ML73-3356, ML73-3378
October 31, 2008 8:01 AM   Subscribe

For many people who lived in Houston in the early 1970s, trick or treat brings up memories of "The Candy Man," serial killer Dean Corll. He, along with accomplices David Brooks and Wayne Henley (YouTube), kidnapped, raped, and tortured to death 27 boys between the ages of thirteen and eighteen between 1970 and 1973. Thirty-seven years after the bodies of their victims were discovered in mass graves in southwest Houston and the Bolivar Peninsula, three still were unidentified until recently when the efforts of forensic anthropologist Sharon Derrick identified victim ML73-3349, now known to be Randall Lee Harvey.
posted by WolfDaddy (31 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I lived in Houston from 1970-1973, and this post reminds me of how revolting the revelations were about these two creeps. To this day when I try to imagine how someone's psyche ever gets twisted around that much and how two such twisted souls ever met up, I despair of ever understanding the human condition.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:59 AM on October 31, 2008

Two creeps? Isn't it three?

And you really should add a "hero" tag up there, unless you're afraid it will make it a bit too farkish, but that woman deserves a lot (Derrick).

Amazing stuff, great halloween post.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:06 AM on October 31, 2008

how two such twisted souls ever met up

I've wondered that myself. Henry Lee Lucas and Otis Toole supposedly met in a bar, hit it off, and joined forces as a serial killer duo. How do you broach the subject of your affinity for torture and murder in a conversation without arousing some serious suspicion? I mean, obviously these guys are crazy enough to bring it up, but I would think you'd have to have some misses before you got a hit.
posted by Rykey at 9:19 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Amazing stuff, great halloween post.

Sorry, but WTF?!
posted by Mephisto at 9:35 AM on October 31, 2008

David Brooks and Wayne Henley look like garden variety evil to me, not much different from the average child soldier in the Lord's Resistance Army, but Dean Corll is Day of the Triffids by comparison-- cosmic evil straight out of deep space.

And there's almost no hint in the long account behind the first link of what could have made him that way (well, maybe-- extremely improbably, heart murmur--> scarlet fever--> strep A--> PANDAS--> OCD-laced, psychotic sexuality).

Great post; greatly disturbing post.
posted by jamjam at 9:42 AM on October 31, 2008

My heart breaks for the two remaining unidentified boys and their families, as well as the other 25 victims. I'd never heard of this case before. I would say thanks for the post but the sadness upon learning about it sort of cancels out any gratitude I feel.
posted by hecho de la basura at 9:43 AM on October 31, 2008

how two such twisted souls ever met up...

Cf. Bernardo & Homolka in Ontario. In that case at least it was a power dynamic where he was whacko and she was so eager to please him that she signed right up for whatever he said to do.
posted by GuyZero at 9:48 AM on October 31, 2008

As long as we're talking about dynamic serial killing duos, don't forget about Leonard Lake and Charles Ng.
posted by Rangeboy at 9:51 AM on October 31, 2008

wow, never heard of this case, shocked to see how many victims there were.
thanks for the heeby jeebies...
posted by Busithoth at 9:56 AM on October 31, 2008


I was thinking something similar. Every time I read of something like this I wonder where such evil originates and whether it can be eliminated. I guess not.
posted by RussHy at 10:03 AM on October 31, 2008

Similarly, there's the "Moors Murderers" couple, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. (They initially bonded over "Judgment at Nuremberg", ordinarily a doubtful idea for a first date movie.) And married murderers Fred and Rosemary West. Wherever primal evil arises from in humanity, sometimes it recognizes its own.
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:22 AM on October 31, 2008

I find it scary that I've never heard of this. 27 kids? Terrifying.
posted by schwa at 10:22 AM on October 31, 2008

Tragic story. My heart breaks for those children and their families. It doesn't surprised me however, that three twisted and cruel individuals like that could meet up. The world is a darker place than most people realize and there are many folks out there capable of some pretty cruel and sickening acts.
posted by scarello at 10:23 AM on October 31, 2008

Sorry, but WTF?!

