As we move closer to the summer months, the time grows more opportune to share stories around the campfire. Few stories invoke chills like tales of true crime, and one of the most infamous serial killers in history chose Cleveland as the backdrop for their brutal slayings. Its proximity to home will startle you.
In the 1930s, life in the United States was undeniably tough.
In the midst of the Great Depression, Americans suffered financially. Lifestyles suffered as well, and as the ability to support oneself and one's family diminished, shanty towns appeared across the country.
The landscape of Cleveland changed in response to the Depression.
Cleveland's poorer neighborhoods soon began creating their own shantytowns, but none were as dangerous as the Kingsbury Run neighborhood.
It was in Kingsbury Run that a series of disturbing murders took place.
Known as the Torso Murders, these bone-chilling slayers were identifiable by the killer's affinity for dismemberment. Victims were beheaded and often brutally dismembered. Some victims appear to have been exposed to some sort of chemical agent as well.
The disturbing slayings took place between 1935 and 1938, but mystery and uncertainty surround the case.
Twelve victims were officially linked to the case, though modern studies theorize that the number of victims may actually be nearly double that. Most of the victims' identities were never determined.
Edward W. Andrassy was the first victim to be officially identified.
It was not uncommon to find Andrassy in the rougher regions of the Kingsbury Run area, and he had actually been arrested on several occasions related to drunkenness and brawling. He was identified by his fingerprints.
All of the victims came from the lower levels of society and most were easy targets whose absence went largely unnoticed.
Another victim, Florence Polillo, did not have a positive reputation. Though she was a waitress by day, her nighttime profession involved cavorting with more unfavorable individuals. Her body was found in pieces behind the Hart Manufacturing Plant on East 20th, though her head was never recovered.
The really disturbing piece of the story is that despite the brutality of the murders, the killer was never caught.
Elliot Ness was the Public Safety Director of Cleveland at the time, and though he had little to do with the investigation, he and his team were taunted by a cocky killer. The murderer went so far as to place human remains near Ness' office in City Hall.
It is possible that several other unexplained deaths could be linked to the serial killings.
The "Lady of the Lake," an unidentified victim found in Lake Erie, has been suggested to be one of the Torso Murderer's victims. A series of dismembered bodies found in Pennsylvania have also been proposed to have been linked to the Cleveland slayings as well. Some have even suggested that the infamous Black Dahlia Murder was committed by this Cleveland killer.
Several suspects have been identified, but nobody has ever been formally charged.
Suspect Mike Borich (pictured above) was taken in for questioning. He, along with the likes of Francis E. Sweeney and Frank Dolezal, fit the profile of a seemingly sane man with a spectacular knowledge of anatomy or butchery.
The investigation into the Torso Murders, however, was overflowing with corruption.
Pictured here is the tub at 1908 Central Avenue, a site where suspect Frank Dolezal "confessed" to dismembering the body of victim Florence Pollilo. Frank Dolezal, by all accounts a healthy man, died in the Cuyahoga County jail under suspicious circumstances. In postmortem analysis, it was discovered that Dolezal had six broken ribs, an injury which his friends and family say was not preexisting. Many believe his confession was beaten out of him and that he actually had no connection to the case.
The most likely suspect Dr. Francis E. Sweeney, walked away free, thanks to his political ties.
Sweeney, a veteran of the first World War, was well-versed in the art of amputation. He was a field doctor during the war and performed many amputations and during the initial investigation, he failed an early polygraph test. However, he was related to Congressman Martin L. Sweeney, who also happened to be related to the investigating sheriff through marriage.
After the demolition of Kingsbury Run and an intensive investigation, the killings eventually ceased.
Some theorize that the 1950 murder of Robert Robertson, a brutal slaying and dismemberment on Davenport Avenue, may have been the killer's final victim, many years later.
Despite years of interest and intensive investigation, the killer remained anonymous and many of his victims remain unidentified.
Today, the murders that took place during Depression-era Cleveland still haunt the city.
Despite our impressive and colorful history, Cleveland has a dark side that continues to haunt locals to this day. Have you ever heard of this heinous crime?