Z-Day

I’ve been quiet for a while on here, so I owe some apologies. Those who follow me know that preliminary results, so to speak, get thrashed out on my blog here before being transferred in much more refined detail to Quester Files.

Before I began my minor foray into artless blogging, I presented only the refinements of some of my quests on The Quester Files or in book form. Such was the case of the Zodiac Killer. Some ten years ago my section on my hunt for his identity went up on my website. At an opposite, I used this blog to give updates on my pursuit of the case. So I owe an update here on HorrorScope, my exposé of the ZODIAC. Covid has caused only minor delays. The book will still be coming out this year. It’s been a long wait, I know, and thanks for your patience. I’ve been invited to participate on a couple of podcasts dealing with The Zodiac Killer crime spree and suspects. I am grateful for the offers, but I had to decline. With the book coming out this year, there is no point anymore discussing my investigation. I must wait until the book’s release. Then there is focus for both me and the interviewer.

It has been a long quest trailing Steve. But once again hardest of all was getting contemporary hand printing samples. This alone is the first step in tangible, admissible evidence. There are those who say it isn’t. Well, anybody can write anything they want on the web. Blogs and social media are free. But the fact is that printing samples were the prime bit of evidence, and they remain so. The handbill put out by S.F.P.D. still rings true today– Slugs, Casings, Latents, Handwriting. Of these, hand printing is the open sesame to the others.

It is a big enough hurdle to uncover vintage printing from an individual. But it is an even greater hurdle to get printing that contains matching words and phrases. When SFPD got tired of the ongoing debate over whether ZODIAC had written the confession letter and, especially, the 3 nasty notes of April 1967 concerning the murder of Cheri Jo Bates, they went to FBI printing experts. The results that came back were the most frustrating. On May 2, 1974, the FBI wrote back that the results were inconclusive because there weren’t enough word similarities to make a valid comparison.

This has been the second hurdle that has delayed me so long.

As I have told you all before, it is not enough for me to write a book on The Zodiac Killer and finger another suspect. This has been done too often, and the reading and news audience are desensitized to it all. The evidence must be there. Printing must identify ZODIAC. In doing so, the door is opened to follow the hallway that leads to the guns. There is therefore IDENTIFY (done by me) and then CONVICTION (done by law enforcement).

Thank you all for your forbearance all these years as I have updated you as best as I could on my progress. I didn’t want this to go to the carnival. So aside from speaking on a few friends’ podcasts, I have not spoken about the pursuit that coalesces into HorrorScope and its finale. That is an ordeal still to come.

When HorrorScope comes out, all things ZODIAC will be purged from this blog, and my book and website remain the final product.

This introduces the next update: The Gay Murders of San Francisco. I’m still working on them, but I’ll save this for my next blog post. It deserves its own update.

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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.

Links and False Links– The Gay Murders of San Francisco

When it finally comes time to present the fruits of my labors in trying to unravel the Gay Murders of San Francisco, I will present cases between 1968 and 1982. There are some 60 cases that need sewing together or tearing apart in order to reveal or to bury JACK THE KNIFE, the DOODLER, or any other serial that might have been afoot during this period.

As an example of both the difficulties and the prospects, I want to touch on two cases here. These two cases are just after the cutoff– they occurred in 1983, but they accentuate a truth that applies to the time period in which occurs the glut of Gay Murders. The truth is easier to see here because the environment for murder had changed. The stats show that Gay Murders suddenly drop this year. Casual or public sex had become very dangerous due to the rise of AIDs. Pickups by tricks and strangers wasn’t happening as much anymore, and it is within that world that DOODLER and potentially any other serial had stalked. But it is also within this world that almost all of the unsolved killings had occurred since 1968.

Free of the sheer excess of the 1970s’ boomtown Swingin’ Seventies’ nightlife/sex life, the cloud that confuses evidence had lifted. What this means is that potential perps were far fewer in number. The police were able to gather more evidence, refine more evidence, investigations could be more focused.

Though few murders go unsolved, these show how easy it is for more than one killer to stealthily move by night and leave no real trail. . .if . . .if he confined himself to the world of tricks and pick-ups. Two murders in particular link, blur, unlink and blur yet again. They embody the danger of taking things on surface appearance. Both happened after a pick-up. They occurred in public. The tryst was in a car at a park, near a major cross street. The victim was middle-age. This in itself argues for a young trick as the perp . . . but–

The first victim was on April 10, 1983, Nicholas Rubicam, age 53. He grew up in Washington State, born Nicholas Gregg Rubicoma (family name listed interchangeably with Rubican/Rubicam). At present, he lived on Belgrave Avenue, San Francisco. He was the manager for Western Community Mortgage and a Vice President for its financial parent company. April 10 was a Sunday. He had encountered his killer somewhere Saturday night.

Rubicam, as seen in high school in 1946.

They were at the rest area near where Arguello Blvd and Conservatory Drive meet, at the edge of Golden Gate Park. The murder was by a very personal method, one seen usually in those murders which occurred in apartments during the spate of killings in the mid-to late 1970s. This was the slow, agonizing death of strangulation.

Rubicam was found by police early Sunday morning. They saw him laying by a swank new gray Mercedes 300 station wagon. They thought he was drunk and shouted at him. Then they realized he was dead. He was spread-eagle. His shirt was unbuttoned. His jacket was near his right foot. Abrasions and cuts about his neck proved he had been strangled.

Motive wasn’t robbery. His wallet was there and intact. According to the police, the murder must have happened between 1:10 a.m. (parking area last checked) and 3:30 a.m. (when found). According to his boyfriend, young 20-year-old Kurt Pokorny, Rubicam left home at midnight, in Pokorny’s estimate too drunk to drive. They had been at Sausalito’s star restaurant Valhalla. We don’t need to dissect the public claims. But the circumstances, as presented, suggest Rubicam went out and met a trick.

There had been public strangulations of Gay men before in public– always in a park– but that was the exception to the Gay Murder M.O. One would have to say it was a young trick’s safe way of murder– safe because he need not carry an identifiable weapon. The only advantage was to murder during the tryst. This was the only way to get a man off guard and incapable of defending himself.

(Rubicam was short, but he was athletic, lean and strong.)

The circumstances or, perhaps, staging of Rubicam’s murder underscore that the M.O. of trick murder in public isn’t one easily solved. A year later the S.F. Examiner reports there were no suspects.

