The Massacre of the Albertis

The town of Pentedattilo. (Image source/credit here.)

The town of Pentedattilo. (Image source/credit here.)

Located in the southern Italian region of Calabria, Pentedattilo is a ghost town with a very interesting history. Its name, which means “five fingers”, refers to a mountain located around the town. Before an earthquake disfigured it in 1783, the mountain had five rock towers that resembled a human hand with fingers. Local legend held that the mountain, nicknamed the Devil’s Hand, would one day collapse and fall on mankind. This curse was said to have been cast by Lorenzo Alberti, one of the victims of an infamous historical incident known as The Massacre of the Albertis.

In 1686, Baron Bernardino Abenavoli fell in love with Antoinette Alberti, the daughter of the family that had owned the fiefdom of Pentedattilo since the late 16th century. The Abenavolis, the former lords of Pentedattilo, had been in a rivalry with the Alberti family ever since. Due to this feud, Antoinette had little interest in Bernardino. When it was announced in April that Antoinette would be marrying Don Petrillo Cortez, the son of the Viceroy of Naples, Bernardino was struck with rage.

Picture of Pentedattilo. (Image source/credit here.)

Picture of Pentedattilo. (Image source/credit here.)

On the night of April 21, Bernardino carried out a horrific plan for revenge. After bribing one of the Alberti family’s servants, Bernardino was let inside their castle with a group of his followers. Their first victim was Lorenzo, Antoinette’s brother and the head of the Albertis. As he was sleeping in his bedroom, Lorenzo was ambushed by Bernardino and then shot and stabbed to death. With the exception of Antoinette, the Alberti family and most of their guests were all massacred, including Antoinette’s 9-year-old brother Simone, who had his head bashed against a rock.

Don Petrillo Cortez and his family were spared as well, but they were taken by Bernardino as hostages. On April 19, Bernardino married Antoinette.  Word of the massacre spread quickly, however, and Cortez’s father sent a military expedition to capture Bernardino and his collaborators a few days later.  Although 7 of Bernardino’s men were captured and beheaded, including the servant who let them into the Alberti castle, Bernardino managed to escape to Malta. He later joined the Austrian army, and died on the battlefield in 1692. Antoinette, filled with grief that she was the cause of the massacre, spent the rest of her life as a nun.

Ruins of the Alberti castle. (Image source/ credit here.)

Ruins of the Alberti castle. (Image source/ credit here.)

Now even though Lorenzo Alberti died in his castle, the town’s folklore says that he was killed near the rock walls of the mountain. As he laid dying, Lorenzo pushed his bloody hand against the walls, leaving a permanent imprint that glowed red when the sun went down. On some nights, his screams can be heard coming from the mountain. On the anniversary of the massacre, shadows of the victims are said to appear all over the town, running from other shadows that chase them with knives.

Another legend related to the massacre and the mountain’s disfigurement involves a secret treasure allegedly left behind by Bernardino Abenavoli. One night, a ghost told a knight who was passing by the mountain that the five fingers would collapse and reveal the Abenavoli treasure if somebody would run around the mountain five times. Many people tried running around the mountain, but it never collapsed. A knight from Sicily heard about the challenge and decided to give it a try. Right as he was about to finish his fifth lap, one of the fingers suddenly fell off the mountain and crushed him.

Following an earthquake in 1783, a lot of the townspeople left Pentedattilo for the town of Melito Porto Salvo. Pentedattilo was completely abandoned by the 1960s, although today it hosts the site of an annual international film festival.

The Case of Jaclyn Dowaliby: An Unreliable Witness and a Wrongly Accused Man

Jaclyn Dowaliby. (Image credit/source here.)

Jaclyn Dowaliby. (Image credit/source here.)

On the morning of September 10, 1988, David and Cynthia Dowaliby reported to the police that their 7-year-old daughter Jaclyn had gone missing from their home in Midlothian, Illinois. Jaclyn wasn’t in her bedroom when her parents woke up, and one of the windows in the house’s basement was found broken. The Dowalibys thought somebody must have broken the window from the outside, but the more numerous shards of glass outside suggested to police that the window had been shattered from inside the house. Equally suspicious, how didn’t anybody wake up while the abduction was taking place?

