As a society, we have an intense fascination with all things relating to crime, murder and the dark side of the human condition. It is this fascination that can be found responsible for the incredible success of shows like Netflix’s ‘Making a Murderer,’ discussing the exoneration and then conviction of Steven Avery for murder.
Scott Bonn, a criminology professor at Drew University and the author of ‘Why We Love Serial Killers’ explains: “My research has determined that the public’s fascination with serial killers on television is multifaceted and complex. Serial killers tantalize people much like traffic accidents, train wrecks or natural disasters. The public’s fascination with them can be seen as a specific manifestation of its more general fixation on violence and calamity. In other words, the actions of a serial killer may be horrible to behold but much of the public simply cannot look away due to the spectacle.”
We are mesmerized by all aspects of their tales, from the stories of their childhood and the speculation as to why they turned out the way that they did, to the gruesome details of their crimes. The idea of ‘body dumps,’ locations that any one of us could stumble upon accidentally, intrigues, disturbs, excites and scares us all at once. These feelings are further heightened when these locations are found to be in the middle of highly populated areas, right under our nose.
Here are 11 of the most heavily trafficked and unsolved murder dumps in the United States:
The Mojave Desert
Source: pacoruiz64 | Pixabay
The Mojave Desert has the stereotypical appearance of a murder dump from the depths of Hollywood, stretching across a total of 4 western states. Due to the incredibly high temperatures in the area, reaching upwards of 135 degrees Fahrenheit, bodies that are disposed of in this area decompose rapidly, allowing many of those discovered to go unsolved. With over 100 bodies turning up in the area, the area quickly developed quite the reputation. Not all who chose this desolate and isolated area were as successful at avoiding detection. Among those charged for their crimes include Tracy Petrocelli for the 1982 death of Dennis Gibson, William Bradford for the 1984 deaths of Shari Miller and Tracy Campbell and William Floyd Zamastil for the 1978 deaths of siblings Jacqueline and Malcolm Bradshaw.
The Florida Everglades
Source: National Park Service | Wikimedia
The use of the Florida Everglades to conceal and dispose of the bodies of countless victims has long been known. In fact, Florida’s most prolific serial killer and sugar plantation owner ‘Bloody’ Edgar Watson is rumored to have used the area in the early 1900s to dispose of the bodies of his laborers in order to avoid having to pay them. The body of one such worker, Hanna Smith, was discovered by a fisherman in 1910. This vast area is still used by murderers today, aware that bodies left untouched for any length of time will likely be consumed by the local alligator population, helping them to ‘disappear’ never to be found again. Occasionally, however, the alligators are unable to finish with the body/bodies before they are discovered. Such was the case in 2016 when a corpse was discovered in the area of the Southwest Ranches. Police had to scare away two alligators to recover he unidentified body.
The Central Pine Barrens, Manorville, NY
Source: Americasroof | Wikimedia
Located along the eastern end of Long Island you can visit the Long Island Central Pine Barrens, a protected forest which is one of the few wild and natural areas on the heavily populated suburban island. The heavy presence of residents hasn’t stopped a suspected serial killer in using this exact area as a dumping ground for his or her unfortunate victims. During the period between 2000 and 2003 alone there were a total of 4 bodies found in the forest, 2 which were beheaded and dismembered. There have been as many as 11 bodies total now suspect are the work of an unknown killer that they refer to as the Butcher of Manorville.
Leakin Park, Baltimore, MD
Source: Jccedre | Flickr
The long-documented history of Leakin Park is full of anger, hatred, sadness, vengeance, gang activity and betrayal. With 56 bodies reportedly discovered dumped throughout the park since 1946 it has earned its nickname as ‘the city’s largest unregistered graveyard.’ The park was established 1908 and since that time it has become a ‘go to’ location for body disposal. Officials are now working hard to turn around this reputation and take the park back, establishing a series of trails throughout the park to encourage more traffic, and closing off some of the more dangerous and secluded areas. While the rate at which bodies have been discovered has decreased in recent years, the reputation of the park remains.
Washington State’s Green River
Source: Joe Mabel | Wikimedia
The initial reputation of the Green River area is no longer unsolved, with Gary Ridgway, better known as the Green River Killer, captured in 2001 after nearly two decades of terrorizing the area. He has been connected with the murder of at least 49 different women between the years of 1982 and 2001, although he has told investigators that he killed as many as 75-80 women. Residents in the area believed that Ridgway’s incarceration would mark a return to peace in the area. In 2011 another of Ridgway’s victims was discovered, adding an additional life sentence to his time. However, in 2015 two more bodies were found, once again drawing attention to the area. The first was discovered in a suitcase, while the second body discovered had been shoved into a duffle bag before being discarded.