Suspect remains publicly unpresented in Rubicam’s murder. But on November 16, 1983, a Wednesday, a similar scene presented itself to SFPD. The body was in John McLaren Park, by a rest area, near the corner of Mansell and John Shelley Drive. This is in the southwest of South Francisco, coming close to the border with South San Francisco.

Nickolaus Crumbley, 41, was visiting San Francisco from Texas. He had met his trick and they went to this unlikely location. Here with pants and underwear down, Crumbley was murdered by strangulation, apparently in his rental car. Then the body was thrown out and the killer escaped with his car. I don’t go into salacious details, but to be as anodyne as possible– anal smears proved DNA was present from another man.

Nick Crumbley

The general circumstances are very similar to Rubicam’s murder, though both body locations are relatively far from each other. Rubicam’s murder has the stench of a set-up around. But Crumbley’s was more in line with the M.O. of Polk Street hustlers, those who had once hung out at The Trap on Eddy, waiting for gullible out-of-towners.

Crumbley’s case went unsolved for over 20 years until 2009. Then a DNA hit matched a local– William Payne, BMA. He had been 19 years old at the time. In 2012 he was arrested. He denied it all, and was carted off by the police. This got a lot of attention, and so did his trial. But there were problems. Payne now admitted to having had sex with Crumbley. When first questioned by police back in 1983, he didn’t admit to it because he didn’t want his religious family to know about his bisexual trysts. The defense attorney was able to introduce that swabs from the victim’s underwear proved that DNA from two unknown men was present. The fingerprints on Crumbley’s rental car, found later (pushed) in Lake Merritt, also didn’t match Payne’s. The jury hung at 9-3 in favor of acquittal. Judge Andrew Cheng declared mistrial. Another trial was arranged, of course, but elaborating on that is not the purpose here. Safe to say the court of public opinion remains divided.

Essentially, on the surface, Crumbley’s murder fit a trick M.O. The location may suggest it was more random, and the goal ultimately was robbery. (Crumbley’s pants pockets were inside out.).

Here on the surface we have two very similar M.O.s– park corners, the evidence (in part or toto) of a tryst, murder by strangulation of a middle-age man. But it very well could be that two different perps were involved.

The two victims were very different. Crumbley was a bit frumpy; Rubicam was dapper, short, athletic. He was a local, far more affluent. His car wasn’t stolen. Nor was his money.

Prior to this, some S&M tricks had stolen their victim’s car from their own driveway after having killed them in the house. In a notable murder in 1979, septuagenarian victim Quirinio Paolazzi was murdered in his York Street home and the killer drove the car back to Buena Vista Park area. In Crumbley’s case, Lake Merritt is in Oakland across the Bay.

That very night Rubicam was murdered, the S&M era came to a dramatic end. Harry Diethelm, the owner of the main SOMA leather bar, The Brig, was strangled in his own basement (on Bemis Street) in sado. The place had been set up for a sado laboratory. There was a chair, described like a dentist’s chair, in which Diethelm was bound by the wrists, then choked to death. Then one of the perps, Jeff Van Tongeren, lit him afire. Van Tongeren then took Diethelm’s car with some valuables in it. The house didn’t burn sufficiently to cover the clues and Van Tongeren was arrested.

Hank Diethelm with members of the The Brig’s leather contest men.

There was no connection to Nick Rubicam’s murder. Maybe there is no connection between Rubicam’s murder and the murder of Nick Crumbley.

Muddled, blurred edges like these exist throughout the massive murder wave of Gay Murders of San Francisco between 1968 and 1982. It takes much information to be able to divide bone and marrow to determine any links or break any apparent links that tempt us on the surface.

These two cases from 1983 have more public evidence than many of the others, and together they reveal a still-lurking complexity in those older cases during the boomtown days of Swingin’ Seventies nightlife.

After this point, the edges become clearer. Young tricks– the Polk Street hustlers– were killing older, gay men. If caught they’d claim “homosexual panic,” and in a couple of cases even get acquitted. Drugs and money would come to dominate and make for very clear motives for the murders hereafter.

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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.

I-70 KILLER- Coming News

Sorry for the lack of updates on the DOODLER/JACK the KNIFE murders of San Francisco in the 1970s. But I have been slammed with getting two manuscripts finished and then edits on a third, HorrorScope. There is nothing more mentally fatiguing than working on these many MSs at once.

In addition, lots of information has been coming in on a POI who could be associated with the I-70 KILLER crime spree. Although I have not mentioned the case for a while, the POI’s name in association with my research has apparently been made recently on a podcast. Surfers have come to my blog in large numbers over the crime case, including a couple claiming to have details on one of the cases. Since I am still waiting for the coroner’s report on this case, I cannot contradict the claims being made, but the claims also contradict the police theories and every news report, including those dated to 1992, regarding the Terre Haute murder of Mick McCown.

I know that the POI is being triaged by St. Charles PD. He is also being triaged by an Ohio jurisdiction over an unrelated murder.

So little has been written on the subject of the I-70 Killer recently that my blog has become the focus, and the focus curiously is on some older posts from years ago. All news reports dating from the beginning speculated that McCown’s murder was a mistake. This was based on the assertion that he had his hair in a ponytail and was mistaken for a woman from behind. My detailed and most recent post on the case contradicted this, noting how it was impossible given the evidence that the killer did not know McCown was a man. However, some old overview of mine, based on the police assertions and news reports, presents the case as originally and ubiquitously presented since 1992.

In all fairness to the subject, until the coroner’s report is uncovered, such presentations must stand. The reader can balance between the assertions and the evidence and clues I present in the most recent article: https://questersite.wordpress.com/2021/07/26/highway-hunter-i-70-killer-profile-to-consider/

At least on one occasion, a news report quoted two relatives of McCown. One strongly contested that he was a mistaken victim. Rather her opinion was that the killer saw the woman’s name on the shop “Sylvia’s” and entered expecting to take a female victim. Then finding Mick McCown shot him instead. I would tend to agree. But I base my beliefs on details. Whatever the family members conveyed to the reporter, the reporter never conveyed any reason why the family held their beliefs. Now it is being asserted that McCown was 6 feet 4 inches tall, had cut his pony tail, and there were bells on all the doors of the shop. Again, this may be true, but the news was skeptical enough not to support these claims if family members had, in fact, made them to the reporters.

