Doodled to Life. . . The Doodler

I started writing about the case of the Doodler in 2015. It is a fascinating case, but one that didn’t at that time motivate one to proceed with it too quickly. There really wasn’t much mystery. The suspect’s name was long known. He had been repeatedly questioned by police back in 1975. I planned to hit the crime scenes and do some photo essays, but I knew there were very few details public on this serial’s MO and his attacks. They were only recited in general. It would be difficult to even do the serial spree justice in terms of historical chronicling.

But the Doodler’s MO was unique. You don’t get jacket jobs like this anymore. He entered gay bars in the Castro, ingratiated himself by drawing a caricature of patrons on  a napkin or on his drawing pad, and then they left together. The bar patron was not seen again until found as a lifeless body slashed to pieces in some remote spot around Golden Gate Park or Ocean Beach.

Apparently there was some indoor action as well, and a few survived but didn’t want to get involved in a public scandal. We’ve all heard they were a prominent SF businessman who promptly fled the city instead of being questioned. There was a European diplomat, who also left, and a “nationally known entertainer,” who also refused to return to SF. (My discussions with some in-the-know have centered on identifying the last person, obviously the most interesting of the three.)  No trial ever came because none wanted to be involved in a public scandal.

. . .So how to proceed?

As I saw it, my purpose to the old crime case was thus to highlight the crimes, document the scenes, bring the case from the relative obscurity it had. . .but there was no real mystery to solve because the guy’s name was known and there was no admissible evidence.

This must have been the fly in the buttermilk for SFPD as well. The question was how after 40 years to get some admissible evidence?

SFPD is now trying to do so, hoping, I suppose, that there is DNA somewhere on a couple of the victims that can link to the man they repeatedly grilled back when.

The news sensations over identifying EAR-ONS via DNA have started a fad whereby we hear of all these re-examinations of old cases. The current fad, however, is a news fad, not a police fad. They were always re-examining cases. The news are reporting on cases that had some vague notoriety at one point. But there are many cases being re-examined that aren’t getting news because they really never had national news to begin with.

Another case that desperately needs public revision is the Colonial Parkway Murders. Like the Doodler case, there is too little information out there. This serial was very careful to the extent that his height, weight, or any part of his features is completely unknown. There is also some question on how many crimes he committed and if all those attributed to him are all done by the same perpetrator.

The first step with this old case is probably underway. This is to find DNA to begin with. The FBI would have to find it on two different cars. Then comparing touch DNA (if they get it) from these cars is necessary to confirm a link between very different murders (the first victims were a female pair; those thereafter were male and female pairs). Confirming there was one killer is a huge advance in the case. A phenotype would also greatly help.

For more details, the reader can go to my site The Quester Files and read about the Colonial Parkway Murders.

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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.

Out of the Past– The Nuances of The Doodler

I have been plunged back into Dirty Harry’s San Francisco in my pursuit of the Black Doodler. He is one of the most unique serial killers in history. He was charming, talented, and his motive hard to figure out. He targeted gays in The Castro. He had the most unique MO imaginable: he drew little caricatures of patrons of the late night bars. Enchanted by his talent, a proposal was made. They left together and that was about it for the patron. In some secluded place in Golden Gate Park or Ocean Beach, or in their pad if they had one, The Doodler would then whip out what was essentially his Norman Bates edition butcher knife and have at them.

A few survived, and from them we get the overall picture of The Doodler and his MO.  But not his motive. He must have killed about 8, with three known survivors. The police must have figured out his identity or heavily suspected who it was. It is said that The Doodler stopped because he was identified. But he was never prosecuted because each of the 3 survivors was somebody– a European diplomat, a prominent local citizen, and a “nationally known” entertainer. None would testify.

So much for the recap. screen-shot-2014-12-11-at-3-22-41-pm

But I have set out on the track of The Doodler.  It wasn’t difficult to find his trail. But this has not shed light on evidence or motive.

Context is everything. I have had to  delve back into the world of the Castro, 1973-75. A surprising picture emerges.

