In these synopses, anticipatory to presenting the detailed results of my own investigation of the “Gay Murders” or “Queer Killings” of 1967 to 1982, I have hopes of doing more than introducing more cases and their details. There is a dire need, I feel, to establish atmosphere– mood, if you will. It is within context that one finds the truth.
I have equated San Francisco’s districts of Tenderloin, South of Market, and eventually Castro to London’s Whitechapel, Spitalfields, and essentially East London of 1888. I do not make a comparison with the times and seasons of Jack the Ripper to give these series of Gay murders dramatic association. A picture is worth a thousands words, and the entire ambiance of London and 1888 speaks hundreds of thousands of applicable words relevant to what happened in 1970s San Francisco. The politics and social upheavals in London in 1888 were an inexorable component of the Ripper crimes. Equally the politics and social developments in counterculture and San Francisco in the 1970s are more than backdrop to “Murder Most Queer.” Available here were men, sometimes desperate men from all over the world, and as we know with them came a rash of sadistic murders. Motives not always known, but context gives us some alarming clues.
A major clue is that no leather man was ever a victim. The leather or biker gang scene was a strange subculture unto itself and it congealed in South of Market, just south of Tenderloin where most of the popular Gay bars were located in the early 1970s. They dressed in a way that made them a billboard– leather pants, jacket, metal studs, boots, chains, old style leather caps, with deadheads and tassels. This indicated they liked to give it rough– Sado-masochism. Others dressed this way and hung out in these leather bars– they were the S&M guys, as Dan Seitler put it. Stand & Model. They liked the cultural fetishes and liked it rough, but they didn’t have choppers. Not all by half of those into S&M dressed the way. There were high end businessmen and raggedy-Andy waiters into it. No one could know who was proficient at it or just wanted to experiment. Leather and its fetishes spilled over into Tenderloin and the more average Gay bars. Pickups could occur anywhere within this exuberant ’70 nightlife.
This subculture has been pointed out in these posts enough, but an integral component of biker culture must be introduced now. With counterculture in the 1960s, biker gangs developed an affinity for the concept of “devil worship.” Within a culture that sported swastikas, deadheads, chains– all the tokens of brutality– it is hardly surprising that the tenets of Satan Service were inviting. A principle tenet is “The strong tread on the weak.” Taking it beyond this to the ritual level, and there were those who were sure enlightenment and power would come from the devil at the moment they ritualistically shed blood or committed murder.
Dummies Guide to Devil Worship, granted. But people are motivated by their own convictions. If they believe they will get power and enlightenment from murder, this is what they will do, with or without a minimal of “satanic” props we associate with the dramatic incarnation in films. There doesn’t have to be a real devil to make it dangerous.
The Gay biker gangs were no different than the mainstream biker gangs except in Swingin’ Seventies San Francisco they had a fertile field in which to select victims. The idea of the strong treading the weak saturated this subculture in the Gay community. When they cruised the bars or Polk Street, they were looking for the average to weaker gay man to pick up and essentially consensually abuse. Murder and death were seldom intended. More often than not, S&M did not lead to that. But on occasion it did, probably by accident.
However, it is my contention that over the period of 1967-1982 more than one predator stalked San Francisco’s Gay community with the intent to murder. From a collation of Gay Murders from 1967-1982 there is a steady subset where the victim was strangled and then mutilated, usually by knife. This was his prime signature. Thus, I believe, the JACK The KNIFE I have sought is beginning to take form.
First, let’s get back to the atmosphere of this San Francisco, as it was at the glut of murders in the mid-1970s.
Gay (in the original sense) neon lights pulsed on foggy nights in the raucous Tenderloin and along Polk Gulch. Crisp, cold nights reverberated with ship’s horns and the tinny sounds of burlesque music along Broadway enticing patrons into the sleaze pits and gin joints. Tar and brine still wafted over Jack London’s Barbary Coast. Uptown grandees went out to the finest restaurants, men in tuxedos and women in mink coats. But toward Tenderloin it became quite proletariat. As the streets glowed more with neon signs– Jesus Saves and porno house glitz– streets would exude the bright pageantry of Gay nightlife– cross dressers, leather macho men, the “gays next door” walking hand-in-hand, the effeminate mincing along and speaking with their “lisps and sibilant dialect.” This was San Francisco’s view of the Gay community. If they remained in their somewhat skid row district, it was entertaining to sample it– i.e. drive by.