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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.

Gay West, Young Man– Murders Amidst the Migration

With the last post Gay Murder Victims of the Ebb, the reader got a taste of the murder cases in late 1977 and into early 1978. According to some commentary in Gay newspapers, it was up until his downfall in the summer of 1978 that SFPD inspector David Toschi went around to the Gay bars and showed the police sketch of the DOODLER. His purpose, apparently, was to see if the patrons and owners had seen such a person in the bars prior to the latest victim being found murdered.

We don’t know the answer, but we can guess considering that SFPD came to affirm the DOODLER wasn’t active past September 1975. In retrospect we’ve heard that supposedly after SFPD learned his identity he was interviewed and this scared him off; he stopped killing and left the city. Why then did Toschi persist? Probably because the DOODLER sketch was the only one that SFPD had in connection with unsolved Gay murders . . . or the legend of the DOODLER interview is rubbish. Either underscores for us how faceless this murderer(s) of Gay men really was. A young black guy wearing a navy watch cap and doodling is what it took to really stand out and merit witness memories. He was so mis-dressed for stalking it is not surprising he stood out.

Was the so-called DOODLER ever really a factor in the vast stats of Gay murders? I would say no. The murders assigned to the DOODLER were all out-of-doors and in the west– a glitch over the span of brutal murders 1974-1975 which were in victims’ flats in Tenderloin and SOMA. When the murders moved west after the Tenderloin vigilante threat to get the perp, the murders were still Tenderloin style– in the victims’ flats. They weren’t those savage stabbings at trysting locations. The legend tells us the DOODLER suspect had gone to New Orleans by this time, and we know from there he couldn’t be committing the new spate of murders.

Cocaine also seemed to be the DOODLER solicitation, not sex. This would seem to fit with the DOODLER’s appearance. He was working eateries and regular joints on Market Street–Burke’s Truck Stop and Nick’s— when he connected with his high-end patrons at Fox Plaza. At such locations, his appearance was regular enough. If he worked Gay bars for a while, it may only have been because Gay men were known to have lots more spending money. And, of course, cocaine was popular in the 1970s. This might better explain the attacks at such a high end residence as Fox Plaza (from which the sketch was made) compared to the seedier locations and apartments where some unknown killer(s) was snuffing out Gay men.

The DOODLER sketch. Drugs and connections to a political family cloud the issue as to motives. . . if the actual man fitted to the sketch was the real McCoy.

The DOODLER’s M.O. is so ill-defined, it’s hard to fathom how those victims assigned to him came to be categorized under the heading of a DOODLER victim. The only thing that was truly unique about the victims tossed into the DOODLER’s corner was that they occurred out-of-doors in the west. And that may have been the only reason the victims were lumped together. I see no other reason why an old toothless souse, to be frank, like Harold Gullberg was placed on the list of DOODLER victims when the Coroner wasn’t even sure if his death was homicide or accident.

Gullberg’s death, if it was murder, could actually be associated to the same perp who knocked off Warren Andrews (52) in April 1975. Andrews was pandering for a hookup at Land’s End when some pickup or trick clotted him with a rock. Andrews died in hospital in June, apparently never coming out of his coma. Gullberg seems to have been scratched with the end of a branch or something.

The public murders by blade assigned to the DOODLER were savage stabbings. They were at odds with the string of otherwise indoor murders by blade, bludgeon, strangle. Did the DOODLER do the public murders? I really don’t know. Did he do any of the indoor Tenderloin murders? I don’t know.

What we do know is that as the Gay murders moved west in 1976, the same three styles of death– blade, bludgeon, strangle– followed but public murder did not . . . for a while. And this is a vital clue. We must look at the context.

Gay nightlife had steadily been moving west. It was coming to the residential areas, mixed communities that Gays wanted to maintain as mixed communities for safe, normal daytime life. But with increasing immigration, Gay nightlife was coming west and it was coming to . . . daytime. It was visibly promiscuous. Mainstream Gays found they had to shut up and let the established communities and this new Tenderloin style of life fight it out.

It chiefly surrounded Buena Vista Park. It had become the central hookup point now, not Land’s End. At a given time at night there were probably 40 to 50 men making hookups and using the seclusion of the bushes as trysting locations. Not so coincidentally there had been much community controversy about “renovating” the park and reducing the amount of underwood– i.e. get rid of the bushes. Trees and brush desperately needed to be cleaned out. The trees were “diseased,” according to city experts. Community meetings got combative. Gays objected to changing the wooded nature of the hilltop park. To the rest of the community, the Gay objection was viewed as wanting to keep the park a trysting locations.

The problems had gone national in Spring 1980. The sex hookups at the park had rated a segment on CBS’s nationally aired Gay Power, Gay Politics in April. This documentary essentially concentrated on the most sordid aspects of S.F. Gay life. Cameras watched the park for a day, and the viewer was treated to a montage of several men scurrying in and out of the park, hidden in bushes, then dashing away after their arboreal tryst. Afterward local residents were complaining because of what their children were encountering.

Over 1977 through 1981, the murders of Gay men in the west were a carbon in many ways of the Tenderloin murders. As noted, they occurred in the flat of the victim after a hookup or pickup somewhere. Yet now the flats were in communities that surrounded Buena Vista Park. Only one murder in 1977 was suggestive of the Fox Plaza M.O. — young Barry O’Shields’ stabbing in October in his apartment on Carl Street. Yet many such knifings occurred over the span of the decade. The murder in May 1979 by fire poker of Quirinio Paolazzi on distant York Street was followed by his car having been found by Buena Vista Park, the killer having taken it back and dissolving into the night. But within the next full wave of murders 1979-1982 there was an out-of-doors murder similar to the M.O. previously accorded the DOODLER. And this was in Buena Vista Park.

On the night of November 23, 1980, Don Meder walked up from his Fillmore Street address and entered the park at the stairs at the end of Duboce Street. Meder either met his killer here or came with him. Next morning he was found dead. His pants were down to his knees, one arm draped over his back. He had been stabbed several times in the neck.

Don Meder circa 1980.

