There is just something about unsolved murder cases that sends a chill down the spine and can keep you up at night. The more bizarre or brutal they are, the worse it is. Here is a rundown of 10 of the creepiest cases of unsolved disappearances, perplexing deaths, and baffling murder mysteries. Can you solve any of these mystifying cases?
- A Killer Calls: The Unsolved Murder of Dorothy Jane Scott
“When I get you alone, I will cut you up into bits, so no one will ever find you,” the man’s voice said on the phone. It wasn’t the first such call that Dorothy Jane Scott had received from the unidentified caller—someone whose voice she seemed to recognize but couldn’t quite place—but it was perhaps the most unsettling and, tragically, among the most prophetic. Since early in 1980, Scott, a single mother with a four-year-old son named Shawn, had been receiving the threatening calls at her aunt’s home in Stanton, California, where she and Shawn lived. The calls unsettled Scott and her family, but no one was quite sure what to do about them, so they went unreported.
Scott disappeared under mysterious circumstances in May of 1980. A week after Scott disappeared, Scott’s mother, Vera, received the first of what would be many shocking phone calls. “Are you related to Dorothy Scott?” the voice on the phone asked. When Vera said that she was, the caller simply added, “I’ve got her,” and then hung up. Though police installed a voice recorder at their residence, they were never able to trace the calls, as the caller never stayed on the line for more than a short time.
The taunting calls went on for years through April of 1984. During all of that time, Scott was still missing. Then a few months later, in August of 1984, construction workers would discover her charred remains near Santa Ana Canyon Road. Though the strange phone calls to Scott’s family stopped in April of 1984, they resumed after Scott’s remains were found in August. In spite of the killer’s taunting calls, however, Scott’s murder remains unsolved to this day.
- What Happened to Brian Shaffer?
It would be the ultimate April Fool’s Day prank if only it had a punchline. Early on the morning of April 1, 2006, Brian Shaffer seemingly disappeared into thin air while partying with friends at a bar. He was never heard from again. For months after his disappearance, Shaffer’s girlfriend, Alexis Waggoner, called his phone every night, though it went straight to voicemail. However, one night in September, she was thrilled to hear the phone ring at the other end of the line. It rang three times, and in her excitement, she called again. There was no answer, but a ping from the cell phone was later traced to a cell tower in Hilliard, about 14 miles from Columbus, where Shaffer disappeared. Shaffer’s cellular carrier later admitted that the ringing and the tower ping could have been a glitch in the system, rather than a sign that Shaffer had turned his cell phone on. What became of Brian Shaffer remains a mystery to this day. One theory suggests he left the country to start a new life—possibly playing in a Jimmy Buffett-style band, as had always been his dream. Others have suggested that he was more devastated by his mother’s recent death than he let on and took his own life. Another possibility is that he befell an accident in the dangerous worksite behind the bar and that the owners covered it up to avoid legal problems. Some people have even linked his disappearance to the supposed Smiley Face Killer, a theoretical serial killer proposed by retired NYC police detectives Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte and championed by a number of online amateur sleuths.
- The Oakland County Child Killer
Known as “The Babysitter,” this unidentified serial killer is known to have murdered at least four children, possibly more, between 1976 and 1977. Two boys and two girls went missing from their Oakland County communities, northwest of Detroit, Michigan, and all were found dead within 19 days. Their bodies were disposed of in similar ways and in clear public view. Strangulation and shotguns were used to kill the children, several of whom were sexually assaulted before they were murdered.
Most of the children disappeared on their way to a specific location. One victim, a 12-year-old girl, allegedly had plans to run away on her bike. The autopsy of another, an 11-year-old boy named Timothy King who disappeared one night after going to a drugstore to buy candy, provided perhaps the most disturbing detail of his final hours. In a desperate plea to get their son back, the parents of King turned to the media. His mother wrote an op-ed expressing hope for his return and the promise of his favorite food: Kentucky Fried Chicken. After the boy’s body was found in a ditch, a coroner determined the cause of death was strangulation but also found that the young boy had eaten KFC before his death.
- The Bizarre Case of the Lead Masks
On August 20, 1966, a boy flying a kite found the bodies of two Brazilian men in Rio de Janeiro. Both men were dressed in suits, wearing waterproof coats and lead masks similar to those you’d typically wear to protect against radiation. As more information about the men surfaced, it was revealed they were electronic technicians and “scientific spiritualists,” with interests in both ghosts and extraterrestrials. In the hours leading up to their deaths, Miguel Jose Viana and Manoel da Cruz stopped at a bar for water. A waitress, the last person to see them alive, would later tell authorities that both seemed in quite a hurry, especially Viana, who kept checking his watch. It seems there was a reason for this. When authorities inspected the pair’s notebook, they discovered the following note: “16:30 be at agreed place, 18:30 swallow capsules, after effect protect metals wait for mask signal.” To this day, the cause of death remains unknown.
- The Girl in the Water Tank
The body of 21-year-old University of British Columbia student Elisa Lam appeared face-up and naked in a Los Angeles hotel’s rooftop water tank. Her body was discovered almost a month after her disappearance, and only after guests at the hotel—then the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles—began reporting problems with their water. The details of her disappearance and death leave more questions than answers.
In February of 2013, Lam vanished while staying at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. In an attempt to locate her, the Los Angeles Police Department released the last known images they had of Lam—a snippet of security footage taken in the hotel’s elevator on the day of her vanishing. But the clip was quite chilling. In the video, Lam enters the elevator and presses nearly all the buttons, causing the car to stall. As the doors remain open, Lam peeks out into the hallway, exiting and re-entering several times. She rocks in place and gestures with her arms as if communicating with someone off-camera. Her movement is unsteady. Finally, Lam disappears down the hall to her left, the elevator doors closing behind her.
The disturbing video made its way online, where it quickly went viral. Some theorized that Lam was on drugs, that she was mentally ill, or both. Others claimed she was possessed or hiding from someone—or something—that can’t be seen on the video.
Two weeks passed, and Elisa Lam remained missing. At the same time, guests at the Cecil began complaining of low water pressure in their rooms and brownish water seeping out of the tap. On the morning of February 19, a hotel employee named Santiago Lopez went to check on the hotel’s four rooftop water tanks. He noticed the top hatch to one tank was open. Lopez climbed a set of ladders and peered inside; he was horrified by what he saw. Floating face up in the water near the top of the tank was the body of a young woman. It was Elisa Lam. To this day, no one knows how Lam reached the roof without setting off the alarm system, or how she gained entrance to the tank—and then, how or why she drowned.