The first thing I learned is that gay culture is very judgmental and hierarchal in nature, and this culture seems to have arisen from the bar scene.  There was no other real meeting place back then. As such, enormous political and social differences just smoldered.  Most gays regarded the bar scene as an evil necessity. When online dating became possible with the internet, the bar scene collapsed. The Castro, the center of San Francisco’s gay culture, was once peppered with bars. Today, there is only a fraction.

But back then it was the only place to meet someone who you could be relatively sure was gay. No one wanted to out themselves. Being “in the closet” was the phrase most frequently used for a secret gay man. But, as I said, the bar scene is not the place for most people. And few really wanted to acclimate back then. The “prominent” citizen was well protected because the culture protected its own. The diplomat, if anybody knew he was one, was shielded, as was the “nationally known entertainer.” This same protection extended to every other patron. It wasn’t something overt. It came with the territory. People used fake names, fake backgrounds. It was easy to protect identity.

The culture was also divided into pockets.  There were those who likened themselves to ancient Greek culture. Homosexuality was  part of their intimate life but like all intimate things it was not meant to be a public matter. They felt themselves not distinct from mainstream culture and politics. There were those who simply tried to dominate the herd, and kinky lust was the prime characteristic. Obviously, the two attitudes did not reside well in proximity.

Some bar names and their double entendres reflected the origins of the scene– Bear Hollow and nearby was The Pipeline.  Well, that made perfect sense to some. It is not surprising that the bar scene collapsed with online dating. A small element within gay culture had established a stereotype most within it did not like, nor frankly approve of.

In the 1970s this contentious (though it was smoldering) late night bar scene was the perfect environment for a serial killer to select his victims and still maintain his secret identity. It was underground. Language was inference. Identity was fake. In addition, who would really be a witness to anything that would suggest murder? The victim was seen leaving with a certain other person.  That didn’t mean the other patron killed him, did it? It was only after a while that it became obvious that the victims were leaving with the same guy. Moreover, he was black. Being gay was controversial enough. But interracial relations? In a judgmental society no one wanted to be known as a “Dinge Queen.”

This is the society in which The Doodler moved at night.  But he does not appear to have moved within it at any other times. You could, in fact, do that. It took being recognized within this culture, which meant the bar scene first, developing your own friends,  meeting elsewhere, being within a network of other friends who knew who everybody was. But The Doodler doesn’t seem to have been known. He was talented, convivial: this attracted patrons to him.

There was enough information so that a composite was done by the police. Thus his identity was not immediately known to the community. Yet this still didn’t identify him. Such a poster wasn’t something the bars would hang up to warn patrons. You weren’t going to find it in the post office. It cycled underground like the entire culture did.

The end result is that The Doodler serial crimes came and went. Despite the unique MO and the colorful time in history— Dirty Harry’s San Francisco– he is largely obscure. Even the number of his victims is hard to determine. Brutal death by butcher knife marked his wake. The two extremes of his signature were a nice artsy sketch of the victim beforehand and afterward the end result:  the victim butchered in a dark recess in public.

I must admit I am slow following through on The Doodler crimes. Information is scant. It is also hard to follow up on a true crime mystery if the chances are nil that the killer would be brought to book. It seems he would never be prosecuted. As we know, the three survivors refused to testify. I think only one is alive today. His account would be valuable for the sake of putting in the details of the MO– from the moment of contact in the bar to the time he drew out his knife au moment juste. This would serve to confirm that there was nothing sexual in The Doodler’s aim. He attacked them before anything happened. But only one person seems capable of confirming this today. It would provide an enormous clue to the Doodler’s MO.

But in learning of the culture of the time we are left with some valuable leads. We can proceed to uncover just how much The Doodler himself knew of this culture. His list of known victims seem to follow a pattern of progression, and we must look at this in our next Doodler post.

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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.

Doodled to Life. . . Resurrecting a Serial Killer . . .

Let us go back to San Francisco 1974. It is a different world. It is a world that sees the ZEBRA Killings. It saw the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and urban guerillas. It is an anxious world in the wake of The ZODIAC. Such crime sprees upset the mainstream. They caused the mayor to screech at the police to do something; civic groups to screech at the mayor.

But for tenderloin killings there was little press. The Doodler was satiating his appetite for carnage by concentrating on the gay underground of the Castro. Newspapers didn’t even want to devote filler space to the crime spree. To this day, the body count is uncertain. Had it not been for The Doodler’s unique MO, he probably wouldn’t have rated any mention.