This only added to the raging controversy about the park. Politics came to obscure the truth: problems were increasing at the park, especially at night. Perhaps reflecting mainstream silence, Gay newspapers avoided editorials but tactfully let the details slip out via letters to the editor. One was to the Sentinel. It was written in May 1980, months before Meder was murdered there. It was titled

Ambush in Buena Vista Park

Editor:

Please WARN your readers that the Cops
have now taken to walking on foot into the
Hot Spots in Buena Vista Park at 4 AM,
and in the night in general.
I was in the park at 4 AM and the cops
came in with flashlights, and every body
just RAN AWAY! Tell your readers no
body stayed! . . . How ODD, that is no
body stayed but me!
I was the only one who stayed! I just laid
down in the bushes and waited for them to
pass, while every body seemed to be running
for their lives.
Don’t print my name, if you should de-
cide to print this important story, important
because, under the old mayor, the cops
never got out of their cars (I have been
going there for years).
I think the cops would like to get their
hands on me. I made it a point to stay,
and from a secure place I yelled as emotionally as I could:
PIGS. PIGS, SO WE’RE QUEER, SO
WHAT. GOT TO RUN THE FAGGOTTS
OUT OF THE PARK. FUCK CHIEF
SCOTT (sic), FUCK FEINSTEIN AND
ALL HER RUNNING DOGS! I repeated
this several times and they got very angry
and started to yell back with lots and lots
of hate, they wanted to kill me I could
feel it!, but I just kept on shouting!
Tell all your readers we got to fight back,
from hiding where we have a chance. You
would have to have been up there and seen
30 or 40 human beings at 4 AM in the
morning enjoying themselves, and then
seen those cops come in on foot with flash-
lights, and then all the fun stop, and every
body in a most undignified way running
away in terror. Damnit.
I stayed and gave em all the hell I could.
Let’s be like our Mr. Brazhinskey (sic),
the US National Security Advisor. Let’s be
COMBATIVE from the bushes and register
our protest.

Well, this rant preserves several controversies then on-going. Clearly, Buena Vista had become a mecca for public trysting and police response.

And the Paolazzi murder indicates that it was a central area of deadly pickups back to the apartment of the victim. The same perp in the Paolazzi case was suspected by SFPD to have murdered a man (William Prince) in similar fashion earlier in the year in Tenderloin at his Jones Street apartment, either picked up from the park or one of the local bars.

The controversy would continue to mount because of the latest movie release: Cruising. In this New York based movie, a gay serial killer preys upon other gays. The leather bars are featured and one murder occurs in a park, a park loaded with men, some in leather, moving in and out from the undergrowth.

A screencap from Cruising, 1980– it could easily pass for Buena Vista Park in San Francisco at the same time.

The mainstream American community was being blasted by a promiscuous, dangerous image of Gay life, and it was this type of Gay life CBS was telling them was trying to gain power and influence.

Months later Meder is murdered in the park in brutal circumstances. Was it a Gay serial killer, the one who had struck in 1974-1975? Was he the image of the twisted killer in Cruising? JACK THE KNIFE? Was it Paolazzi’s killer? Or are there many killers involved?

It is a fact that Buena Vista Park started being scouted by hustlers, even gangs of them. Their object, it appeared, would be to attack and rob Gay men. They were seen lurking in the day. A letter to the editor in the December edition of the B.A.R. is particularly revealing:

Buena Vista Dangers

This letter is the follow-up you requested per our phone conversation of this afternoon regarding the recent murder in Buena Vista Park.

I wrote a letter to the editor and it was published in your November 20 edition. In that letter I talked of being attacked by a robber posing as a cop. I wanted to warn men who use the park not to fall for that line because it means you lower your guard and are not trying to defend yourself when you actually should.

I also wrote that the man I was with (fucking, to be exact) fled without making a sound of warning to the other men in the park that night. This leads me to believe he was working with the robber. If he wasn’t, why on earth didn’t he yell for help? I could have been murdered as was this poor man Sunday night. Was he killed because he let down his guard to a man posing as a cop??? Or was he murdered because the man he was having sex with fled silently into the night and left him with a murderer???

It’s time Gay men started helping each other. United We Stand!

The problems escalated in Buena Vista Park until August 26, 1981, when a homeless man was pulled from his pup tent and set afire. Only a few days before, another Gay man was found murdered in very bizarre circumstances at nearby Corona Heights Park. The murder of Michael Singleterry is another rare example of the public Gay murder. . . but that is for another post.

The point is made here that public murders were returning to San Francisco, but the details were also being covered better; so was the politics of the time, something absent even a short time before in 1974 when the public murders began. Within this next wave of murders, Singleterry’s is particularly disturbing.

The later wave of murders was no different than the Tenderloin and SOMA murders of 1974-1975. No serial killer legend came of it, but was there one afoot? At time was it the same one, and we have become too diverted by the confused concept of the DOODLER to recognize him?

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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.

The Slow DOODLE– Gay Murders of The Ebb

Due to the unique M.O. of the so-called DOODLER serial killer we have only a few of the rash of Gay Murders over 1974 and 1975 somewhat tentatively preserved in the public forum. If you follow this blog, however, you have come to understand there were many more victims than the “usual 5” over the glut of those two years. However, in this post let’s look at a few cases that happened outside of these two years. The Gay Murders of the 1970s ebbed and flowed, and it is during the ebb years that some very unusual murders happened that may bear on understanding and solving the issue of whether there was one or more than one serial killer afoot in San Francisco.

S.F. as seen from Twin Peaks, 1982, in a local TV broadcast. It overlooks Castro and right down Market Street.

One of the most dramatic is also one of the most, well, film noir type of murders imaginable. Apparently Thomas Kenny liked to collect some Medieval memorabilia. On the morning of February 6, 1978, the 38 year old was found dead at his apartment on Parkridge, Twin Peaks. He had been bludgeoned to death by a knight’s mace.

Twin Peaks overlooks The Castro, Delores Heights, Noe Valley, and much of central San Francisco. The apartments may not be grand, but the view is. The easiest explanation is that someone came home with him this night to enjoy the breathtaking view and selected the very unwieldly instrument to kill him.

Thomas Kenny, high school photo, 1956.

Kenny’s murder was a unique break in the usual alternating causes of Gay murder– the list will tick tock back and forth between knifing or bludgeon with some strangling intermixed. Rest assured, if you see “strangle” on the list of victims a closer look uncovers it was a Gay murder. Strangle is a very personal and prolonged way to kill, and it is not a method your average house burglar uses . . . especially on a man.

