It’s quiz time, ladies and gentlemen, so please take out a pencil and paper and get comfortable so that we can get started. Today’s topic is, believe it or not, serial killer and mass murderer trivia. The answers follow the questions. Give yourself one point for each correct answer.
Ready to go? Good. Let’s get started.
1. True or False: During his tenure as Governor of the state of Texas, George W. Bush signed off on every execution order that crossed his desk.
2. True or False: Serial killer Ted Bundy once worked as a spy for Washington Governor Dan Evans, gathering intelligence on political opponents; Evans later wrote Bundy a glowing letter of recommendation to attend law school.
3. True or False: Aspiring serial killer Richard Ramirez once demonstrated his high-level political connections while on a high school trip to Washington, D.C. by arranging for his friends an impromptu private tour of the Vice President’s office.
4. True or False: Serial killer Edmund Kemper’s service records reveal that he was the subject of MK-ULTRA experiments while he was stationed at a U.S. military hospital in West Germany.
5. True or False: Serial killers Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi, also known as the Hillside Stranglers, ran a teen prostitution ring that supplied girls to Los Angeles’ corporate and political elite, including a police chief and a city councilman.
6. True or False: Albert DeSalvo, long identified as the legendary Boston Strangler, was never charged with, let alone convicted of, any of the killings he is credited with.
7. True or False: Wayne Williams, long identified as the Atlanta Child Killer, was never charged with, let alone convicted of, any of the child murders.
8. True or False: Howard Unruh has been in prison for nearly sixty years for murders that he almost certainly did not commit.
9. True or False: The LA-area organized crime figure who confessed in a courtroom to being the central figure behind the ‘Wonderland’ murders (considered to be perhaps the most brutal and bloody quadruple murder in the city’s history) served less than one year in prison.
10. True or False: The LAPD detective who lead the investigation on the Wonderland case, and who defended the man’s sentence, was Philip Vannater, of OJ trial fame.
11. True or False: There was no physical evidence nor any witnesses linking any suspects other than serial killer Cary Stayner to the murders of four women in Yosemite National Park.
12. True or False: Serial killer Cary Stayner’s younger brother was held for years as a captive sex slave by a pedophilic Vietnam veteran.
13. True or False: Serial killer Douglas Clark had extensive connections to the intelligence community, and one of his closest associates claimed that he had been an undercover assassin for the CIA in Vietnam.
14. True or False: With few exceptions, serial killers tend to select victims that are similar in age, gender, race, appearance, etc.
15. True or False: With few exceptions, serial killers tend to follow the same MO in the commission of their crimes.
16. True or False: As a child, famed FBI ‘profiler’ Robert Ressler lived down the street from, and was in the same Boy Scout troop as, famed serial killer Ted Bundy.
17. True or False: On a notorious night in July 1966, Richard Speck single-handedly killed eight student nurses in a Chicago house.
18. True or False: John Wayne Gacy, despite having a checkered criminal history, had a top-level security clearance from the White House.
19. True or False: Parts of Gacy’s criminal record were blacked out, with the notation that they were “FBI matters.”
20. True or False: Serial killer Bob Berdella had entries in his diaries concerning Lt. Col. Oliver North.
21. True or False: The detective who headed the investigation of the Berdella case, and who later co-wrote a self-serving and disinformational book, acknowledged that he had previously worked for the CIA.
22. True or False: Serial killer Robin Gecht was a former employee of serial killer Angelo Buono.
23. True or False: Serial killer Bobby Joe Long was a cousin of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.
24. True or False: Hillside Strangler Angelo Buono and Sunset Strip Killer Douglas Clark both ran furniture stores in the San Fernando Valley, just a short distance from one another, and both boasted of running prostitution rings through those furniture stores.
25. True or False: A cousin and mentor of serial killer Richard “The Night Stalker” Ramirez had a collection of souvenirs from Vietnam that included eight shrunken human heads that he had made himself and a large collection of Polaroid photos that graphically depicted rape, torture, mutilation and murder.
