Say what you will about tabloid journalism and sensationalistic cable television news magazines, but sometimes, they go far above and beyond what’s asked of the boring (and occasionally fraudulent) mainstream media barons. That’s especially true when it comes to covering scintillating (and sickening) true crime stories, where programs like Inside Edition and Hard Copy really pulled out all the stops to make the already gruesome homicide accounts we hear day-in, day-out on the evening news even more melodramatic and horrifying. With Halloween right around the corner, I figured we owed it to ourselves to indulge in some truly terrifying televised tidbits from yesteryear, featuring professional news anchors and investigative reporters desperately trying to wring morsels of truth and insight from some of the most infamous stark-raving lunatics, serial rapists and mass murderers in American history. Grab your candy baskets (and your barf buckets) kids … it’s time to for some good old fashioned, skin-crawling crazy talk.
1. Geraldo Rivera Fruitlessly Attempts To Gleam Coherence Out Of Charles Manson
To some, Charles Manson is that dude who hung out with the Beach Boys and wrote some oddly moving love songs. To others, he’s the batshit insane cult leader who commanded his drugged-up followers to butcher a pregnant woman so it would start a great race war because he believed that’s what The Beatles really meant with “Helter Skelter.” While there have been many an interesting “interview” with San Quentin’s most infamous long-term resident (who could forget the time he showed one lucky reporter his interpretive dance skills?), the gold standard for Manson media misadventures has to be that time Geraldo Rivera sat down with the man himself back in 1988. Things start off innocent enough, with Manson stating his desire to kill “50 million people” and proclaiming Hitler was only “trying to bring order into the world,” but it’s not long before Chucky Boy starts getting fairly belligerent, at one point asking the interviewer how he would like it if he “hopped over there and beat the dog shit” out of him. After that, Manson goes on a long tirade about how much he hates Susan Atkins, his admiration for Bing Crosby, his personal stabbing technique (he claims he “cuts a little,” but has never “stuck it in”), why marijuana should be legal and how his murderous exploits in the ‘60s came this close to resurrecting Jesus. And for that grand finale, he claims Ronald Reagan personally planted evidence on him and tells Geraldo he likes his boots. Granted, there are more spastic Manson interviews out there, but when it comes to just straight up meandering madness, you’re going to have to search far and wide to find anything rivaling the unabashed lunacy of this one.
2. Milwaukee’s Most Famous Cannibal Calmly Recounts His 13 Year Career In Mass Murder
From 1978 to 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer tortured, sexually abused and murdered 17 young men – the majority of them African-American, with his youngest victims being just 14-years-old – but just you wait, it gets worse. You see, Dahmer wasn’t just content with drilling holes in people’s skulls and pouring acid on their brains and strangling them to death with leather straps while watching The Exorcist III, he was also quite keen on – well, eating their remains and using their severed body parts for home decor. In this Inside Edition interview (which appears to have first aired in 1993), Dahmer oh so coolly discusses his modus operandi, describing the “surge of energy” he experienced while sawing up corpses in his grandma’s basement as nearly euphoric and explaining that he took photos of his victims’ corpses in order to preserve their “physical beauty.” Then things get really weird. He starts talking about how he began having deviant fantasies when he was 15, and then he discusses – with a tone as mundane as if he were talking about the weather – what the human heart tastes like and this one time he brought a severed head to work, just for the LULZ. But don’t worry, this story has a happy ending: about a year after the Inside Edition interview aired, a fellow prisoner and convicted murderer – claiming he was commanded by God himself – bludgeoned Dahmer to death with a 20 inch iron bar.
3. Ted Bundy Lies Like A Rug In Front Of James Dobson
Just hours before Ted Bundy was executed in 1989, he sat down for a final interview with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. Bundy, who confessed to murdering 30 women, but whose total kill count may exceed 100 victims, used the TV time to explain away his gruesome misdeeds on – what else? – looking at too much damn pornography. Instead of taking responsibility for his own actions, Bundy played Dobson – considered by many to be the father of the modern conservative evangelical movement – like a fiddle, claiming the sinister X-rated entertainment literally possessed him and drove him to kill, kill and kill some more. Claiming a last-second conversion to Christianity, Bundy goes on to feign sympathy for the untold lives he wrecked (alas, the textbook definition of a sociopath, he just can’t muster up the ability to spill tears on cue), before sternly declaring that every town in America is at risk of subsequent sexual homicides because dabnabbit, violent media is just so guldarn accessible. “When I see what’s on cable TV, some of the movies,” he declares at one point, “to know that children are watching that kind of thing today … it’s scary when I think what would have happened to me, and I’m scary enough.” Indeed, heartfelt words from a man whose string of crimes includes the brutal rape, torture and homicide of 12-year-old girls … and as you would expect, Dobson totally fell for the ruse, hook, line and sinker.