And, curiously, the elusive night strangler was completely absent in San Francisco in 1978. This is truly intriguing. This is the year that the CLONE victims would fall prey to their predator. Each was strangled, but their bodies were taken and dumped far away on Tunitas Creek Road in San Mateo County.

The San Francisco Gay murders in situ were all by blade or bludgeon. This crime wave began in September 1977. Edwin Harding was 33 with an apartment on Mission Street. He was murdered the night of September 27, 1977. The killer used a heavy-duty ashtray at hand. The circumstances, as they would be with Kenny, indicated a pickup locally, perhaps in Castro or South of Market.

On October 23, it was back to knife. Young Barry O’Shields (26) was stabbed to death at his residence on Carl Street in the narrow block that connects Haight and Inner Sunset. Just a week later on Halloween Robert Kerns (31) was viscously knifed to death several blocks away at his apartment on Fell Street. William Rook was suspected of having committed Kerns’ murder, but Shields death had no official suspect.

Barry O’Shields.

It was back to a “handy” bludgeon again in February 1978 when Thomas Kenny was killed with his Medieval mace.

I am still trying to refine and put in place these murders. Each could have a separate perpetrator. . . yet. The following murder I have hopes could lead further.

It was only 2 days after Kenny was bludgeoned that Rick Smoot was gunned down on Howard Street. The location was just behind the same garage where David Reel had been strangled and then mutilated back in August 1975. Detective Earl Sanders speculated that he left the Black and Blue bar with a pickup and they were walking to the perp’s car. Earlier that evening Smoot had been at Toad Hall in The Castro, and it was evident to all covering the case that it was necessary to have a car to get to the Black and Blue, a SOMA leather bar.

I must speculate, I wish to speculate, that something must have happened before Smoot got to the car with the pickup. I contend that Smoot got wise. Something happened that indicated the pickup was dangerous, very dangerous. Something, I contend, incriminating happened or was revealed. Smoot had to die on the spot, shot in the gut.

Rick Smoot

Rick Smoot was popular, and modeled on the side. For our purposes here, he looked like the CLONE victims. As yet none of them had been found. No one even knew the CLONE stalker was afoot until bodies started turning up in San Mateo County in March. By the end of the year David Likens was arrested for the 6 CLONE murders– 6 gay men who had last been seen in Gay bars in San Fran and then found strangled to death in San Mateo and Marin counties.

Was Smoot’s killer the CLONE KILLER? The CLONE murderer certainly had a car. There was no other way to transport the victims to San Mateo Co. But it would seem that it would have been noticed in the bar if the popular, very popular, David Likens had gone out with the handsome Smoot. However, gay bars often did not cooperate with detectives, and if Likens was the CLONE KILLER he had accomplices. As a popular waiter/bartender in gay bars, Likens had many contacts. His buddy Danny Hepburn had also been a part time bartender.

For mere speculation, it is possible that Likens picked up Smoot and something got out of hand before they got to the car. Perhaps someone else unexpected was there, and Smoot didn’t like the way things were going. An abduction commenced, and he resisted.

A popular Castro gay bar, seen here in 1976.

But it could be that Smoot was picked up by the “trick” or gent who started bludgeoning victims in September 1977– ashtray, mace, perhaps sometimes a knife. Rick Smoot’s murder has no motive unless it somehow fits with the two waves of murders then currently underway: the local killing of gay men and the silent wave of murder that would be labeled the CLONE KILLINGS.

By 1978, the Tenderloin was no longer the Gay scene. It had moved west to Castro, and the murders, as I have noted before, were now moving west. The CLONE victims had last been seen in The Castro or SOMA bars. Tom Goodman, one of the CLONE victims, also lived in Castro on Collingwood.

There would be more Gay murders of the Ebb in 1978 and 1979. Then another wave would hit in which a strangler had returned.

*         *        *

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.

Gay Snuff– The Atmospherics of Swingin’ Seventies Gay Murders

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.

Interior of The Ramrod, a SOMA leather bar on Folsom Street, as seen in the movie The Laughing Policeman, 1973. (The owner was influential in getting the film made.)

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.

The Castro in the 1970s. This part of Castro Street seen here is just south of Market Street, San Francisco’s main street.

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.”

A photo of men hanging out near Toad Hall, a well known gay bar in Castro.

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:

CASTRO DECLINE

Editor:

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.

Screencap from a 1979 Channel 5 Report– double entendres existed in a number of business signs, this one at Polk & Pine Street.

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.

A page from sheriff captain Keith Wolverton’s book Mystery Stalks the Prairie, dealing with cattle mutilations in Montana 1975-1976. These practitioners were definitely “Dummies Guide” occultists.

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.

S.F. Examiner, December 29, 1979, seeking the identity of the 2 John Does.

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.

Snapshots of only a few of the Berdella victims– they bear a resemblance to the CLONE victims as well. Clean cut except for mustaches in some cases.

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.

Ernesta Snoop (Helen Hayes) with Alice Cooper in the Snoop Sister episode The Devil Made Me Do It, March 1974.

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.

John Doe 60 June 16, 1985– morgue photo.

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.”

St. Joseph, 1987

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.

Notice in the B.A.R. for June 1971.

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.

*         *        *

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’s Satanic, Until Proven Panic.” — DOODLER/JACK The KNIFE. GAY MURDERS of San Francisco

The podcast where Dan Seitler and I talk about the Gay Murders of the Swingin’ Seventies and Decadent Eighties.

“It’s Satanic Until Proven Panic.”

*         *        *

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 Gay Murders of San Francisco–Origins

Gay murders became rampant in San Francisco in the 1970s, with 1974-1976 seeing the most concentration. Despite San Francisco supposedly becoming a Gay center after the end of World War II, it is a fact that Gay murders were almost unknown in the city. The murders came with the Beat, the counterculture that sprang from it, and then exponentially increased as the cultural flux made San Francisco a modern Dodge City for antiestablishment subcultures after the Summer of Love. To underscore the point, we have to compare before and after.

I’ve waded through police and academic lists of all homicides happening in San Francisco prior to counterculture 1967. I’ve cross-referenced any murder that looked like it had potential to shed light on the subject of Gay murders. However, in doing so I discovered a singular fact: they really weren’t happening. An ambiguous one is the murder of Dr. Edward Muentzler in 1950. His body is found trussed in bed . . .well, you best read the Coroner’s Register for yourself.

