Halloween is a time for dressing up, watching horror movies, and telling terrifying tales. It is the one day of the year where the main purpose of the day is to be scared and to scare others. However, amid all the harmless activities and fun of the holiday, horrendous and violent activities can occur and genuine fear can be felt. All of the gruesome murders detailed in this article took place on Halloween; these perpetrators make Halloween live up to the ominous nickname of “Devil’s Night.”
The Murder of Yoshihiro Hattori
In 1992, 16-year-old Yoshihiro Hattori, a Japanese exchange student, was on his way to a Halloween party in his new hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As he arrived in the working-class neighbourhood in which the party was being held, he mistakenly went to the wrong house. He stood on the chilly front porch of Rodney Peairs, and knocked on the door. Nobody answered, but Peairs’ wife, Bonnie, peered out through the curtains and became alarmed. She requested her husband retrieve his gun.
As Hattori began to stroll back to his car, disgruntled that the assumed host wouldn’t open the door to him, Peairs came to the front door, armed with his .44 Magnum revolver. He shouted “Freeze!” to Hattori who didn’t understand what that command meant. Hattori exclaimed “We’re here for the party!” Nevertheless, Peairs fired his gun point blank at Hattori before running back inside. Thankfully, a friend of Hattori witnessed the entire event and ran next door to request assistance. Neither Peairs nor his wife offered assistance; they even shouted at a neighbour to go away when they came to help. 1
Tragically, Hattori died on the way to the hospital. Originally, police questioned Peairs before releasing him, claiming that he was fully within his rights to shoot Hattori. However, Louisiana governor, Edwin Edwards protested that the slaying of Hattori was certainly manslaughter. During his trial, Peairs tried to claim that he feared for his life. District Attorney Doug Moteau disagreed. He said it hadn’t been reasonable for a man of 6′2″ to be afraid of a friendly and unarmed 130lbs boy who rang the doorbell before walking away to his own car. He hadn’t attempted to break in. He wasn’t wearing a scary mask. He wasn’t armed.
Nonetheless, Peairs was acquitted. He was found to be liable to Hattori’s parents for $650,000 in damages. With this money, his parents founded two charities in their son’s name. One was to fund U.S. students wanting to visit Japan while the other was for gun control. Following the murder, the Japanese government was prompted to teach its citizens travelling to the United States the word “freeze.” 2
Following his acquittal, Peairs claimed that he would never own a gun again. He claimed he felt as though he had overreacted to his wife’s apparent fear.
The Murder of Taylor Van Diest
It was Halloween night of 2011 and 18-year-old Taylor Van Diest was adding the final touches to her zombie costume. When she was ready, she departed her home in Armstrong, British Columbia, to meet her friend to go trick-or-treating. She never showed up to her friend’s house. Her friend became alarmed when she received an ominous text message from Van Deist saying that she was “creeped out” because she thought that she was being followed. By who, she never got a chance to say. She stopped replying to her friend and never showed up at her house.
Within an hour of leaving home, her parents received a phone call from somebody who had found Van Deist’s discarded phone. At 8:45PM, police found her badly beaten body beside a railroad track. She was lying in a pool of her own blood.
An ambulance was called but it was too late; she passed away at the hospital shortly after arriving. There was evidence of strangulation but it was blows to the head with a steel pipe that ultimately killed her/ 3
In such a small-town, it wasn’t long before 26-year-old Matthew Foerster was apprehended. After an interrogation, he confessed that he had bludgeoned her to death after she resisted his attempt to rape her. DNA that was collected from Van Deist’s body matched Foerster’s DNA.
He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. In March of 2017, however, he was granted a retrial citing errors that may have affected the jury’s decision to find Foerster guilty of first degree murder as opposed to a lesser charge.
Who Was Orange Socks?
On Halloween of 1979, the unidentified body of a young woman was discovered along Interstate 35 near Georgetown, Texas.