San Francisco tolerated Gays, you see. It did not accept them. San Francisco was and is Queen of the Pacific. The goods and riches of the Orient travel through her. Millions come to visit what is arguably North America’s most beautiful city. If it had a seedy district where this sort of nightlife was ongoing, it was an isolated pocket of eccentricity that could be tolerated. It was something for a tourist to put as a footnote on their trip. “Mom! Look at the fags walking hand-in-hand!” A kid might call out as the family drove past Polk Street. Curtly, the mother would tell her kid not to point.
Among the yearly tourists about 50,000 gays came to visit San Francisco each year. Some would stay and, of course, gravitate to the rather fluid community. It continued to swell. The Tenderloin and South of Market was for nighttime partying. Polk Street for cruising. But a mixed Irish/Spanish community known as The Castro was for living. More and more gays were moving here and it was becoming increasingly a segregated district.
Nightlife was more indulgent in the Gay community. Gay men spent a lot on clothes. The explanation, asserted at the time by the No 1 gay haberdashers on Polk Street: without kids gay men simply have more money. Transvestites were done up in the best gowns and wigs and makeup money could buy. It was carnivale! Inside gay bars, the life was what a local Channel 7 report called it: “the smug display of unabashed hedonism.”
In the Swingin’ Seventies when morality was generally in the bouiboui, when the mainstream wife-swapped, the Gay nightlife was essentially keeping in step. But in daytime on the public streets it was not so welcomed. It was becoming a promiscuous display of daytime groping. Straights equated this with normal Gay life, and this was getting aggravating to the average Gay man. By 1976, this kind of behavior was funneling into The Castro; and as these Polk Street manners came to this old community, there were more problems. Gay residents were beginning to object. In May 1981, one resident, Kurt Saxon, complained in the Sentinel:
Has anyone taken the time to see what the Castro area has turned into in the last five years?
When I moved here it was a fun “neighborhood” place to go. Yes, it was gay, but not a place where one would be ashamed to bring family or straight friends as is now the case.
It has grown into a seedy Broadway. Genitals hanging out of shorts, seats of pants missing, bars knocking out walls and doubling in size and noise.
Even S.F. gays are refusing to go down to Castro. These are the ones who refuse to be brainwashed into thinking sex is the only thing homosexuals know about.
Often out-of-towners so proud to be GAY, GAY, GAY go wild and forget that the neighborhood basically is mixed, with a lot of old time straights who walk hurriedly with eyes downcast to avoid the cock-grabbing and tit-sucking.
Even the nice gift shops have cock shaped objects, and card shops are mere pornography.
Gays often talk about being “accepted,” yet they now have a self imposed segregation.
Why don’t Harry Britt and the legitimate shop owners try to make the neighborhood comfortable for all?
This above is only one example of the pushback. This is what was indeed happening to Castro over 1976-1981. By 1979 it prompted a CBS Channel 5 report asking if San Francisco’s Gays were going too far in public.
With the blatant daytime groping, hate crimes had been increasing. Latino gangs in the old Spanish neighborhoods would attack gays– sometimes right at 18th Street and Castro. There were shouts of “faggots” and then gun fire. By the early 1980s, black gangs were essentially running the gay bars out of Tenderloin. The famous Kockpit on Eddy was closed after a gang threw in cherry bombs. The owner grabbed one of the members and the others rushed him, with enough intent that he released the gang member and closed his bar.
