The Shadow Grows– The Headhunter of Kingsbury Run

The summer of 1936 was a nightmare for Cleveland. The Republican National Convention came to Cleveland just a few days after the Tattoo Man was found butchered in Kingsbury Run on June 5. The city had to face the embarrassment of national attention on its hobo shanties and a mad shadow stalking the Run. Then on July 22 another man, a hobo ostensibly, had been found beheaded and his clothes and head nearby. This was, however, far from the Run in the west of Cleveland. Interestingly, he was mummifying. He had been killed back in May, making him a victim before the Tattoo Man.

This was significant, and it can be fitted logically into the killer’s desire to successfully haunt Kingsbury Run. But here let us concentrate on the next major victim– Victim 6.

It is Victim 6’s body that brought the summer to a terrifying end. On September 10, 1936, his body parts were found in the Run. This time it was off 37th street, within the part of Kingsbury Run heading toward The Flats– in other words closer to downtown. It presented several problems. The body was that of a man like the others, but the body had been dissected. Parts were floating in a stagnant pond. It was the torso bobbing about that attracted the attention of a man waiting to board a freight train nearby.


Standing by the railroad tracks, a man waiting to jump on a freight saw the body in the pool below, which is now a mound of earth. The highway did not exist back then.

The police scoured the area, of course. They drained the pool. They looked all about. They found more pieces but never the head. A bloody boulder nearby revealed the “chopping block.” Detectives felt he had been beheaded here and then carved up nearby and his pieces thrown into the stagnant pool. Pieces of flesh on a ledge marked the area where the villain stood and threw the dissected parts into the pool. He must then had taken the head with him.


The location today on East 37th Street. The stagnant pool is under the mount of dirt and rubble.

Officially this was Victim 6. He was and was not like the others. This body had been emasculated, like Andrassy and John Doe, but he was killed on thespot like the Tattoo Man and Victim 5. Victim 5’s head, however, had been found nearby to his body, only about 15 feet away and partially hidden by his clothing, like the Tattoo Man. Victim 6’s head was never found. Most alarming was that this latest victim (No. 6) was found dissected. Cleveland had been facing a problem with dissected women having been found. The first was “The Lady in the Lake” on September 5, 1934. Then there was Flo Polillo on January 26, 1936, who was popularly linked with the “Butcher of Kingsbury Run” despite the difference in her location and dissection. However, this latest victim seemed a confluence of them all. The  difference from Polillo was that the murder and butchering was done on the spot here. Flo had been taken somewhere and neatly carved up, her head also never found.

Flo Polillo


The pattern was alarming and at the same time confusing. Andrassy and John Doe had ben taken somewhere and silently killed, cleaned and then dumped in the Run. Flo Polillo had also been taken somewhere and quietly killed, butchered and then neatly wrapped before being deposited behind Hart Manufacturing on 20th and Central. Then The Tattoo Man was set-upon in the Run and killed by the same way as the others– he was beheaded. Victim 5 was beheaded, but much further to the west. Now Victim 6 was set-upon near E 37th, beheaded on a boulder, then emasculated like Andrassy and John Doe, and then carved up like Flo Polillo.  The MO indeed seemed a confluence of all the variations so far experienced.

Cleveland was aghast. Kingsbury Run was becoming a source of worry. Having a large section of the industrial part of the city as a home of various hobo towns was worrisome enough, but now a murderer was clearly stalking the Run and parts of town thereabouts. The Run had become Cleveland’s Whitechapel. But what was most worrisome was that no motive could be discerned. At least Jack the Ripper took parts from his victims that could inspire some theories. He also confined himself to street walking dregs. But the “Horrible Headhunter” and now “Butcher” of Kingsbury Run beheaded execution style, carved up his victims, both male and female, and sometimes took the heads, sometimes he didn’t. Nothing fit except a haughty mind preying on the down-and-out.

Elliot Ness was the chief of public safety.  Naturally he was following this as closely as he could. But it seemed Cleveland Police didn’t want to share much with him. He was getting information quietly from various sources. It appears that since Andrassy’s death doctors had been suspected.  It could be because of the neat slice in the heads of the first victims. But it could be because he had been an orderly at the hospital, and his death still suggested “revenge.” Ness was picking up on the doctor angle, but so far it had led nowhere except he knew that Cleveland Police had been rounding up every doctor who had been disbarred for some strange reason.

John Doe Victim 2
John Doe, above, and Edward Andrassy represented the original MO of the killer, but when the police discovered the identity of Andrassy and then Flo Polillo the killer’s MO noticeably shifted.


But there is much more here than skill at dissecting. The killer had noticeably shifted MO. He now went out of his way to kill in the Run or, for Victims 4, and 6, on the spot. His MO was no longer sending clues back about a dank lair somewhere, but he had already left those clues with the first victims. Now it was more important to hide the whole idea of a lair and simply take the risk to kill where he found his victims. How did he ingratiate himself?  How did he get them alone? Most of all, why execute guillotine style? Why dissect only to toss the pieces nearby? Why take the head sometimes and not others?

The killer was laying down a confusing pattern, but one thing was obvious. Kingsbury Run was still his object.

It is the much neglected Victim No. 5 in the west of Cleveland that tells us much. He was killed on the spot before any of the others that were to follow. He was found stripped, his head close by with his clothes. It was the MO of the Headhunter. All this happened, however, far from Kingsbury Run. In our next post we must look at the significance of this.

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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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