From black cats to broken mirrors to walking under a ladder, superstitions have been around for as long as humans have. Sometimes linked to the supernatural, many superstitions also stem from religion, witchcraft, and old age prophecies, usually passed down from generation to generation. Twisted ever so slightly over time, superstitions are most often seen as nonsensical ways to control children who don’t listen. However, not all superstitions are whimsical, with a number of horrific and monstrous events connected to these spiritual beliefs, creating a terrifying and eerie undercurrent in the process. So are they just fun and games for the fainthearted? Or more harmful than one had originally thought?
Even now, superstitions are as prolific as they were in the past, with the main reason being that of avoiding certain misfortunes. With the idea of ‘luck’ a huge part of the unfounded belief, the lack of control can somehow have a more sinister outcome. Having the ability to control certain things can be essential to a person’s stability. Therefore, when thinking that something can hinder or indeed assist one’s grasp of domination over life events, it can be extremely satisfying. And with the idea of bad luck frightening even the most stable of us, for example not boarding a plane on Friday 13th or throwing salt over one’s shoulder, it can really have a lasting effect on one’s way of life. However, where do we draw the line between having just a bit of fun and leaning towards the dark and sinister side of superstitions? To take a peek into the world of magical mystery, here are 15 gruesome murders inspired by superstitions.
15. Salem Witch Trials
Probably one of the most famous on the list, the Salem witch trials go down in history as an all mighty stain on the USA’s short timeline. Between 1692 and 1693, the town of Salem, in colonial Massachusetts, underwent a shocking series of trials, in which hundreds of common people were accused of witchcraft. As the supernatural was considered a normal and standard part of everyday life during the 17th century, the concept of Satan was well and truly feared. Therefore, when the local Reverend’s daughter, 9-year-old Betty Parris, and her cousin suddenly showed symptoms of hysteria and strange goings on, the whole town began to panic. With no feasible explanation, the townsfolk needed someone (or something) to blame, accusing three ladies of performing witchcraft upon the young girls. Kicking off a snowball of accusations, more and more ‘witches’ were sentenced to a trial, resulting in the executions of twenty people, fourteen of which were women. About 300 years later, the victims were finally acknowledged, commemorated with a park dedicated to those who were unjustly killed, however with some form of mass hysteria just as common today as it was in the 17th century, we can only hope that things will begin to change.
14. The Jonestown Massacre
Otherwise known as the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, Jonestown is the story of an American religious organization that was lead by crackpot Jim Jones. Formed during the 1950s, the Peoples Temple proclaimed to practice ‘apostolic socialism’, a hybrid of Christian/Marxist ideologies. Surprisingly Jones garnered a number of supporters, even meeting with a variety of high-profile politicians of the day.
As time went on, Jones began to falter, and after some bad publicity and a number of the Temple members defecting, Jones decided it was time to move on. Choosing Guyana as a base for his next chapter, the Peoples Temple left for the glorious sunshine. However, things didn’t quite go to plan, with Jones’ mental state becoming more extreme by the day.
Recorded on tape, urging members to commit “revolutionary suicide”, Jones proclaimed to his mass of followers “you can go down in history, saying you chose your own way to go, and it is your commitment to refuse capitalism and in support of socialism”. Sadly, the majority of them listened, with a total of 909 Temple members committing suicide from cyanide-poisoned Kool-Aid, hence the now popular expression, “don’t drink the Kool-Aid”.
13. The Florida Vampires
Also known as the ‘Vampire Clan’, the Florida vampires consisted of a group of teenagers, founded by ringleader and head vamp Rod Ferrell, who incidentally believed himself to be a 500-year-old vampire named Vesago. As the clan thought themselves to be real vampires too, the gang often took part in a number of vampire rituals from biting to drinking blood.
However, obviously not feeling ‘vampirey’ enough, the group then proceeded to shock the nation by committing one of the worst home invasions ever seen. On Thanksgiving weekend, Ferrell and fellow cult member Howard Scott Anderson entered the home of Naomi Ruth Queen and Richard Wendorf, the parents of their long time friend, Heather Wendorf. Beaten to death, Ferrell attacked both victims with a crowbar, fracturing Wendorf’s skull and bludgeoning Queen to death. The clan was arrested four days later, with Ferrell pleading guilty to both murders and sentenced to life imprisonment.
12. Elizabeth Báthory
High-born, Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Báthory was so horrifically brutal, that she has often been labelled the most famous female serial killer in the world. Thought to have even inspired the prolific and ultimately terrifying ‘Count Dracula’, Báthory was accused of a whopping 600 murders, however the actual figures were never truly documented. With stories of torture chambers, grisly devices, and a thirst for all things wicked, Báthory would often choose young women or peasants for victims. However, it was her penchant for blood that really got her riled up, bathing in the red stuff in order to maintain her beauty. That’s right, believing the fluid to be a form of anti-ageing, Báthory couldn’t get enough of the stuff, hence the name ‘The Blood Countess’.
Due to her nobility, Báthory literally got away with murder, with her actions swept under the rug, and dutifully overlooked. However, as the authorities persisted, she was finally arrested after years of unthinkable deeds, managed to escape execution, and lived out the rest of her days in a darkened room.
