When it comes to true crime, we’ve covered it all. The gruesome. The disturbing. The truly shocking crimes we can’t stop talking about. And that got us thinking: What is the weirdest, strangest, most bizarre true crime case that has ever happened in each state?
Over the next few months, we’re going to do a deep dive to find the most peculiar crimes that have happened in every state. So far, we’ve found the unexplained, the uncanny, and the just plain odd. Read on to discover the strangest true crime cases we could find in each state. And if yours isn’t on this list, stay tuned: we’ll keep going with the series until we’ve uncovered the most baffling crimes to ever take place in every single state.
Florida—Mary Reeser's Spontaneous Combustion
On July 1, 1951, Dr. Richard Reeser, Jr. visited his mother, Mary Reeser, at her apartment in St. Petersburg, Florida. He kissed her goodbye around 9 p.m. The next morning, her landlord tried to deliver a telegram but found the metal door handle too hot to touch. When police and firefighters arrived, they found Mary in her chair—both mostly ash.
The fire was somehow contained to Mary’s body and chair. A nearby stack of newspapers was untouched, the sheets on her bed were white and crisp, and most of her walls were clean. Even more curious, Mary’s skull remained intact but was shrunken to the size of a teacup. Eventually, the FBI was brought in, and after months of investigation, declared she died from spontaneous combustion. The case remains a mystery to this day.
Colorado—Marvin Heemeyer's Bulldozing Tank
We’ve all heard horror stories of feuding neighbors, but nothing is quite as tragic, shocking, and outrageous as when Marvin Heemeyer went on a rampage through his small Colorado town. It began as a zoning dispute that caused Heemeyer to lose his muffler business. When it became clear the entire town had no intention of working with him, he began secretly converting a bulldozer into an impenetrable tank.
On June 4, 2004, Heemeyer drove his armored bulldozer through the town and began systematically destroying the homes and businesses of everyone he felt wronged him. Police fired over 200 rounds of ammunition and launched three explosives with zero effect on the dozer. Heemeyer ended up demolishing thirteen buildings before the vehicle became high-centered on a basement. Sadly, Heemeyer committed suicide before police could breach the tank and arrest him.
New York—The Murder of Michael Malloy, the Unkillable Man
To say people were desperate in the midst of the Great Depression is an understatement. But no one took that desperation to such extreme lengths as Tony Marino, operator of a speakeasy in the Bronx. Working with a corrupt insurance agent in June of 1932, Marino began taking out life insurance policies against his frequent clients, setting them up with alcohol credits to help them drink themselves to death.
Their first target was Michael Malloy. But when Malloy’s health didn’t deteriorate, Marino began adding antifreeze to the booze. When that didn’t work, he added turpentine, horse liniment, rat poison, a sandwich laced with metal shavings, ran him over with a taxi, and poured five gallons of cold water on him while he was passed out in the snow. Eventually, they forced gas down his throat with a hose until he died. But word of “Iron Mike” reached the insurance company, who had the body exhumed, sending Marino and his accomplices to the electric chair in 1934.
Maine—The Cape Intruder
In 2005, residents of the quiet, affluent town of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, experienced a series of unsettling crimes. In August, a resident woke up to a man inside their bedroom staring at them. The man fled as soon as he was spotted, and there was nothing in the home stolen, destroyed, or otherwise moved, and no one was harmed in any way. This kept happening to resident after resident throughout the entire month of August.
The break-ins stopped, only to re-occur in December, and again in February. Many residents claimed to know the man, only to have different men named and none of them could be connected to the break-ins. After February of 2006, the intrusions stopped altogether, and haven’t happened since. The case remains unsolved.
Pennsylvania—The Pizza Bomber
A little after 1:30 p.m., a small pizzeria in Erie, Pennsylvania, received a delivery order to a transmitting tower on the edge of town. When delivery driver Brain Wells went there, two strangers forced a bomb-collar around Wells’ neck at gunpoint. He was given a homemade shotgun and a nine-page note, ordering him to rob a bank and complete a series of timed tasks to collect the keys needed to disarm the bombs Wells was wearing.
