Robert Berdella Was Dubbed 'The Kansas City Butcher' After Killing Six Young Men

To the outside world, Robert Berdella was an eccentric business owner who collected unusual artifacts. But between 1984 and 1988, Berdella took the lives of six young men, subjecting them to long periods of torture beforehand.

Berdella's secret life as a serial killer was finally uncovered when one of his victims escaped from his home, wearing nothing but a dog collar around his neck. The people of Kansas City were horrified to learn of the brutal crimes Berdella had been committing in their community for years, causing him to be dubbed the "Butcher of Kansas City" for his inhumane acts.

In the list below, we'll look at how Berdella's criminal behavior began, and how his business eventually allowed him to cross paths with some of his victims.


  • Robert Berdella Was Fascinated By A Movie About A Man Who Kidnapped A Woman And Held Her Captive

    When he was a teenager, Robert Berdella watched a film version of The Collector, a book by author John Fowles about a man who abducts a woman and imprisons her in his basement.

    In The Collector, a man named Frederick Clegg uses chloroform to kidnap Miranda, an art student he had become obsessed with, and he keeps her captive in his cellar in hopes that she will grow to love him over time. Berdella claimed the film had a huge impact on him and inspired his crimes.

    In addition to being called "The Kansas City Butcher” and “The Butcher of Kansas City,” some also referred to Berdella as “The Collector” in reference to the film.

  • Berdella Was Arrested For Selling Drugs In College But Received A Suspended Sentence

    Over a decade before he committed his first murder, Robert Berdella sold illegal drugs while attending the Kansas City Art Institute.

    Berdella had reportedly begun using drugs and drinking heavily in college, eventually selling marijuana, amphetamines, and LSD, among other substances. Berdella was arrested twice during his second year of college for drug-related crimes, once for selling amphetamines to an undercover cop and another time for possession of LSD and marijuana.

    Berdella received a five-year suspended sentence for his crimes.

  • Berdella Opened A Shop Called Bob’s Bizarre Bazaar

    When he was 20 years old, Robert Berdella dropped out of art school and devoted most of his time to working as a chef at various restaurants in Kansas City. He also bought a home in the city in 1969 and began filling it with oddities and antiquities that he purchased or acquired by trading artifacts with other like-minded collectors. When this collection began taking over his three-story home, however, Berdella got a booth at Kansas City’s Westport Flea Market in 1970.

    The shop, which he called Bob’s Bizarre Bazaar, sold a range of unusual items, including drug paraphernalia, shrunken heads, and books on the occult. It also introduced him to a number of different people, including some of his future victims.

  • Berdella Knew Most Of The Men He Tortured And Killed
    Video: YouTube

    Berdella Knew Most Of The Men He Tortured And Killed

    Robert Berdella’s first known victim was 19-year-old Jerry Howell, the son of one of the other sellers at the flea market and a local sex worker. On July 4, 1984, 35-year-old Berdella picked the teenager up in his car, claiming he was taking Howell to a dance, but the 19-year-old was never seen alive again.

    While Berdella met Howell through his store, a number of the killer’s other victims were sex workers he had befriended and later claimed he was trying to help.

  • Berdella Incapacitated His Victims With Sedatives And Animal Tranquilizers

    Berdella reportedly used drugs, such as Valium mixed into alcohol, to relax his victims. He would then inject them with a tranquilizer to incapacitate them. He would typically invite someone back to his home - often by offering them a meal, drugs, or a place to stay - before serving the unsuspecting men food or drinks laced with the powerful sedatives.

    Once the men were unconscious and unable to defend themselves, Berdella would move his victims to the basement or a spare bedroom, where he would begin torturing them.

  • Berdella Would Then Torture His Victims

    Berdella bound the wrists of his victims with rope, while also using leashes and dog collars to restrain the young men. In addition to sexually assaulting his victims, Berdella subjected them to painful electric shocks he administered using a 7,700 transformer. He also applied caustic chemicals, such as bleach, to their eyes, causing them excruciating pain and temporary blindness.

    To prevent his prisoners from screaming, Berdella placed gags in their mouths. He also injected drain cleaner into their vocal cords so they wouldn't be able to cry out.

    Once the men were dead, Berdella would dismember their bodies and throw them in with his trash.