Hardcore leather gay nightlife wasn’t going to give an inch out of South of Market. On the other hand, Tenderloin Gay nightlife moved west to Polk Street, which had always been the red light district for the gay community. In fact, it was so equated with Hamburg’s famous red light district (and many German gays had come to San Francisco) that it was colloquially known as Polk Strasse. (The reader can note in the picture above that the once-famous Sukkers Likkers has “Polkstrasse” under Wine and Spirits indicating a gay establishment.)
In a sense we must let this tumult play on in the backdrop. We are, of course, more interested in methodical footsteps at night; more curious about some gent who strode up to bars quite casually and unsuspected as to his intents. None of his victims were tricks, gigolos, or hustlers. He didn’t cruise Polkstrasse. You know why? Police can cover such beats with a thick network of informants. They know who the angels of the cement are. They can find out what trick is picked up, where, and eventually by whom.
The best testimony to the above is the sudden drop in Gay murder stats after 1982. AIDs had shut down the casual sex of 1970s night/daylife. Only tricks and hustlers working the red light district braved the dangers for money. Murders now surrounded Polk Street hustling, and SFPD was solving almost all of them. But pre-AIDs the pickups had been made in crowded bars, a bath, or in the dark alley next to it by two patrons, or a couple of parks. There was nothing for SFPD to backwork. There was no way for detectives to uncover who could have connected with the victim and when. Sadistic Gay murders generally went unsolved until 1983.
It is within this casual nightlife that JACK The KNIFE walked and knew to confine himself. He was untraceable. He knew that cruising the tricks on Polk Street would only lead to his identity.
The night stalker whom I dub JACK The KNIFE was obviously a well-informed part of the nightlife, of this there can be no doubt. As Gay nightlife moved west to Castro the murders came with them. This made it even more evident the killer walked within the carnivale glitz of the disco/bar scene. Throughout the waves of murders over a decade, the victims would be baited into deadly trysts or accompany their killer home. When AIDs shut it all down, JACK stopped too.
How many killers were there? Certainly more than one. But a series of victims continue to stand out. These are the victims of the gent who strangled and then mutilated. It’s a distinct signature within the bloodbath of murder by blade, strangle, bludgeon. These murders are very similar to the CLONE MURDERS, but the knifework sets them apart. The CLONE MURDERS are also bunched within 1978, but these strangle/mutilations span the timeframe in question: 1967 to 1981.
We must probe motive. We cannot assume every murder was for some cheap sexual thrill. Why? The “Devil made me do it” was too popular a fad in the 1970s, and the philosophy hit home with the biker culture South of Market (of course).
First, we must qualify this type of “devil worship.” There is a vast difference between practitioners of high end occult, which has precepts and traditions that go back to the days of medieval alchemy. Occult means “hidden” in Latin and these practitioners sought the “hidden” essence behind the functioning of the universe. Think of the following analogy: the internal organs of the body are also called the occult organs. This merely means in anatomy that they are not visible to the eye, but obviously they are crucial in maintaining the life and well-being of the visible body. Medieval occultists and their modern counterparts are looking for this same power, whether they be spiritual beings or an energy force. The Occult is viewed as a pursuit for the invisible power that is crucial to maintaining the visible universe.
Occultists differentiate between white workings and black workings, blood workings and other such invocations. They call upon the Arch Angel Michael and upon Isis (talk about covering your bases). They know how and when to invoke the Pentagram of the Air, etc. They have wands and all that kind of paraphernalia.
Your average autodidact of devil mayhem in the 1970s had the equivalent of a “Dummies Guide to Devil Worship” and a library of Hammer movies. These type of devil worshipers preyed upon the weak and viewed themselves as the strong.
The invocation of the Black Mass:
In nomine dei nostri Satanus luciferi excelsi
In the name of Satan, the ruler of Earth, king of the world, open wide the gates of hell and come forth to greet me as your brother and friend. Grant me the indulgences of which I speak, for I live as the beasts of the field rejoicing in the fleshly life. I favor the just and I curse the rotten. By all the gods of the pit, I command that these things of which I speak shall come to pass. . . . . . Blessed are the strong, for they shall possess the Earth. Cursed are the weak, for they shall inherit the yoke. Blessed are the bold, for they shall be masters of the world. Cursed are the righteous and humble, for they shall be trodden under cloven hooves — Hail Satan!