11. The Chicago Rippers
The Chicago rippers or simply ‘The Ripper Crew’, was a satanic cult operating in Illinois between 1981 and 1982. Also an organized crime unit, The Ripper Crew consisted of four men, one of which, Robin Gecht, once worked for renowned serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Acting as the leader, Gecht was seen as a mentor to the other gang members, often reading passages of The Satanic Bible to his willing followers.
Thought to have possibly killed over eighteen women— and attempting to murder many others— the Chicago rippers abducted their victims, and mutilated the bodies by amputating their breasts. After evading the authorities multiple times, the police finally got their lead when investigating a disturbance called in by a local hotel manager who had complained about noise and strange cult-like behavior. All gang members were caught and later admitted to their crimes. Gecht, however, continues to proclaim his innocence to this day.
10. The Murder Of Elyse Pahler
Discovered near her home in California, 15-year-old Elyse Pahler had been brutally raped and murdered by three teenage boys, motivated by their Satanic and demonic ideologies. Planning the murder, the three boys intentionally lured Pahler from her house, with the sole intention of killing the young girl as part of a satanic ritual. Stating, after their arrest, that they had needed a “sacrifice to the devil”. Believing that the murder would help them play better in their band, the trio often plotted the murder while listening to ‘death metal’. This prompted Pahler’s parents to sue the musical group Slayer, who was worshiped by the young men; the lawsuit was promptly rejected. Pleading no contest, the boys were sentenced with 26 years to life imprisonment.
9. Albino Slayings
Based on the belief that those who suffer from albinism have the ability to transmit magical powers, the persecution of these people has been going on for centuries. Most common in places such as Tanzania and a variety of other African countries, the superstition that the slaying of albino’s will bring prosperity has smeared a stain on African society to this day.
Not only are they believed to bring luck and success, but within some cultures, they are also perceived as a token of bad luck, cursed with black magic. When they are not being victimized, oppressed, or ostracized, it is common to see evidence of murder, mutilation and disembowelment.
As action was desperately needed, steps were brought into place to combat those that believed in such outlandish superstitions. The first ever conviction for the killing of someone with albinism finally took place in 2009. Witch doctors seemingly the root of the problem, effort has gone into sealing the mouth of those that are “revered by society as ultimate truth”. Hopefully, such a cruel and unjust evil will be eradicated in the coming future.
8. Slender Man
Originally an internet meme that depicted a tall, thin, faceless man, wearing a black suit with tentacles from his back, the Slender Man first appeared in early 2009. Generating stories that usually portray him stalking or abducting young children, the Slender Man has now appeared almost everywhere, from media and literature, to music and comic book fiction.
However, in 2014 things suddenly took a turn for the worse, when two young girls attempted to murder a friend, due to their crazy obsession with the Slender Man. Claiming that the Slender Man had told them to do it, the two 12-year-old girls stabbed their classmate 19 times. Stating that they were afraid that the Slender Man would kill their families and friends if they didn’t do as he asked. The girls also told authorities how they have regular conversations with Lord Voldermort and the Teenager Mutant Ninja Turtles. Thankfully, the victim was able to crawl through the woods to reach help, and the two girls were charged with attempted murder, tried as adults facing up to 65 years in prison.
7. Dr. Narendra Dabholkar
Despite India’s popularity for being wrapped up in superstitions, nothing could have shocked the world more than when Indian rationalist and prime ‘superstition hunter’, Narendra Achyut Dabholkar was murdered due to his extensive work.
Having worked as a doctor for 12 years, Dabholkar was also a firm activist, involved in the practice of eradicating superstitions, ‘kangaroo courts’, and miracle cures. With several attempts to introduce an anti-superstition law, Dabholkar criticized those that accused him of being anti-religious stating that “in the whole of the bill, there’s not a single word about God or religion. Nothing like that. The Indian constitution allows freedom of worship and nobody can take that away, this is about fraudulent and exploitative practices”. However, after receiving a number of threats due the law he was trying to implement, Dabholkar was eventually shot down by two gunmen. Though the assailants were never caught, Dabholkar has gone down in history, leaving behind a legacy that includes the eventual passing of the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Act that he so ferociously campaigned for.
6. The Manson Family
Well known to most Americans, the story of the Manson family was as monstrous as it was mind boggling, completely destroying the peaceful and tranquil era of the hippy-loving 60s.
Establishing himself as a guru-type figure, Charles Manson quickly gained a number of followers due to his charming yet intriguing nature. Professing to have invented a religion that scaled between the ideas of Scientology and the Process church, Manson believed that he was Jesus Christ, recruiting mostly females, to the crew he named, the Manson Family.
After a few years of preaching and making friends, one of which included the drummer of the popular music group The Beach Boys, Manson started to become more and more deranged, with his followers brainwashed at full capacity. With the Civil Rights Movement in full swing, the racist and turbulent Manson finally lost it, apparently finding hidden messages in The Beatles records, forcing him to act on his thoughts.