Of the three survivors, the European diplomat’s statement is the only one known even in part. He insisted there had been no connubial bliss.  I content he is telling the truth. I do not suspect this because of this snippet but because I have pieced together some of the crime scenes and the greater context of them to appreciate how nothing really could have happened. Rather I suspect The Doodler surprised them by whipping out his butcher’s knife and having at it.  In one case, he drug a victim 20 feet back behind a sand dune at Ocean Beach to finish the killing without fear of witnesses.

There is also the narrative that SFPD could never get anything on their suspect because the three survivors wouldn’t talk and then galloped away from the city by the bay. Coupled with what their detectives had put together, SFPD may also have believed there was no physical evidence to ever resurrect. Thus they were dependent on the survivors.

The only sketch known of The Doodler.


On the odd chance that there was interaction between The Doodler and his victims before they were murdered, SFPD must examine all the clothes (hopefully still in evidence) and examine them to see if they can get a DNA match up with The Doodler suspect. This would relieve the necessity of putting any burden on the celebrity who wishes to remain nameless, or on the local “prominent citizen” and his reputation. Survivor accounts are not necessary. DNA will link the crimes. Even if it exists in only one case, it is enough to prove contact between The Doodler and a victim.

Over 40 years later is this enough for the SF Co. DA to get a conviction or to declare the case solved? Within the context of what must be in the reports,  it probably is. The Doodler’s MO was so unique it is impossible not to identify him with having left with the victims after he charmed them with his caricatures or portraits.

I wonder where that sketch pad is today?

Was there a political factor (high school friendship) back then between a prominent citizen’s son and the Doodler? There may have been, but 40 years later it is of no import anymore.

If SFPD does this and it turns out that there is no viable DNA, another route must be undertaken to out the strange Doodler serial killer of long ago and late night Castro. But we have at least advanced on the case, and that is the purpose of investigation: to move forward and test hypotheses. There is no onus in the process of elimination. You must be wrong every time but the last time. It is always a win/win situation.

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

The Doodler– How to Break a Case?

I’ve been warned off the case of Father Kunz, certain friends in law enforcement reminding me of the power of the Catholic Church or, as one luridly believed, of the power of a cabal therein to enforce “Satan’s Lodge.” I have recently been introduced to the details of how the church covered up the fact the Fox Village Trailer Park rapist had been a 44 year old priest. The church sent him west to a monastery, the type where his fork and knife were taken away at the dinner table. This must have satisfied the DA, the judge dropping the charges except for breaking and entering.

Conspiracies, gossip, acrimony– I loath it.

But I have encountered something more frustrating. A serial murder case where the culprit is known, where I wish to break the case, but where the one sure witness, the “nationally known” celebrity who survived an attempt on his life, will never want to talk. It is unlikely the San Francisco Co. DA even knows of the existence or importance of the case anymore. It has been buried since 1975.

How to break the case? For journalistic purposes, the account of the celebrity is crucial, as I feel it would confirm that no dalliance, shall we say, took place. It would give us the unquestioned MO of the killer. I believe that after he charmed prospective victims in the bars of the late night Castro, he went with them to secluded places. Well, this much is actually known. But I deduce from the evidence I have, and the logistics of the crime scenes, that before anything happened, to their surprise, he whipped out a butcher’s knife and did Norman Bates.

But for a few, he went to their apartments. Three survived. About 8 didn’t. The actual number really isn’t known for certainty. SF newspapers didn’t report it much and certainly with little clarity. Underground gay rags did, but obviously the information didn’t go far and journalistic integrity was not always there.

The Doodler had one of the most unique MOs in the history of crime. He was an artistic young man who went into the bars of SF’s gay district, charmed the guests, drew “doodles” of them on his sketch pad– he was quite talented– and they left to continue the night elsewhere. Only the end result was that the patrons ended up slashed to pieces at Ocean Beach or in Golden Gate Park.

Each of the thee survivors were prominent, and each refused to swear as to who was their attacker. The Doodler was black, you see. Being gay was controversial enough, but even in the gay community to be classified as a “Dinge Queen” was fatal.

