He lured them into his trap...but who was Dean Corll, the Pied Piper of Houston Heights?
It’s not hard to lure children into danger. Take the Pied Piper of Hamelin. All he did was play his music and 130 children followed him to their deaths, or so the story goes.
And then there’s Dean Corll.
He became known as the real-life Pied Piper of Houston Heights, Texas. Instead of music, he used sweets.
And unlike the Pied Piper of Hamlin, Dean Corll was real.
With the help of teenage accomplices, Dean Corll kidnapped, raped, tortured and killed at least 28 young boys in the early 1970s.
Often, the torture of these young boys would last several days, and their dead bodies would be buried in Texas’s rural outskirts.
When the crimes came to light, they shocked America. Not least because their perpetrator was an upstanding member of Texas society. Dean Corll was an electrician for a local power company. A quiet, respectable man who was always there for his neighbours, and kept his hair neatly combed and trimmed.
But Dean Corll, the Pied Piper of Houston Heights, was not the man he appeared to be. He was a sadist, a killer.
And his victims were the innocent, vulnerable children of his local area.
Dean was born in 1939 into an unhappy family. His father, Arnold, was overly strict. And his mother, Mary, overly protective.
There were arguments and finally, divorce. Dean was just 6 years old.
Mary and Arnold tried getting back together a few years on. But they soon accepted their marriage and their relationship was dead.
But his parents’ divorce wasn’t the only challenge faced by the young Dean. He was quiet, found it difficult to socialise with other children. And a diagnosis of rheumatic fever at the age of 7 meant he was excluded from school sports and games.
A crucial setback in Dean’s development.
He was further isolated from people when his mum and new step-dad started up their own business. The couple turned their garage into a mini-production facility sugar-coating and packing pecan nuts.
At school during the day, young Dean was made to work in the garage as soon as he home. He’d sometimes work in there all night.
But the family business did well, and soon his mum took on extra staff.
One of these extra staff was another young man.
A young man Dean was instantly attracted to.
The teenage Dean made a move on the young man.
It didn’t end well…
The young man complained to Dean’s mum. And found himself fired.
It was a clear message – Dean’s sexuality was wrong, and not to be tolerated.
Dean was a lonely young man trying to come to terms with his sexuality.
But as he grew up, he started seeking out the very young as his friends and companions. Often, he’d buy their friendship with the sweets he himself had made for the family business.
At 28 years old, his best friend was David Brooks. David Brooks was only 12.
Dean had missed out on his own youth. Hadn’t been able to play with other children, and was at home sugar-coating pecan nuts when he should have been out having fun.
But was there something more sinister going on? Was Dean making friends with kids because kids are easily manipulated?
Soon, Dean had absolute control over his young friend.
He started paying David for sex.
Before long, Dean and David, and later another young boy called Wayne Henley, were working together to lure even more young boys back to Dean’s home.
Dean would pay his young accomplices for their help, often with a promise of sweets, alcohol or a party.
Once in his home, Dean would ply his victims with booze, strip them, handcuff them to his bed, assault them, beat them, and eventually kill them.
Sometimes, he’d keep something from his victims. Usually, a key.
Symbol of locked doors and secrets.
In the end, Dean Corll’s young accomplices were his undoing.
In August 1973, his accomplice Wayne Henry brought a new friend round to Dean’s house. A girl friend.
Dean was angry. Raping and killing women didn’t interest him at all.
Dean ordered Wayne to kill the girl. Wayne refused. In the row that followed, Wayne shot Dean dead.
And then he called the police.
Only after Dean had been shot dead did his crimes become known. Dean was nicknamed the Pied Piper of Houston Heights by the local press.
Wayne and David were both given life sentences for their role in the killings.
But for Dean Corll there would be no cross-examination in a court room. No interviews with psychologists and doctors.
And ultimately, no punishment at all.