Four days later, Jaclyn’s body was discovered in a field behind an apartment complex. One of the apartment’s residents, Everett Mann, told police that he saw a suspicious Caucasian man in a dark car driving away from the field on the night of Jaclyn’s disappearance. After being shown pictures of the case’s suspects, Mann identified David Dowaliby as the man he saw. David and Cynthia were arrested on November 22, charged with murder and concealing a homicide.

Picture of Jaclyn Dowaliby. (Image credit/source here.)

Picture of Jaclyn Dowaliby. (Image credit/source here.)

Although public opinion was set harshly against the Dowalibys, several investigators behind the scene believed they were innocent. A forensic report confirmed that the basement window in the Dowaliby’s home had been carefully broken from the outside, while Everett Mann’s reliability as a witness came under serious scrutiny. Mann changed the description of the car he saw numerous times, and identified David in the line-up from his nose, which he claimed to have seen 75 yards away in the middle of the night. He was also mentally unwell and suffered from bipolar disorder.

As the Dowaliby trial unfolded, Cynthia was cleared of any wrongdoing in April 1990, but David was convicted of murder nearly a month later. After spending a year in jail, David’s conviction was overturned due to a lack of evidence, and he was released in November 1991. Although the Dowalibys were proven to be innocent, the question still remained of who was guilty of killing their daughter?

Clip from an Unsolved Mysteries segment about Jaclyn's murder.

Clip from an Unsolved Mysteries segment about Jaclyn’s murder.

Before Jaclyn’s body turned up, her biological father, Jimmy Guess, had been the main suspect in the case. Guess had tried abducting Jaclyn before, but he was ruled out once it was discovered that he was in jail during the time for sexually assaulting a woman. After the Dowalibys appeared on an Unsolved Mysteries segment in 1993, authorities received a tip that Guess’s schizophrenic brother Timothy had lied to the police about his alibi on the night Jaclyn was abducted.

When earlier questioned, Guess said that he had spent the evening at an all-night restaurant. Several other people at the restaurant, including two waitresses, reported that Guess was only there for a short while at 9:30. When Guess gave a taped interview to a professor involved in the case, he claimed that he was possessed by a spirit that could make him invisible.

Despite never having been to the Dowaliby’s home, Guess was able to accurately describe the inside of it. At one point, he described in the first-person where Jaclyn’s room was located. When asked how he knew this, Guess explained that the spirit told him. While Guess might very likely have been the killer, Jaclyn’s case is still open. Guess died years ago, and not much has developed since the Dowalibys were let go.

 UPDATE: (5/14/2016)

A Chicago news station recently aired a segment about this case that you can watch here. It doesn’t offer any new leads or tips, but it does include some interviews with the Dowalibys’ attorneys and Jimmy Guess. The Dowalibys were also asked to be interviewed for the segment, but they ignored the invitation. Since being cleared of their daughter’s murder, the Dowalibys have changed their last name and no longer live in Midlothian.

The Black Magic Murders of Ahmad Suradji

Picture of Ahmad Suradji. (Image source/credit here.)

Picture of Ahmad Suradji. (Image source/credit here.)

Ahmad Suradji, also known as Nasib Kelewang, was a self-proclaimed black magic master who ritualistically killed 42 women and girls over an 11 year period.

 A cattle breeder by trade, he lived in Medan, in West Java, Indonesia, where many women would make the journey to his house seeking guidance and assistance in matters of health, love and finance.

Suradji would generally charge between $200-$300 for his services, with most of his female clients longing to be wealthy or attractive and some asking him to perform black magic rituals to keep their significant others from cheating. As a Dukun, or Shaman, they believed, just as the vast majority of the Indonesian population does, that black magic could help them.

Ahmad Suradji on trial. (Image source/credit here.)

Ahmad Suradji on trial. (Image source/credit here.)

A revered position, many Dukuns make a living with this occupation, and although primarily healers, they are used for a variety of reasons; some are exorcists, some perform blessings on new businesses, and farm lands and on individuals, and some can see the future through spirits. Some Dukuns even offer a darker service of casting curses and hexes and spells for revenge.

Suradji was something of a sorcerer, and between the years of 1986 – 1997 he murdered 42 of his clients in ritual slayings that he believed would ultimately make him more powerful.

Inspired by a dream he had in 1988, in which his deceased father visited him, Suradji would lead the woman and girls out to a sugar cane plant on the outskirts of Medan, and bury them up to their waists in earth before strangling them with a cord. Once dead, he would strip the bodies of the women naked and bury them facing in the direction of his house.As instructed by his father in the dream, he would also consume the victim’s saliva.