Thus The Doodler walked. He stopped. He walked. He has been silent since then. So not so compulsive when he saw SFPD leering at him.

The case has very little information on it. The survivors are dead or won’t talk, and if the San Francisco DA’s office even remembers it I’m not sure how they would proceed.

It is time to proceed with trying to break a case that is forgotten, though one of the most exotic ever, where the culprit can be identified, and where the case should be laid to rest. But I don’t think anybody knows how to deal with a lack of conspiracy. Evidence surrounds testimony, which has grown very thin, and no one wants to talk.

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

Doodled to Death: The Victims

To Jack the Ripper, his victims were a means to an end.  Modern profiling has tried to claim he was only a sex killer. None of this was based on any of the inquest testimony or the circumstances. It was based on the ghastly folklore that dominates “Ripperology.” He was not a prostitute killer. Even by prostitutes’ standards, his victims were dregs. They were a part of the river of traffic that entered London’s impoverished East End 1888. They were easy prey.

Such an era was not repeated again until the 1930s depression in America. Kingsbury Run in Cleveland was a hobo village. Here a stalking predator killed hobos after torturing them. Then he returned their headless bodies to the Run to dump them. Like with the Ripper, too many indications pointed to a doctor or postmortem man. Elliot Ness, in charge of the case, suspected a congressman’s cousin, the mad Dr. Sweeney.

Such an era of regress and egress in public places was not seen again until the antiestablishment movement brought a river of hippies to San Francisco. Then gays starting making The Castro their center. They came from all over the world. By 1974, one or more predators was butchering gays in public with a knife. One was known as The Doodler.

The Doodler was a young black man, so it is said. But he wasn’t from the wrong side of the tracks. He had what was believed an upper middle class education and was possibly an art student.


The one police sketch of The Doodler. It says it was done on 10/24, but no year. I cannot read the case number, but many of the Doodler’s victims are not known. None are reported in any October over the 1974-75 period he was active.

Gays were being stabbed more than the police probably wanted to admit. That they were specific targets was an easy denial. A dead body, stabbed several times, laying in the park– how do you know what the victim is? Those victims that could be traced to the nightlife of The Castro were suspected to be gay.

Such was the stalking territory of The Doodler. As Whitechapel was to The Ripper, so was The Castro to The Doodler. He frequented bars and eventually left with another man. That man was never seen alive again.

January 27, 1974

The first victim attributed to The Doodler was a very unattractive Canadian named Gerald Cavanaugh. He was 50, stodgy at 5 foot 8 and 220 pounds.  His body was found by the surf at Ocean Beach. Whoever led him there left no definite footprints in sand, as expected. Cavanaugh had injuries to his left hand indicating he defended himself. Then he had been stabbed many times. He was found face up, rigor mortis setting in.  He was fully dressed. He had a Timex watch on his wrist and in one pocket $21.12 . His identity had been removed.

It had been a cold January night. I have no specifics. Few do. But I doubt there was anything of an “intimate nature.” He had strolled a cold Frisco beach with someone and put up a futile defense when taken by surprise.

June 24/25, 1974

There was little initial reason to make a connection between Cavanaugh and the next victim. Quite a dearth of time had elapsed since late January to the cool summer of 74.  There was another reason. The victim in this case was Jae Stevens, a well known female impersonator at Finnochio’s, far from The Castro in North Beach. He was last seen that night leaving a bar at Montgomery Street. However, his body had been found in the bushes off the walking path at Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park (another account has Stow Lake). He had been stabbed a number of times. Blood in his mouth and nose, so we know he got stabbed in the stomach and lungs.


Spreckels Lake, Golden Gate Park. Somewhere off the trail, Jae Stevens stabbed body was found.  He was found stabbed front and back, so some kind of resistance took place.

The police, it is said, believed he had driven his killer to the secluded area in the park, off Fulton Street (unless it was Stow Lake). As with all the cases, little is clarified, but I take it Stevens’ car was found parked nearby. This will become a peculiar clue. The body had been found in the morning by a woman who then called to a couple walking their dog. They called the police.

Where had the amorous pick-up occurred? We do not know. We only know Stevens was last seen about as far away in North Beach as possible from where his body was found.