Mephisto, to explain a little further, for those of us who were kids during this time in Houston, Halloween--or more important to us kids, trick or treat--was basically cancelled for several years after the bodies had been discovered, even though neither the murders nor the discovery of then had taken place anywhere near Halloween. But Corll's nickname "The Candy Man," so named because he'd worked at a candy factory and freely distributed candy to neighborhood kids.

So this part of this gruesome story exploded into Houston urban myth, so much so that terrified parents were certain that anyone giving out candy was a sadistic child-raping murderer. To me as a kid, Halloween meant staying at home, carving a pumpkin (displayed in the back yard, not in the front), and the only candy given out was from family members. I've never really enjoyed this time of year as much as others seem to; I think this event played a large part into why I don't really enjoy Halloween.

So that reason, plus it's so gruesome a tale that it's bound to give anyone the screaming heebie-jeebies and the fact that even to this day efforts are being made to identify the remaining victims, to my mind made this the perfect post to make on this day.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:26 AM on October 31, 2008 [5 favorites]

bah, tack on "stuck in people's minds for years after the murders" to the last sentence of the first paragraph.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:28 AM on October 31, 2008

I've only lived in Houston for the past 5 years, but this has been all over the news recently and is a fascinating and frightening story. I can't decide who's more evil — the Candy Man Corill or young Wayne Henley, who procured victims from his neighborhood and junior high, including his own best friend.

The Youtube link up there is especially confusing. All these boys with similar backgrounds go missing at the same time (including two sets of brothers) and no one can find the common denominator?
posted by Brittanie at 11:02 AM on October 31, 2008

I grew up in the 70's in a rural area North of Dallas and remember my cousins in Houston talking about how there was no trick or treating there. This was unimaginable to me and the source of many scary stories about something that happened on Halloween in Houston long ago. None of those stories were true or had anything to do with this case. Funny how kids were. The real story is horrific.

That YT video totally creeped me out! Is kinda scary.
posted by dog food sugar at 11:13 AM on October 31, 2008

how two such twisted souls ever met up...

Colin Wilson looks into the two-killers phenomena in detail in his book The Criminal History of Mankind. To make a long story short, his conclusion is basically that, for every actual heinous murderer, there are hundreds (maybe thousands) who fantasize about it but would never go through with it ... unless they meet that one person who could enable them. The enabler is usually not homicidal him/her self, just sufficiently amoral and submissive enough to "allow" the killer to bring his/her fantasies to life.

Kind of like falling in love for all the wrong reasons. Happy Halloween.
posted by philip-random at 11:24 AM on October 31, 2008

David Brooks and Wayne Henley look like garden variety evil to me

And yet, the LIBERAL New York Times employs Mr. Brooks TO THIS DAY!!!
posted by octobersurprise at 11:25 AM on October 31, 2008 [3 favorites]

And yet, the LIBERAL New York Times employs Mr. Brooks TO THIS DAY!!!

Yeah, at first, I was all like, "Who says there are no second acts in American life?" But anyway, as to the meat of the post, JESUS. I had no idea about any of this. Thanks for the utterly horrifying diversion.
posted by chinston at 11:36 AM on October 31, 2008

Yes, it is exceedingly odd that these two serial killers ended up writing for the NYTimes & fronting The Eagles.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:09 PM on October 31, 2008

Nice post, disturbing story.
posted by tiger yang at 12:15 PM on October 31, 2008

Wolfdaddy: I always thought the lack of trick-or-treating in Houston was because of another Candyman - Ronald Clark O'Bryan, who killed his own son with poisoned candy on Halloween to collect on a life insurance policy.
posted by yhbc at 12:30 PM on October 31, 2008

Strange -- I was listening to the audiobook of No Country for Old Men this morning on the walk to work, and Ed Tom refers to "two people who met up somewhere in the middle and took to killin' people," and was wondering who he was referring to. I guess it was these guys.
posted by Shepherd at 12:57 PM on October 31, 2008

I'm a native Houstonian of the right age to have been trick-or-treating in the early 70s. It was the poisoned pixy sticks that did trick-or-treating in my neighborhood in. The Corll/Henley murders (and the "seedy" Heights neighborhood Corll had lived in, which is now gentrified) were also a part of the mythology of my adolescence. One of the running gags in our house is that all serial killers have the middle name "Wayne". Elmer Wayne Henley is one of the examples we always cite.