She had been sexually assaulted and then strangled to death. The unidentified murder victim was estimated to be in her twenties and stood at around 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing 135 to 140 pounds. Her hair was brown with a reddish tint; she had hazel eyes and pierced ears. Her teeth were in good condition and had zero dental work. She was naked except for a pair of orange socks, thus earning her the moniker “orange socks.”
In 1982, infamous serial killer Henry Lee Lucas confessed to her murder. He claimed he picked her up as she was hitchhiking and that her name was either “Joanie” or “Judy.” Further investigation showed that Henry Lee Lucas was most likely working in Florida at the time of the murder and no evidence could corroborate his claims; he was known to confess to murders that he did not commit.
A run of her DNA in a database that matches the genetic material of missing persons with that of identified bodies proved unfruitful.
Her identity, and who killed her, still remains unsolved to this very day. She was buried in a grave marked “Unidentified Woman” in Georgetown.
The Griffin-Liske Family Murders
On Halloween of 2010, 16-year-old Devon Griffin returned from church to his two-storey family home in Ottawa County, Ohio. When Devon entered the home, he went into his bedroom to play video-games, completely unaware as to what horror had earlier unfolded.
When he went into his mother’s bedroom later on, he was met by a gruesome scene. His mother, Susan Liske, and her husband, William Liske, were lying in a puddle of blood on their bed. In another room lay the lifeless body of his brother, Derek Griffin. They had all been shot and then brutally bludgeoned with a claw hammer. At first, Devon believed it to be a Halloween prank. He described it as “something out of a haunted house.”
An investigation quickly led to William Liske’s son, William Liske Jr., who had fled to the family’s cottage in Carroll County, Ohio, following the slayings. 4
It was soon revealed that this wasn’t the first violent outburst from Liske Jr. who had previously smashed a coffee cup on Susan’s head and stole her car. He reportedly had a history of mental health issues, however, he was declared legally sane.
In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. Without shedding a tear, Liske Jr. told the courtroom that he could not give a solid motivation behind the murders of his father, stepmother, and stepbrother. “I can’t really explain why this all had to happen, but I think most of all it had to do with my mental illness,” he said. 5
In April of 2015, William Liske Jr. committed suicide in prison.
The Trick or Treat Murder
On Halloween night of 1957, Peter and Betty Fabiano were preparing to go to bed when their doorbell rang. It was after 11PM and they thought it was a little too late for kids to be trick or treating but since they were still awake and still had candy to offer, Peter answered the door, candy bowl in his hands.
When he opened the door he was surprised to see not a child, but an adult concealing their face with a masquerade mask. They were pointing a paper bag at his chest. The masked assailant then shot Peter before speeding off. Betty jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to find her husband lying on the floor, covered in blood and gasping for air. She quickly rang an ambulance but he died before they managed to get to the hospital.
At first, authorities thought it was a random murder. Peter Fabiano was a beauty shop owner who seemed to have no enemies. They began investigating deeper and found 40-year-old Joan Ravel who had once been employed at Peter’s salon. Police became suspicious when she began lying about where she was on the night of the murder. They had to release her due to the fact that they had no evidence against her but they kept tabs on her.
The following month, an anonymous call directed police to a rented locker in a department store in which they found a .38 revolver: the same gun used in the murder. The locker was being rented by a woman called Goldyne Pizer. When Pizer was tracked down and questioned by police, she confessed that Joan Rabel was her lover. She also confessed that Rabel lied to her about Peter by claiming that he was a wife beater and abuser. Rabel had made Pizer believe that Peter was an evil man and deserved to die.
Pizer agreed that she would help and eventually confessed that she was the one who killed Peter. In an even more bizarre twist, it was soon discovered that Rabel had been having an affair with Peter’s wife, Betty, and wanted to get rid of Peter. In fact, when Betty and Peter had a brief separation, Betty moved in with Rabel. When the married couple reconciled, one condition was that Betty never see Rabel again. 6
Rabel pleaded not guilty, and Pizer pleaded insanity. Both agreed to a plea deal for second-degree murder and life in prison.