1. False; Bush commuted one death sentence during his tenure as governor — that of confessed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.
3. False; it was aspiring serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
4. False; it was serial killer Gary Heidnik.
8. False; William Heirens has been in prison for nearly sixty years for murders that he almost certainly did not commit. Howard Unruh, on the other hand, was likely guilty of the 13 killings he was accused of, but he never stood trial. Instead, he has been locked away in a mental institution for nearly sixty years.
10. False; it was Tom Lange, of OJ trial fame.
11. False; there was no physical evidence nor witnesses linking Stayner to the killings. There was, however, a substantial body of evidence linking various members of a drug trafficking ring to the murders.
12. True; the brother’s story was turned into a sappy, inaccurate television movie entitled “I Know My First Name Is Steven.”
14. False; cases where the victims fit a pattern are the exception, not the rule.
15. Also False.
16. False; it was John Wayne Gacy, not Ted Bundy.
17. False, but the official legend says otherwise. It is unlikely that Speck was even in the house that night..
22. False; Gecht was a former employee of John Wayne Gacy.
24. False; Buono and Clark both owned auto upholstery shops in the San Fernando Valley that they used as fronts for prostitution rings.
0-5 Points: Since this was a True or False test, and the answers were at the bottom of the page, I honestly can’t imagine how you could have scored this poorly. Your knowledge of serial killers is seriously deficient. The best way to remedy that problem would be to rush out at your earliest convenience and pick up a copy of Programmed to Kill: The Politics of Serial Murder. Actually, “pick up” may not be the best choice of words, since it implies that you could actually walk into a bookstore and purchase a copy off the shelf, which is extremely unlikely to happen … and that is kind of a shame, when you think about it, because it is a book that would probably catch your eye if it was sitting on the shelf. But it won’t be. So you will have to order a copy from your local independent bookseller, or, if you must, from Amazon.com.
5-10 Points: I’m not going to sugarcoat it: this is still a pretty pathetic score. You could undoubtedly have flipped a coin and done better. You really need to get yourself a copy of Programmed to Kill: The Politics of Serial Murder.
10-15 Points: Getting better, but there is still obviously room for improvement. Your best bet is to track down a copy of Programmed to Kill: The Politics of Serial Murder.
15-20 Points: A very respectable score, but you could still benefit from reading Programmed to Kill: The Politics of Serial Murder.
20-25 Points: You probably either cheated or made a few lucky guesses. In either case, you need to read Programmed to Kill: The Politics of Serial Murder.
I know what you’re thinking: “Why serial killers? Aren’t there more important things to worry about in this post 9-11 world?” I suppose that there are, but I began the book when we were all still living in the pre-September 11 world. A very rough first draft was actually nearing completion at the time of the attacks. It sat idle for months after that fateful day.
Eventually, I dusted it off and got back to work on it, and I have worked on it intermittently ever since. And now, better late than never, it is finally ready for its public unveiling. And it is a hell of a good read, if I do say so myself.
Researching the inner workings of the political system is a difficult and unpredictable undertaking. From any given starting point, there are numerous branches that can be followed, all leading to yet more branches. With a willingness to follow the trails wherever they may lead, one can easily find oneself heading off into what seems at first rather strange territory.
Though this book may seem like a departure from my previous work, it actually developed from one of the avenues briefly explored in Understanding the F-Word. Readers of that book may recall a brief discussion of the bizarre commutation of Henry Lee Lucas’ death sentence by George Bush. Intrigued by Bush’s actions, I went in search of information on Mr. Lucas; what I found was that Henry Lee had some very interesting, though not seemingly credible, stories to tell. So I went searching further, trying to ascertain whether Henry’s stories had any basis in fact.
The scope of research soon grew to include a number of America’s other notorious killers. By journey’s end, it had indeed been a long, strange trip, over some very rough and unfamiliar terrain. I can’t say for sure whether I would take the same journey again. There is a certain comfort in being able to make better sense of the world, but with that increased level of understanding comes the realization that it just might be an even darker, uglier world than most of us could imagine.