I didn't know about the recent identifications of more of the bodies. Thanks for the update.
posted by immlass at 1:11 PM on October 31, 2008

yhbc, I definitely associate 1973--the year the bodies were found--as being the first year trick-or-treat vanished for kids in my neighborhood, as it was the last Halloween I spent with both parents before they got divorced. That the following year the "Pixie Stix man" (as he was known here then) did what he did only reinforced the fear and paranoia surrounding candy, Halloween, and children in Houston.

I feel I need to QFT Burhanistan at this point, though.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:18 PM on October 31, 2008

WolfDaddy, thanks for clarifying Houston's trick-or-treat history. My family moved from New England to Houston in the mid-seventies, when I was just seven years old, and I remember how oddly suspicious and nervous the Houston parents were about trick-or-treating in, oh, 1976 or '77.

I was accustomed to Halloween being a night of bustle and giggling confusion as we scampered around town, not the strictly regimented and brief march to half-a-dozen houses. I remember, too, that my parents were castigated by a neighborhood mother for letting us eat treats after only the most cursory inspection. At least one neighborhood dad brought along a magnifying glass to go over his kid's candy --- and keep in mind that on this brief round of trick-or-treating, we only took candy from candy people we knew.

These parents were terrified and rigidly vigilant. I couldn't understand it.

This explains a lot.
posted by Elsa at 2:41 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Be sure to remember this post when you send your kids out into the neighborhood to ask strangers for candy tonight.

posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:17 PM on October 31, 2008

My husband grew up in Montrose in the 70s. He lived in one of the houses behind Numbers on Westheimer for you locals. He doesn't remember a time when kids didn't go trick or treating. He thought I was making that part up! I guess for him that part of the city at that time may have been halloween every other day in some sense.
posted by dog food sugar at 3:41 PM on October 31, 2008


Thanks for the context.

I guess I just couldn't reconcile "great" with child-rapist and serial killer.
posted by Mephisto at 4:04 PM on October 31, 2008

I never understood why Americans are so obsessed with serial killers and kidnappers, and yet spend more than ten times as much money to hunt down and jail people who consensually sold someone else marijuana.

When I was in high school, I was told that the penalty for raping and murdering a child in NH was life; but the penalty for selling a child pot was life, no parole. (As my friend pointed out, "So if you sell a kid pot, you should definitely rape and murder them after you're done, to reduce your risk.") I'm not sure if that is still true; but you can definitely find numerous similar examples.

The article was very clear that most of these kids were reported as missing by madly worried parents, who were told that their kids had "run away" (i.e., they or their parents were "bad"), the police subsequently doing nothing at all.

Some of these murders will happen anyway. But these killers would be caught faster if this were more of a national priority.

My increasingly rare encounters with TV show me an America that's in love with killing and torture. I'm sure few of the people here support the century-long war on drugs, but when you see some fat, self-satisfied American, going off on Muslims and the American Way of Life and is Obama a terrorist, you see the enabler of such killers.

As I've said countless times before, as long as Americans thinking killing the children of people in foreign countries, people who've never offered them any harm, is a priority over the safety, health and education of their own children, you're going to have kids kidnapped and tortured to death without any police interest (like this article), you're going to have kids growing up on a diet of junk food to become destructive members of society, you're going to have generations of the ignorant.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:14 PM on November 1, 2008

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