July 7, 1974

The attacks were obviously becoming more frequent. The next victim was Klaus Christmann.  Married, he was from Germany. He had left house and wife and kids and answered the inner call to live in San Francisco.  He was 31 years old. Christmann was also found fully dressed and his throat cut. He had been stabbed about 15 times. He was found at the end of Lincoln Way, so I take this to mean by the sand dunes at Ocean Beach. Dave Toschi, of ZODIAC fame, investigated this case. He considered it the most brutal stabbing he had seen.


Christmann’s dress had been itemized as: “black side zipper ankle boots with brown cuban-heels, a white Italian (Sela) shirt, orange bikini briefs, one blue moonstone ring and one brown cameo ring along with a gold wedding band.” A tube of makeup was in his pocket. I take it there was no ID, but there may have been. His body was shipped back to Germany.

Notice the pattern?

May 12, 1975

Quite a dearth of time again, but we must remember that we do not know all of the victims of The Doodler. Three near misses are reported, one a diplomat, the other a “nationally known entertainer” and the other a respected local citizen. Their attacks may have occurred in the dearth here or one or more between January (Cavanaugh) and June (Stevens)  1974. The composite above was done in October, so it could be October 1974 that another stabbing occurred.

In any case, all point to the same pattern: The Doodler picked foreigners and out-of-towners. Our man covered his turf. The local prominent citizen may have given a lie when picked up at the bar. He may have said he was from out-of-town. The Doodler didn’t want notoriety. He didn’t want anybody local who had family and friends and would want to push the police about investigating a case. He seemed to have understood The Casto’s mentality. “Fly under radar.”


The Castro in relation to where those victims mentioned here were found. Golden Gate Pak is bordered by Lincoln Way (on the south side) and Fulton Street (on the north side).

The pattern continues with Fred Capin. He was from Port Angeles, Washington State. His body, fully dressed, was found on Ocean Beach, between Ulloa and Vincente streets, May 12, 1975. He had been drug over the sand for about 20 feet and dumped behind a sand dune. I take this to mean he was stabbed somewhere by the road. A skinny, 6 foot tall guy, he must have planned on a good night out. He was wearing a blue corduroy jacket, “Picasso” shirt (many colors), blue jeans, blue undees, brown socks, brown shoes. Quite coordinated, except for the blood that drenched his shirt and jacket. A maniac had gone at him and ruined his night out.

There is a pattern here at the beach. Sand is hard to run on in order to escape. At 50 years of age, Cavanaugh could not have outrun a youthful attacker. He was found at water’s edge, so it is reported. He may have run toward the hard sand by the surf but still was hopelessly outclassed by his attacker.  Capin may have run toward the road and almost made it, there to be cut down or injured and then drug back behind a dune to be butchered.

I do not think the Beach was idly chosen by The Doodler simply because it was remote. Golden Gate Park, remote at night, was closer. Indeed, so was Buena Vista. I don’t know how many bums I’ve seen in Buena Vista Park I thought were bodies. By contrast, Ocean Beach is fairly far.

June 4, 1975

The pattern continues. A Swedish sailor. Harald Gullberg. He must have been dead for a couple of weeks. He was found off the trail at Lincoln Park Golf Course. I take this to mean off the area on the other side of  The Palace of the Legion of Honor. He was rotting away; maggots covered his face. His zipper was down. If he was a Doodler victim, he must have unzipped himself in preparation for, for, something, but received what The Doodler gave all his victims. He was not a well man, at 66 years of age. But his liver, which was ailing him, didn’t kill him. His throat had been cut.

The pattern The Doodler laid down is fairly clear. All out-of-towners except that one prominent citizen. Our man covered his bases locally. But the pattern helps us to uncover more. And I suspect there are more victims. The newspapers at the time said The Doodler had 14 victims in addition to the 3 near misses. So 17 is quite a number.  The next best step? Check the stats for stabbed homicide victims for 1973-1975 who were out-of-towners or foreigners. They were The Doodler’s type of victim.

