For most of us these days, Halloween is a time for fun, sweet treats and safe scares. Once reserved for the delight of children, Halloween is a staple in the annual holiday calendar for kids and adults alike.
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In the UK, we’re starting to get pretty into Halloween – albeit nowhere near as hardcore as over in the States – but you’ll still find a decent number of trick-or-treaters and some effort put into decorating shops and houses. There will always be a few costume parties going on too where the blokes don genuinely spooky costumes and the girls step out in costumes that would only scare their parents.
One of the great things about Halloween is that we can celebrate all things scary in the comfort that none of it is real. The mummy dressed in loo roll, the vampire with clip-on fangs and the ghost fooling no one under the bed sheet.
But some monsters are real.
For a select few, Halloween presents the perfect opportunity to blend into the crowd and act out ghoulish fantasies and horrifying crimes. On more than one occasion the night has descended into real terror as true evil joined the party.
Here are 10 terrifying tales of real life Halloween horror stories:
1. A Deadly Treat
One of the single greatest things about Halloween is the candy. Shuffling from door to door clutching plastic witches’ cauldrons and jack-o-lanterns and hoping for a generous neighbour to give you more than one Chupa Chup or even the elusive treat of cash was the highlight of every year as a child.
In 1974 however, this was one Halloween night you definitely wouldn’t have wanted to sample the treats that were on offer in Deer Park, Texas. 8-year-old Timothy O’Bryan died on Halloween evening that year after eating candy that had been poisoned. The candy had been laced with cyanide and Timothy plus four other children had been given the toxic sweets.
It didn’t take authorities long to establish it was Timothy’s own father, Ronald, who had poisoned the candy. Ronald murdered his own son and tried to disguise it as some random Halloween attack – but why?
Apparently Ronald was in financial trouble and wanted the insurance pay-out from his son’s death. Just wow. The more you hear about things like this, the more you realise that money can make people do proper mental things. To place cash above a human life, let alone your own family, is just nuts.
Luckily the other four kids were ok as they hadn’t eaten any of the candy. One of them was Elizabeth, Ronald’s daughter. Guess he really didn’t care about his kids and wanted that double pay out hey?
Instead, Ronald O’Bryan was executed by lethal injection in 1984.
2. A Sense Of Being Followed
You generally find you feel a bit safer being out on Halloween night than on a normal night, as there’s just so many kids about, you have nothing to be afraid of, right? Unfortunately that’s not always the case and even in quiet neighbourhoods – such as in this next story’s case – you are not always safe from predators.
In 2011, on 31st October, 18-year-old student Taylor Van Diest left her house in Armstrong, British Columbia dressed as a zombie. She was heading to meet up with a friend to go trick-or-treating but she never showed up at the arranged spot.
Turns out her costume had captured the wrong kind of attention and Taylor was found hours later beside a railroad track with her head bleeding and a severely bruised neck. She later succumbed to her injuries in hospital, her death shaking the small community.
A man called Matthew Foerster was quickly apprehended by police and after a two-hour interrogation, confessed to the murder. Foerster claimed he had only wanted to have sex with Taylor and admitted to following her to a lonely part of town and attacking her with the intention of raping her.
Taylor resisted and Foerster grabbed her neck and pushed her to the ground before bludgeoning and bashing her over the head with a flashlight. He used his hands and a shoelace to strangle her and then left Taylor to die by the rail tracks. Foerster then travelled to Ontario where police fortunately hunted him down after five months of hiding.
What is most chilling about this story is that Taylor texted her friend earlier saying that she thought someone was following her. You like to think that if you were ever being followed you’d GTFO, but I guess in reality you might try and play it off as just being paranoid or just might not make it to any sort of safe refuge in time. Grim.
Foerster later said he was high on a mix of vodka, weed and magic mushrooms when he killed Taylor but he must have already had some serious issues to begin with to rage out like that. Foerster only got 17 years in prison for the murder which just doesn’t seem anywhere near long enough for killing someone who had their whole life ahead of them.
He can actually apply for parole in 2029 as well which seems crazy soon.
3. Don’t Answer The Door To Late Night Trick-Or-Treaters
This next one could be turned into a movie, it’s all over the place.
So this one takes us back to 1957. It was just gone 11:00pm on Halloween night and Peter and Betty Fabiano were just getting ready for bed when they heard the doorbell ring. It was late for trick-or-treaters, but Peter headed downstairs anyway and grabbed the candy bowl.
