The DOODLER Serial Killer Theory

It is perhaps best to refer to The DOODLER not as a serial killer but as a theory. As a theory I believe in The DOODLER. As a fact, I do not. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that DOODLER’s origin isn’t entirely with SFPD. It is time to explore that here.

The theory is rather new, but the concept goes back to 1976. The initial press releases concerning a “Doodler” are tepid, and they involve “maybe.” He is a young black man who knifed or roughed up a couple of victims. Each survived. But, but, he “may be” connected to some other murders. As it developed, there also wasn’t much per se to incite the curiosity of the inquiring mind. Supposedly, it developed, the police knew who he was. Supposedly, again, he stopped killing after they spoke to him and he realized he had been identified. Really? The fuzz couldn’t get a charge to stick, we are led to believe by “received opinion,” because the survivors didn’t want to testify and thereby be outed as “gay.”

We have to look at the scheme of things to see where to dissect fact from fiction and assess the gray area in between. In essence, we have to consider more than the origin of the theory, we have to consider the motive for the theory.

There are a few murders in 1974 that seem to qualify as “homosexual” murders, that is, the victims could be classified as that. Gerald Cavanaugh was slashed in cold January at Ocean Beach; a month later in February Stig Berlin is stabbed to death in his Hyde Street flat; in June celebrated drag performer Jae Stevens is slashed in Golden Gate Park, then a couple of weeks later another brutal slashing at Ocean Beach, this time of Klaus Christmann.

Each was a vicious murder, but that didn’t mean they were connected to the same perp. Police, SFPD in particular, classified homosexual murders as tending to be particularly vicious. If a guy was really carved up, it was likely a homosexual murder. It was the result of homosexual panic or a boyfriend getting even. This is reflected as early as 1968 in the Frank Sinatra movie The Detective. It is repeated in Cruising (1980) and in between there are enough press conference quotes from SFPD (and NYPD) detectives to make it plain where the filmmakers got their info. Thus 4 stabbed men in San Francisco in different circumstances really wouldn’t be too surprising to SFPD and it wouldn’t cause any closer examination to determine a link to a single perpetrator.

Then in 1975 the glut of murders begin. They are in the general area where Stig Berlin was slashed the year before. Spaniards are knocked off first. In February, Rick Gonzales is killed in his Eddy Street apartment, at the Albemarle. Then two cross dressers– Joe Vasquez and Joe Rodrigues– in their respective Ellis Street apartments. Vasquez came from Mexico and Rodriguez from Texas. They live close to each other, in adjoining buildings. The Police announced the culprits may be another transvestite and a white guy– probably the pimp.

Taken from Twin Peaks for a local KQED documentary on the Gay movement in 1982, this angle gives us a perfect view of Market Street, San Francisco’s artery from downtown, the area where the murders were concentrated. It runs through Tenderloin, which is on the left. The short, dark building is Fox Plaza. On the right is South of Market. Right below Twin Peaks in foreground is The Castro.

Three murders in a couple of months was enough to set off the gay community, and a community meeting was held in April. Yet in May the viciousness is ramped up. It is a summer of savage murders South of Market and a few attacks at Fox Plaza in which the victims survived. A Castro resident, Fred Capin, is also found knifed at Ocean Beach, not far from where Gerald Cavanaugh had been found in January 1974. In September there is a gruesome murder at Fox Plaza. Then in December yet another grisly killing of a cross dresser on Turk Street. In January 1976 yet another Turk Street apartment murder.

Because the survivors at Fox Plaza said their assailant was a young black guy, SFPD begins to look into a black guy who doodled pictures and portraits at the local gay bars or restaurants. The survivors state this is where they connected with him. It is only after this that there appears to be some inquiry to see if there is a similar connection with these other murders.

One detective went to the gay bars at this time to try and sew together the cases. His name was Dave Toschi. He had achieved local fame due to The Zodiac Killer Case in 1969, and he was personally one of the most likeable men on the force. He presents himself as a much needed friend to the gay community during this violent time. There was no reason not to believe him. He was essentially the only one to go to the bars and take notes. We must assume he picked up more information about a black guy known to doodle. Assume.

The DOODLER concept then goes public in 1976, but the concept was presented to us vaguely. I have repeated it a number of times on here. To belabor the point, we are basically told there possibly had been some black guy known now as The DOODLER who might be connected with 14 other murders, names unspecified, over 1974-1975. In retrospect we are given five names of potential victims: they are, of course, Gerald Cavanaugh (January 1974), Jae Stevens (June 1974), Klaus Christmann (July 1974), Fred Capin (May 1975), and Harald Gullberg (May/June 1975). After this, The DOODLER concept rather fizzles away.

From our point of view today, however, there is a problem. A closer look at these cases, for the most part, doesn’t reveal much of a connection except they occurred out-of-doors and in the western districts of San Francisco. In retrospect there seems little reason these 5 were made tokens. Poor Harald Gullberg probably wasn’t even murdered. He certainly wasn’t knifed, and the coroner wasn’t sure if his death was an accident. Why then were these 5 names presented to the public in 1976 and strung to a black guy who had attacked in Mid Market and whose known victims had survived?

Like a compass needle when it finally steadies on its course, all things point to Dave Toschi. These cases did have a connection– he had worked them, one way or another. There is much more that will be presented on Quester Files when I present the entire crime spree and the context of its history. In their way, these blog posts are only synopses. But I cannot avoid touching on key nodal points here in the evolution of The DOODLER theory. A very key point was Dave Toschi’s lust for publicity. Earl Sanders, one of the detective inspectors on the Zebra Killings, put it most politely in The Zebra Murders (2006)

You couldn’t help but like Toschi as a person. He was like a character out of the old Rat Pack, smart, funny, stylish, Italian. But he had a thing about seeing his name in the paper. We all knew it. And no matter how much you might love Dave, if you wanted to play things close to the vest, working with him was a problem. We ended up being teamed a number of times, and on half of the cases it seemed like the press got to the crime scene before we did. I sure as hell didn’t call them. But when I looked to Dave, he’d throw up his hands like ‘Who, me?’ You hate to criticize people unfairly, but unwanted publicity was something that everybody who worked with Dave had to deal with.

There was a “Catch 22” to Toschi’s longing for publicity. It had the potential to destroy him if it could be proved he manipulated it. In 1976, his yen for publicity drove him to extremes, and I fear the creation of the DOODLER concept owes quite a bit to him.

Grant Dailey’s murder on Steiner Street in October 1976 was a blood bath.

Retrospect requires that we go back and look at the nature of Dave Toschi’s very public downfall from favor. It does bear on our pursuit here. When his exposure for manipulating publicity did happen in 1978, it had a far more resounding effect in the gay community, and we get some vital tidbits of information that help us to understand Toschi’s seminal involvement in creating The DOODLER concept.

Two events overlap in 1976– Toschi was a central real-life figure in a very, very popular fictional series in the Chronicle entitled “Tales of the City” in which he helped hunt a serial killer nicknamed Tinkerbell– get it?– and Toschi also continued to cultivate publicity in the gay newspapers. Of the savage gay murders in 1976, there was a particularly gruesome murder in October. Toschi and Hobart Nelson were the responding detectives. He is quoted in the Bay Area Reporter as declaring it to be “one of the most brutal murders I have ever seen.”

By 1978, he had been the Gay community’s premiere detective friend for 2 years. Although it wasn’t known (at the time) how many of this glut of gay murders he had investigated, he was getting a lion’s share of the positive publicity. He was, after all, very charming. And unlike some of his partners, he didn’t punch informants in the face to get information or sue them when they made a public stink about him not doing his job well. But as no case was getting solved, grumbles of laziness (or hypocrisy) grew louder. When his exposure happened, he left a loud crash in the gay community. Let’s start from the beginning.

Toschi would later insist that he never got such good publicity as he got from Armistead Maupin’s 1976 serial “Tales of the City” in the San Francisco Chronicle. Maupin had contacted SFPD about how to write the detective’s part of it. They put him in touch with the convivial Toschi. Always charming, Toschi impressed Maupin. The series was a hit, and Toschi was written into it as a real life “super-Cop” detective in pursuit of a killer known as . . . once again, Tinkerbell!

Toschi’s involvement in the cold ZODIAC case was something that gave him notoriety. But now with “Tales of the City” his ZODIAC notoriety was considered nothing compared to the response from Maupin’s serial. When Maupin wrote Toschi out of the serial, Toschi wrote fan mail to Maupin. Using the aliases of different women, he wrote 3 or 4 notes asking for Toschi to be brought back. Through the pen of these fictitious female aliases he called himself a “curly hair, adorable” guy, etc.

