By Jessica Ferri.
Some of the world’s most notorious serial killers could have gotten away with their heinous crimes … had they resisted the urge to brag about their deeds with a distinctive calling card.
Some still got away with it, despite their bragging.
Whether it’s was a Satanic symbol left at the scene of the crime or a taunting, anonymous letter sent to the authorities, these serial killer calling cards will send chills down your spine.
1. BTK’s Signature
Kansas Police had hoped that infamous serial killer “BTK” (Bind Torture Kill) had finally been apprehended or killed when he took a hiatus for nearly 10 years. In fact, he was alive and well; he just couldn’t resist reveling in the fact that he hadn’t been captured. Letters he sent to the police in 2004 ultimately led to his capture and conviction in 2005. The letters were signed with BTK’s special signature: a symbol made up of the three letters B, T, K and arranged to look like a female body. Law enforcement never told the media about the signature. So, after that 10-year hiatus, when letters came in with the unique signature, it was clear that only someone with intimate knowledge of the crime could have sent them.
2. The Zodiac’s Letters
Like BTK, the Zodiac Killer ended all of his letters to the police with a special “signature”—a circle with a cross through it, almost like a target. But unlike BTK, the Zodiac killer has never been brought to justice. Following the murder of two couples in northern California, three major Bay Area newspapers received identical letters, which included four cryptograms and details of the murders that had not yet been released to the public. After later murders, the Zodiac sent a piece of a victim’s shirt to the press, as well as more ciphers. Today, the identity of the Zodiac Killer remains a mystery, and only one of his cryptograms has ever been decoded.
3. The Beltway Snipers’ Tarot Cards
The residents of Maryland and Washington D.C. were frozen in fear by the Beltway Snipers’ three-week killing spree in October 2002. At several of the crime scenes, police uncovered the “Death Card” of the Tarot deck. On one side, “Call me God,” was written, and on the other side: “For You Mr. Police. Code: Call me God. Do not release to the press.” Despite the calling card request, the information was released to the press and often misquoted as “I am God.” Officers also uncovered long handwritten notes, threatening violence against the children of the area. After a terrifyingly long manhunt and investigation, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were brought to justice. Malvo, who was only 17 at the time, was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences. Muhammad was executed by lethal injection in 2009.
4. The Night Stalker’s Pentagram
Richard Ramirez, or “The Night Stalker” as he was commonly known, used a pentagram as his calling card. Police found a pentagram scrawled in lipstick on the thigh of his victim Barbara Pan, and on the walls or mirrors of his other victims’ homes. Ramirez claimed the pentagram symbolized his love of Satan. After he was finally apprehended in 1985, Ramirez entered the courtroom on the first day of his trial in 1988 with a pentagram on the inside of his hand (see feature photo). He flashed it the court, smiling, and said “Hail Satan.” Jurors were terrified of Ramirez, and his trial was one of the costliest and most sensational that California had ever seen … until O.J. Simpson’s in 1994, that is. Ramirez spent 23 years on death row before he died of cancer in 2013.
5. The Happy Face Killer
Frustrated with the lack of attention his murders were getting in the media, Keith Hunter Jesperson wrote a full confession, signed with a smiley face, on a bathroom wall of a truck stop. He also wrote extensively to the police and the press, signing all his letters with a smiley face. Though he claimed to have killed as many as 160 people, prosecutors tied him to the murder of eight people, and he was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.
6. Jack the Ripper’s Letters to Police
The man responsible for the unsolved serial murders in London’s Whitechapel district in 1888 came up with his moniker, signing, “Jack the Ripper,” on his first letter to police. Because Scotland Yard received hundreds of letters from those purporting to be the killer, this first letter was originally thought to be a hoax. But now, investigators realize its timing, along with details about the murders, reveal it to be genuine. There are two other letters—including one known as the “From Hell” letter, which arrived with a box containing a small bit of a preserved human kidney—which authorities also believe to be from the true killer.
This article was first published on The Lineup.
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