Thadius Phillips was only 13 when someone abducted him in 1995; it is one of the most terrifying tales of survival ever recorded. Seventeen-year-old Joe Clark, a teen in his neighborhood, tortured him until he was on the brink of death.
During his capture and brutal maltreatment, Phillips had his legs repeatedly broken in numerous places; endured days of physical and psychological misery; and received death threats. Against all odds, the boy managed to descend a flight stairs, find a phone, and call 911. While Phillips survived, at least one of Clark's other victims wasn't so lucky, which is why he's known as the "Bonebreaker Killer."
This case left people with many uncomfortable questions. What would cause a disturbed teen to do this to another child? Why would someone enjoy breaking bones so much? And what other horrors would Phillips have faced, had he not escaped? We may never know for sure, as Clark denies his crimes to this day.
The story of Phillips's escape is a violent, stomach-churning affair, even with the reassurance of his ultimate survival.
The Killer Abducted Phillips From His Home
On July 29, 1995, 13-year-old Phillips was sleeping peacefully on the couch in his new home in Baraboo, WI. His family had moved in recently, so Phillips was still settling into the place, but felt safe already. So when someone picked him up off the couch, he didn't stress out too much. He figured it was one of his parents, taking him to bed.
When he woke up, still groggy, he found he was outside with an unfamiliar, older teen boy. The boy seemed friendly, though, asking Phillips if he wanted to go for a run. Phillips, still sleepy and confused, ran with the boy back to his home, which he claimed to live in with his brother.
Once there, the mysterious boy introduced himself as Joe Clark and said he would soon throw a party. He named other boys Phillips knew and said they'd be there soon. In the meantime, he asked if Phillips wanted to check out cool model cars upstairs. Phillips followed, never suspecting any grave danger. He had no idea he was a victim of a kidnapper known as the Bonebreaker.
Clark Twisted Phillips's Foot Until His Leg Snapped
Once Phillips was upstairs, Clark completely shed his friendly teen persona. He grabbed the boy and threw him on the dirty bed, jumped on him, and grabbed him by the ankle. He then began to twist Phillips's foot around his leg until the bone above his ankle simply snapped and splintered.
Phillips, feeling more shock than pain, leaped off the bed and tried to run down the stairs on his broken leg, but Clark quickly caught him. He then suffered further injuries, including punches and kicks until he could no longer struggle. Phillips has said he most vividly remembers the feeling of friction in his broken leg bones as he tried to get away - the pain did not eclipse this sensation.
Clark Told Phillips He Enjoyed The Sound Of Bones Breaking
After the initial attack broke Phillips's leg near the ankle, Clark threw a shocked Phillips on the couch downstairs. During this time, Clark talked to him about a variety of topics and put on a movie as if nothing had happened.
Phillips, trying to figure out an escape plan, told Clark he wouldn't tell anyone what had happened - he'd say he tripped over a table or something, but Clark said no one would believe this. Phillips felt trapped, but attempted to reason with Clark, asking why he would do this. Clark responded with a startling confession.
Clark said he enjoyed the sound and feeling of bones breaking at his whim. He said he'd done something like this before and described how much he loved it. Phillips asked him why he didn't break his own bones, but Clark said he'd tried before and the effect wasn't the same. As if to prove his resolve in this, when Phillips tried to get away, Clark held the boy to the wall, then pushed his leg up over his head until it snapped at the thigh.
Between Torment Sessions, Clark Would Act Like The Boys Were Friends
One of the most distressing parts of this story is the way Clark acted between his attacks on Phillips. During this downtime, he would put on movies, and the two would sit for hours on the sofa together. In some cases, Clark would carry the boy to the couch so the pair could watch together. During this time, he would talk as if nothing was wrong.
Clark spoke about his family, his car, how he lived with his brother in his filthy house, and his girlfriend (at one point she was at the front door with Clark, while Phillips laid half-conscious on the ground). It was only when he'd take Phillips upstairs, and tell him he was ready to do more damage, that he changed into the brutal monster Phillips came to know all too well.