For most, October 31st is about fun, dressing up, going trick-or-treating and eating sweets until you feel sick. For some, the ghoulish date holds truly sinister significance. Read this list of chilling Halloween deaths and beware who’s knocking at, or who’s behind the door you’re knocking, this year…
1. Trick-Or-Treat murder, 1973
On 31 October 1973, Lisa French, 9, dressed as a hobo to go trick-or-treating in her Wisconsin hometown, Fond du Lac.
That night, tragic Lisa was raped and killed. Her body was stuffed in a plastic bag and dumped in a field, and was found days later. Her horrific death was a mystery until neighbour Gerald Turner confessed nine months later. He wrote this sickening account of her final moments.
I can still see you standing in the doorway with that felt hat beaming at having recognised me…
Then I see the delight in your eyes turn to fear as I close the door behind you.
Turner, 54, was convicted of second degree murder in 1975, and sentenced to 38 years and six months in prison. He was eventually released on parole but, after violating his probation, is currently back behind bars.
2. Mystery Halloween murder, 1963
Katherine Lilian Armstrong, 70, was found fully clothed and battered to death at her home in Sandyford, Newcastle, at 10.50am on 1 November 1963.
The retired schoolteacher had been stabbed 28 times around her face and neck. A nylon stocking was tied around her neck. Wounds on her hands suggested she’d tried to defend herself.
The last sighting of her alive was by two children, who saw her looking out of her window at around 6.30pm on Thursday 31 October.
There was no sign of forced entry to the house, which meant it was possible Miss Armstrong knew her murderer. What happened to Katherine on Halloween night was baffling.
The weapon was missing, and officers searched drains, pipes and litter bins. The crime was so appalling, all police leave was cancelled as the investigation continued, and detectives were brought in from London to help.
Police interviewed 16,000 people in the hunt to find the spinster’s killer but the murder remains unsolved to this day.
3. Masked Halloween killer, 1957
Two women hatched a murderous plot ahead of Halloween, 1957.
Los Angeles hairdresser, Peter Fabiano and his wife, Betty, had briefly split. Betty went to live with a woman named Joan Rabel, although it’s unclear as to whether their relationship was of a romantic nature.
Soon, Peter and Betty reconciled and she moved back home.
Jealous Rabel conspired with another woman, Goldyne Pizer, to kill Fabiano. Reasoning that Halloween was the best night of the year to wear a mask unnoticed, Rabel gathered a costume for Pizer consisting of red gloves, face paint and a mask.
On 31 October, the pair sat outside the Fabiano home waiting for the bedroom lights to go out, around 11.30pm.
Then, Pizer walked up to the house and rang the doorbell.
When Fabiano answered, presumably expecting a trick-or-treater, Pizer shot him in the chest with a .38-caliber handgun.
He died soon after, and Joan and Goldyne were convicted in 1958 of second-degree murder and sentenced to five years to life in prison.
4. Horrific Halloween ‘prank’, 2014
In October 2014, neighbours witnessed Derek Ward, 35, dragging a decapitated body into the street and kicking a head 20ft up the road before disappearing.
Assuming it was part of a Halloween prank, neighbours headed outside to try to pick up the body.
Chillingly, they discovered this was no hoax.
Simultaneously, Derek was jumping in front of an oncoming Long Island Rail Road train, and was killed.
Tragically, the body was identified as his mother, Prof. Patricia Ward, 66. She had been a well-loved professor of language arts at Farmingdale State College. She’d suffered multiple signs of trauma, multiple stab wounds, broken ribs.
Derek, who had a 10-year history of psychiatric problems, had reportedly sat with his mother’s mutilated body for a few minutes inside their blood-spattered home before taking it outside.
5. The Candy Man killer, 1974
Ronald Clark O’Bryan, of Pasadena, Texas had two children, Timothy, 8, and Elizabeth, 5. On 31 October 1974, the family went to dinner with friends, the Bates family, in a nearby town.
After, the kids went trick-or-treating and, along with other adults, Ronald offered to accompany his children, the Bates’ two children, and a child from the neighbourhood. During the trick-or-treating expedition Ronald produced five Giant Pixy Stix he said he’d been given by another neighbour.
Once home, Ronald told his kids they were allowed to eat the Pixy Stix before bed. Only Timothy ate it and, as he swallowed, he complained about its bitter taste.
Soon Timothy began vomiting uncontrollably, went into convulsions and died at hospital. Cyanide was discovered in his blood and stomach fluids.
Luckily, the other children didn’t eat their Pixy Stix.
The neighbourhood was rocked by the allegation a local man had planted the poison in the candy… but police enquiries ran cold.
A few days after Timothy’s burial, the police received a call from Ronald’s insurance company.
Turned out, Ronald had financial difficulties and, before Halloween, he’d increased the life insurance policies on his two young children, to $30,000 apiece.
Ronald’s home was searched and police discovered a pocket-knife on which traces of plastic and powdered candy were found. Ronald worked at Texas State Optical, where he could obtain cyanide.
Ronald was found guilty of first degree murder and was executed via lethal injection, in March 1984.
His death row inmates called him The Candy Man killer.
6. Halloween ‘House party’ killing, 1992
In October 1992, an unfortunate Japanese foreign exchange student, Yoshihiro Hattori, 16, was with fellow exchange student, Webb Haymaker, after being invited to a house party in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The pair rang the doorbell, and received no response. Unknown to the boys, they’d got the wrong address.
To Webb’s horror, Yoshihiro was shot dead by the home’s owner, Rodney Peairs. He argued he’d believed the students were burglars. After a controversial seven-day trial, Peairs was acquitted of manslaughter.
7. Halloween stabbing, 2004
Last in our list of chilling Halloween deaths reads like a script from a Scream movie, but is sadly all too real. Housemates Adriane Insogna, Leslie Ann Mazzara and Lauren Meanza had spent the evening handing out sweets to trick-or-treaters then headed to bed. But Lauren was woken by the sound of Adriane screaming, around 1am.
Lauren ran outside in fear, hiding in the garden, she saw an unidentified assailant climb out of a window.
As more screams filled her ears, Lauren ran back inside to discover both her friends had been viciously stabbed. She called emergency services, but her two friends later died.
Nearly a year later, the killer was identified through cigarette butts found at the scene with DNA belonging to Eric Copple – Adriane’s best friend’s fiance. Jealousy of the friendship between Adriane and his girlfriend had driven him to commit the brutal murders.