His objective was to kill 70 victims in this way, but he was caught at just over half way through his mission at confirmed victim number 42, after the discovery of a body, later identified as Sri Kemala Dewi, by a local man at the sugar cane plantation.

Picture of Ahmad Suradji. (Image source/credit here.)

Picture of Ahmad Suradji. (Image source/credit here.)

Investigators found clothing linked to over 20 women who had been reported as missing in and around the local area. All of the victims were between the ages of 11-39 years old. If Suradji was running low on clientele, it was said that he would also kill local sex workers to get closer to his goal.

Despite the official recorded body count of 42 victims, it is possible that the actual number could be almost double that.

Suradji was convicted, along with one of his three wives (all sisters) who had helped him hide the bodies.

Despite protests by Amnesty International, he was executed by firing squad in 2008.

This article originally appeared on Real Life is Horror, a blog about the unexplained, the creepy, and the unsolved. It has been reposted with the author’s permission. 

The Case of Russell and Shirley Dermond, an Elderly Couple Brutally Murdered in Their Own Home

Picture of Russell and Shirley Dermond. (Image credit source here.)

Picture of Russell and Shirley Dermond. (Image source/credit here.)

88-year-old Russell Dermond and his 87-year-old wife Shirley lived in a $769,000 two-story lake home in the gated community of Great Waters, Georgia. Russell and Shirley were both from New Jersey, but had moved to Great Waters in the late 1990s. They were well-liked by their neighbors, and there was nothing particularly unusual about them. Shirley enjoyed spending her time playing bridge and going to church, and Russell liked to play golf.

On May 3, 2014, the Dermonds were invited to a Kentucky Derby party held by some friends in the neighborhood. Despite earlier saying they would show up, they never made it. Nobody had seen Shirley since the 1st, when she was playing at a bridge club. Russell was spotted at a grocery store that day, and had been seen on a golf course on the 2nd.

The Dermond home. (Image source/credit here.)

The Dermond home. (Image source/credit here.)

On the morning of May 6, after not hearing from the Dermonds for a couple of days, the couple that had thrown the derby party went to their house and found their front door unlocked. There was no immediate sign of the couple, and everything in the house seemed to be in its usual place. After looking through the house, the husband decided to try the Dermonds’ garage. In between the two cars stored there, he found Russell’s body, decapitated and with his head nowhere in sight.

By the time police arrived, there was still no trace of Shirley. Authorities suspected that she had been abducted, but had little hope that she was still alive. On May 16, Shirley’s body was found floating facedown in the near-by lake by two fisherman at a spot about 5 miles away from her home. Her killer had tied her body down with a pair of 30 pound concrete blocks.

The back of the Dermond Home. (Image source/ credit here.)

The back of the Dermond home. (Image source/ credit here.)

According to forensic tests, Shirley had been beaten on the head with something like a hammer. She had been tossed into the lake after she died. The cause of Russell’s death is still undetermined. Without his head, it’s been difficult to figure out how exactly he died. He’s believed to have been beheaded, possibly with a knife, only after he was murdered.

While the Dermonds had no known enemies, that’s not to say that the family hadn’t experienced trouble before. Their son, Mark, had been shot to death on his 47th birthday while buying crack cocaine in 2000. While Mark’s killer was caught, nobody associated with him has been suspected of his parents’ murder. Investigators have poured over the Dermonds’ relatives and friends, even collecting phone conversations and information from their college days, but have yet to find anybody with a possible grudge against them.

Putnam County sheriff Howard Sills, the man in charge of the Dermond case. (Picture credit source here.)

Putnam County sheriff Howard Sills, the man in charge of the Dermond case. (Picture source/credit here here.)

Due to the savage nature of the attacks, the sheriff in charge of the case believes that the Dermonds were murdered by somebody they knew. He’s suggested that the killer came to the house by car or boat. How exactly they got into the house is uncertain. While nothing was missing, the intruder could have demanded something that the Dermonds didn’t have. Rather than the work of a single person, there might have been multiple people involved. An unidentified man was seen on the lawn of the Dermond home around the time of their deaths, but authorities have declined to say anything more than that the man is a person of interest.

