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Try as I might, there are some true crime cases that I can't get out of my head. Some are frightening. Others are disturbing. And then there's that special category of cases that continue to haunt me and that I keep going back to.

I have always been especially perturbed by the case of Sylvia Likens, who in the mid-1960s was tortured by Gertrude Basniewski, a woman who took care of Likens while her parents were away on business. What makes the case especially concerning is the way Basniewski recruited her own children––and even children and teenagers around the neighborhood––to join her in the abuse. The case is one of the most infamous child abuse cases of all time and I warn you to read about it at your own risk. (If you're interested, the drama film An American Crime, featuring Catherine Keener as Basniewski and Elliott Page as Sylvia Likens, is one film about the case. The Girl Next Door, a horror film based on the events, stars Blanche Baker as a Basniewski surrogate.)

After Redditor litteredbirdnina asked the online community, "What true crime case haunts you?" people told us about the cases that keep them up at night.

Warning: Some sensitive material ahead.

"Just the mental image of those poor children..."

The Andrea Yates case. Just the mental image of those poor children trying to get away as she was drowning their siblings. Also, the image of her husband keeping her constantly pregnant despite knowing she had mental health issues - he was quoted at one point as saying that he wanted to have more children with her after she was treated and released. If you haven't read it, the book "Are You There Alone" is absolutely heartbreaking.


"I will never be able to forget..."

The murder of James Bulger.

It's the most horrifying and tragic case to me and pulls my emotions asunder whenever I think about it, or hear updates about the killers. I will never be able to forget that little boy.


"I was really interested in history..."

Jack the Ripper.

I was really interested in history as a kid, got a book from the library's history section about the case without knowing anything about it. (Why my parents or the librarian let a child check that book out I have no clue).

It had pictures, lots of them. The image of Mary Kelly is forever burned into my retinas. It gave me nightmares for years. Still horrified by it today.


"He would set up a murder kit..."

Israel Keyes. He would set up a murder kit ahead of time, sometimes years in advance, and then when he went back, would find a home that provided the opportunity. He murdered a couple in my tiny state of Vermont, and their bodies were never found. Bone-chilling.


"He begged law enforcement..."

The Matthew Hoffman case. (Not the actor.)

For those who don't know, Hoffman was responsible for the deaths of Stephanie Sprang, Tina Maynard, and Tina's son Kody in November of 2010. After breaking into their house and stabbing them to death, he dismembered them, put them into garbage bags, and stuffed them inside a hollow birch tree. He also abducted Tina's daughter, Sarah Maynard, keeping her imprisoned in his basement for four days.

Hoffman had a minor criminal history and mostly kept to himself. When police identified him as a potential suspect and entered his home, nearly every surface was absolutely COVERED with leaves. There were leaves piled roughly three feet deep on the floor. Bags of leaves stacked against almost every wall. Sarah was kept on a makeshift bed of leaves in the basement.

What sticks with me about the case is Matthew's attitude toward everything. He said he experienced psychosis episodes and one would assume psychopathy based on his attitude toward his victims... but he loved trees. He begged law enforcement not to cut down the tree he had stowed the bodies in. He'd just always loved trees. It's odd to see one show no empathy for human life or dignity, including one's own, and yet... trees? I dunno. He haunts me a lot.

(Sword and Scale has an amazing episode on this case if you want to know more.)


"The way he would stalk his victims for weeks..."

Joseph DeAngelo, the Golden State Killer. The way he would stalk his victims for weeks and sneak in and out of their house without anyone knowing and hide weapons around the victim's house and his victims had no idea. It just freaks me out to no end. Glad he was finally caught, but it took way too long. He took and ruined so many lives and then got to live the vast majority of his outside of prison. I'm not religious, but I hope Hell exists for fucking garbage like him. And I hope he has a long, miserable life of rotting in jail.


The Golden State Killer, or Original Night Stalker, as it were... another who continues to fascinate me. I once made the mistake of listening to a recording of a phone call he made to a victim years after he had assaulted her. Not something you want to hear late at night.

"The worst part..."

The Oklahoma Girl Scout murders.

The girls (Lori Lee Farmer, Doris Denise Milner, and Michele Heather Guse) were between the ages of eight and ten and had been bludgeoned and strangled. It happened during a thunderstorm and they had been in the tent furthest from the camp counselors, no no one heard or noticed anything. Additionally, the tent was partially obscured by the showers.

The worst part is that less than two months before the murders, during an on-site training session, a camp counselor discovered a disturbing hand-written note in her belongings. It said, "We are on a mission to kill three girls in Tent one." The director of that camp session treated the note as a prank and it was thrown away.


"What they did to her..."

The torture and murder of Junko Furuta. What they did to her would make the cartels cringe, but the worst part of her sordid case is that all of the people involved in her death were given slaps on the wrist and are roaming the streets of Japan today.


Along with the Sylvia Likens case,

This is the other case that continues to haunt me. The level of depravity involved is out of this world. I would caution those of you with sensitive constitutions: That Wikipedia entry is a horrific read.

"It's purported..."

The murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsome. One of the worst crimes you rarely hear about. It's purported that the press was gunshy as it were to widely report on it being afraid they would look overzealous reporting on black perpetrators on white victims. I think those guys would have done it to whoever was in the car that pulled up. I don't think it was inherently a race-related crime, but it's one of the worst I've heard about and I'm a long-time true crime 'fan'.


"Accounts vary..."

The most haunting to me is Carl Tanzler, aka Count Carl Von Cosel. He was a radiology technician who was obsessed with a young tuberculosis patient named Elena Milagros de Hoyos. A generally grandiose person who didn't fully exist in reality, he convinced her family that he could cure her with experimental treatments. Elena died and Carl funded a large mausoleum for her.

The thing is, he had the key to that mausoleum. He was convinced that he could preserve her body and bring her back to life (possibly by going into outer space? He'd created a strange contraption.) Anyway, here's the really eerie thing. For almost 9 YEARS, he 'refreshed' her body with wire, wax, cloth, and perfume to fill it out as she decomposed, basically turning her into a mannequin. Finally, Elena's sister, having heard rumors that he had been sleeping with Elena's corpse and confronted him. (Apparently, he'd also been seen dancing with her corpse?) He was arrested and stood trial, but charges were dropped. He later created an effigy of Elena that included no parts of her actual body and lived with it.

This is Elena's body about 9 years after her death.


We apologize in advance if you're going to have some trouble sleeping tonight.

But if you're a bit of a true crime fanatic, you'll probably wind up going down the rabbit hole at 3 a.m. like the rest of us. We never learn, do we?

What are some cases that haunt you? Feel ftee to sound off in the comments below.

Want to "know" more? Never miss another big, odd, funny, or heartbreaking moment again. Sign up for the Knowable newsletter here.

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