When Peter opened the door, a person wearing a cheap mask stood on his doorstep. Betty Fabiano heard a loud bang from upstairs and rushed to find her husband had been shot in the chest. Peter gasped for breath and his wound was gushing blood. He died before reaching the hospital.
Peter Fabiano worked as a hairdresser and had no obvious enemies. This is where it gets a tad complicated: a 40-year-old woman called Joan Rabel had worked at one of Peter’s salons and when police questioned her about the murder, she lied about her whereabouts on the night of the murder. The police couldn’t work out why and Joan had to eventually be let go due to lack of evidence.
An anonymous caller then rang in a month later and directed police to a rented locker where they found a gun matching the one used to kill Peter Fabiano. The locker was being rented by a woman called Goldyne Pizer, who had zero connections to either Peter or Betty Fabiano. Nothing was making sense until Pizer admitted that she was Joan Rabel’s lesbian girlfriend.
Basically, Rabel had poisoned Pizer’s mind with the idea that this random man called Peter Fabiano was an evil and vile person. Rabel fabricated stories about domestic abuse of his wife and she was so effective in these tales that Pizer eventually despised this guy she’d never even met.
So far so random. Things then escalated to the point where Rabel convinced Pizer to help her kill Peter and Rabel drove them to the Fabiano household before Pizer put on the Halloween mask and shot him dead.
Imagine hating some stranger so much that you’d agree to go and kill them without even establishing whether everything you had been told about them was true. And why did Joan Rabel even have so much hatred for Peter Fabiano? Were the stories she had been telling true?
Well, not quite. Turns out, Joan Rabel had secretly been banging Betty Fabiano and simply wanted Peter out of the picture. What an absolute horn dog.
Imagine how pissed you would be if you were Pizer though? Not only had your girlfriend convinced you to murder someone in cold blood with your own hands, but you then find out they had just used you as a pawn to get the person they really wanted all along. Complete nightmare scenario.
What I want to know is whether Betty was in on this too? Did she know Rabel was making arrangements for her husband to be killed so they could be together?
At their trials, Pizer pleaded insanity, and Rabel pleaded not guilty. Both agreed to a plea deal for second-degree murder and life in prison.
Remember to be cautious the next time you get a knock on the door late at night…
4. Not Always Safety In Numbers
You’d expect to feel safe on Halloween in a quiet neighbourhood, and even more so when there’s a group of you together to knock on your neighbours’ doors. But sometimes even being in a group isn’t enough to keep you safe from danger. Sometimes predators like a challenge and it is all the more terrifying to know that certain people are so intent on hurting others that they are undeterred by being outnumbered.
On 31st October 2009, three teenage girls were trick-or-treating in Woodbridge, Virginia – your average quiet suburb. Aaron Thomas was driving through the area when he spotted the three girls. It was raining, it had started to get dark and the girls were alone. It didn’t seem to bother Thomas that there were three of them as he parked the car and walked over to them.
He pulled out a cigarette lighter that was shaped like a gun and pointed it at the girls, ushering them into the wooded area behind a CVS pharmacy. Not knowing the gun was fake, the girls complied when ordered to line up and lie down. One of the girls managed to send a text to her mom which read, “Man raping my friend in the woods behind CVS call 911”. Just imagine getting that kind of heart-stopping text from your kid? Terrifying.
Police arrived within minutes and Thomas fled into the woods, tossing the lighter on his way. Prepare to be frustrated as next, Thomas walked a massive circle and casually strolled past dozens of police officers back to his car that was in the CVS parking lot and drove off. It took two years to track him down and when they eventually apprehended him, Thomas’ DNA was linked to 13 unsolved rape cases.
Turns out, this guy was a prolific predator, even with his own nifty nickname “The East Coast Rapist”, and had been attacking women from Virgnia to Rhode Island since 1997. He confessed to raping many more than the 13 cases he was linked to and it was the Halloween abduction that sparked the manhunt that ultimately caught him.
In 2013, Aaron Thomas received three life terms plus 80 years. In 2015 he pleaded guilty to three more charges and received three additional life sentences, so families in New England can rest easy knowing he won’t ever be freed to be able to commit these acts again. What a vile human being.
5. A Lifelike Decoration
Ahh the decorations; one of the most important things about a good Halloween. Whether it be a couple of pumpkins, some fake cobwebs giving off the haunted house vibe or a full-on head-to-toe spooky remodel of the home, decorations come in all shapes and sizes.