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The Case of Carolyn Wasilewski, a Murdered Schoolgirl who was Found with a Mysterious Lipstick Message on Her Thigh

Carolyn Wasilewski was a pretty blonde-haired girl who dated and hung around drapes, a variant of the greaser subculture popular in the 1950s. She was a freshman student at Southern High School in Baltimore, Maryland, and was called “Peaches” by her friends.

On November 8, 1954, Carolyn told her family that she was going out to meet her friend Peggy Lamana.  The two girls planned to sign up for a dance program at a local elementary school. Carolyn left her house at 6:15 PM, but never met up with Peggy. Her family got worried, and though they spent all night looking for her, found no trace of Carolyn.

Later that morning, around 7 AM, an engineer on a train passing from Harrisburg to Baltimore suddenly slowed down and switched off course to another track. He saw a body lying on the initial trackline the train was taking, and when the police went to check it out, they discovered that it was Carolyn Wasilewski, dead and laying face down.

Carolyn was found half-naked, but her body showed no signs of being sexually assaulted. She was covered in bruises and scratches. The name “Paul” was written in lipstick on her right thigh. Her skull and jaw had been battered, and one of her ring fingers was broken too. Police suspected that she was killed someplace else, and was then either tossed from an above bridge or moved to the track. The autopsy concluded that Carolyn died the night before, around 11 PM.

Near her house, and about 8 miles away from the railroad, police found bloodstains in a vacant lot. They also found Carolyn’s shoes and a few other personal items of hers.  Over 300 people were questioned by the authorities, including local drapes, but Carolyn’s murderer was never identified.

Police had two strong suspects, but both were eventually ruled out. The first was a man who sexually assaulted one of Carolyn’s friends. Carolyn testified against this man a week before her death. While he was brought in for questioning, police dismissed him, believing he had nothing to do with the crime.

The other suspect was a middle-aged man named Ralph Garret.  Garret lived in the area and was allegedly seen with Carolyn the night of the murder. Garret didn’t come home to his wife that night, and subsequently disappeared. His car was found abandoned 2 days later. out of town. The same day police started looking for him, a man stumbled upon Garret’s body near the same vacant lot where Carolyn’s bloodstains and shoes were found. He had committed suicide by hanging himself with a belt from “a brake wheel on top of a gondola car.” His suicide, however, was later deemed unrelated. According to Garret’s wife, he was depressed because his mother had died.

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The Frog Boys

frog2

On March 26, 1991, a group of five boys between the ages of 9 and 13 left their homes in Daegu, South Korea and walked to near-by Mount Waryong to look for frogs. U Cheol-won, Jo Ho-yeon, Kim Yeong-gyu, Park Chan-in, and Kim Jong-sik were all students at Seongseo Elementary School. The boys knew the area well and lived only a few miles away from the mountain.

The “Frog Boys”, as they would come to be known in the media, never came back. Their parents reported them missing, and while both townspeople and local police searched the area, not a single trace of the boys was found. As media attention escalated and the whole country became engrossed in the case, President Roh Tae-woo ordered 300,000 policemen to join in the search.

Over 8 million flyers were distributed all over the country, and a reward of 42 million won ($35,000) was promised to anybody who could locate the boys. Some of the Frog Boys’ parents became so determined to find their sons that they quit their jobs so they could devote all of their time to searching.

A picture from 1991 of the Frog Boys' parents and other supporters passing out flyers.

A picture from 1991 of the Frog Boys’ parents and other supporters passing out flyers.

Despite all the extra help, investigating the case proved to be difficult. Authorities received over 550 false leads, and at one point, a man called the police and lied that he abducted the Frog Boys. “I have kidnapped the boys for an exchange of ransom, and they’re dying of malnutrition,” he said in one of the calls.

The case went nowhere until September 26, 2002, when a man looking for acorns in Mount Waryong found scattered pieces of children’s shoes and clothing. He called the police, and after they searched the mountainside, found all five bodies of the Frog Boys in a shallow pit. At first, the police suspected that the boys had froze to death. It was cold and rainy the day they went missing, and the boys might have gotten lost. The fact that their bodies were so close together might have been because they tried huddling for warmth.

frog3

Their parents, however, were skeptical. Their sons were found only 2 miles away from their village, so how could they have gotten lost? And why would they have taken off some of their clothes when the weather was so bad? Lastly, perhaps the most damaging point, Mount Waryong and the surrounding area had been searched and examined over 500 times the past decade. How could the bodies have possibly gone unnoticed for such a long period of time?