Within our society the “dark side” is given form as the “devil” and he is swaddled with all that we fear. He is a predator accompanied by dark symbols, murder, blood sacrifices, and twilight deeds. If adherents believe there is such a being or force that will give them power by inflicting pain, torture, or murder upon others, within or not a ritualistic setting, they will act accordingly. These lay practitioners will get books on the occult and demonology and devil worship and they’re going to start their own live-action-role-playing. The end result is still murder, whether they were in black robes or in sex sado positions.
Coming down to cases
The aforementioned CLONE MURDERS stand out as an aberration in the long line of Gay murders in San Francisco. The victims had been seen in S.F. Gay bars, but then they vanished. When their bodies had been found, it was clear they had been tortured before death. Unlike most of the S.F. Gay murder victims their bodies had been transported to an isolated area of Tunitas Creek Road in San Mateo County. Some victims could be identified. Two victims remain John Does to this day.
Why was it necessary for the killer in this case to transport the bodies? Well, 6 more Gay victims being found in S.F. in 1978 would add to quite a tally already. And this could cause more Gay vigilantes and more neighborhood watch. But leaving the bodies where they were killed could also identify the killing location, and I would suggest they were all killed in the same hidden lair.
David Likens has been found guilty of these CLONE MURDERS in the court of public gay opinion. After all, he had served time for a similar murder earlier. He was into sado and bondage, and he hung himself in jail rather than face trial. But there is evidence that indicates more than one perp was involved. Likens didn’t have a car, though he had a buddy who did. Likens also didn’t exactly have a convenient lair. He had a flat in Haight, but then moved in with a buddy named Danny Hepburn on Henry Street. Hepburn also killed himself (officially). Likens had essentially been a prostitute out of an escort service on Church Street in Noe Valley, south of Castro. He could have connected with victims here, but the books of an escort service seem an easy way to link him to the murders. There is no easy answer as to where the victims were killed, but the “Robert Redford of Gay Porn” may have been involved. However, these may not be thrill murders.
The CLONE MURDERS, in fact, bear a similarity to another spree of murders that give us the closest thing to snuff. Officially, there is no real Snuff Film, that is to say, no murder committed on camera for the sake of filming on camera and distributing for profit within an underground network of patrons/sickos . . . but in a series of murders in Kansas City, Missouri, in the 1980s we come close. Polaroids of gay male victims exist, either dead or unconscious, bound and showing the effects of torture. Sometimes they even have a dog collar on. The Berdella Murders victims were afflicted beyond the usual sado experiments. Some had drain cleaner swabbed in their eyes. Each had been photographed many times while undergoing the stages of torture. After days (or longer) of this treatment, Bob Berdella killed and then dismembered them. Berdella was certainly into the bizarre (he owned a gift shop called Bob’s Bazaar Bizarre). Kansas City PD balked at the idea Satanism was involved, but more than one survivor spoke of the paraphernalia inside the house and books on the dark arts.
The Berdella Murders became a part of the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, in which the panic was more publicity than substance. The era of “panic” was largely after-the-fact of the greatest interest in “devil worship.” This had begun during the counterculture in the late 1960s. After its philosophy collapsed in 1970, the Boomer generation was still left with a searching, antiestablishment mindset. Many reached out to sample “devil worship”– the devil being promoted as a symbol of intellectual questioning of the establishment. For the mainstream it was just dangerous demonology. And, of course, TV and movies capitalized on the fad made so commercially successful by the Exorcist (1973)– even the Snoop Sisters (The Devil Made Me Do It, 1974) had to contend with a devil’s coven (the episode which introduced Alice Cooper to the TV world), and Kolchak (The Devil’s Platform, 1974) had to confront a political candidate who sold himself to the devil so he could win Chicago. Movies such as Ride with the Devil (1975) showed what it was like to come across a devil’s coven in the wilds. Conspiracy of Terror (1975) was a TV pilot for a series that never got greenlit, but it is probably still on Youtube and the reader can check it out (no spoiler alerts here). It presents to us a sample of what could be lurking in innocent suburbia 1975. Cattle mutilations were headline news in the mid to late 1970s, and the chief theory was that devil covens were doing it.