If you’re really going for it, you may even want to include some life-sized corpses in the mix to increase that scare-factor. Such was the assumption of local neighbours in 2014 who witnessed a man dragging a decapitated body out of a Long Island apartment before kicking the head across the road.
It was a few days before Halloween and everyone assumed this to be a Halloween decoration or prank of some sort – just part of the festivities right? One witness said it looked like it was fake but they were unfortunately mistaken, as when someone tried to move the ‘decoration’ out of the road, they realised to their horror that it was an actual dead body.
Turns out a dude called Derek Ward – who had a history of mental illness – snapped and went berserk and beheaded his mom Patricia Ward in their small apartment. After dumping his mom’s body in the street, Derek walked to some nearby train tracks and jumped in front of an oncoming train. Talk about going all in for Halloween creep of the year.
Disturbing to think you might have strolled past what you thought was a prop and just been like “Oh, those kids and there Halloween pranks”, to then find out it was a real body all along. Shudders.
6. Serial Killers Come Out To Play
Halloween celebrates all things macabre and so it must feel like Christmas for murderers and monsters. This next one is pure bad luck and involves a classic case of wrong place at the wrong time for 16-year-old Shirley Ledford.
On Halloween night 1979, Shirley was walking home from a party in the suburbs of Los Angeles when two charming men in a van offered to give her a lift. The following morning, a jogger discovered her mutilated body in an ivy bed.
It was eventually established that the killers were Roy Norris and Lawrence Bittaker and that Shirley had been one of many victims of these two men. As it happens, these men were in fact the Tool Box Killers; a serial-killing duo that had been ruthlessly abducting, torturing and killing teenage girls.
Hundreds of photographs of young girls were found along with bloodstained tools and horrific tape recordings of women screaming and begging. Roy Norris eventually made a full confession and provided sickening details of the night Shirley was invited into their van. Bittaker was driving and Norris offered her some weed which she declined. Norris then took over the driving and Bittaker clambered into the back with Shirley.
Norris described the two hours that followed as nothing but “constant screams” from the back of the van. It’s so unsettling to think that Norris was casually driving round the busy streets of LA, surrounded by people in every direction and yet there was no way of Shirley escaping or getting help whilst she was brutalised by Bittaker. The exact details are pretty gruesome as Bittaker beat Shirley with his fists, then broke her elbows with a sledgehammer before using a pair of pliers to sodomise her, instantly surpassing the crimes of Derek Ward.
Finally, Norris pulled the van over and proceeded to strangle Shirley at the side of the road. He used a coat hanger which he fixed shut with pliers and after choking the life out of her, the two men dumped Shirley’s body on the front lawn of a residential house for the shock factor.
Just so so horrific. What a way to go. Bittaker received the death sentence, and Norris received 45 years to life which seems awfully lenient. I think it goes without saying that you should never get into a strange vehicle, especially a sketchy van with some random people. It may be the last thing you ever do.
7. Crazy For The Candy
This one is short and not-so-sweet.
In 2011, 49-year-old Maria Adams was stabbed with several steak knives on Halloween. The woman had tried to defend herself by throwing plates at her attacker but was ultimately overpowered and died from her injuries.
Her attacker was 55-year-old Ledell Peoples – who was allegedly her friend and whose how she was visiting – and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the killing. The reason for the brutal murder?
Peoples had become enraged over a missing bag of candy. That’s it – Peoples literally murdered Adams over a little bit of candy.
The mind just boggles over how someone could think this was a justifiable reaction. Like dude, you can just go buy a whole bag of candy for next to nothing, maybe be a little pissed off with your neighbour, but to kill them?! Just madness.
8. The Monster Down The Street
It’s always disturbing to think that your child could be befriended by a predator and groomed into trusting them. Someone you thought you yourself could trust may not be the friendly neighbour you thought they were.
Lisa Ann French was 9-years-old when she said goodbye to her parents and headed out to go trick-or-treating in Fond du Lac in 1973. She was dressed as a hobo wearing ragged jeans, a parka, and a battered felt hat. It doesn’t sound like Lisa was planning to meet any friends and I don’t know if it was because it was a different time back then or what, but I’d be uncomfortable sending my 9-year-old out trick-or-treating alone on Halloween. Seemingly not so then though.