Someone with The Doodler’s MO would need to be careful. He was black, 6 foot, wore casual clothes, a Navy watch cap, and carried with him his sketch pad.  That’s not a common sight. He flattered intended victims in the gay bars of The Castro with his cartoons or caricatures of them. I would suspect that The Doodler sketched a number of patrons. He struck up conversations and found the right one– foreign, out-of-town, no local friends. Someone who wouldn’t be missed and someone hard to trace.  Someone who wouldn’t have family locally badgering the press and police to do something about the killing.  I can almost hear the tongue-in-cheek invite at last to come and “view my etchings.” They then left. Someone like this will not go unnoticed for long.

This requires the question– just how local was he?

From Jae Stevens’ murder, we know that The Doodler could walk from the park to his domicile. I suspect he was local. Richmond or Outer Richmond District. Perhaps college at City College. Perhaps High School  at George Washington High. He must have had a car. The reports do not say that the victims had a car parked nearby, and indeed some may not have had a car at all.


George Washington High and the crowded dwellings typical of Outer Richmond. I had to be there a couple of years ago for another case and snapped some shots.

This makes Jae Stevens’ murder quite curious. Clearly, the killer walked away to some place and that some place must have been nearby, especially if they connected in North Beach or The Castro. Stevens and Harald Gullberg are the only victims  found on the north side of Golden Gate Park at the Outer and Central Richmond District.


The Richmond District and the probable locations of Gullberg and Stevens’ bodies.

I have been the recipient of a little brainstorming between those who knew the gay community at the time. Aside from learning what “Dinge Queen” means, I have encountered the same suspicions about who the “nationally known entertainer” might have been. They settled on Sal Mineo. He had been performing in P.S. Your Cat is Dead in San Fran and received good reviews. He would have known The Castro.  I have conflicting reports, however, as to how demonstrative he’d be in a bar as regards being famous. Everybody knew he was gay, but that is not the issue. The Doodler would avoid someone famous. There is also disagreement if he was a “Dinge Queen,” as the expression is within the gay community. But that may not have mattered in this case since a handsome, young artistic guy might have been an exception.


The trails off the golf course near the Palace of the Legion of Honor.

The diplomat was from Europe. He took The Doodler back to his flat (after having met in a dark hole for a late night dinner in Upper Market) and for his gesture got stabbed 6 times.

The prominent San Francisco person probably used an alias the night of the attack and said he was an out-of-towner. This made him the perfect target.

None of them wished to admit they were involved in something like this. The prominent citizen fled San Fran and refused to talk to police. The diplomat went back to Europe. The entertainer back to LA.

It sounds like a creepy MO– to draw a caricature of a person and then stab them, but that is not how it seemed to work. This implies that the doodle was found with the victim. That is not the case as that would identify their killer rather easily. Rather he sketched them in the bars as an intro. I doubt there is any doodle extant of the victims, unless The Doodler kept them.

And he might still be alive. The sketch pad may still exist. Even if he died, if it is still in existence it alone might preserve who all of his victims were. The police were sure they knew who he was, but I doubt they saw the sketch pad. They spoke off and on with him for over a year. But he never admitted to any guilt. Yet he never struck again after the questioning began in late 1975.

As to why he was never charged– It was reported that the police could not get the 3 survivors to testify. But I wonder if there was no arrest and trial because The Doodler could then have started talking about victims. This would be very embarrassing for the survivors, though he doubtless did not know their names.

No point second guessing it right now.

The Doodler has left us a stark MO– and very well may still be alive. He was thought to be around 22 at the time and must have been old enough to go into the bars. In addition to identifying all of his victims, it would seem it is equally paramount to identify The Doodler. The gay paper Sentinel said he was a heterosex. I would think so from the circumstances. But he knew The Castro, the gay village. I said he moved across a broad spectrum of society, but if the out-of-towner and foreigner MO holds up, those prominent citizens he attacked may have led him to believe they were quite obscure, average people.

In any case, we should no longer doodle about this serial killer. At the very least, all his victims must be identified.









Dabbling on the Doodler

Very little is known. What is known is not believable, and on top of that it is contradictory. On the surface it sounds like the creepiest MO there is. An artistically talented killer ingratiated himself to his prospective victims, sketched caricatures or cartoons of them, then viciously stabbed them to death.

