A “WATCHER” who sends chilling letters to your home days after you move in; mysterious texts from someone who seems to be able to see your every move; a serial killer who draws his victims before killing them. These real-life horror stories are proof that sometimes the truth is stranger -- and more terrifying -- than fiction.
1. The Strack Family Murder-Suicide
When police arrived at the Strack family home in Springville, Utah to investigate the deaths of Kristi and Benjamin Strack and three of their children in 2014, they found a to-do list scribbled in a notebook. With notes on feeding the pets and finding someone to watch the house, it read like the Stracks were getting ready to go on vacation. But the dozens of pills and empty flu and cold medicine bottles littered around the home made it clear they hadn’t gone anywhere: all five family members had ingested a fatal mixture of drugs in an apparent murder-suicide.
What led to the tragic deaths turned out to be more bizarre than investigators could have imagined -- it dates back all the way to July 1984, when a man named Dan Lafferty killed his sister-in-law and her baby, a murder he says was directed by God. Though Kristi Strack was just a child when the murders happened, she became obsessed with Lafferty as an adult. She and Benjamin visited him often, and Lafferty even claims he and Kristi were in love. The Strack couple eventually pulled their kids out of school to homeschool them, and became increasingly obsessed with the idea of a looming apocalypse, speaking frequently to family and friends about “leaving this world” and its evils. There was no note left behind, though police did find a letter from one of the sons to his best friend, bequeathing him some of his possessions.
2. The Washington Phone Stalker
When three Washington State families started to get texts from someone threatening to kill them, they said they felt like they were living in a horror movie. And it only got worse: calls started to come in at all hours of the night. Voicemails were left that played recordings of their private conversations. The caller made references to what the families were wearing and doing. And the police had no idea who was behind it. The texts continued to come in even after one of the families got new phones and phone numbers three different times. The case remains unsolved.
3. The New Jersey Watcher
When Derek and Maria Broaddus purchased a six-bedroom house in Westfield, New Jersey in 2014, they thought it was a dream home. Three days after they closed, that dream turned into a nightmare when they received a letter from someone who called himself “The Watcher.” The letter read: “My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched it in the 1960s. It is now my time.” It was the first in an increasingly terrifying series of letters. The Watcher asked whose bedroom faced the street, hinted that he knew the names of the couple’s three children, and asked “Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will.” The Broaddus family abstained from moving into the home while police tried to track down the identity of The Watcher.
In March of 2017, it was announced that the Broaddus family filed a lawsuit against the town of Westfield, seeking to raze the home and build a pair of new structures on the property. A tenant agreed to rent the home while the battle continued in the courts, only to receive a fresh set of sinister letters soon after moving in.
4. The Doodler Murders
Who is the Doodler? To this day, police don’t know -- but they believe that he may have killed up to 14 men in San Francisco, in the heart of California’s gay community, between January 1974 and September 1975. The Doodler met his victims in bars and restaurants and sketched them on cocktail napkins before going home with them and stabbing them to death. The murders didn’t get much mainstream press at the time, but in 1977, the police had a suspect, as several witnesses thought they had met the Doodler. But the police couldn’t get a confession, and the witnesses refused to testify for fear of being outed, so the suspect walked free. The identity of the Doodler remains a mystery to this day.
5. Arnold Archambeau and Ruby Bruguier
Tracy Dion had all been drinking the night their car crashed into a ditch in Lake Andes, South Dakota in 1992. When help arrived, Tracy suddenly realized she was alone: both Ruby and Arnold were nowhere to be found. Investigators walked through the ditch multiple times in search of the couple with no luck. Three months later, a passing motorist saw a body 75 feet from where the crash occurred. It was Ruby. Not long after, investigators found the body of Arnold, too … but they don’t think the couple died in the ditch. For one, there was a witness who claimed she saw Arnold at a party three weeks after he was reported missing. Ruby and Arnold’s bodies also appeared to be in different stages of decomposition. The coroner concluded that both died of exposure, but neither investigators nor the victims’ families are convinced. Were Arnold and Ruby victims of foul play? What really happened on the night of that car crash?
6. Gage Park Stabbings
A mass stabbing in Gage Park, Chicago left six dead in February 2016: three generations of the Martinez family, including two children. Months later, investigators charged Diego Uribe Cruz and his girlfriend Jafeth Ramos with their murders. It’s believed that Cruz, a relative of the family, came to the home that day intending to rob it before his crime took a horrifying turn. He stabbed his victims dozens of times. Police said it took them 16 hours to go over the crime scene, and that it was one of the most gruesome crimes they’d ever seen in their careers. Cruz and Ramos are both charged with six counts of first-degree murder.
This article was first published on The Lineup.