“Satanic Panic” hit the mainstream after a book in 1980 claimed that kids in daycare were being taken away to secret rituals before being returned to the daycare. Due to the new fad of regressive hypnosis, unconnected kids over North America were having such recalled memories. This was too close to the mainstream not to set off a fad of panic and panic of fad. The public was led to believe there must have been a massive, far reaching conspiracy to inspire so many regressive hypnotic revelations.
But in substance the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s was trying to lock the door on a horse that had long been out and equally out of fashion already. It was a decade after the most feverish interest in the whole idea of using “devil worship” to free oneself from the establishment mindset. However, the 1980s fad does give us a valuable window on the 1970s, the era when “devil worship” was a more likely motivation for some crimes.
The CLONE Murders occurred in 1978, within the time frame that was absorbed in the whole concept of “ride with the Devil.” They pre-shadow the Berdella Murders and there are indications that more than one person was involved. As noted, the chief suspect David Likens killed himself, and so did his former roommate, and another fled San Francisco. Likens association with them in particular is disturbing on more than one level. He was the icon of the Gay community’s festive carnivale. He could solicit anyone and get a score. Yet there was a dark side to him. He liked sado. The one Gay porno picture he starred in was Night of the Occultists. If anyone had contacts for making Snuff– shooting and developing and underground contacts– it was Likens. Berdella had no such contacts. Therefore he was limited to self developing polaroids. That is the hindrance to Snuff stills or film: developing. Someone else will see what is being done and call the cops.
The question is, were these CLONE Murders filmed? It’s not a question I pull from a hat. It is an induction. The great hindrance, once again, to Snuff is that it is evidence of the ultimate crime. Vendors can claim they didn’t know; that they thought these were actors. But from them there is a chain of contacts the police can follow back to the filmmakers. Likens was only a cog within a much greater wheel of S&M in a very raucous time, within a leather culture steeped in the then-current fad of “devil worship” empowerment and antiestablishment. If Snuff could ever get made and moved, this was the time and these were the people.
I am not only uncovering and presenting Gay murders with these synopses, I am also attempting to broaden the investigation and place out information for those willing to follow. Such films may exist but be dismissed, the participants unidentified and written off as actors. Comparing the features of the CLONE victims to those persons in such films can assist in determining the authenticity of the films.
The attitude to make Snuff certainly existed in the South of Market atmosphere. The desire to watch murder just for the sake of watching murder was a prime motive that formed the “Gay Cult Killers,” and its high priest was the discarded son of a screenwriter. By this time, the Satanic Panic was a vain thing. It was a broadcast of the trinkets of theatric “devil worship.” In such a staged, ritual setting in 1985 a victim was killed and a pentagram was carved into his chest (but such clichés are not a part of the 1970s “by the book” devil worship). We should touch briefly on this murder, as it may give some form to the circumstances of the CLONE victims.
This ritual murder and sacrifice of a young Gay (apparently) man took place in South of Market (naturally) on Stillman Street (essentially South Park) in June 1985. The victim is still listed as John Doe 60, and was found wrapped in a yellow blanket and put under the axel of a rig near China Basin on what used to be an extension of 6th Street (all remodeled today). His lips were slit. He had been stabbed. His scrotum had been slit. There was a pentagram carved into his chest. His hands and feet had been bound with guitar wire. Melted wax had been dripped onto his right eye. Obviously, this was some kind of ritualistic murder.