Unfortunately, Maupin recognized the printing. It matched the printing on the Christmas card Toschi had sent him. He kept the letters and waited.

The opening scenes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978, capture the apartment building in the background where Dailey was savagely murdered. This gives us a near-contemporary image of the times in question.

Two years went by and Maupin’s “Tales of the City” was reaching publication as a book. Maupin’s publicist, a well-known influential gay man, Ken Maley by name, brokered the news story with New West Magazine. He also approached Jim Tedesco, Toschi’s superior, and presented the evidence in April 1978.

Toschi, as pictured in the B.A.R. article “Tarnished Triangle–Maupin, Maley, Toschi,” and “Gay Pigeons,” July 1978.

The fan mail written by Toschi for himself hit SFPD hard for one reason. The “Zodiac” had supposedly written another letter recently in April, the first in 4 years. Toschi was even named therein. Because of this he was once again at the center of enormous publicity. But Maupin had wondered if Toschi had been writing some of these “Zodiac” letters. When the latest “Zodiac” letter proved to be a fake, everything went south.

Presented with the fake fan mail letters, SFPD demoted Toschi from Homicide to Pawn Shop. Clem D’Amicis, the deputy Chief of SFPD, visited him at home and told him there were ego conflicts because of his publicity seeking. There would have to be a public announcement. Toschi went white.

At the press conference SFPD presented copies of the fan mail on a cork board for all the press to read and photograph. Through the alias pen of invented women admirers, he called himself “a glamour guy,” “a real detective,” “a very smart and good officer” and, of course, “curly-haired and adorable.”

The Chronicle did a series of hit pieces on him (including D’Amicis’ statement of ego conflicts). He denied ever having written a “Zodiac” letter, but he had to admit he wrote those praising fan mail letters trying to get his character back into Maupin’s successful “Tales of the City.” In short, Toschi was ruined.

Robert Graysmith’s attempt to use Maupin’s “Tales of the City” as the template for his book ZODIAC (1986) somewhat restored Toschi’s reputation with the public. (Maupin had called Toschi a “super-cop” and Graysmith parroted this.) In many ways, Toschi’s character in Graysmith’s book is the same as the role he played in “Tales of the City”– the super-cop counseling the amateur as he tries to get the goods on a notorious serial killer.

But Toschi’s reputation was never restored with SFPD and the press, especially the Gay press which he had particularly cultivated during the run of “Tales of the City” and its Tinkerbell serial killer. It now looked like he had only been after publicity, and his lack of results in the real “Gay murders” only re-enforced the grumblings that he hadn’t put effort into it because the victims were gay. I seriously doubt this was the case.

During my investigation of The ‘Zodiac’ Killer, which now culminates in HorrorScope, I came across several inferences that Toschi was actually a lazy detective. I even heard the somewhat humorous (but hard to believe) story that his partner, Bill Armstrong, had to kick him in the backside to get him out to work. To an extent, Toschi was the victim of his publicity. Many of his quotes are repetitious and sound like excuses for not solving a murder. They can reflect laziness, but they can also inspire the belief he was lazy. A favorite excuse can be found both in Graysmith’s 1986 book and in the gay newspapers of 10 years before. He always cautions that if one doesn’t get the lead within 48 hours, the murder will likely go unsolved.

It is not necessary to delve into all of it here, but a few points that surround his downfall are relevant. One, although it is unlikely Toschi wrote that fake “Zodiac” letter it did mention him by name– the only time “Zodiac” ever gave publicity to another person. It also mentioned Herb Caen, San Francisco’s No 1 columnist. Any mention of Caen was sure to get publicity. The prospects of massive publicity may have been enough to beguile Toschi to circumvent the usual orthodox procedure for examining the letter. He didn’t send it to Questioned Documents examiners. He sent it to the postal inspector. This got him a positive confirmation it was from ZODIAC and from there a huge news release. In essence, he threw caution to the wind at the prospects of his name plastered in all the papers.

This is far more likely than that Toschi forged that fake and sensational “Zodiac” letter. The same beguilement over publicity and caution to the wind seem the motive to push for a DOODLER. There are, in fact, many parallels between Toschi’s image in “Zodiana” and in The DOODLER serial, though the latter never came to fruition outside of the Gay community because of his downfall.

As it relates to The ZODIAC, Toschi was always at the center of some legend fostered about him that owes nothing to reality. He wasn’t the inspiration for Steve McQueen’s character Bullit in the 1968 movie of the same name. McQueen had talked to Toschi (then a Vice cop) and was inspired by his casual way of dressing and copied his quick draw holster. But Bullit’s character was entirely McQueen’s creation. He hadn’t been the inspiration for Dirty Harry, and yet that continues to be circulated. He hadn’t been a super-cop. He had only been on Homicide a year when he got the “Zodiac” case, and all the paperwork I have seen supports the continuing assertions that Bill Armstrong, his partner, did most of the investigation.

Within the “Zodiac” fandom, who view the crime spree more or less as a real life comic strip, Toschi is a revered character, akin to Commissioner Gordon in the Batman series. But in real life he seems to have contributed little more than standard investigation. There also remains some reserve about that fake “Zodiac” letter. Its author has never been officially identified. It presents Toschi as a relentless pursuer (“that city pig Toschi is good, but I am better”) when he had had no “Zodiac” publicity for a couple of years to inspire the image of a relentless pursuer. (He was cleared on printing comparisons, but that fake “Z” letter is not handwritten. It is a tracing of ZODIAC’s actual words and letters in authentic letters.)

The same appearance vs substance surrounds Toschi as it relates to The DOODLER. Although Toschi was the detective on only a fraction of these “Gay murders,” George Mendenhall writes in the B.A.R. for July 1978, establishing Toschi as the sole and central figure in the crime spree investigation: “Dave Toschi is well known among Gay journalists, who have considered him a friend. He sought attention and received it, but he was also considered competent in his assignment in attempting to crack the many Gay murders of 1975-1977. He attempted to develop a pattern of crime and widely circulated a sketch of a suspect known as ‘The doodler’ [sic] . . . Toschi was tenacious in his work and spent many hours in Gay bars attempting to find leads.”

Yet Paul-Francis Hartmann writes negatively in the same B.A.R. issue. He is summing up the controversy of Toschi’s exposure. He harks back to a prescient B.A.R article of 18 months prior complaining about Toschi’s lack of results. The rival Gay newspaper The Sentinel, always at odds with the Bay Area Reporter, had castigated that article. “What was a more serious transgression was that the B.A.R. blunderbuss,” recalls Hartmann, “maligned one of the ‘best friends’ the Gay community had in the Halls of Justice: Homicide Inspector Dave Toschi. The cooperation, the hard work, the dedication of this man were legendary. . . His integrity had been insulted, and when apprised of the B.A.R. indiscretion, Toschi said his feelings were hurt. . .” Nevertheless, “The Gay murders continued and Toschi’s batting average didn’t change. . . . Toschi’s excuses of being unable to solve the Gay murders was that nobody in the Gay community would cooperate with homicide [sic]. No one would come forth as a witness (to solve the crime for the bureau). No one would come forth as the killer (which would also solve the case for the bureau).” Hartmann continues, revealing how the publicity solely centered on Toschi: “Gay murders were Toschi’s private preserve — he was working hard — he was above criticism– what more could anyone ask? No one was around to press the victims’ cause.”

Charming, yes, convivial and friendly, personally likeable, he was not the kind of cop whose methods would force information from witnesses. But because of his lust for publicity, he receives undeserved and outsized press in relation to his actual input and relevance to any case. In HorrorScope, I cannot avoid touching on this because his downfall came from a fake “Zodiac” letter that mentioned him personally. But The DOODLER crime spree reveals something far more disturbing than the somewhat harmless appearance of vanity that his fan mail writing conjures and its exposure during a bright moment of renewed “Zodiac” publicity in 1978.

The SFPD composite of October 1975 of The DOODLER.

Within the mainstream press, Toschi’s exposure in the summer of 1978 surrounded his vanity and potential for having written the “Zodiac” letter. But far more relevant here, the “Gay journalists” came out and preserve for us how Toschi was the center of a questionably robust investigation of the Gay murders and their connection to “The Doodler.” Hints of laziness do creep out, but most importantly thanks to the gay newspapers, in particular the Bay Area Reporter, we have a few clues that underscore Toschi’s seminal involvement in the creation of The DOODLER concept. A few of his cases gave him a vague connection to a potentially much larger serial killing spree (in appearance), and during “Tales of the City” he continued to push the point with “Gay journalists.” He is the one who visited the bars. Upon this we know his few cases, though hard to connect, are the ones given to the press in 1976.