Two men were sent over for the crime– they got a 2nd degree murder charge on them, which means this wasn’t premeditated. But what was all this about? Was it sexual? Were they teaching him S&M?

It would be some 6 years before another murder happened that had “gay overtones.” The reader best also read the Coroner’s Register.

Police later tagged Bobby McMann for the murder. From the above 2 examples we also see a common thread: murders weren’t going unsolved. By late 1960s, “suspect unknown” became a common notation summing up a Gay murder.

With the counterculture’s bohemian attitude about sexual freedom and tolerance, Gays were coming to San Francisco too. But that is still no explanation for the rash of murders. Several factors were involved that plagued society in general. Not least was drug use. But overall, the murders have to be connected to aspects of the 1960s counterculture attitude. In essence, the murders gradually begin in 1967. So it is unavoidable that we must look for an agent within this volatile period of cultural experimentation.

The year 1966 saw the beginning of the cynical “God is Dead” movement, the proliferation of drug use, and there was increasing migration to Beat centers– San Francisco and New York– by those dovetailing on that philosophy. They were against authority, frankly naïve, and did not view outcasts (largely bums and deadbeats) as representing a criminal element. It was the establishment which was corrupt and upside down. Losers like Charles Manson, for example, could rise to a place of influence.

Simply distilled, the new philosophy of unfettering one’s mind from the past norms is obviously one that is going to be uniquely twisted by the criminal mind. The provocative antiestablishment and counterculture mindsets were emboldening the criminal mind to become more audacious as well. Examples include Manson’s murders, The Zodiac Murders, and into the 1970s the killings of Zebra and the SLA. “Sexual Freedom” brings its own kind of practitioners and experimenters. Gay social life was already planted in the bohemian gardens, so to speak, the location to which antiestablishment was filtering. And this brings up the ultimate significant fact: where the school of fish is concentrated, there will the sharks be gathered as well. Hundreds of thousands of the younger, “freer” generation were cycling through San Francisco. Those willing to take advantage were coming too and were bolder than before.

There are still other factors, for when the Gay murders took form in the late 1960s they took on a very disturbing, formulaic form– brutal knifing, strangle, bludgeon. Over the span of 1967 to 1982, there are over 60 murders listed as “no suspect.” And this number is not including the Gay murders by gun. They ebb and flow over the years, but on the whole these very involved ways of murder–strangle, blade, bludgeon– remain constant. It is obvious there must be more, many more, than one perpetrator. Nevertheless, the murders are all quite similar.

Donald Fleming is the first of interest here– found nude, strangled and killed by a butcher knife at his residence on Montezuma Street. The date was May 10, 1967. John Gilleran is killed by a pair of scissors at his residence on Bush Street. He was stabbed 15 times. The date is September 21, 1967. Fleming was 32, Gilleran was 26. In between was the Summer of Love– but it wasn’t hippie love that killed them. Nor was it the lifestyle of the Gay community. No such concept had congealed yet. The victims’ residences are spread about San Francisco. Fleming lived in Bernal Heights; Gilleran in Lower Nob at 890 Bush Street.

Put back in Kodachrome, and Montezuma Street would still have the psychedelic feel of 1967 S.F. Here Don Fleming was brutally murdered in a similar fashion that would be repeated in the mid 1970s.

This pattern would continue in 1968. In October a series of strangulations would commence. Dave Evans is strangled with a towel in his flat on Chattanooga Street in Noe Valley. The date is October 3. On the borders of Tenderloin, Joey Ramirez is tied up in his flat on O’Farrell and strangled. It is October 22. A high end strangling occurs at the Fairmount atop Nob Hill. Franc Blachinger is strangled on February 16, 1969. These are older victims. Evans was 39, Ramirez 41, Blachinger in his 50s.

The 60s’ murders end with the stabbing of Charles Hedberg at his flat on Twin Peaks on Burnett Ave. It is June 24, 1969. The 1970s see them begin by a stabbing on Holyoke. February 25, 1970, Louis Drinkmann is killed at his flat. This is right off Mansell in Visitacion Valley.

Basically, these murders are all over the place.

Charles Hedberg, senior photo.

The series of strangulation in late 1968 to February 1969 could have been done by a pickup who had frustrated contempt for his patron or by a serial who actively stalked. Hedberg’s stabbing might be connected to the earlier ones. This night stabber might have left San Francisco. He might have later retuned.

But it is a fact: each year after there were a few similar Gay murders–stranglings and knifings. They remained spread out. Slowly they began to form around the nucleus of the bar scene in Tenderloin. Then it became epidemic in 1975, concentrated here and then moved westward in 1976 when the bar scene expanded to the relatively new nucleus of the Gay community in The Castro.

This 1975 to 1976 westward shift has been declared in these posts several times. But in light of the early murders (1967-1973) a new fact bears on it. The pathology of the murders starkly reveals a new addition in 1974. Prior to 1974, all unsolved Gay Murders were essentially in the flat of the victim. Trysting locations were monitored by SFPD, such as at Land’s End, and sweeps would occur, starting in 1971, to stop public sex. Despite Gay newspapers, like the local B.A.R., forewarning Gays to avoid Land’s End, etc, adding that they shouldn’t be doing that in public anyway, the practice continued and moved along Ocean Beach. As public promiscuity increased in the 1970s, murders began at trysting locations. The first was January 1974. It was the murder of Gerald Cavanaugh at Ocean Beach near Ulloa Street.

Interestingly, Cavanaugh’s murder would (in retrospect) be attributed as the first of the so-called DOODLER Murders. This case has sadly become the focal point of assessing whether a serial killer was ever involved along the long graph of murders from 1967 to 1982. Whether DOODLER is a likely candidate or not, what is of far more interest is that in 1974 murders begin at public trysting locations. They are sporadic and continue into 1975. Relatively speaking, it was a short fad of modus operandi. As a footnote, it must be noted that the bulk of these public murders would be attributed to The DOODLER. Ironically, the very concept and moniker of The DOODLER comes from Summer 1975 attacks by a young black man in Mid-Market in the victim’s flat– the opposite M.O. to these public murders.

And, of course, the purpose of my investigation is (1) to document the Gay murders and then (2) to analyze and see where a serial may be afoot. The above break in the pattern is valuable to that end. These public murders may indicate the same perp.