When in 1987 the perps were apprehended, the headlines read “Gay Murder Cult.” Middle-age waiter Clifford St. Joseph was arrested as the main perpetrator. Later Maurice Bork was revealed as an accomplice (he basically turned evidence on St. Joseph). Then Ricky Hunter, a 21 year old homeless Gay prostitute, turned evidence. He had admitted that he had been a sado slave in the flat. He had been handcuffed to a radiator for days. Once he had been released to go get cigarettes, coffee, etc. He returned (supposedly he liked being a sado slave). A series of disturbances, essentially initiated by Ed Spela, led to the police arriving at the flat and eventually Ricky Hunter claimed a sodomy charge against St. Joseph. But no one still wanted to talk about any murder. It took SFPD two years to finally get people to talk.
By this time (1987) Bork was already serving life for another crime (he had supposedly also carved a pentagram in another guy’s chest) and if ever granted parole he would be sent back to Canada, where he was still wanted for another crime. What it came down to was that Clifford St. Joseph was the only one viable to prosecute. The book was thrown at him and he was sentenced to 34 years in prison. Ed Spela was not prosecuted (to my knowledge). He never partook in the rituals, he insisted, and only assisted in getting young men for St. Joseph and Bork. Yet when backed to the door of 93 Stillman by Geraldo Rivera, he admitted:
Ed Spela: “They asked me if I had ever thought of killing someone just to watch them die. And they asked me if I’d like to join a Satanic cult.”
Watching someone die, just for the sake of watching someone die, is the first step in the motivation for Snuff. But the stumbling St. Joseph and Bork didn’t have the wherewithal to film and develop, most crucially develop, film.
Spela admitted to having been a trick since 13 years old (he was in 1987 about 28 years old), and he had known St. Joseph since the early 70s. I discovered that during the glut of murders (1975-1978), St. Joseph had a flat on Geary in Tenderloin. There was nothing blatantly “Satanic” in these Tenderloin murders– the pentagram seems to have come from Bork and was no doubt inspired by the 1980s’ overproduced mentality with the props. But, curiously, Claude DeMott’s scrotum was slit in the same way in December 1975 as John Doe 60. Curiously again, a victim was found (no name or location) in November 1984 in San Francisco, also castrated. The compiled lists of homicides states the victim was a 36 year old white male. This was about 7 months before John Doe 60 was ritualistically murdered. Bork had not yet arrived in S.F., and presumably he was the author of the pentagram idea, which is not recorded as being a part of this shadowy 1984 murder.
The point is made, though. This was far from an actual practicing cult, yet they engaged in their comprehension of the dark side. Apparently homeless male prostitutes looking for a roof were the easy “weak” targets to bear the yoke, according to devil (and leather) mentality. It is a rarity here, probably from Bork, that the victim should have something so cliché as a pentagram carved in his chest.
Sacrifice or murder for empowerment does not need the trinkets and tokens of wizardry and its ritual. What it looks for is an ideal victim. It is a curious thing that the CLONE victims, Berdella’s victims, and the victim of the “Gay Cult Killers” in 1985 all bear a resemblance– clean cut, often a mustache.
I’m attempting to give atmosphere here for the reader to understand the era. The CLONE MURDERS were not unique to San Francisco. Serial murder of gay men was ongoing over the country, in between the major hubs of concentrated Gay life– San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Los Angeles. And I think it is obvious many of them involved sado, and this means that something more than twisted thrill could have been involved.
One example includes a 16 year old victim in San Francisco. Officially, Jackie Truss was a waiter at the Trapp, a Gay bar where patrons went for pickups for hire. Accounts vary, but it came down to him being found strangled on October 24, 1970, a week before Halloween. By June 1971, Kansas City Police linked his murder to 13 other Gay murders across the country.
The idea of ritual murder or Snuff killings may seem a stretch for some, but as I introduce more, many more victims during this period the reader will come to understand what a Dodge City the S.F. Gay community had become. It was an ideal location to hunt victims for various “diabolical” reasons. Fake I.D.s were easy to get. Runaways sank into the worst crimes on Polkstrasse. Predators had a fertile field indeed, and before AIDs they walked within the torrent of nightly jubilation to find any age, size, looks, anything they wanted. Within the torrent is JACK THE KNIFE, The DOODLER, and perhaps those who long used tricks to get what they wanted.
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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.