The backdrop was the San Francisco of the Swingin’ 70s– exotic, obscene, dirty, glamorous. ZODIAC, Dirty Harry and the Zebra murders. Antiestablishment, drugs, urban militants. The nation was in the throes of change. The antiestablishment movement had shocked and disturbed the country. No one knew where it would lead, but it certainly led to San Francisco.  Since 1967 the Haight had become the center for “urban hippies.” By the time of this crime spree,  1974-1975, they were largely dropouts, druggies, and tenderloin rejects.

San Francisco was also undergoing another influx. Just as the Haight somehow became the epicenter for hippies, The Castro became the center of San Francisco’s gay culture. In the 1970s, the influx was noticeable. The culture was also quite different from today. This was the era of pre-AIDS promiscuity. Whether straight or gay, the 70s was a promiscuous time. The Castro was dotted with “bathhouses” and bars, many of them fronts for illicit trade.

There were, perhaps, over 100,000 gays in San Francisco. To be gay was still regarded as to be “one of nature’s mistakes.” Despite the contemporary view (and perhaps even today’s view) that San Francisco was “accepting,” it was not. When a hundred  thousand hippies flooded in the city, San Francisco had no choice but to accept. That didn’t mean that on the whole the city liked the hippies. The same applied to gays. The city had to accept– a lot more quietly than with the much higher profiled hippies– but there were many who didn’t like it. To them The Castro was a twisted red light district peppered with felons.

Now in 1974 the city was accepting, but disgruntled. There were reasons to be disgruntled about many things. It was the gritty urban era. Dissolute, apocalyptic, paranoid, in recession. Weeds were waist high in the sidewalk (in some parts of town). A fresh coat of paint had not been applied to some districts since the 1940s.  Inside “kinky” decorated the bars and bath houses.


A breath of the 1970s– by City College of San Francisco (Sunnyside). Weeds grow high here. I had to visit the college a few years back to take some pics. I couldn’t resist this 70s throwback look.

At this time a young, skinny black man, would enter gay bars in The Castro and Upper Market and sketch caricatures of some of the patrons. He had enough talent it seemed to draw cartoons well enough to impress those he met. They would then leave the bar.

On the surface that’s it. A casual black guy, so it is said, who looked like any other guy at the time. He wore his Navy watch cap and probably wore bell bottoms.  He was between 19 and 22 (probably older if he was in the bars). He was about 6 foot tall.

What to make of it?  On the surface yet again, not much. However, a number of gay men were being found stabbed to death in Golden Gate Park and by Ocean Beach.

Stabbings aren’t and weren’t rare.

I don’t know what police investigation was done, but I know what is standard procedure. They would try and identify the body. It was said that ID was removed from the bodies though personal belongings remained (rings, money, etc). After this they would figure out lifestyle. Common denominator is next. The victims appeared to be gay. (Most of the bodies were found on a relatively straight line from The Castro– if following Lincoln Way.) Flash some photos in The Castro bars and at least first names or aliases could be learned for those that remained “John Does.”

And indeed by July 1974 gay newspapers, the only ones following this underground crime spree, reported that police believe “Gay haters” were responsible in the stabbings.

But since stabbings were so common, how to say that the man the victims were last seen with was responsible? We don’t even know when the young black man with the sketch pad became a suspect. No mention of the “smiling cartoonist” is made in the Chronicle until January 30, 1976, in a Maitland Zane article “The Gay Killers,”  in which he writes: “Teams of Homicide detectives were also pressing the hunt yesterday for the Tenderloin slasher who mutilates his ‘drag queen’ victims, and for a smiling black cartoonist believed responsible for stabbing six men he picked up in Castro Village gay bars.”


This Google shows Castro and Market, looking toward 17th Street. Follow this to Stanyan and then you are in the Haight and at Golden Gate Park area. Frederick becomes Lincoln Way just past Kezar Stadium.

The lack of reporting outside of gay papers (the Sentinel, Advocate) has been said to reflect the attitude that such promiscuous gay men deserved their fate and that there was therefore nothing sympathetic to write about. Most likely the answer is because gay murders were becoming frequent, as the article above implied, and the details were so vague in this case.