However, the earlier and more prevalent pattern of murder inside the victim’s flat continued unabated. Stig Berlin’s murder in his Hyde Street flat (Feb 1974) has gotten some public attention recently. But I must now add Paul Jankowski (January 29, 1974) and Dan Shepard (September 14, 1974.) The first happened in Tenderloin, the second in Pacific Heights. There are others, but at present these top the list for refining.

Except for one murder in May 1976, in which the victim was dragged into a basement, the murders by knife/strangle/bludgeon are exclusively again within the flat of the victim. Yet as the second wave of murders strike in 1980, there is a murder at Buena Vista Park that is near identical to the earlier public “DOODLER” murders. Don Meder was viscously stabbed in November. Then in the summer of 1981, there is the strange murder of Mike Singleterry in Corona Heights Park nearby– strangled and beaten.

Gerald Cavanaugh, a Canadian expatriate living in Haight. His murder was the first public Gay murder following the series that began in 1967. Fellow Canadian expat Donald Webb would be strangled in his flat on Nueva on Xmas Eve 1976.

Gay hate crimes had been committed in public, of course. But there was no real ambiguity about the motives. On occasion groups of punks attacked or murdered gay men, or an individual shot one. These are not included here because their motives are known and the killers outed. The murders in question are where the victim was lulled into a trysting location or back to his apartment. Sex or drugs was obviously the solicitation. Then in Ripper-esque fashion he was brutally murdered.

Within the dark side of freeing oneself from the fetters of past morality came Sado-masochism. There came the strange fashion of “leather.” The macho man gay biker gangs. Entire bars were devoted to this leather/biker gang fashion. Murals inside would inspire patrons with scenes of jailhouse fantasies of rape and bondage. It was no joke. Quite a few of these guys had records. They had been in regular gangs before, and now with gay culture solidifying in San Francisco, leather subculture formed in South of Market. Brutal predators had places to loiter. And, as stated a number of times in these posts, as the murders ramped up the Gay community was sure the killer or killers was coming from South of Market or had a heavy connection to it. NO S&M leather man was ever a victim.

Ocean Beach by The Great Highway– Both Gerald Cavanaugh (1-27-74) and Fred Capin (5-12-75) would be found near Ulloa Street where it intersects with The Great Highway. Their murders, however, were about a year and a half apart.

The murder of Paul Hayes in December 1980 was a rare example where S&M would actually be listed as the cause. Hayes was found strangled and his body dumped at the entrance to Mount Tamalpais Park in Marin County. He was a middle age man now, who liked the leather culture, but he didn’t have a bike or anything. He was leather in one way. For those who tune into my and Dan Seitler’s podcast interview, you’ll understand Dan’s meaning of S&M– Stand & Model. There was a group of guys who liked the macho image, but they weren’t the tough guy. Hayes was one of the live action roll players who fell victim. His body was found without his leather boots and leather jacket. The police tagged Floyd Fischer for the crime.

The opening of a significant gay porno flick shot in S.F. in 1973 Nights in Black Leather has the star strutting along Polk Street looking to score. He is in partial leather–boots, pants, metal studs.

The vicious killing of gay men by gay men obviously wasn’t a natural consequence of Gay lifestyle otherwise it would be seen in the police and coroner records in the 1940s and 1950s. There is no need to go into the detailed history of how and why gays became concentrated in San Francisco. That is for another post. Here, in short, it can be noted that it is largely attributed to World War II. Conscription concentrated gay men in the military. With the mass discharges at the end of World War II, instead of going home those discharged from the Pacific remained in San Francisco. Wartime liberty had shown the men that the city’s bohemian bars welcomed all– The Black Cat and Mona’s were the prime examples. Bohemian bars would evolve into gay bars. The bar would become the meeting place and to an extent the social center of this era of the Gay community. The fact nevertheless remains. Gay murders really weren’t happening.

The murders came with counterculture, S&M, and the broad mind of antiestablishment and its unfettering of leather, leather, leather.

Something else came to San Francisco, and the antiestablishment mindset emboldened it. Satan worship. It’s creed was the strong treading under foot the weak. It was something that appealed to biker gangs, and this made it welcomed in South of Market. But that is for the next post. We get into something truly dark, and it must be explored free of all the theatre and clichés.

*         *        *

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 Gay Vigilantes: Was The DOODLER “Executed”?

The Gay community in San Francisco in the Swingin’ Seventies viewed itself as pivoting between two extremes– keeping the police from harassing them and at the same time getting help from them. They believed they were persecuted because they were Gay. They believed crimes against them weren’t being pursued because they were Gay. In essence, when the police were not actively shaking the community down, the Gays believed they stood back and let random crime have its way with them.

By January 1976, the bloodbath of murders set radical members of the community over the edge. These Tenderloin and SOMA murders didn’t appear to be random. Someone was hunting them. There had always been a nucleus of “community watch” members who had patrolled the streets and armed Gays with whistles so they could alert others they were under attack by a cop or some creep they knew the police wouldn’t come and stop. Vigilantism was an easy next step.

The grapevine was strongest in Tenderloin. Claude DeMott’s gruesome murder in his 64 Turk Street hotel room went through the community. He had put up quite a fight. When his body had been found on Monday morning December 8, 1975, it was reported his throat had been slit. His anus had been cored. His penis had been cut off. His scrotum had been sliced open.

He was and was not a drag queen. He only sometimes was known to have worn drag. Others in the hotel, it was reported, referred to him as a transvestite. He was quite personable, unassuming, a former soldier. He was 36 years old, white. The B.A.R. reported it was the “most sadistic slaying” so far seen in the Gay community. Inspectors McCleary and Falzon were on the case. The last name didn’t set well with the community. Frank Falzon was not well-liked and considered to do very little when it came to Gay murders.

Then January 24, 1976, Bruce DeJon (50) was found dead at 242 Turk Street at the Salvation Army Hotel, now called St. Lukes. DeJon was found nude, in bed, with a sheet pulled over his head, which when pulled back by inspectors McCreary and Falzon had been bashed in by the bloodied lampstand nearby.

Police passed this photo around of Claude DeMott, trying to get information. The B.A.R. published it for the community

Claude DeMott had last been seen talking to a black man. The same can be said about DeJon. The whole idea of a serial was coursing through the Gay community in Tenderloin. The B.A.R. writes: “Tenderloin sources say that they had leads to the identity of the killer, but they do not trust the SFPD to do anything responsible, and that the killer of DeJon will be dealt with by them. The killer, they say, does live in the Tenderloin and is well known to many bar-hoppers. They refuse to give BAR any further details.”

