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True Crimes Solved and Unsolved

Updated on March 25, 2017

Bell Gunness

Robert Hansen

Crime By Ads

Using classifieds as a way of snaring potential victims is a ploy that dates back to the 1900's. That's when the infamous Black Widow, Belle Gunness, lured a string of unwary bachelors into her clutches by placing matrimonial ads in newspapers across the country: "Rich, good-looking widow, young, owner of large farm, wishes to get in touch with a gentleman of wealth with cultured taste". Truth be told, Gunness was actually fat, fiftyish, and bulldog ugly. She lied about being rich widow, though, since she had murdered at least fourteen husbands after separating them from their life savings.

In France, Gunness's near-contemporary Henri Landru, known as the "Bluebeard of Paris", also found his lover-victims through the newspapers. Some of the classifieds were matrimonial ads in which Landru presented himself as a wealthy widower searching for a mate. In either case, if the person who responded was a lonely woman of means, the results were always the same. The woman herself would end up as a pile of ashes in the stove of his country villa.

In the late 1950's, a sexual psychopath and bondage nut named Harvey Murray Glatman was able to lure his victims by posing as a professional photographer placing ads for female models. After luring a woman to his "studio", Glatman would rape her, truss her up, take pictures of her while she screamed in terror, the strangle her.

An Alaskan baker named Robert Hanson- who was ultimately convicted of four savage sex killings, though he was allegedly responsible for seventeen- used the Personals page of his local newspaper to attract several of his victims. Hanson, who was married with children, would send his family off on a vacation then take out a classified, seeking woman to "join me in finding what's around the next bend". Once he had his victim he would fly her out to the wilderness in his private plane. Then, after raping her at knife point, he would strip off her clothing, give her a head start, and stalk her like an animal.

Scariest of all was the cannibal and child killer Albert Fish, who regularly peered the classifieds in his endless search for victims. In 1928, Fish came across a Situation Wanted ad placed by a young man who was looking for a summer job in the country. Masquerading as the owner of a big Long Island farm, the monstrous old man visited the young mans home, intending to lure the young man to an abandoned house and tortured him to death. Fish altered his plan when he laid eyes on the young man's little sister, a beautiful twelve-year-old girl. It was the little girl who ended up dead, dismembered, and cannibalized- and all because her brother's innocent ad brought a monster to their door.

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