Pelham Bay Park, The Bronx, NY
Source: Peter J. Romano 2nd | Wikimedia
The stories surrounding the Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx sound like something pulled from the pages of a Hollywood manuscript, filled with references to the gangs, mobsters and drug deals gone wrong. It is estimated that at least 65 bodies were discovered in the area between 1986 and 1995, and incredibly large number considering how densely populated the area is! Many of the bodies had been found less than 100 feet from some of the most well-travelled parkways and highways in the area, further adding to the mystery of how the murderers are able to get away with dumping in this area. The 2,700-acre park is the largest park in New York City, and if the tales that still surround the area are proven to be true there are hundreds of bodies never discovered.
Lake Tahoe, CA
Source: Freebase | GNU Free Documentation License
The dark and morbid history of the beautiful Lake Tahoe is believed to date back to the mafia in the 1950s, using the lake as a dumping ground for bodies that they wanted to never be found. It is said that most bodies dumped into the lake, which reaches an average depth of 1000 feet, never surface as the temperature of the lake is only a couple degrees shy of that which is used by morgues to hold off decompositions of the bodies that they house. Bodies only flat when decomposition sets in. Lt. Les Lovell from the El Dorado County sheriff’s office stated: “We’ve had a number of cases over the years where drowning victims, or apparent drowning victims, never surfaced again. They’re just gone.” It is unknown whether officials will ever have an accurate count of how many bodies lie hidden at the bottom of the lake.
The Pocono Mountains
Source: Charlie Anzman | Flickr
The beautiful Pocono Mountains are a known tourist hot spot, attracting hikers and adventurists throughout the summer and skiers and snowboarders during the winter months. Among the mountains also lives a number of year-round residents, calling the area home. These residents could tell you tales of the frightening truth concealed by these very woods. A severed head was discovered off of I-380 in a trash bag in 2008, a discovery that shook the area, but this would only be the start of something much bigger. Eight separate bags were discovered, each containing severed body parts. Concluding that the remains were that of one person, this was initially believed to be an isolated incident, however, a year later more human remains were discovered just a couple miles away from the first. A third discovery, in 2011, only added to the mystery of the area.
Gilgo Beach, NY
Source: Derekakinnear | Wikimedia
The second location on Long Island to make the list, Gilgo Beach is believed to be the hunting and dumping grounds for an unknown serial killer dubbed ‘the Gilgo Beach Killer.’ Between the early 1990’s and 2015, a total of 17 bodies were discovered along the sandy shores. Four female victims, discovered during the search for escort Shannan Gilbert in 2010, were call girls that the killer contacted on Craigslist, each discovered strangled and tossed into a burlap sack. Recently the case has been tied into another investigation, that of the elusive ‘Long Island Serial Killer.’ While there are theories and potential suspects, those involved in the investigation agree that there are still too many individuals and too many considerations at this point to definitively point a finger at any one party.
The Texas Killing Fields
Source: driyard | Pixabay
The dark, twisted history of the Texas Killing Fields has attracted enough interest and attention that the area inspired a 2011 film of the same name in which a local homicide detective and a police officer from New York City team up to investigate a number of unsolved murders in the area. The stretch of highway along I-45 has been feared by women since the 1970s, a location where over 30 young women have either mysteriously disappeared or been found brutally murdered. Texas Monthly reporter Skip Hollandsworth summed it up, stating: “It’s a kind of environment that’s sultry and sinister. Easy to get to. You jump off of I-45. You drive down one of the dirt rutted roads. You dump the body. And you’re gone for good. Of all the dumping grounds around this country that there have been, this is about – for a serial killer – as good a place as they come.” Only one person has ever been convicted in the area, leaving countless others still unsolved.
The East River Between New York and New Jersey
Source: Jim.henderson | Wikimedia
The notorious East River has been the subject of a number of different crime-related shows and movies, an area that is known for the bodies that occasionally surface, drawing attention to the gruesome truth of the body of water. Due to the climate of the area, bodies that are dumped throughout the winter months remain hidden, their decomposition held off temporarily by the chilling temperatures of the water until the spring warmth sets in, bringing these bodies to the surface. In the year 2010 alone 26 bodies were recovered by the NYPD’s harbor unit during the summer months. This reality dates back decades, as can be told by diver Barney Sweeney, a professional diver who worked the East River from the 1950s to the 1970s.