The Gay murders had so far surrounded the bar nightlife in Tenderloin and South of Market. Now, perhaps not so coincidentally, they had stopped. . . February proved this. . . March proved this . . .April proved ambiguous.

Robert Culver was murdered in The Castro. But the circumstances were a bit different than the Tenderloin murders. Then John Marsalla was mutilated and strangled on Brompton in Diamond Heights, far south. But as the year passed the murders weren’t returning to Tenderloin or SOMA.

What had happened? Did the Tenderloin vigilantes deal with the suspect and kill him? In order to find the killer’s identity, should we be looking for missing persons at this time or another unexplained murder of a Tenderloin resident found in another district? Or was the published threat enough to make the suspect leave off prowling the Tenderloin and head west?

The Gay community had been steadily heading west to The Castro for years, but it had not been plagued by murders. This district was viewed as a mixed neighborhood of old time straight residents and the newer gay immigrants. It was regarded as a neighborhood— a place to live. It was not the “the smug display of unabashed hedonism” of Tenderloin and South of Market nightlife. Despite numerous gay bars, nightlife was different. These were bars servicing a neighborhood. No one, including many Gays, wanted Tenderloin and especially South of Market nightlife coming west to The Castro.

Castro Street 1979, a clip from a CBS 5 news story. As the sordid Tenderloin and SOMA standards moved west, the community, both Straight and Gay, began to object.

Yet with Culver’s and then Marsalla’s murders, the killing were coming west. By October 1976 the same gruesome type of murders came to Steiner Street in Alamo Park, just up Lower Haight. Someone obviously had come west from Tenderloin.

The cessation and then shift west is an intriguing kink in the timeline that I must contemplate. Its voice is silence, the rest is interpretation– to paraphrase an often applied line to many unsolved topics. The Gay vigilantes certainly showed their conviction that an individual serial killer had been afoot. The cessation of murders would seem to bear out their theory. Subsequent murders avoided Tenderloin for some time.

The problem with interpretation is that more things than silence influence it. This timeline gap in spring 1976 and the savage murders moving west can underscore the vigilante threat had its effect. However, the killer could have moved away. Yet another could have moved in later in 1976. It’s not reaching to consider this. It was an incredibly migratory time. In 1971 this had happened. An employee of The Trapp had been strangled in his bed. Later the killer was apprehended in Kansas City, reported to have left a trail of Gay victims (supposedly 13) across the country. (It would happen again in 1979, with a sado killer coming from the Seattle area.)

San Francisco had been attracting the S&M crowd, and it was becoming a revolving door for the more affluent partakers. The heavy duty biker and leather crowd was centered in South of Market. And none of the leather crowd had been victims. They, in fact, had been the feared suspects before. South of Market was a real problem and all of its leather bars.

On the same page in the B.A.R. issue presenting DeMott’s murder, there is the story headliner “Male Kidnap and Rape.” Bob Sheidler, age 26, was walking down Clay Street to Polk Street– the main street of Gay life– when 5 guys got him and raped him. “He described them as four whites and one black person, with two of them in full leather and chain regalia, and the other three as partial leather and levis.” The article continues:

“After puling him into the car on Clay Street, screaming, they put a bag or pillow case over his head. They proceeded to take him to a park-like area, and then raped him savagely. . . .SFPD Homicide officers are investigating this case as it may have some connection with the S&M slayings.”

There was no further comment, but this quote reveals SFPD’s attitude– Gay leather sados were prowling about preying on the Gay community. To the Tenderloin crowd, it was an individual Jack The Ripper-like villain.

How good were the Tenderloin sources? Only thin strands connected a black man to DeMott’s and DeJon’s murder; and even if that was right, was he the same Doodler who would take form in news articles in 1976? Remember, the whole idea there was a frustrated, latent homosexual black man as the Doodler stems from a shrink having turned in a patient who supposedly had confessed to the Ocean Beach murders during sessions with him. Yet how do we know this was the real culprit who inspired the “Doodler” police sketch? And even if he was, how do we know this is the same bar-hopper suspected in Tenderloin?

SFPD sketch of a man who doodled along Market Street and then is associated with a knifing and a couple of other attacks in and around Fox Plaza, July 1975.

For that matter, the Tenderloin sources may have been better. They may not have been after a young black guy. They might have been after a leather white guy from South of Market who lived in Tenderloin. Again, we don’t know what played on behind-the-scenes. What we do know is the murders leave Tenderloin.

They come back to Tenderloin in an ambiguous way– Peter Molzen is brutally stabbed in his apartment on Geary on June 24, 1976. Toschi and Mullane respond and arrest his roommate Dennis Flynn, but Flynn is soon released by the court as the DA tries to gather more evidence.

When the Gay murders do return to Tenderloin, it is 1979 and they can be tentatively categorized as of various origins. A gay hustler is suspected to have killed William Prince in his Jones Street apartment in late afternoon January 4. He is also the suspect in the Quirinio Paolazzi murder in Bernal Heights on York Street on May 17. There was a transvestite, George Wright, strangled at an Ellis Street motel on June 10. Hank Lawrence, an employee of The Trapp, a rather notorious Gay bar on Eddy, is also knifed at his 155 Turk Street apartment in the early morning of July 19. All the above were middle age men, and in Paolazzi’s case 72 years old.

The second great wave of unexplained Gay murders roughly begins in late 1980, and it is not as easy to dissect.

In between in 1978, there was that wave of S&M murders classified as the CLONE MURDERS. The victims were last seen in a South of Market or Castro bar, but their bodies were found far away on Tunitas Creek Road (San Mateo County) or in Marin County across the Golden Gate. They had been strangled in sado. They were called CLONE MURDERS because the victims all generally resembled each other– young clean cut guy next door.

One cannot help but notice the waves and the lulls. The most intriguing lull is after the Tenderloin killer is loudly proclaimed to be identified by Tenderloin Gay vigilantes, who say they will handle him. Thereafter the murders move elsewhere. And we must follow these leads.

The second wave of murders indicates more than one type of suspect was responsible, but within it there was yet again a sado killer.

*         *        *

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.