Unspeakable Times

The Horrifying Story Of The Boy Who Survived The Bonebreaker Killer

On July 29, 1995, 17-year-old Joseph Clark abducted 13-year-old Thadius “Thad” Phillips from his home in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Later known as the “Bonebreaker Killer,” Clark kidnapped fellow teen boys and systematically broke their bones. During his captivity, Thad endured days of physical and psychological misery. Clark—in between feigning as if the teens were friends—would snap Thad’s leg bones and then crudely tend to the wounds. He left his captive imprisoned in a closet when he left the home, believing Thad was incapacitated. 

After a total of 43 hours, Thad managed to descend a flight of stairs, find a phone, and call 911. He survived, having sustained permanent injuries, and authorities then uncovered other crimes Clark committed against teen boys. Based on the manner in which Clark wounded Thad, investigators linked Clark to the 1994 murder of another Wisconsin teen—14-year-old Chris Steiner. Clark attempted to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, but the courts found him fit to stand trial. The “Bonebreaker” received a 100-year sentence for his crimes against Thad and a subsequent sentence for Chris’s death.