This is an undeniable fact. This documentation doesn’t underscore the reality of The DOODLER. It is intellectually dishonest to present them as evidence for a serial killer. If not intellectual dishonesty, than it is negligent haste that collated them together. From the fiasco over the exposure of the “Zodiac” letter, presented to the press by Toschi as real, then exposed later as an obvious fake, apparently SFPD didn’t vet their detectives’ sources prior to press release, even though the release is in the name of the department. By juxtaposition, we should be gravely concerned about the same lack of vetting and motive that seems behind the release of the “5 cases of The DOODLER.” We should be concerned whether Toschi wasn’t trying to create a real Tinkerbell by his visits to the bars. What a great cross promotional this would be during the run of “Tales of the City,” the series that was currently making him the center of San Francisco.

It is harsh and personally distasteful to even speculate the above about so personally likeable a man as Dave Toschi was, but the facts above don’t foster a positive interpretation. Laziness and opportunism seem intertwined in the development of The DOODLER case, and laziness especially is testified to today by a sad fact.

We hear that back in late 1975 a psychiatrist turned in a patient, a black guy who looked like the composite. This patient supposedly confessed to the Ocean Beach murders. He was having trouble with his sex identity. Today, SFPD is trying to uncover the identity of the shrink. Was his name Dr. Priest? There was no shrink named that. But SFPD uncovered there was a Dr. Preece. Apparently, the tip merely came by phone in 1975 and no detective bothered to call back, get a clarification on the shrink’s name or a written statement or even visit him in person. The tip was itself just doodled down “Dr. Priest” by a police secretary or cop. Just how much effort was really being spent on the concept of a “BLACK DOODLER” in 1975-1976?

If Dave Toschi was only presenting the appearance to the Gay community that he was at the center of the investigation, then whoever was in charge of the investigation seems quite lazy as well. . .or really didn’t see a much larger connection.

In those two years since the creation of The DOODLER moniker and Toschi’s downfall, though some hideous gay murders continued, there was no attempt to string them together as the result of this shadowy DOODLER perp of July 1975. Maybe there was a real gripe in the department about the whole theory? I don’t know. But Toschi certainly couldn’t release the names of another detective(s)’ victim who didn’t believe his case was related. This would really have caused a blow-out considering the longstanding “ego conflicts” that became public in 1978. We do know the DOODLER case never really coalesced. When a new murder would happen, there was no instinctive rush by the press to assume a link with a villain who really never took form. There was always enough suspicion about bondage, S&M, and some creep from South of Market and the leather bars.

Just really how can we reconcile all that is said today with what was preserved back then? How could The DOODLER have been said to have stopped? How can it be that he supposedly decamped and went to New Orleans? How can it be he was frightened off by an SFPD that didn’t even have the address of the shrink that turned him in? If all this was so, why was Toschi still going to the Gay bars into 1977 trying to make continuing connections to all these new murders and the sketch of The DOODLER? Was it just PR?

In the case of “Tales of the City,” Toschi hid his yen for publicity behind alias fan mail, but his exposure in 1978 sheds light on the creation of the stillborn DOODLER theory. Mixed with the kernels preserved by the gay newspapers, along with the details of the coroner reports, and I can only conclude one thing. Just like writing fan mail to himself, Toschi was trying to get more publicity.

Since Dave Toschi’s assumed motive is speculation, we cannot end on a negative note. He thought that his fan mail stunt was “harmless.” Perhaps if his motive was to get attention to the gay murders, it may have seemed equally harmless that token, unrelated cases were presented as linked to a catchy moniker like The DOODLER. Maybe he felt this was the only way all these cases would get more deserved attention. The human mind’s ability to rationalize is amazing.

But 45 years later, I can see a lot of harm. One new headline has read: “The DOODLER may have a 6th victim.” Really? Where did you get the other five? He may have five victims. He may have six. But you are going to have to find them elsewhere than those 5 presented. Today there are those who are trying to resurrect a concept rather than expose a serial killer. Two dozen murders cry out for examination, and it is time to finally present the details. If there was a DOODLER he can only be found in sifting these other cases, not in amplifying these unexplained “5 usual” cases.

Joseph “Jae” Stevens, a year before his murder, in a cameo in the 1973 movie The Laughing Policeman. Suggestions that cocaine and not sex was a motive for some of the “Doodler” murders must be explored.

*         *        *

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 or Q Man. “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.

Queens and Corpses– The Doodler or No?

I’m in a rather intense phase right now on the historic aspects of my DOODLER investigation while preparing HorrorScope for late Spring publication next year. To say the least I’m saturated with 2 starkly different San Franciscos– the SF of the psychedelic ’60s and the SF of the Swingin’ Seventies.

The DOODLER investigation is turning on very, very interesting discoveries. The “Queer Killings” of the mid 1970s to mid 1980s had a complex background and very often underground nuances that caught the average gay between a strange politics and criminal, predatory elements. San Francisco’s gay community (largely The Castro) was like a lawless boomtown, the result of aggressive confrontations with police that kept them out from harassing nightlife yet at the same time left the community largely vulnerable to a criminal element that realized the community was easy pickings for robbery and murder.

Amidst coroner reports, I am putting back in place the context of the times– very colorful and tumultuous times. I’m not only dealing with about 30 murders, many sadistic, but the hassle of trying to identify a serial killer within the carnage.

“Painted ladies” on Divisidero– Author’s photo.

I don’t deny that there was such a black man who engaged in attacks in Mid Market in the summer of 1975, but this series of events is mild compared to the overall litany of bizarre and aggressive murder. It is also turning out that perhaps The DOODLER is more akin to the 21st century “Smiley Face Killer” theory. It was something false that ended up giving form to otherwise mostly unrelated murders or series of murders.

I say this because my obligatory investigation of the “5 usual” suspects reveals little connection, blatant little connection between them. This being the case, and the fact they are far removed from the compact grouping of 15 other murders in Tenderloin and South of Market, naturally causes me to ask: “what was the motive for releasing these 5 names to the public in 1976?” The answer is not a flattering one, and it is one that SFPD is not responsible for.

As I dig further into the lives of some of the victims, I cannot help but note how poorly even the gay newspapers wrote up their obit. I had assured myself from repeat study of the cafe scene in The Laughing Policeman (1973) that the cameo by the “transvestite”– used to project the unusual flavor of San Francisco 1973– was Jae Stevens. I finally stumbled upon a review in the B.A.R. of the movie that confirmed who the locals appearing in the movie were. . . and indeed that was Jae Stevens.

Joseph “Jae” Stevens on the right.

The cream of drag performers, Stevens stood tall, taller than his 6 feet plus. He had surprised an elite Hollywood gathering by imitating Jean Harlow. The audience was surprised to find this consummate imitator was actually a man. His acts could extend beyond the sooty gay nightclub stages to legitimate cabaret. For his scene in The Laughing Policeman, the director had to put a fake mustache on him, so the purpose of the scene could be fulfilled– otherwise the audience would indeed have thought him a woman. Yet he was a fairly strong man, towering over most others. He didn’t stalk the streets in drag– he was a performer.

After his murder, the gay community was stunned. A memorial T-shirt was designed and sold, bearing his picture in drag.

It was a different world, to say the least. It was Whitechapel and Moulon Rouge put together. It was a world where the law kept itself at a distance and was selectively kept at a distance by the most vociferous of the community.

Although Stevens’ murder was unique in 1974, the murder of drag queens in 1975 would vie in number with the murder of gay men. SFPD, in a rare news blurb, thought perhaps a pimp was killing his queens because two had been stabbed in early Spring 1975 and they lived relatively close to each other. But other “transvestites” were unlikely targets of a pimp.

The double life was somewhat humorously portrayed in the 1976 comedy The Pink Panther Strikes Again, but there was an element of truth in the character of the stuffy and staid Jarvis the butler becoming by night the chanteuse at the gay nightclub “Queen of Hearts.” Some of the drag queens loved their double life. Mainstream in the day, an alter ego at night. The elite were the performers. Like the fight scene with Jarvis, one of the Tenderloin victims had an Army background and put up a hell of a fight. Two were knifed, two others bludgeoned. Such attacks went on beyond 1975, but they were never so concentrated as in this year.

However, Jae Stevens murder is a different matter. He was killed in June 1974, a year before the murders would ramp up. He was also killed in Golden Gate Park, not in the dingy Tenderloin of flickering neon signs. His day had been tumultuous, his car earlier involved in a police encounter. Five stab wounds, he was found by Spreckles Lake.