The MO is hardly complex. Bar pickups are commonplace.  Stabbings equally common. They appear as thug killings. What is distinctive here to trace?

Only one thing. The Doodler may have had a common MO for killing, but he had one of the most distinctive approaches. How long is someone like this– sketch pad and all– going to go unnoticed? Amazingly, it seems for quite a while. The Castro simply wasn’t talking about it. It seems even the killer’s handle “The Doodler” or “Black Doodler” was given to him after-the-fact or, at least, late in the crime spree. Not until January 1976 did  the SF Sentinel headline an article on “Doodler Suspects.”

Naturally, this seems peculiar. But for The Castro and SF in general it was not. Gay men were closeted. Bartenders knew only first names of patrons and these could be aliases. Witnesses didn’t want to be exposed. None wanted to testify. Due to the common MO– stabbing– it would take a lot of links from witnesses to declare that the victim was last seen leaving with this distinctive Doodler. Yet even that would not be enough. There would have to be a more direct link.

. . . And there was. . .

There likely wasn’t much investigation until a couple of prominent citizens were attacked.  According to a newspaper account in 1977, again after-the-fact, the police said they knew who the Doodler was but could not prosecute because they could not get firsthand testimony. This was even in spite of the fact they admitted 3 of the victims had survived the attacks. None wanted to testify. One was a European diplomat, the other a prominent local citizen, and the other a “nationally known” entertainer.

To what extent were these 3 wounded or at least attacked by the Doodler? In the case of the “diplomat,” it was said he was stabbed 6 times, and in his own apartment. This is a knife-wielding maniac. Still his career was in jeopardy. He didn’t want to speak.

The diplomat is also said to have denied that any sexual relations happened, which is probably true. If these 3 “important victims” and those found in parks and at Ocean Beach are also by the Doodler it doesn’t seem sex was the object. He lured gay men to their deaths, to remote places, ostensibly to “make-out,” and started stabbing them instead.  In 1977, in yet another epilogue, the Sentinel declared a “straight man” was to blame for killing the gay men.

If the 5 victims attributed to The Doodler in the newspapers and the 3 “important” but nebulous near misses who survived are indeed all victims of the same serial killer, he moved between a wide range of society’s strata, apparently enabled because all intended victims were flattered by his caricatures of them.

Nevertheless, a lot does not add up. He is successful in dispatching average men in remote “make out” areas, but botches it with 3 prominent intended victims, all ostensibly in natty pads.

Just how many victims did The Doodler have? Yet again if all this is accurate, The Doodler was pretty prolific over that 1974 to 1975 period.  Newspapers declared he had 14 victims at this time in addition to the 3 near kills. Seventeen is a pretty staggering number. It may not be accurate. He may have less or even more. Lack of certainty will always be attributed to the extent to which gay men were found stabbed (or any other class of victim) at these times, and the fact few in The Castro wanted to talk.

The dead obviously did not speak with police. The living did. Thus it seems from the shadows of late night bar Castro patrons and from the survivors we have our image of The Doodler. A composite was issued, the same one that headlines this post.

Apparently this dried up The Doodler’s murder career. Moreover, the police declared they questioned a man whom they believed to be the right one. He never admitted to the crimes, but he fit the description of the skinny, smiling black cartoonist. They spoke with him over a year period, off and on. The “interrogation” seems to have happened over late 1975 and through most of 1976. The Doodler does not appear to have struck during this time or thereafter.

Who was or is this prolific and entrapping serial killer? If he was 22 in 1975, he could still be alive today at 60 years of age.  Black, upper middle class education, former art student.


This Google screen shot marks the victim locations and the location of The Castro.

Before we pursue this, it is best to consider the MO of the killer blamed for those 5 murders, where names were reported in the press. Five names and body locations have become public.  The locations prove as interesting as the victims. They are not diverse, except for one. None are prestigious and none were found indoors. All were found in a direct line, so to speak, from The Castro district to Ocean Beach, with 2 found around Golden Gate Park, and the other two at Ocean Beach. The fifth was found at the Lincoln Golf Course off the hiking trail.

The 5 names and locations that are public by no means represent a stereotypical victim.

Let’s look at them in the next Doodler post.



For 25 years Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.