At 2:30p.m., Wells walked into the PNC Bank and gave the teller a note demanding $250,000. He walked out with a little over $8,000. Fifteen minutes later, Wells completed the first task when police arrested him. At 3:18p.m., on live television, the bomb detonated. In the following months, two more bodies showed up, leading authorities to Marjorie Diehl Armstrong and Kenneth Barnes, who were arrested and convicted of masterminding this bizarre crime.
Massachusetts—Danny LaPlante, the Boy in the Walls
In 1986, 16-year-old Annie and Jessica Andrews ran screaming from their Townsend, Massachusetts, home believing their deceased mother was haunting them. They claimed a séance went wrong when they found a message written in blood on their basement wall. But when their father went into Annie’s room to prove they weren’t being haunted, he found a young man dressed in his late wife's clothing, donning her make-up and a blonde wig—and holding a hatchet.
The boy disappeared and when police searched the home, they found 16-year-old Danny LaPlante crouched in the crawl space between the walls. The teen had been living inside the walls of their home for months, even carving peep holes so he could spy on the family. Unfortunately, the case took a tragic turn after he was released from juvenile hall when he broke into another house and brutally murdered a mother and her two children. There’s now evidence he lived in the walls of other homes before he turned violent.
Minnesota—The Bungled Kidnapping of John Grundhofer
November 19, 1990, began as a normal morning for wealthy businessman John Grundhofer. But when he got to the parking garage for his office building, things got weird. A man was waiting for Grundhofer. At gunpoint, he handcuffed dynamite to his Grundhofer’s arm, forced him back into his car, and ordered him to drive to Wisconsin.
But the crime was destined to fail. In addition to witnesses, he dropped a note listing his demands—including one for a $3 million ransom delivered in thousand-dollar bills. When he realized his note was gone, he tied Grundhofer up, gagged him, and left him in a sleeping bag at a rest stop. No one was ever arrested, and recent theories have surfaced that Grundhofer staged the whole thing to garner public sympathy. The case remains unsolved.
Wisconsin—The Haunted Bunkbed
In February 1987, Allan and Deborah Tallman bought a bunkbed from a secondhand furniture store. But when they put it in their daughters’ room, it began a hellish nine months for the family. All three children started getting sick frequently. They claimed their clock radio came to life, their room would burst into flames only to vanish, and that a red-eyed witch was watching them.
A month later, these events began affecting Allan and Deborah too. Doors would slam, voices would yell, ghostly apparitions kept appearing, the garage burst into ghost flames, and items were thrown across the room. But when Tallman’s destroyed the bunkbed, all paranormal activity stopped. They sold the home two months later and the new family has never reported any strange events.
Arizona—The Human Chop Shop
Donating the remains of a deceased loved one isn’t unheard of, and there are numerous non-profit research centers that offer this service. But when 15 severed human heads were found on a domestic flight, the FBI launched an investigation. In January 2014, agents raided the Biological Research Center and found a scene straight out of a horror movie.
In the facility—often dubbed the "human chop shop"—they found buckets of heads, arms, and legs, a cooler full of male genitalia, infected heads (we shudder to wonder what that even means), bodies dismembered with chainsaws, and a woman’s head sewn onto a male torso "like Frankenstein." The owner, Stephen Gore, pled guilty to conducting and illegal business and was ordered to pay over $50 million in damages. While the facility was connected to a multi-state operation of the illegal trafficking and sale of human body parts, Gore has yet to explain the condition of the bodies.
New Jersey—Antoine le Blanc's Hidden Flesh in Morristown
In 1833, Antoine le Blanc was disowned by his wealthy French family and was determined to make his fortune in the United States. He settled in Morristown, New Jersey, where he was hired by a local judge to do manual labor. Unhappy with this turn of events, he murdered everyone on the farm and robbed them.
A judge ordered him to be hung and dissected, and his body ended up being used in medical experiments involving electrical currents. His skin was then turned into leather souvenirs for locals. It was believed that all of this was a macabre urban legend until his death mask and coin purses made of flesh were found in a storage shed. It’s now believed his remains are all over Morristown, hidden by families who reveled in revenge.
Featured image: Joey Csunyo / Unsplash