There were memorial write-ups within gay newspapers, but on the whole he was forgotten quickly, leaving a legacy of cabaret advertisements in old editions of gay newspapers. When in the last decade there were a few articles on the concept of the forgotten DOODLER, his name was merely one of 5 recycled.

On a far more real note than Pink Panther, the owner of The Ramrod was considered crucial in getting The Laughing Policeman made in 1973. Though not a great film, many locals appeared in it. It provides a snapshot of San Francisco gay clubs in 1973, just before the murder spree would begin. Busty O’Shea, Terry Taylor, and above, perhaps, Alan Lloyd, appeared in cameos. The above was filmed in The Frolic Room, which became the Nickelodeon, a bar at 141 Mason where more than a few of the victims would be seen before they were murdered. Nearby bars included Score II, Roadrunner, Blue and Gold, The Trapp.

Commonly, gay men were being killed out of doors. But the pattern with drag queens was indoors. It is unlikely they fell victim to gangs. But gay men . . .?

Gangs– some large, some small– felt certain territories were theirs. They didn’t like gays turning the locations into public trysting spots. The beach along The Great Highway opposite Golden Gate Park was one place. Up at Land’s End there were many hanging out at night. But now across from the Beach Chalet, a well known brewery and restaurant, men were being seen and assumed to be looking for hook-ups. Disdainful murmurs from longtime habitués could be heard: “Why are they coming out here now?”

Attacks against men believed to be gay were occurring here more frequently. This went on for years. The rush of traffic and the sigh of the Pacific Ocean kept the angry calls of “faggots” largely unheard. Cars wouldn’t stop even when men crawled or scampered across the highway, pursued by angry punks with a knife in one hand and a beer can in the other.

It is along here south of the Beach Chalet that Klaus Christmann’s body was found knifed to death from a rage in July 1974, the most dangerous month. Hot summer months brought some of the inner city out here, gangs and those who wanted to enjoy a beer and a fun time at the beach without the sight of gays.

Three Ocean Beach knifings, a derelict old Swedish sailor at Land’s End (whose death was not ruled a homicide), and Jae Stevens’ confused murder make up the litany of supposed DOODLER victims. It is, however, fortunate, that their names and dates of their murders were preserved. They become a necessary gateway to 7 years of murder and over 2 dozen victims.

There are those who would find an investigation and presentation of this crime spree(s) to be unimportant. After all, they would note, the victims are hardly sympathetic. A sympathetic victim, however, is beside the point. Sympathy might juice a journalistic recital. But from an investigative standpoint, it has no value whether deciding if a serial killer was afoot and should be excised from the glut of murders.

Certainly Jack the Ripper’s victims were unsympathetic. That has not stopped a search for the identify of the Ripper, even 140 years later.

But unlike the Ripper murders, it must be established if a serial was truly afoot in San Francisco. It must also be determined how long this serial was afoot. Waves of murders come and go between 1974 and 1981. Five largely unconnected victim names have been cycled in the ether with little justification. They are the tip of the iceberg that lead to a potential Jack the Knife, Clone Killer, and maybe several different killers with their own sordid kinks.

The story has to be told. It is the story of a city and its culture in flux. It is a story of a very tumultuous time. It is the story of a decade in the wake of the counterculture and yet a generation now cynical and without any philosophy other than to sample something new– and this meant the sexual revolution and the late night of the Swingin’ Seventies.

*         *        *

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 or Q Man. “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.

The DOODLER–Sketching a Sketchy Villain–Harald Gullberg Case

From everything I had heard in the beginning of my own personal investigation into the reality of The DOODLER, I had acquired a very negative opinion about the Harald Gullberg murder being included in the litany. At this time (2015) I was still trying to determine if The DOODLER really was a serial killer or a convenient creation after-the-fact. The moniker, of course, had indeed been made up “after-the-fact” in 1976, and he was given a reign of murder from 1974 through the summer of 1975.

Things were so sketchy about a potential serial named DOODLER that victim names had merely been thrown out there, with little qualifications. These were 5 names, and it was stated that maybe they were connected with 14 other cases– no names given. There was little connection between the 5 named victims that anybody knew. Three were found at Ocean Beach off The Great Highway, another in Golden Gate Park, and one at Land’s End; and supposedly all victims had been knifed.

Yet as I probed more into the gay murders of 1970s’ San Francisco, I came across over 20 knifings and names and dates. Murder by such a method hardly connected these cases. The other knifings DID follow a pattern: they were in Tenderloin and South of Market, and there was always some connection with the sado crowd grouped South of Market in the leather bars.

As for the “5 usual” victims, they had one thing in common too: they were hell and gone from all the other murders, including those 3 botched knifing attempts credited to The DOODLER. This unknown knifer earned this moniker because the survivors of his attacks said he had doodled pictures in the bars where they had picked him up. This had occurred at Mid Market, sandwiched between Tenderloin and South of Market.

Police composite sketch of the so-called DOODLER. It was made in October 1975, only after the unsuccessful spate of attempted murders at Fox Plaza. He was also known as The Black Doodler.

Finding so many other victims murdered by the same method caused me to question what linked these “5 usual” victims with The DOODLER. After all, he was associated only with crimes in Mid Market at Fox Plaza and seen connecting with victims nearby west of Van Ness. By contrast, the “5 usual” victims had been found by the coast, with one nearby in Golden Gate Park.

Gerald Cavanaugh, a middle-aged man (50), was first, found knifed at Ocean Beach. This was January 1974. At quite a contrast to the frumpy Cavanaugh was the elite of drag performers, stylish Jae Stevens (27), in June 1974 (Golden Gate Park), Klaus Christmann in July 1974 (31), back at Ocean Beach. Then a whole year later, Fred Capin (32), also at Ocean Beach in May 1975. That’s a strange spread in time.

Advertisement for The Show, 1971. Joe “Jae” Stevens is on the left.

But in between Christmann and Capin there was a radically different victim– 66 year old Harald Gullberg, an old Swedish sailor. Born in 1908, he had applied for naturalization in 1949. His body was found near Land’s End Trail by Lincoln Park Golf Course on June 4, 1975.

The spread in victim age for these “usual 5” wasn’t strange– the gay murders of San Francisco between 1974 and 1985 always showed such a spread. After studying over 40 murders over this period, some solved, it isn’t hard to classify them. Punk murders, revenge murders, trick murders, sado murders.

For the most intense phase– 1974 to 1976– the sheer glut of murders indicates there was some killer or killers afoot with varying motives. I had to switch from trying to verify the existence of the so-called DOODLER to classify if there was indeed a serial killer afoot or, as I feared, more than one. As those who follow this blog know, I tentatively classify crimes according to DOODLER or JACK THE KNIFE, the name I gave to the Tenderloin and South of Market leather stalker.

Naturally, I had to divide according to M.O. This is a chore because the M.O.s were all very similar.

However, it is time to come down to brass tacks. There is one victim who glaringly stood out and withstood classification. This brings us back to Harald Gullberg. What I had first heard of his case made me put him on low priority. The facts, frankly, didn’t even indicate knifing. I didn’t rush to get the coroner’s report. I had clear cases of Tenderloin murders, and I needed those details first as the gold standard. However, the report has been shown me, and it confirms why Gullberg’s case is a no start. The coroner’s register doesn’t even carry the hand annotation “copy made for homicide” as it always does when the coroner suspects murder. Rather there is written: “accident vs homicide undetermined.”

Gullberg is listed as having been found in the evening of June 4, 1975, 120 yards north of Camino Del Mar opposite the 16th tee at the Lincoln Park Golf Course. I have determined it is actually north of the 16th/17th hole, but it seems either the SFFD Battalion Chief (Chesterman) or the coroner deputy on scene (J. Surdyka) were not avid golfers and didn’t know the difference. (It could also be the detectives didn’t know.) The hiker who found the body, Eminger by name, had gone down from Land’s End Trail along the path to the cliff/beach. In coming back up, he saw this body laying on its right side in a clump of bushes. He got back up to Camino Del Mar (road) and called the police.

Two positions for Gullberg’s body as suggested by the coroner’s report. According to the Coroner, Michael Eminger was coming up the path from the cliff when he saw the body. This would place the death scene north of the 17th hole and not the 16th tee. There is no beach or pathway down north of the 16th tee.

