Gruesome Halloween killings – from Toolbox Killers to trick-or-treat murder

Halloween can be an incredibly tense time if you're easily scared. People dress up in creepy costumes, or you might subject yourself to watching a horror film or two.

But for some Halloween can be a night of genuine terror, with some of the most gruesome killings taking place on October 31.

The month of October is often associated with high rates of antisocial behaviour because the nights are getting darker.

And although crime happens throughout the month, many particularly gruesome and terrifying killings have happened on October 31 specifically.

Here we take a look at the 10 most horrific Halloween killings in history, from the last murders of the infamous "Toolbox Killers" to trick-or-treat killings.

Toolbox Killers murder for the last time

The infamous Toolbox Killers were known for picking up female hitchhikers and torturing them with tools.

On October 31 1979, Shirley Ledford was hitchhiking home from a Halloween party when two men picked her up in a van.

The two men were Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris, who tortured the woman and left her body on a stranger's lawn.

She became their fifth and final victim before a friend turned them in. Bittaker was sentenced to death, but died in 2019 of natural causes.

Norris, who cooperated in the investigation, was given 45 years to life.

Candyman killer murdered his own son with poisoned sweets

Timothy O'Bryan, eight, had been trick-or-treating on Halloween in 1974 with his little sister Elizabeth, five, his dad, a neighbour and his two children.

When he came home, he was given one last sweet by his father Ronald before bed, and proceeded to begin to vomit. He died before reaching the hospital.

Timothy's father was an upstanding member of his local community, but he was also in serious debt.

Ronald had up with the idea to pretend his young son had been killed by a "mad poisoner", a local urban legend about a figure who hands out poisoned candy.

Police later learned that Ronald, who repeatedly changed his story of what happened, had poisoned a Pixy Stix with cyanide.

He had taken out life insurance policies on his children and tried to claim the sweet was given to them during trick-or-treating.

Ronald was given a lethal injection a year later.

Trick-or-treat murder

12-year-old TJ Darrisaw was trick-or-treating on October 31 2008.

When he knocked on the door of Quentin Patrick in Sumter, South Carolina, he was hoping to be given some sweets.

Instead, he was shot with 29 bullets from a fully automatic AK-47. 11 of these bullets hit him, and he was killed instantly.

TJ was with his dad and brother, who were also hit, at the time, but they survived.

Patrick, a drug dealer, had believed the boy was a rival drug dealer coming to kill him over a drugs feud.

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According to local reports, Patrick's girlfriend was "freaked out" when she saw a group of people wearing masks outside.

Fearing he was about to be killed, Patrick fired the gun from his doorstep.

He was charged with drug dealing, murder, and illegal possession of a gun by a felon, but a US District Judge agreed Patrick didn't intend to kill the youngster.

He was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

A nun was strangled to death

On October 31 1981, eyewitnesses spotted a man running away from a convent in Texas in the middle of a night.

A smashed window was discovered at the community room int he convent, and the body of Sister Tadea Benz was discovered.

Police who were later called to the scene found the Nun's clothes under the bed, as well as a knife.

An autopsy revealed stab wounds, contusions to the head and abrasive injuries to the neck. There was also signs of external bleeding and internal trauma, indicating she was raped.

The man witnesses had seen was Johnny Frank Garrett, who was arrested on November 9.

At trial he maintained his innocence, but he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Reports say his last words were: “I'd like to thank my family for loving me and taking care of me. The rest of the world can kiss my a**.”

Mystery of the Manhattan murders

Not all Halloween murders have been solved, including the killing of photographer Ronald Sisman and college student Elizabeth Platzman.

They were found dead in Ron's Manhattan apartment on Halloween 1981.

Ronald and Elizabeth had been beaten, shot, and their apartment completely ransacked.

Rather mysteriously, there was no signs of forced entry and nothing much seemed to be missing apart from a .25 caliber handgun registered to Ron. The other missing items were the victims' driver's licences.

It has been speculated whether the couple knew the killer, or killers, because there was no forced entry – but the case remains open.

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