4. ‘The Night Stalker’ Mugs It Up For The Camera
In the mid-1980s, Richard Ramirez terrorized southern California with a string of gruesome home invasion murders. After murdering 13 people, the so-called “Night Stalker” was sentenced to death (which, in his case, came in the form of succumbing to cancer while waiting on the “to-execute” list in 2013.) In a rare interview with Inside Edition (I’m not sure of the exact date, but the graphics lead me to believe it was either in the late 1980s or early 1990s), Ramirez smiles like a cheshire cat when the interviewer asks him why he felt the need to break into people’s houses and beat the tenants to death with tire irons, aloofly stating “no comment, I cannot answer at this time” while trying to contain his homicidal laughter. Alike Bundy, Ramirez attempted to throw off the interviewer with some pseudo-philosophical bullshit about “poverty” and “child abuse” creating a recipe for serial killers, but it’s glaringly apparent to anyone watching the video that this creep killed, maimed, tortured and mutilated simply because he enjoyed it. “I believe in the evil in human nature,” he states. “This is a wicked world, and in a wicked world, wicked people are born.” And of course, right after saying that he wasn’t going to blame “society” or his “race” for what went wrong, he turns around and says that, at the time of the murders, he also felt the overwhelming power of Satan himself coursing through his veins. Well, at least he half-way fessed up to owning his actions, I suppose.
5. A Man Who Dressed Like A Clown And Murdered Children Puts Up The Worst “I’m Innocent” Plea Of All-Time
Thirteen years after being convicted of murdering 33 young men – the youngest just 14-years-old – and burying their molding corpses in the crawlspace of his Chicago home, John Wayne Gacy sat down with reporter Walter Jacobsen for an extremely rare interview. His intent? By golly, he wanted let the whole world know that he was framed. In the feeble attempt to garner himself a new trial before his date with the lethal injection needle, Gacy proceeded to spit out one gollywhopper of a lie after the other, stating – among other brass-balled mistruths – that he had undergone five hours of truth-serum-assisted lie-detector tests and that he didn’t believe in physically punishing his disobedient children. Proving himself to be the absolute least qualified person in human history to ever provide legal defense, Gacy at one point slips up during the interview, telling the interviewee that one of his victims was, and I quote, “not one that I killed.” Alas, you can’t slight Gacy’s quick wit. After being called out on his bullshit, he promptly responded with “strike that then, it’s wrong.” Needless to say, Gacy never got that retrial, and in 1994, he was executed by the state of Illinois. Ever the charming, remorseful sort, his alleged final words were the heartfelt, truly sympathetic refrain “kiss my ass.”
6. A Ron Swanson Lookalike Who Killed 10 Women Tells You Everything You Want To Know About The Mass Murder Trade
While Ed Kemper doesn’t have the name brand recognition of a Jeffrey Dahmer or a John Wayne Gacy, he nonetheless carved out a rather gruesome legacy for himself. From 1964 to 1973, the 6’9, 250-pound-plus Kemper killed at least 10 individuals – including his mother and both paternal grandparents – and earned the nickname “The Co-Ed Butcher” due to his predilection for targeting female college students in California. Believed to have an IQ in the genius range, you can certainly tease out the distressing coherence from the confirmed cannibal and necrophile in this 1991 interview, in which he lays out precisely how and why he turned to murdering strangers as a recreational activity. After telling the interviewer about his childhood fondness for “playing electric chair,” Kemper goes all psychoanalytical on us, describing how he used to drive around picking up hitchhikers as practice for “disarming” soon-to-be victims – whose sexual torture and mutilation he deems a subconscious way of getting back at his mama, who never introduced him to any young women when he got out of prison in his early 20s. Then – with the straight-forward delivery of a customer support technician – he recounts the joys of making his first victim “leak” to death from knife wounds and what it was like bashing his own flesh and blood’s skull in with a hammer. Old Kemper is still kicking, believe it or not – now age 67, he currently resides in the California Medical Facility, where he is serving out the remainder of eight consecutive life sentences.