Investigation at the scene was routine. The body had clearly been dead over 72 hours and was maggot infested. Black shoes, blue shirt, pants, gray baseball cap, down jacket zipped all the way up. He had 2 bucks 43 cents in pants pocket. There were superficial incision marks on the neck and right wrist. The neck wounds didn’t penetrate into the soft tissue. Blood was splattered from his collar to his waist on his blue shirt, but the down jack over this was fully zipped up and had no blood on the outside. This was strange. First catalogued as John Doe 81, Gullberg was later identified. He may or may not have still lived at that hotel on 6th Street just south of Market Street (the old Seneca). If he was homeless, Land’s End is where some homeless went. He was in the sad stages of cirrhosis. He had been a heavy drinker. Half his teeth were gone and those remaining were rotted.

There was nothing about Gullberg’s person that indicated he had hooked up for some homosexual tryst. A homeless (possibly) lush would not have been the object of interest to the charming DOODLER or any Tenderloin stalker. He would not have been of interest to punks. There was nothing to rob (and the 2 bills and change was still there). Not even a Simon Pure would find this old bum of interest.

Author’s photo of the 17th hole. Beyond would be the area where the body of Harald Gullberg was most likely found.

Yes, his fly was down. But his bladder was also empty. Had he stood at the brink of the slope to relive himself and he went tumbling down and cut his neck? How then did the jacket get zipped up? The coroner deputy doesn’t mention that the down jacket was ripped up. Nor were there any contusions they could make out (the body was badly decomposed).

The existence of the fully zipped and unbloodied down jacket makes the case strange. Thus Gullberg’s case went into the records as “undetermined.” But for those who know the knifing attacks of The DOODLER and how sadistic were the murders of “JACK THE KNIFE” in Tenderloin and South of Market, the case of Harald Gullberg should not be undetermined. Maybe it is murder or manslaughter, but there is nothing that ties it to the gruesome cases that plague San Francisco at this time.

It is when seeing the names of the homicide detectives on the case that a suspicion comes to the informed mind. The suspicion surrounds how and why this case got added to a few other names for press release in 1976. The release was hastily prepared . . . or . . .Obviously, the case was quite handy and in the hands of someone we must later talk about. But today I would certainly question it was a murder, and if it was a murder it wasn’t the act of The DOODLER, JACK THE KNIFE, or those that sadistically preyed upon gay nightlife.

The very fact Gullberg was ever on the list is a reflection of how the presence of a serial killer stalking gay 1970s San Francisco nightlife was never investigated in detail. Now 45 years after-the-fact it is time the facts were finally presented.

*         *        *

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 or Q Man. “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.

American Whitechapel– San Francisco’s Gay Murders

Like the London of the 1880s, the San Francisco of the 1970s bred a faceless night stalker who killed hapless victims in sex crimes. London also had more than Jack the Ripper afoot. Scotland Yard also had to contend with The Torso Killer. Two serials wantonly preyed upon a similar, vulnerable type. Between the two, the victim number ranged between 10 to 15. For San Francisco in the 1970s there was certainly more than 2 killers afoot, both targeting gay men. There are at least 30 victims, and it is time this era of the Swingin’ Seventies comes to light.

Both London and San Francisco respectively were in flux during the nightly gore. For London and 1888 the ingress was because of the Industrial Revolution– hundreds of thousands were coming in from the sticks and looking for employment and many thousands were coming from the continent. Beginning in 1966, San Francisco became the center of the counterculture– Hundreds of thousands of youths cycled through to the city. Then in the 1970s there was the Sexual Revolution. The Swingin’ Seventies was a raucous time. Wife Swapping– bizarre. Promiscuity classified as “Free Love.” It infected society’s brain.

In this screencap from 1974’s The Towering Inferno, we get a contemporary aerial of what Tenderloin looked like in San Francisco. The helicopter is coming in over Jones Street. Market Street comes in diagonally ahead, and beyond is South of Market. On the far right, the brown tall building is Fox Plaza, where two unsuccessful knifings would occur in 1975 and later one tenant was murdered in sado.

San Francisco’s new liberal reputation also brought gays looking for a more open society. There was, however, a problem here that the straight community didn’t have. Straight pickups were everywhere– work, play, God knows even Church. Gay community life, however, was far more limited. It surrounded bars– cocktail lounges, clubs, whatever you wanted to call them. A gay man wanted to engage in any kind of social activity, he had to go to the bar scene. The bar scene for anybody is not the healthiest– dim, dingy, a seedy crowd intermixes with far more innocent patrons. Gay social life therefore began to coagulate around the worst part of town.

Unlike straight bars, gay bars were more carnivale. They were the center of crowning the reigning empress over the drag queens. Gay night life was also vexed by a strange subculture– the Leather crowd; the gay bikers, the whips, chains, leather, steel studs, master and sado slaves. Many were live action roll players. They didn’t even have bikes, but they “liked leather.” These type of bars were largely grouped South of Market.

The Brig, for instance, became a popular leather hang out. It even hosted the contest for the Leather king, and its owner, European born Hank Diethelm, was credited with elevating the beauty contest concept above the go-go-boy look. Slave auctions would see the slave, bare butt and thong up the . . . licking the boots of his new master– the leather boots of his new master. The mural behind the bar counter showed many prison and sado fantasies: a bare, bubble bottom slave handcuffed to a pipe by a toilette; a sado rape fest in prison, etc.

Diethelm with members of leather. He was later murdered in sado and set afire in his basement.

Being all-male there was a judgmental, hierarchal mentality. Members of the community were rigorously classified: punks, tricks, jocks, queens. Those who liked black guys were “Dinge queens.” There was always master and slave. The Tinkerbells and “Johns”– the effeminates and the high class guys with money in the closet.

There were a few high class lounges. The New Bell on Polk had a nice piano bar. But for those bars just north of Market in the Tenderloin there was a wide range of patrons. Go-go boys (not all gay) danced nude on the bar or small stages. Drag Queens were with dates or there for pick ups. There was always some stereotypical biker look– leather, leather, and leather hat, some deadhead. The Score II, Nickelodeon, Blue and Gold, were among the bars here on Mason or Turk.

These were safer than some bars like The Trapp around the corner on Eddy Street. Here the “tricks” (pickup guys) were for sale.

For some contemporary gay commentators, it was not surprising that The Trapp was the last bar a murder victim was known to have visited. They ended up dead in their motel room, strangled, throat slit, stabbed, bludgeoned. In one instances a Trapp employee was murdered in his nearby apartment.

Dennis Dickinson was slashed, mutilated and posed near Folsom and Sherman in the leather district. His murder and that of David Reel (Folsom and Dore), and Nick Bauman, basement near Folsom, constitute the most Ripper-like murders. Great strength had to be used on Dickinson, and it was thought a drug gang got even with him. — All killed the spring-summer of 1975, near The Brig and other leather bars.

In 1973, Don Jackson, writing in the Bay Area Reporter, the Bay Area’s oldest gay newspaper, itemized gay crimes against gays. What sparked his ire was the ruling of a stupid New York judge. He had ordered released a homosexual man from prison, saying that it was cruel and unusual punishment to put one there. He would become an object of barter, rape, slavery. The judge said in future he couldn’t even commit a gay man for first degree murder. It violated the Constitution.

Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Jackson quipped that prisons would be emptied if this ruling were allowed to stand. . . but on a serious note he wrote: “Yet I am not enthused over the ruling. Most crimes against homosexuals are committed by other homosexuals. Roommates , hustlers, tricks, jilted lovers, and husband stealing account for most of the crimes done against homosexuals. What little police protection Gays have will be taken away by the inability of the courts to punish homosexual wrongdoers.”

Also, on a serious note, he questioned what constituted “homosexuality.” Stats from California prison officials estimated that 70% of the prison population were practicing homosexuals. Jackson’s elaboration, though crude, is relevant to our study here:

“How many homosexuals are really in prison? A major problem in implementing the decision is the vagueness of the word homosexual. . . . Gays– homosexuals who are members of the gay subculture– probably constitute about 20% of the prison population. Obviously, they are homosexuals by any definition. But how about the commissary punks? The ones who consider themselves heterosexuals, but who will kneel and open their mouths or bend over and spread their buns for a pack of cigarettes. There are lots of men like that in prisons. They don’t enjoy homosexual acts, but they are badly in need of money and have learned that their asses and mouths are saleable commodities. Quite a few of them learn to enjoy sucking and getting f—-ed and become Gay when they get out.”

What the reader will discover is relevant here is that whether they turned Gay or not, these punks, after release from prison, knew they could work the gay bars to get quick money. They became “tricks” who robbed, beat and sometimes murdered viciously their patron.

