• Unspeakable Times

11 Of The Grisliest Trunk Murders In History

With the advent of passenger rail travel in the 1800s, people started taking trains to destinations all over the United States and beyond. At the time, it was common for travelers to pack their belongings in large trunks, making it easy for them to transport enough clothing to last them several weeks. However, these trunks were soon used by cunning criminals for a decidedly sinister purpose: concealing and transporting dead bodies. In fact, these containers were used so often by killers to hide and move their victims that the crimes were referred to as "trunk murders."

Long after trains were replaced with airplanes as the preferred mode of travel, killers still used these large containers to hide their victims' remains. In fact, some of the worst trunk murders occurred well into the 20th century. While a few murderers stuffed dead bodies into trunks and traveled with their victims' corpses by train, other killers kept containers packed with decomposing human remains in their homes, filling their houses and apartments with the stench of rotting flesh.

Thankfully, trunk murders are relatively uncommon today, with few bodies found in shipping trunks in the 21st century. But there’s certainly no shortage of corpses turning up in unexpected places in the world.

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  • Emma LeDoux Killed Her Husband With Morphine

    Photo: Cult of Weird / via Pinterest

    On March 24, 1906, law enforcement officials were called to a train depot in Stockton, CA, after station personnel noticed a trunk was giving off a disturbing odor. When officers opened the container, they found the corpse of Albert N. McVicar, the third husband of Emma LeDoux. After performing an autopsy on McVicar's lifeless body, the medical examiner determined he had died as a result of a morphine overdose. The doctor actually put the dead man's remains on public exhibition at the morgue.

    When law enforcement eventually tracked down LeDoux, they learned that her second husband had died of heart failure when he was only 30 years old, leaving her with $10,000 in life insurance money. They also determined she married Jean LeDoux in 1905, despite still being married to McVicar, providing her with a motive to kill the man who was found dead in a trunk.

    Less than a month after McVicar's corpse was discovered, LeDoux was convicted of murder in the first degree on April 18, 1906. LeDoux was sentenced to death, making her the first woman to get the death penalty in California. Her sentence was later reduced to life in prison after allegations of jury tampering arose, and she was paroled in 1920 after serving just 10 years. However, LeDoux was in and out of jail for various crimes; she eventually died of cancer in prison in 1941 at the age of 69.

  • Toni Mancini Kept His Girlfriend's Body At The Foot Of His Bed

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Following an argument about his alleged infidelity, 26-year-old Toni Mancini murdered his 42-year-old girlfriend Violette Kaye on May 10, 1934. Then, he stuffed her body in a trunk that he kept at the foot of his bed in his home in Brighton, England. When Kaye's disappearance was reported to police, law enforcement searched Mancini's home. On July 15, 1934, they discovered the trunk, which was leaking fluid and giving off an unpleasant smell.

    When police found Kaye's body in the trunk, they were immediately reminded of a still-unidentified pregnant woman whose dismembered corpse had been found in a trunk at a train station in Brighton on June 17, 1934. While the killings weren't related, they were referred to as the "Brighton Trunk Murders."

    Mancini was tried for murdering Kaye, but a jury found him not guilty. However, decades later, he admitted to killing  her by throwing a hammer at her head.

  • Hugh Mottram Brooks Murdered His Rich Friend With Chloroform

    Photo: Adam from Champaign, Illinois, USA / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    On April 14, 1885, maids at a St. Louis, MO, hotel noticed a foul odor coming from a locked trunk in a guest's room. The container was wrested open by Charles Bieger, the dealer who had recently sold the trunk to a man known only as "Dr. Maxwell." The opened trunk revealed the decomposed body of Charles Arthur Preller. Eventually, Missouri detectives determined "Dr. Maxwell" was actually Hugh Mottram Brooks, a British man who met Preller when they were traveling from England to the United States.

    The two men became fast friends, even making plans to visit New Zealand together. But Brooks disappeared several days before Preller's corpse was found, having told people at the hotel that his wealthy friend had already left St. Louis. Brooks was eventually apprehended in Auckland, New Zealand, and he was tried for Preller's murder in 1886. According to Brooks, he accidentally killed his very wealthy new friend when he used too much chloroform to treat what he referred to as Preller's "private disease."

    Brooks - who was dubbed the "Little Chloroformer" by the press - was convicted of murder and hanged in front of more than 200 witnesses on August 10, 1886.

  • Edward Keller Offed His Business Partner

    On December 13, 1915, two workmen who were digging up the basement of a building in Philadelphia, PA, discovered a large wooden packing crate buried beneath the cellar's dirt floor. Inside the crate, the men found a leather trunk, which contained a decomposed corpse covered in powdered lime. The workmen contacted law enforcement to report the grisly find, and the police quickly identified the dead man as Daniel J. McNichol. The 23-year-old, who had owned a leather goods firm with one Edward Keller, had been reported missing by his wife nearly two years earlier on March 14, 1914.

    Keller - who had a long criminal history that included burglary, grand larceny, and embezzlement - was eventually convicted of voluntary manslaughter after the authorities linked him to the trunk McNichol's body was buried in. He served eight years in prison for killing his business partner.

    Shortly after he was released from East State Penitentiary, Keller got a job as a security guard at the Corn Exchange National Bank. On December 20, 1925, he stole $20,000 from his employer. Keller fled the scene in a taxi, but dropped dead in the back seat of a heart attack.