Who Killed Martha Moxley?
The last time Dorthy Moxley saw her daughter, 15-year-old Martha Moxley, alive was the night before Halloween of 1975. She was attending a nearby party with a friend. The following morning, her bloody body was discovered semi-nude in her own back garden in Greenwich, Connecticut. She had been brutally beaten with a golf club. The beating was so vicious that the golf club had broken. The killer then turned the broken golf club into a weapon and stabbed the teenager several times; once in the neck.
The first point of interest in the investigation was the party she had attended on the night she died. The party was at the nearby home of brothers, 15-year-old Michael and 17-year-old Thomas Skakel. Their father, Rushton Skakel Sr., is the brother of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy, meaning the brothers were his nephews. Martha’s diary revealed that she had enjoyed romantic relationships with both of the brothers. 7
Thomas and Martha were seen flirting at the party and left together; this was the last time she was seen alive. Thomas was immediately suspected. In addition to the witness reports placing them together, he also had a shoddy alibi. With no evidence to warrant an arrest, the case eventually went cold but many local people believed that Thomas had committed the brutal murder until 1991, when his younger brother, Michael, was charged with her murder.
While it was concluded that the golf club used in the murder had come from the Skakel household, no forensic evidence could successfully connect him to the brutal slaying. During his trial, two students testified that they had heard Michael confess to killing Martha, bragging: “I’m going to get away with murder. I’m a Kennedy.”
Poisoned Halloween Candy
The case of Ronald Clark O’Bryan sounds like a plot in a Stephen King novel. In fact, poisoned Halloween candy is frequently a theme in urban legends. The notion that somebody could be evil enough to poison Halloween candy is almost unbelievable, but this case, however, is very much true.
On Halloween of 1974, 8-year-old Timothy O’Bryan from Pasadena, Texas, went out trick or treating with his father, Ronald Clark O’Bryan, his 5-year-old sister, Elizabeth, and two neighbourhood children and their father. Towards the end of the evening, Ronald handed his two children and the two neighbourhood children Pixy Stix. Before going to bed that night, Timothy asked his father if he could eat the Pixy Stix. As soon as he tasted it, Timothy complained that it tasted bitter; Ronald got him some Kool-Aid to wash it down. 8
Within minutes, Timothy started to vomit and go into convulsions. Within an hour, he was dead. The autopsy concluded that he had been poisoned with enough cyanide to kill 10 adults. Thankfully, none of the other children ate the tainted candy. Who could do such a thing?
It was soon uncovered that Ronald was behind on his car payments and had accumulated debts of almost $100,000. 9 Furthermore, it was discovered that Ronald had taken out an insurance policy for his children the week of Halloween and had then called the insurance company the day after his son’s death. He was soon apprehended and charged with the murder of his own son.
It took the jury just 46 minutes to find Ronald guilty of murder. It took them 71 minutes to decide that his punishment would be death. Shortly after midnight on the 31st of March, 1984, Ronald was executed via lethal injection. During the execution, a crowd of college students wearing Halloween masks showed up to cheer and to shout “Trick or Treat” as the clock struck midnight.
The murder of Timothy prompted fear within the community and that fear continued even once Ronald was convicted and executed. The notion that somebody, anybody, could poison children under the guise of being a friendly neighbour was horrifying; in a way, Ronald killed the innocence and enjoyment of Halloween.
- New York Times – 24 May, 1993
- Rocky Mount Telegram – 3 October, 2014
- Kelowna Capital News – 24 March, 2014
- Toledo Blade – 14 September, 2011
- Norwalk Reflector – 15 September, 2011
- Boston American – 8 December, 1957
- Houston Chronicle – 25 October, 1998
- The Baytown Sun – 28 October, 2016
- The Free Lance-Star – 26 March, 1984