When gay murders became more documented in the 1980s, the punk/hustler murders would equally become more documented. They were clearly going on in the 1970s, but like all grim Tenderloin killings they rated little if any news and investigation. Victimized gay patrons also didn’t report the crimes for fear of being outed. Thus, once again, they became easy victims . . . and the punks knew it.

These punks or tricks just didn’t kill. They went full bore gore. In 1976, Rod Vanderwall and Gary Myskiw (both in mid 20s) murdered 72 year old William Locke in sado. Found in his apartment, his hands were stretched over his head and handcuffed. The zipper of his corduroy pants was down. “Beneath and about the head were a blood stained apron and two towels, a second pair of handcuffs, a canvas strap with metal clamps, two pairs of shorts and a ‘cockring.’ Beneath the victim’s thigh was a large kitchen spoon. A padlock was found on the bathrobe near the victim on the left side. On his chest was a piece of plastic used for carrying beverages. . . .A thick string was wrapped three times about the waist and then attached to the head of the penis. A metal clamp was used to secure the victim’s penis.” When all the blood was described, it was obvious that Locke died of beating while clasped in sado. The two were apprehended after using the victim’s credit cards. Locke certainly liked sado . . .the place was shambles and when searching through it SFPD came across magazines devoted to sado masochism. The boys had obliged.

The closeted gay community in San Francisco no doubt was reading the B.A.R. on occasion. In doing so, there was little reason to sample the nightlife. Gay newspapers advertised bar after bar, leather goods after leather goods, all for live action role playing. Baths and the “Glory Holes.” News was streamlined, often bush league, and tailored to gay rights. Commentary railed against homophobia, but page after page of almost all issues implicitly or explicitly detailed a problem: Murder. . .and it wasn’t homophobia. It had a connection to the South of Market experience or Tenderloin pick ups. Closeted gay society remained closeted for more than the usual stereotypical reason that society didn’t approve and would ostracize them. Who wanted to experience this dangerous nightlife?

By the late 1970s, The Castro was becoming a residential area for gays, and community life was expanding. There was now softball and other events. But lurking within the jerseys there was still the leather sado crowd. As the community life moved toward The Castro’s alternatives (to Upper Market), from night to day, from Tenderloin to tree-lined streets, the murders moved here too. Some in flats or Buena Vista Park. Victims were being scoped somehow. From one survivor, we know it was softball and then a joyous street fair.

There were so many murders, knifings, stranglings, that to find a serial within this litany of savage bloodletting is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But all leads go back to South of Market and Leather machismo and young punks. Everybody knew it.

A glimpse of San Francisco’s underbelly came in September 1979. A Florida millionaire, age 77, named Howard Phillips visited the city by the bay. He foolishly decided to come out of the closet in a city he didn’t know. There was little sympathy for his murder, even in gay newspapers. His lust, as it was put, was for nude black men. Had he known the city, it was typed in one B.A.R. article, he should have gone to The Pendulum in The Castro to indulge his lust. Instead he went to The Trapp on Eddy Street, where pick ups are for pay, and his pick up murdered him in grisly fashion at Beck’s Hotel. At the trial, the pickup, Wayne Golden by name, feigned being straight so he could get off on a “self defense against a perv” plea. The gay newspapers were not sympathetic.

Similar type of slashings and throat cuttings pervade gay murders in the 1970s. Homophobia had nothing to do with it, and anybody playing that card today merely reveals their lack of investigation in the topic. They are also helping to bury something that is trying to finally see the light of day after so many decades. One or more arrogant sado masochists were stalking the late night gay bars, then gay community events, and targeting victims. This wasn’t a young punk out for some quick bills. This was a careful, literally sadistic, killer.

After looking at more than 30 gay murders over a span of 8 years, it is obvious to me there was a serial afoot within these murders, perhaps more than one. Like so many immigrants to San Francisco, whether gay or straight, yet another psychopath had come to the city during the great migration of the 1960s and 1970s. Guys willing to experiment in sado were easy victims, and South of Market was the logical place to prowl.

No other city in history has had so many men being the victim of sex murders. In fact, serial killers hunt women, children, migrants, and on occasion couples at petting spots. They’re easy targets, and serial killers aren’t ambitious people. The predator in the wilds does not hunt the strong but the weak. The lion does not prey upon the elephant. It is the same with human predators.

Someone very familiar with the Leather scene was systematically hunting gay men. Was he truly Leather himself? Or was he pretending in order to get a victim? I would say he had experience. Was he a “John”– an affluent man? Was he a scroungy patron, leather biker, even drag?

Albert Paulson plays a “John”– an affluent gay man in the closet– in the 1973 San Francisco based movie The Laughing Policeman. He has a taste for leather and is also a ruthless killer. Is this the type that baited men to their deaths over 1974-1976, and perhaps even later?

Suspicions, eyewitnesses, were wiped out by the AIDs plague. But enough clues were secured before the community was decimated to give us some leads in helping to divide M.O. and signatures.

David Likens’ name became anathema in the gay community after years of praise. It became anathema because he was arrested for The Clone Murders– sickening murders where the victims had been strangled in sado and their bodies dumped at Tunitas Creek Road near where it came to the beach road. (This series was called The Clone Murders because all victims were all clean cut, shaved ((maybe a mustache)), and usually blondish and the same height, weight.) He had a prior murder on his record in Los Angeles that seemed remarkably similar to the M.O. seen in these sado stranglings.

Likens had been a celeb in the gay community for his beauty. He had been a popular bartender at various clubs, and waiter at the Gally. He was recruited to do a couple of locally made porno flicks– Night of the Occultists, for one, in which he used the name Hill Carson. He was known for his endowment. He fetched the highest price for a slave auction when he went on the block in one of the South of Market slave auctions.

David Likens in a model’s pose.

But David Likens also had a problem. The kid from Tucson developed a drinking habit and he got into sado. He and a buddy almost killed a guy at a night tryst in an apartment on Twin Peaks, May 1978. Likens had considered it one of his weakness that he had felt sorry for the victim and untied him and, by inference, let him live (according to the victim).

Was Likens The Clone Killer? The gay community believed so after he was arrested in 1978 and then hung himself in a Redwood City jail in January 1979. There was a weak public defense of him, based on the fact he didn’t own a car. Tunitas Beach was quite a distance in San Mateo County, and the victims were known to have been in a South of Market bar, most of them anyway, before disappearing. How could Likens have dumped the bodies there? Yet he had a buddy during some of his sado escapades, and this buddy had a car. The buddy was questioned, but left town.

As time went by, Likens was found guilty in the court of popular club nightlife. The stigma was such, it would seem, that his last roommate, Danny Hepburn, also killed himself in 1979. He too had been a popular bartender, but after losing his steady job of 7 years at a canning facility, it seems there was no making bartending in the gay community a full time job. He was not welcomed.

David Likens haunts my search for JACK THE KNIFE, the name I have given to the faceless stalker of South of Market and Tenderloin. For those following these posts, you know I have had to tentatively divide the murders. The DOODLER has been achieving some publicity of late because he was supposedly a frustrated latent gay man taking out his frustrations by hooking up and killing gay men along Market Street. He also had a unique M.O.

But the victims in South of Market and Tenderloin were hunted by someone gay, and the community knew it. H was a skilled villain who made no mistakes. The DOODLER is associated only with botched murders. JACK THE KNIFE, as I call him, was not.

Within the popular narrative (relatively speaking since DOODLER really isn’t that well known), The DOODLER is also associated with 3 knife murders at Ocean Beach– two in 1974 and on a year later in 1975. Yet such knife murders continued long after the suspected DOODLER left the city. Like the Ocean Beach murders, these later victims were stabbed in the throat in a public trysting location. It is a chore to divide all these killings up by M.O. to dissect a serial from them.

Likens from a promo for Night of the Occultists– he was called the Robert Redford of porn.

It remains hard to neatly eliminate the Clone victims as well. David Likens was only accused of being The Clone Killer. He hung himself before trial. Maybe he did do them, but maybe he hung himself for another reason. He had a bad record, and a closer look by SFPD may have uncovered a link to some of these other San Francisco sado crimes. There are certainly some murders I have catalogued under The Knife that fit his M.O. According to his earlier arrest in Los Angeles, he had strangled a victim and then mutilated his chest with a knife. Within the litany of sado murders, there are a number of stranglings in their homes. John Marsalla, for one. He lived on Brompton. In April 1976 he was found only wearing his socks. He had been strangled and then mutilated with a knife– it was still sticking in his bare butt when found. Grant Dailey was also murdered in similar sick circumstances in October 1976. Dailey’s apartment was on Steiner, across from Alamo Park. This address is within walking, both of the Upper Market bars and Likens’ apartment, but Brompton Street is rather far afield. Yet it isn’t much further than Twin Peaks, and there were a number of leather bar habitués (and owners) who lived in this part of town. With a buddy and a car, Likens could easily have made it. David Likens, the once darling of The Pines and several other clubs, did indeed hang himself to avoid trial. But was it over The Clone Murders? He was finished one way or the other.