Lisa started going from door to door gathering candy and eventually reached her third stop which was the home of Gerald Miles Turner Jr. The two had always been friendly and Lisa would often play with Gerald’s baby, so it wasn’t difficult for him to coax her inside.
Once inside, Turner got Lisa upstairs to his bedroom where he forced himself on her and then strangled her to death. Lisa’s body was found a few days later in a garbage bag that had been tossed in a field. An autopsy found the cause of death to be asphyxiation. A pathologist said the girl died of shock after being sexually assaulted. It is so heartbreaking to think that this poor girl ultimately died of fear.
Once in prison, the sicko disturbingly wrote a letter penned to the deceased Lisa that said the following: “Then I see the delight in your eyes turn to fear as I shut the door behind you”. It just makes your skin crawl. Also added titbit, Gerald’s girlfriend Arlene Penn returned home later that Halloween night and unknowingly slept in the same bed Gerald had earlier assaulted and murdered Lisa in. Rough.
Turner was sentenced to 39 years in prison. He was released on parole in 1998, but he went back to prison in 2003 for a parole violation. He was preparing for release in 2018 but at last check this is still to be decided. Coronavirus has delayed some of the proceedings and he will return to court on 29th October, two days before Halloween and the 47th anniversary of when he murdered 9-year-old Lisa Ann French.
Let’s hope that the motion is passed to keep him behind bars where he belongs and can’t hurt anymore children.
9. Ghostface Killer
Masks play a prominent role in the horror world. Most horror icons have an equally iconic mask; whether it be Jason Voorhees’ bloody hockey mask, Hannibal Lecter’s chilling restraint mask or that god awful pig mask from Saw, masks are capable of increasing the fear factor of a scary film massively.
I think everyone has seen the movie Scream at some point in their lives or is at least familiar with the black and white mask with an anguished face made famous by the flick. Well on 31st October 2003, in Radcliffe, UK, Bob Wilkie was fatally shot with a sawn-off shotgun by someone wearing one of these masks.
Heather Stephenson-Snell was the female leader of an all-women Hells Angels gang and had been out for revenge that night as she had been plotting to murder a love rival. The intended victim however, didn’t open the door after Heather knocked on it as she didn’t want to deal with trick-or-treaters. It was this decision ultimately saved her life but neighbour Bob Wilkie was not so lucky.
Wilkie had come outside to see what was going on and the 43-year-old ex-commando had gone to pull off Heather’s mask when she raised the sawn-off shotgun hidden under the white sheet covering her body and blasted him to death from three feet. Heather then took off in her car and headed back home to York.
Whilst driving home Heather made a rookie error. She was pulled over on the motorway for driving too slowly which led to police discovering the gun and other evidence of the crime. Heather was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 22 years.
I often find UK sentences seem very lenient and life all too rarely actually means life and this is a perfect example of that. People like Heather will likely be on our streets again at some point, even after having murdered someone completely innocent in cold blood. The system sucks.
10. Stepfather From Hell
This final tale sounds like something straight out of a horror movie or a scary story told round the campfire. Get ready.
On 31st October 1984, rather than trick-or-treating with his two sisters, 8-year-old Brian Massey watched as his new stepfather, 26-year-old David Andrews, stabbed his mother to death. Andrews then chased Brian’s sisters, Tiffany, 11 and Tamara, 10, down the corridor before murdering them as well.
Instead of killing Brian too, Andrews kidnapped the boy where he was fortunately found alive two days later. Andrews had tried to kill himself but failed and was arrested by police officers.
Once again, this is another case of infuriating failures of the justice system as Andrews was allowed to agree a plea deal and earned a reduced sentence meaning he was eligible for parole in 2017. Not bad for a triple murder.
There’s not much about this case online but after doing some digging, get this, David Andrews had escaped from the Michigan Department of Corrections Prison Camp at the time of the murder. So Brian Massey’s new stepfather was literally an escaped convict and they had been going to sleep every night not knowing they were living with a monster. He clearly couldn’t control himself and eventually gave into his urges and murdered the family members just to get his kicks. What a sicko.
Let’s hope we all fair better this year than the unfortunate victims in these stories. All that’s left is to wish you a happily horrifying Halloween and whether you’re having a socially-distanced get together or going on the hunt for candy, just remember what could be lurking in the shadows…
If you’re looking for more scares, why not watch some scary movies at ScareCity drive thru cinema? Probably the best way to spend it this year.