7. Co-ed Killer Learns The Body He Thought He Got Rid Of Was Just Discovered By Police … On Camera
Compared to the rest of the heavy hitters on this list, Stephen McDaniel is definitely a lightweight. Still, he’s worthy of including on the list because – unlike everybody else on this countdown – he had the honor of being interviewed live by a television news crew before he was convicted of murder – or even arrested, for that matter. Your dime a dozen graduate school wacko, McDaniel apparently had the hots for his next door neighbor Lauren Giddings, but after she rebuffed his romantic intentions, he reacted as would any rationally-thinking, lovelorn 28-year-old – he broke into her house while wearing a mask and strangled her to death. McDaniel – who then hacked up his victim’s corpse like some sort of bad 1980s horror movie villain – was so convinced that he had committed the ultimate crime that he had no hesitations about being interviewed by a local TV camera crew. Alas, it was during that interview that McDaniel found out that police had discovered Gildings’ remains, and you can practically pinpoint the moment on video in which his mask of sanity shatters into a million, billion pieces. Shortly after the interview aired, McDaniel confessed to killing Giddings; following a plea bargain, he was sentenced to life in prison for his grisly doings.
8. The All-Time U.S. Serial Killing Record-Holder Waxes Nostalgic On His Mommy Issues
The name Gary Ridgway may not ring a bell at first. That’s primarily because he’s better known as the Green River Killer, who between 1982 and 1998, killed at least four dozen women in the Pacific Northwest (although he’s confessed to 70 and may be responsible for 90-plus.) In this undated interview (presumably, it happened somewhere in between his arrest in 2001 and his record-breaking, 49-counts homicide conviction in 2003), Ridgway spends a majority of his time talking about just how mean and spiteful his mama was, which he said goaded him into stabbing his schoolmates and torturing small animals in his youth. Granted, that alone is creepy enough, but just you wait until he gets to the part about the peculiar sensations he felt watching his mother sunbathe in the backyard. Needless to say, Norman Bates ain’t got nothing on this sicko mama’s boy.
9. The Man Who Probably Killed John Walsh’s Son Does His Best Beavis Impersonation
Colloquially known as the “Jacksonville Cannibal,” Ottis Toole is probably best known for two things; first, his chummy (read: sexual) relationship with fellow serial killer Henry Lee Lucas (which, in turn, inspired the gruesome slasher flick Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) and being officially named as the man who abducted, murdered and decapitated the child of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh. While Toole bragged to officials about killing scores of victims, he was only charged with two slayings, with another four homicides added to his mega-super-duper life sentence in 1991. In this interview from 1993, the man who fancied himself some arson alongside his grave robbing begins by talking about his pyromaniac desire to “watch an entire city burn” before segueing into his philosophy on murder – perhaps pleasing PETA, he tells the interviewer that, in his mind, killing a person is no different than stepping on a bug or roasting a hog. Naturally, this leads to a discussion of – you guessed it – Toole’s cannibalistic proclivities, in which he graphically describes ramming a baseball bat down a victim’s throat until it punctures their anus. And making the already unnerving interview a million times more uncomfortable? Toole’s bellowing howls of laughter and sinister, clenched teeth smile that seems to punctuate every other sentence. Alas, this story does have a happy ending: Toole died at the ripe old age of 49 in 1996, from what we can only hope was an excruciatingly painful case of cirrhosis.
10. Aileen Wuornos Proves Women Can Be Every Bit As Homicidally Insane As Their Male Counterparts
I know what you’re thinking: boy, this countdown sure has been a stark-raving mad sausage party. Well, how’s about we add a woman’s flair to the madcap, on-camera antics via the one and only Aileen Wuornos – the infamous Florida prostitute, who over the course of two years, shot and killed seven men. In this interview recorded just hours before she received the lethal injection in 2002, Wuornos wastes no time at all before her eyeballs start bulging out of her skull and she starts claiming she’s been subject to supersonic weaponry torture since the late 1990s. Then she says the prison was intentionally giving her food poisoning and helicopters were chasing her before she was arrested for her string of murders (naturally, she blames the cops for the murders because, in her words they kept letting her kill people.) Then she says she can’t wait to die because she’ll be beamed up Star Trek style to explore the cosmos and that she feels sorry for us because we’re all going to get “nuked” by a comet in 2019, before sarcastically thanking “society for railroading [her] ass” and demanding the interview stop right then and there. As the interviewer remarks, it’s hard to not be taken aback by Wuornos’ behavior – especially since she was declared mentally competent enough to execute just a day earlier.