The Clone Killer seems to have murdered his victims inside, unbound them, and then transported them to Tunitas Creek Road. If it was Likens, he may have left a few in situ— thus there are a few victims in San Francisco who could have been his victims as well.

Yet if such stranglings in 1975-1976 are the result of Likens’ sado passions getting the best of him, how can one explain why he suddenly went berserk in 1978? The Clone Killer’s victims were 6 men, all in 1978, found at various places along Tunitas Creek Road between June and September, the last being found far afield in Marin County.

There was certainly a San Francisco connection here with the Clone victims. Aside from most of the victims having last been seen in a Market or South of Market bar, there is another reason to suspect a Leather based killer. Tunitas Creek Road and Highway 1 by the beach is the location where the SF gay leather biker groups would meet and go on their day rides. Leather and sado connect every facet of the Clone Murders.

Yet stranglings in sado didn’t stop with Likens’ hanging himself. Another wave hit San Francisco’s gay community beginning in 1979. A transvestite gets it in June at a cheap motel on Ellis near Polk. In two sperate incidents, two victims are strangled in their flats with a phone cord. I have tentatively identified both. Two strangled in parks; the Corona Heights Park victim I have tentatively identified. The Duboce Park victim I have not. One strangled at Land’s End, a popular public trysting location. A couple are dumped much further afield– one on Mount Tam in Marin County like the last Clone victim, Jerry Haberle, had been in September 1978.

South of Market would become even more bizarre in the 1980s, amidst the drug revolution. Here struck the “Gay Cult Killer,” Clifford St. Joseph. Tracking him is a chore. After the ritualistic murder of an itinerant, he slits his lips, drinks his blood and carves a pentagram on his chest. His assistant, Bork, freaks and flees. His next victim, who had been living in the South of Market flat as a sado slave, figures he’s next. He cuts and runs and tells the police.

Is it a surprise that after the advent of the internet and alternative social venues, the bar scene collapses?

Much has to be pulled out of time, which buries things deeper than earth. This period has to emerge into history, so that and bone and marrow can be divided. What is left on the scales will be JACK THE KNIFE.

*         *        *

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 or Q Man. “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.


It is a title used over and over again. From “underground” gay newspapers to mainstream rags. “Queer Killers” was another. It payed on words, on meanings, but it captured the spirit of the crime wave. Starting in the mid 1970s a rash of gay murders was quietly vexing San Francisco. The victims were “queer,” but their perpetrator or perpetrators were also queer, but in the sense of strange. The circumstances were also often quite weird.

The murders ebbed and flowed and M.O.’s evolved over the rest of the decade, but this wasn’t noticeable to the public nor was it reported. It is noticeable to me today. It wasn’t noticeable back then because most murders weren’t even reported. It was only mentioned that such gay murders were ongoing. I have spent years wading through details of cases and generalities of cases. Most importantly, I waded through more than a decade of murders. I watched the victim number flow and ebb and M.O.s shift.

One killer earned a moniker. His handle was The DOODLER or BLACK DOODLER. This handle is said to have come about somewhat inconveniently after-the-fact in 1976, after the murders had stopped. But whose murders? The DOODLER is given a crime span of January 1974 to September 1975. But similar murders continued through 1976. There was clearly more than one perp involved over these years. I not only had to discover all the cases, but excise one perp from the other.

Former US Army turned gay and occasional drag, Claude DeMott’s murder in December 1975 is typical of the type of vicious sado murders that would mar 1976. The killer silently murdered him at his 64 Turk Street hotel room, cored his anus, emasculated him, and sliced open his scrotum.

Before I start presenting cases here on those of The DOODLER and the one I call JACK THE KNIFE, I think it is best to present this great morphing of murder sprees. It will help the reader to understand how and why I classify victims according to different perp handles. As a moniker The DOODLER has struggled for recognition in the public. JACK THE KNIFE is a moniker I am entirely responsible for. It is accurate and it has proven convenient in cataloging and classifying murders.

Do I believe all such gay slashing murders in San Francisco that don’t fit the limited M.O. of The DOODLER are the result of another single serial killer like JACK THE KNIFE? No. And this is the point of this article. I’m not even convinced there really was such an entity as The DOODLER. More than one perp left doodles behind. Before I start on presenting cases, I must present a murder timeline, concentrating on points where it clearly underwent violent evolution into another stage.

Gay murders here and there were reported in the gay newspapers and sometimes within local mainline newspapers in the early 1970s. Homosexuality, or even its hint, wasn’t the reason these murders were largely ignored. The 1970s were in the immediate wake of the late 1960s and the counterculture movement. It was the Swinging’ Seventies, and morality took a nose dive. It didn’t matter whether you were gay or whatever, the late night bar crowd was a seedy, dangerous culture. It was a promiscuous culture in an age of free wheeling morality.

A large school of fish will attract a predator. The ’70s’ morality provided this school. Just as the late 1960s saw so many American waifs leave off home and join a movement that harbored much danger behind its daisies and Kodachrome colors, the 1970s morality drew people to experiment within a late night free living crowd that was far more dangerous. Being rooted in the urban scene, cold hearted criminal elements were already present as more and more bars and clubs opened their doors for the first time and put up their gaudy shingles. Remember, this was the era that held the fad of wife swapping. Now there’s a bizarre and “liberated” fad! I can’t imagine what kind of love such couples had for each other if they were willing and ready to switch out a spouse to a friend. But I digress . . .

. . .Or do I? This was late night urban morality in the Swingin’ Seventies.

Urban and tenderloin murders, gay or otherwise, within such a bar crowd didn’t rate mainstream news. These were pointless, brutal murders in a seedy part of town– standard fare for the tenderloin of society. They had never rated much press even in the days romanticized by the great detective novelists like Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett.

For the gay murders of the 1970s San Francisco, it may look good to portray a Simon Pure on the prowl. It draws a parallel to Jack the Ripper and the moody, foggy nights of Whitechapel. But the gay community had a problem in San Francisco that it didn’t always want to acknowledge. It was the sado crowd. Gay newspaper columnists sometimes lamented its existence. South of Market the leather bars, as they were called, were centered. And leather meant the biker element and the sado crowd. North of Market on Mason there was even a daycare for sado slaves. Masters could take their slaves here, on leash, and register them for the day or for hours. Then they went to work or whatever and hours later came back to pick them up. It was like a veterinary clinic.

Gay nightlife was Carnivale, a constant carnivale of bars, shows, pageants, naming the reigning empress over the drag queens. A lot of gays didn’t like this. But the only place to meet other gay men were the clubs. If you didn’t like drinking, there were community centers or. . .the baths. But the baths had their own danger. At one point stalking could ensue. The victim had no idea where they had been (repeatedly) sized up. Sometimes gays were attacked in the street by the biker crowd. Five men violently raped one man. Two of the perps were in leather. Suspicion always came back to the sado crowd and the South of Market leather bars. Drugs soon got intermixed, of course, and things got worse. Revenge murders could be particularly gruesome.

The exterior and interior of the popular gay leather bar The Ramrod as presented in the 1973 movie The Laughing Policeman. It was at 1225 Folsom Street, the center of South of Market.

In fact, SFPD inspectors had to speculate there were gang murders because of drugs. Otherwise it was hard to explain the carnage inflicted on some victims, such as poor Dennis Dickinson, who was knifed and mutilated at Folsom and Sherman in South of Market in July 1975. Yet on August 29, in true Jack the Ripper fashion, David Real was lured in the dark of night to the parking lot at 51 Dore Alley at Folsom Street, strangled and mutilated. This was not far from where Dickinson had been butchered.

This wasn’t done by a drug gang. Within the bloody pageant of terror there was some stalker who was quite adept at murder and even mutilation. This is the one I dub JACK THE KNIFE. Was he a Simon Pure? Was he a leather freak? This we will have to uncover.

A suspect that might fit the Simon Pure motif– but a broad range of image was a part of the gay community, and back then so were classifications. Such mainstream looking gay guys were classified as looking “straight.”