After the boys’ bodies were exhumed, police admitted that their hypothermia theory was incorrect. Three of the boys’ skulls had marks on them, suggesting they were beaten to death by a blunt object. Additionally, two of the skulls had traces of blood on them, and another had two bullet holes inside of it, possibly from a shotgun. The police were no longer dealing with a case of missing persons; the Frog Boys were murder victims.

The Frog Boys' parents at the burial for their sons.

The Frog Boys’ parents at the burial for their sons.

No further developments have taken place since the boys’ autopsy back in 2002. They were eventually buried on March 25, 2004, and their skulls were donated to Gyeongbuk University for medical research. In 2006, the case reached South Korea’s 15 year statute of limitations on murder, meaning the investigation was stopped and the murderer can’t be prosecuted for the crime anymore. Fortunately, South Korea removed the statute in July 2015, so perhaps there still is hope that the Frog Boys and their families will finally receive justice.

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The Werewolf of Bedburg

Woodcut print of Peter Stubbe's execution.

Woodcut print of Peter Stubbe’s execution.

As the Cologne War raged in the Electorate of Cologne from 1583 to 1588, the rural town of Bedburg was plagued with a streak of mysterious murders and animal mutilations. Children who went missing soon turned up dead in the fields, and people began to report seeing a strange wolf-like creature.

In one of the few incidents that left a survivor, the monstrous wolf attacked a group of children playing in a meadow. The wolf carried off one of the little girls, but the children’s cries attracted the attention of some near-by cows suckling their calves. Fearing for the lives of their young, the cows with their sharp horns came running to the rescue, and the wolf dropped the girl and took off.

bedburg2

After years of trying to search and trap the beast, some hunters stumbled upon it and let their dogs loose to chase it. When the hunters caught up with their dogs, however, they found that they had caught something entirely different. It was not a wolf, but a local farmer named Peter Stubbe.

The hunters were terribly confused. Peter Stubbe was a wealthy and well-respected man in their community. At first, they were afraid that their captive was the Devil. They went to Stubbe’s house to see if he was there, and when they discovered that Stubbe was missing, were then assured that they had the right man. They turned him over to the authorities, and Stubbe was tortured on the rack until he made a confession.

Stubbe admitted that he was the wolf that had been terrorizing the town. He said that he could transform into a wolf by putting on a magical belt that the Devil had given him when he was 12-years-old. His list of crimes was vast and gut-wrenching. Besides killing lambs and eating their raw flesh, he admitted to murdering 13 young children and 2 pregnant women. He even tore the fetuses out of the women’s wombs, and “ate their hearts panting hot and raw.”

If this wasn’t horrific enough, Stubbe also said he regularly committed incest with his teenage daughter Beele. They had a little boy, but Stubbe killed him and ate his brain. His mistress, a tall and beautiful woman named Katherine Trompin, participated in the bloodshed as well. Beele and Trompin were arrested and charged as accomplices, and the three were sentenced to death on October 28th, 1589.

Three days later, Trompin and Beele were burned at the stake. Stubbe was first laid on the wheel, and then had flesh pulled off his body in 10 different places with hot burning pincers. After that, his arms and legs were broken with a wooden axe, and then he had his head chopped off. As a final punishment, his body was burned and his head was placed on a pike.

More woodcuts of Peter Stubbe.

More woodcuts of Peter Stubbe.

Most of what he know about Stubbe (whose name has also been given as Stumpp, Stumpf, and Stube) comes from a London pamphlet that was printed in June 1590. The pamphlet, which takes the claims of Stubbe being a werewolf seriously, was translated from a now lost German source. While we don’t exactly know how true the pamphlet is, Stubbe was certainly a real person, and his case was mentioned in the diaries of a local city councilor named Hermann von Weinsberg.

There is the possibility that Stubbe was innocent, a victim of religious prejudice. The Cologne War was a conflict fought between Catholics and Protestants, and even though the war was over by the time Stubbe was caught, tensions remained high. In a region that was overwhelmingly Catholic, Stubbe was Protestant. If he really was the killer, he probably suffered from schizophrenia. The reports of a werewolf might have stemmed from hysteria, or Stubbe possibly wore a wolf’s skin while committing his crimes. In any event, the authorities never found the magical belt he claimed to have possessed.

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