Entering a murder spree that involved the killing of the then pregnant wife of Hollywood film director Roman Polanski, it was reported that the word ‘pig’ was smeared in blood on the front door. Sentenced to life imprisonment, Manson can still be seen inside, with Hitler’s favorite symbol engraved on his forehead, and still adored and followed by many.
5. Heaven’s Gate
Famed for being one of the most shocking examples of mass suicide the world had ever seen, the Heaven’s Gate catastrophe was as upsetting as it was puzzling. Founded by the UFO-obsessed Marshall Applewhite and nurse Bonnie Nettles, the duo quickly formed the religious group, Heaven’s Gate. Based on the teachings of the New Testament, Christology, asceticism and eschatology, the group also held strong science fiction beliefs, such as extraterrestrial life and UFO’s.
Finding like-minded followers, Heaven’s Gate became more and more obscure, with Applewhite eventually referring to himself as directly related to Jesus. Believing that the Earth was about to end, the cult decided that their only chance of survival was to leave as soon as possible. Determining that they would commit suicide in order for their souls to be carried onto a spacecraft that was trailing the famous Comet Hale-Bopp. Applewhite left us for the great beyond in March of 1997, and took 38 followers with him.
Much like the Slender Man, Cropsey started as an urban legend, in which a terrifying ‘bogey’ figure lurked beneath the shadows of New York’s, Staten Island. However, things got real when, in 2009, a documentary was released detailing the crimes of one man and his more sinister connection to the myth of Cropsey himself.
Documenting the folklore, in which a hooked man terrorizes the neighborhood children by dragging them into the broken down ruins of Staten Island’s abandoned Seaview Hospital, the film then goes on to link the myth to real life drifter Andre Rand. Making Cropsey seem very real indeed, Rand who once worked at a school for mentally disabled children (not far from the ruins of Seaview), began acting very strangely towards the children. As a result, he was asked to leave.
What followed was a string of missing children, with claims that they were last seen with Rand himself. Though police searched the area relentlessly for the missing children, only one body was ever found. What they did discover was a make-shift camp in the woods belonging to Rand, which led police to a shallow grave and the man in question. Arrested, and sentenced to life in prison, Rand and the Cropsey legend will go down in history as the Staten Island real life bogeyman.
3. Peter Stumpp
Accused of being a serial killer, cannibal and, unbelievably, a werewolf during the 1500s, Peter Stumpp has gone on to fascinate even the most logical of human beings. When an English pamphlet was discovered in 1920 detailing the horrific crimes of a German criminal in 1589, the one thing that stood out the most was the word ‘werewolf’. Detailing accounts from a number of witnesses and neighbors, the newsletter went on to claim that Stumpp had confessed to having practiced black magic, professing to have a belt given to him by the Devil which enabled him to morph into a werewolf.
Hunting animals as well as humans, Stumpp was also accused of ripping the fetus from the womb of a pregnant lady with his wolf-like claws. Put on trial, Stumpp was sentenced to death, along with his daughter who was accused of having an incestuous relationship with him. Subjected to one of the worst executions in history, Stumpp was put on a wheel as his limbs were broken, burned, and severed from his body, ending with his head torn off and displayed as a warning to others who might allow the Devil to influence them.
2. Ahmad Suradji
Admitting to killing 42 young girls and women over a span of 11 years, Indonesian serial killer and all around psychopath Ahmad Suradji was also known to be a stern believer in black magic. With witchcraft a prominent form of spiritual practice in Indonesia, Suradji claimed that he had the control to influence people’s minds. Believing this would give him extra power, he buried most of his victims in a sugarcane plantation near his home. The odd thing was that the bodies were buried upright only up to the waist, and facing the direction of his house.
When finally captured, Suradji professed that he had had a dream in which his father’s ghost had told him to kill 70 women and drink their saliva, and in doing so, he would go on to become a mystic healer/sorcerer. Sentenced to death, despite a number of appeals, Suradji was shot to death by firing squad.
1. Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo
Originally born in Florida in 1962, Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo often moved around, accompanying his mother on a variety of trips. Upon visiting Haiti to learn about Voodoo, the visit had a lasting impact on the young Adolfo, with black magic becoming a running theme in his upbringing.
His involvement in dealing drugs at a young age, let to Constanzo’s and his mother’s multiple arrests. With his mother believing him to have psychic abilities, Constanzo became more and more unstable, eventually joining the high ranks of rich drug dealers and hitmen. Originally raiding cemeteries for human bones for his cauldron, Constanzo began using life sacrifices as well, mutilating a number of bodies as he worked. Believing that his magic spells were responsible for his success in the drug world, Constanzo began attracting followers. He eventually recruited Sara Aldrete, who became the cult’s high priestess and one of the most trusted members of his group.
Once police finally caught up with him, they discovered fifteen mutilated corpses buried in his back yard. Managing to escape, Constanzo fled to Mexico City along with a number of his friends and followers. Authorities inevitably found him again, and vowing not to go to jail, he ordered his men to kill him. Constanzo was dead before police arrived, and fourteen of his remaining minions were charged with murder and sentenced to life in jail.