When the Internet came upon the world in the mid 1990s, the bar scene collapsed– testimony to how many gay men really didn’t like it to begin with. There were other ways to connect with a friend now, and gay life didn’t need the carnivale boomtown.

But in the 1970s the nightlife, the baths, and to a lesser extent the community centers, were the cornerstones, making the gay community life a dangerous boomtown around Market, Polk, and Folsom streets. Within the particularly violent years of 1975-1976 at least 20 gay men were murdered. Almost all were by knife or silently strangled in sado. Often in flats, a couple of times at trysting locations, and a few in circumstances that do conjure Jack the Ripper and sooty Whitechapel nights— In a dingy alley, in a creepy parking lot, in a deep utilitarian basement.

The murders fade in 1977 and 1978. A new type of murder is beginning to present itself in 1979, and this would become the dominant type of murder of gays in the city in the 1980s. It was the advent of the Polk Street hustler. These were younger guys, not all necessarily gay. Runaways, castoff in their teens, they hustled on Polk Street. The Castro had the reputation for being the center of older guys. And the younger guys avoided it. But gay guys, especially older ones, made handy targets of a different kind.

A hustler would lead to a pick up, then back to the client’s apartment. Here the young hustler could rob the patron and sometimes knife or bludgeon him to death. In May 1979 an old guy, Paolazzi by name, fell victim to this. The perp left his Snoopy jersey behind and police presented it to help in identification. The suspected hustler (via M.O.) was thought to be related to another murder.

Mike Singleterry’s murder in 1979 occurred during the M.O. transition. His murder could fit the hustler or the unexplained assault of earlier years. His body was dumped at Roosevelt and 15th near Buena Vista Park, which straddles the Castro and Haight. Not long thereafter, a leather biker gang would drag a homeless man out of his tent at the park and set him on fire.

Older gay men made perfect targets because if caught the young hustler could claim they were straight (and at times they were) and they were defending themselves against the advances of a perv. By 1982 these type of Polk Street hustler crimes were more frequent, and the above excuse got Doug Toney, age 27, acquitted of the murder of local celebrity “Gangway Suzie,” the alias of popular bar tender and drag performer Alfred Slezewski. After celebrating his anniversary in the gay community for 10 years at the Gangway bar (at 841 Larkin), and his other community accomplishments, Alfred (known locally as Alan) hooked up with Toney. They went back to his Hyde Street apartment on the night of January 22, 1982, and Toney knifed him repeatedly.

The scenario repeated in June 1983. Popular cab company employee James West was slashed to death in his Bush Street apartment. Blood was everywhere, according to police detectives. Soon 20 year old Steve Lamerson was arrested for it. The Bay Area Reporter worried that he might use the same “self defense against a perv” excuse.

Even those suspected of hustling were turning up murdered. Marvin Ray Dogg Robertson, 19, was found murdered on Mount Tamalpias, a common dumping site in Marin County for San Francisco murder victims.

As Yuppiedom came upon us in the mid 1980s, hustling was getting worse. It was mixed with cocaine and “crank” and every new street drug. On September 22, 1984, fifteen year old Ted Gomez was murdered in Golden Gate Park in a particularly gross way. He had been tied to a tree with duct tape, orally raped, and then slashed repeatedly across the neck. His body had then been thrown in a ravine at the park.

Melvin did it. William Melvin White. He will become of interest in our study. He was a 42 year old black man. He was basically pimping young guys while working at the Salvation Army. He had befriended straight hustler Larry Gaines, 17. But they had a falling out, and Gaines told the Salvation Army that Melvin had a past record. An ex-con. He got fired. Melvin and a couple of his boys got Gaines and got him out near Land’s End, where Melvin sometimes lived as a homeless man. He was tortured. He repeatedly refused to orally gratify Melvin. That was the crescendo. Melvin sliced his throat back and forth and they dismembered Gaines and buried him in pieces at Land’s End. When apprehended, Melvin was on his way to Seattle to kill his third victim, the hustler who had turned him in. The price of having accomplices. SFPD went to Land’s End and picked up the pieces. Melvin was given life imprisonment without chance of parole. It’s hard to believe that Gaines and Gomez were Melvin’s first victims, but we’ll come back to that later.

W Melvin White’s mugshot. His murders, though vicious and grotesque were not those of a Simon Pure or serial killer. It was revenge. . . .Or?

There are a number of other hustler murders and more murders by them of clientele. But no need to go into them here. You get my point. The M.O.s were morphing. The hustler murders of the 1980s could be traced to some Polk Street connection, and punks were often involved. The gruesome murders by the so-called DOODLER and JACK THE KNIFE were very urban, centered around the South of Market experience and in Tenderloin west of Mason and the popular bars there. Like Melvin White’s murders of Gomez and Gaines, these were savage murders.

. . . But sex seems rarely to be involved in these 1974-1976 murders. They kibbutz back and forth between outdoor killings and inside the victims’ flats. But by late 1975 they were clearly remaining in doors and becoming increasingly sadistic and gross. The first is in December 1975. The victim is Claude DeMott. His penis is cut off, his anus is cored, and his scrotum is sliced open.

Up Turk Street at the dive owned by the Salvation Army, Bruce DeJon would be bludgeoned to death by a lamp stand. Another researcher discovered that George Gilbert had been murdered in the Fox Plaza around this time (January 1976) in what seems a similar sado crime. . .but that is for later and to give credit where credit is due for the discovery.

Both DeMott and DeJon are associated with a black man prior to their murders at seedy hotels, but their murders don’t really fit The DOODLER M.O. The DOODLER, though also a young black man, is associated with being picked up on Market and taken to the victims’ flats in July ’75 at the Fox Plaza. But both victims survive, and soon thereafter so does a “nationally known entertainer.” His victims appear to be of a higher sort than those that litter the dank hotels and dim alleys of Tenderloin and South of Market. Is the DOODLER truly a major player in this onslaught of murder most queer? Or is it the faceless JACK THE KNIFE? Or are the victims unrelated and can be divided among many perps?

On April 14, 1976, Robert Culver is murdered in his flat in The Castro. On April 25, John Marsalla is killed in his flat– an outlier down on Brompton. On October 12, Grant Dailey is horrifically murdered in his apartment at 700 Steiner across from Alamo Park.

Brooke Adams walks across from Alamo Park to 720 Steiner Street in the opening of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978. It is a near contemporary shot of the apartment building (In the background) where Grant Dailey had been murdered in October 1976. This area of Steiner is north of Upper Market and Castro. The DOODLER made contact with his victims along Market south of Steiner, at Burke’s Truck Stop (2100 Market), the Rear End (2200 Market) or at Nick’s deli in the 1600 block. Yet by 1976 he is supposedly gone.

The details are for later, in chrono, presented with the other victims. This post has had its affect hopefully to impress upon the reader that there were many murders by knife. Some were done out of individual retribution. Others by hustlers similar to those who would vex Polk Street in the 1980s. The remainder can be tentatively divided between two serials– DOODLER and a much more faceless villain I call JACK THE KNIFE. Of the two, the KNIFE never bungled and let a victim live.

Both The DOODLER and The KNIFE remain suspect for me in the early 1974 murders, but for different reasons than hitherto presented. These murders have been linked to The DOODLER since he is the only one to attain a small amount of publicity. These murders are those of Jae Stevens, popular drag performer who is slashed by knife in Golden Gate Park. Vague recountings link the murder of Gerald Cavanaugh at Ocean Beach in January 1974 and then Klaus Chrissman in July 1974, also at Ocean Beach. But during the wave of 1975 murders, Fred Capin is also murdered in similar fashion at Ocean Beach, a year after Chrissman had been slashed. The Summer of 1975 is the era of both The DOODLER and The KNIFE.

I do not believe it is wise to take the gentle Capin’s murder during the glut of murders and use it as the pivot to go back and forth and link all murders to the same perpetrator, whether that be The KNIFE or DOODLER. The problem is that the gay community was rather limited as a killing field, but it was one that was linked as easily as skipping checkers across a playing board. There was San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and northward to Seattle. Slashings and stranglings occurred over these areas during these years, and it is possible one of the perps came and went, meaning a slasher in 1974 might have come back for a while in ’75 and reused his 1974 M.O. and locations.

How many of these rippings are unrelated? If all these 1974 victims were done-in by the same serial, is it truly The DOODLER of 1975 or is it JACK THE KNIFE of 1975-1976? Both perps seem to have had a car. Both seem to have followed “clients” to nearby flats. But The KNIFE also struck drag queens and transvestites. So far as I know, the DOODLER never did.

Much still needs to be thrashed out. And that is for the posts that follow.

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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 or Q Man. “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.