didn't murder Etan, nor did he kidnap him.
Others have claimed to have murdered Etan Patz, including Pedro Hernandez, who later ended up serving time for the crime. Still, there was little to no evidence aside from a confession, which makes many people doubt whether Hernandez was the real killer.
Yes, this is technically not one of the true unsolved murders anymore, but the sheer amount of doubt alone is enough to make some people question what really happened.