The Tattoo Man Compared– The Butcher of Kingsbury Run

There is nothing more macabre than a dismembered head.

Beheading is a degrading way to kill a person. It symbolizes the substance of the act. It removes the intellect and personality, separates it from the body. It is to treat the body like nothing but pulp. It is like someone chopping off a head of cabbage. The person was of no more value than that. To behead is more than to kill. It is to conquer.

The “Horrible Headhunter” of Kingsbury Run in Cleveland was unique in the annals  of crime in that he killed his victims by beheading as though he was the human guillotine executing the guilty.

Of his first two victims one was identified as ne’er-do-well Edward Andrassy. He was the only one to be identified. Was it coincidence or convenience? Did the “Headhunter” hang out in such dives as Andrassy visited because it was easier to get the prey he wanted?  Or did he look for those who, in his estimation, deserved to die?

If the “Headhunter of Cleveland” had twisted justice in mind, he realized he made a mistake with Andrassy. When the newspapers showed his face and name the Headhunter realized his victim had not been some transient. John Doe, his first victim, would never be identified.  That’s the way the Headhunter wanted it.

His next victim must have gone through quite a vetting. This is the case of the Tattoo Man. He had so many distinctive tattoos you would think it would be easy for the police to identify him, but it seems he was not from anywhere local. Wherever he had been picked up, the handsome Tattoo Man accompanied the “Horrible Headhunter” to the shanties of Kingsbury Run close to E55th and Jackass Hill once again.

It was June 1936. The Republican Convention was drawing nigh to an embarrassed city, a city embarrassed over the murders. National attention was and would be centered on the city over the Republican National Convention coming in a few days.  Cleveland Police didn’t need any other ghostly butchery in Kingsbury Run. It was would not only be another unsolved murder, it would highlight the problem with the hobo villages in the Run.

The convention would open in only a few days when on June 5 two boys playing hooky passed through the Run southwest of Kinsman Road and nudged a pair of pants rolled up. Out rolled a head. Inside the pants were rolled up the shirt, the belt, the socks.  The killer had stripped off his victim’s clothes after the victim had been killed, from the look of things. The shirt was torn at the shoulder and very bloody. There had been a struggle obviously. Put together it would seem it was a necessity for the “Butcher” to pounce upon his prey unaware and kill him by beheading. There was no indication the Tattoo Man had been knocked unconscious first, choked or throttled in any way. Like Andrassy and John Doe he had been killed in the way that alarmed the Coroner. He had been beheaded.

This time, however, there were clear hesitation marks in the cutting, no doubt because of the darkness or the Tattoo Man somehow struggling back as the Headhunter dug in with his knife. The hesitation marks were under the chin, at the axis. This is not qualified, so that we do not know if the hesitation marks were deep in and made while trying to separate the head or if this is telling us the Headhunter began cutting under the chin first and not at the jugulars. In any case, there had been a struggle, and the Tattoo Man had failed.


Tattoo Man

Cleaned up for the morgue, the head was placed on display and thousands came to see it. He was never identified.

Finished with his gruesome task, his prey now limp, the Headhunter set aside the head and stripped the body and stuffed the clothes in the pants. But he didn’t emasculate it like the others. He left the body by the bloodstained, violated ground, rolled the head up in the victim’s pants and walked further into the Run, to the railroad tracks. Here between the rapid transit line and the other lines, he set it down.



Understanding the Run. At Kinsman here, in this Google, looking across the Run to East 55th. In the distance the body had been found, closer to E55th.


Panning to the left, you can see how great lines of tracks are separated and now a building is in the center. Trees and ridges here from the tracks. It is probably in the center area, under a willow, where the head was found.  

Was it to make the police think he boarded a freight? Did he intend to take the head away as to hide the victim’s identity but felt people were close at hand and dropped the incriminating parcel?

It doesn’t seem so. A pair of shoes were found nearby with the socks stuffed in them. They seem to be the victim’s. Thus the Headhunter had carried the head under one arm and the shoes in the other. He had left only the nude, headless body behind.

The body was found the next day (6th of June) just east of the E55th bridge over the Run. It was nude, on its side between the tracks of the Nickel line and the New York Central, near pools of dried blood, within the dry twigs of the brambly grass. This was only about 1,000 feet from where the head was found. How the police missed the body the day before when combing the Run is a question that was not posed so it was never answered.

1 2 4

An estimation of where the Tattoo Man’s body was found (4) in relation to where Andrassy and John Doe had been found (1,2). East 55th spans the Run in the center to Jackass Hill. It could be that the Tattoo Man was found south of where marked, near Jackass Hill.

Thousands streamed through the morgue to look at the head to see if they could identify the handsome young man. No one could. None of the tattoos on the body led to his identity either.

The Republican National Convention opened to a backdrop of a maniac on the loose. Not since Jack the Ripper had a killer systematically pinpointed the down-and-out and killed them, for apparently no reason, and did so in circumstances that puzzled the police.

For Andrassy and John Doe the killer had some safe hideout. For the Tattoo Man they entered the Run, obviously at night, and in the shadow of darkness, and in the silence of sound created by the roar of the trains, he killed the Tattoo Man by a vicious beheading. He left everything in the Run.

But the locations indicate he came with the Tattoo Man from the E55th way, as would be expected. But he wanted the police to think he left toward the Kinsman Road direction. Did he simply walk back the way he came after taking the head and shoes deeper into the Run?

What was this savage shadow’s game? Whatever it was, it required that he select and eliminate the Tattoo Man in a very different way than he did John Doe and Edward Andrassy.

*         *          *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.


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