Our class discussion on Wednesday led me to think more deeply on the subject of possible craigslist.org crime. I mentioned the case of the serial killer back in the 50s... here's a link
describing his "classified ads murders:" "After getting out of prison for robbery, he'd put ads in the local Los Angeles papers, posing as a glamor photographer and asking for models. He'd tie them up, photograph them, rape them, photograph them, ad nauseum. When he'd get bored, he'd finally kill them." Here
, another article mentions his shift from 'models wanted' ads to a Lonely Hearts club- he would set up meetings with girls through the club, and then violently rape and murder his dates.
Another article tells the story of "America's first serial killer,"
H.H. Holmes, who murdered probably about 27 people in the late 19th century in Chicago: "A large number of his female victims came through false classified ads that he placed in small town newspapers, offering jobs to young ladies. When the ads were answered, he would describe several jobs in detail and explained that the woman would have her choice of positions at the time of the interview. The applicants were also instructed to keep the location and the name of his company a closely guarded secret. When the applicant arrived, and Holmes was convinced that she had told no one of her destination, she would become his prisoner.
Holmes also placed newspaper ads for marriage as well, describing himself as a wealthy businessman who was searching for a suitable wife. Those who answered this ad would get a similar story to the job offer. He would then torture the women to learn the whereabouts of any valuables they might have. The young ladies would then remain his prisoners until he decided to dispose of them."
Frightening, hm? These are just two cases of serial killers who used classified ads to lure their victims, which I easily found within about 10 minutes of googling. I'm sure there are more. Yet I cannot find much of anything linking craigslist.org, the modern, online, and frankly more "open" version of a newspaper's classifieds, to murders. The closest things I could find were two cases of craigslist prostitution, in Portland and Long Island
, and one case of a criaglist robber in San Jose
, who "in each case, the victim was either buying something from, or selling something to, the suspect, according to police. In every case, the suspect has robbed the victims at gunpoint before making off with property and cash."
Not good, but certainly not serial killings. "But why hasn't it happened yet?", I think is the important question. If you ask me, craigslist seems like a perfect venue for a serial killer. He would get almost complete anonymity, and a amazingly easy way to lure victims into the privacy of his home. When and if the missing persons were traced to craigslist (I say "if" because most women would probably be too ashamed to mention to anyone that she was meeting a man from craigslist in his home for no-strings-attached sex), all the admins would have would be his e-mail address, which could again be incredibly simple to anonymify. He could easily duck "flagging" by the craigslist community by posting very under-the-radar ads, normal and friendly sounding. No one would catch on for quite some time.
If you ask my opinion, I think it simply hasn't happened yet (at least, as far as we know). It certainly has the potential to, but craigslist hasn't been around too long, and these things take time. Also, the decrease in serial killers can probably be somewhat chalked up to the fact that most these days are medicated for schizophrenia, etc, before they can commit crimes, and true "psychopaths" are a rara avis
indeed. Another idea is that people don't really respond to the "casual encounters" ads... but I think they probably do. A "missed connection" ad I read one time featured a man searching for someone he had originally met through "casual encounters," and who he wanted to see again because he felt that they "really had a connection," leading me to believe that people really do respond to these ads.
Craigslist itself has a very simple solution to keeping itself out of harm's way in this case- the mandatory release people click on when accessing the "casual encounters" page: "By clicking on the casual encounters link below, I will have released craigslist from any liability that may arise from my use of the site." Good idea for them, but I can't help but wonder if anyone thinks about what it really means, and the risk they invite by responding to these ads. I know I'm certainly going to bring a boy with me whenever I'm buying or selling something to someone from craigslist from now on.