It’s difficult to determine the motive behind the gruesome actions of notorious serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson. Many were intelligent individuals whose paths took very dark turns at some point in their lives. Though his name is less known, English killer John George Haigh was no exception.
When Haigh was young student, he showed promise in school. However, something—whether it was his strict upbringing or his conservative parents—eventually led him down the path to becoming the Acid Bath Murderer.
But homicide wasn’t atrocious enough for Haigh. It was what he did after he killed his victims that was the most disturbing thing of all…
Serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson weren’t born murderers. Rather, very specific events happened in their lives that led them to their abhorrent actions. The same can be said for most killers, and John George Haigh was no different. Once a promising young student in England, Haigh eventually turned his back on his studies and focused on something far more grisly: murder.
As a boy from Stamford, Lincolnshire, Haigh had a passion for classical music and a knack for academia. He won scholarships to both Wakefield Grammar School and Wakefield Cathedral; he had a good head on his shoulders, and he was on his way to a successful life.
However, Haigh’s parents were part of a highly conservative sect called the Plymouth Brethren, and they abused Haigh—both physically and emotionally—for years, often locking him inside small rooms and forbidding him to go outside. This torment brought about an evil side in Haigh that some say led him to murder nine people and acquiring the name the Acid Bath Murderer. And the reason behind that name? Well…
After Haigh killed his victims, he would rob them of all their possessions and dump their bodies into large vats full of sulfuric acid. The acid would then turn the corpses into organic sludge, which he would then dump down sewer drains. Pretty gross, right?
He learned this horrific acid tactic by experimenting with mice. He would place dead mice into small pools of the substance and time how long it would take the rodents to completely dissolve. The mice needed 30 minutes to dissolve, which meant he needed hours to do the same to a human body.
Although Haigh was cunning, he wasn’t all that careful when it came to his crimes. He firmly believed his dissolving of the bodies meant there could be no possible evidence against him. He was convinced “in the absence of a body of evidence, murder could not be proven.” Oh, how wrong he was…
Constance Lane, a friend of Haigh’s last unfortunate victim, Olive Durand-Deacon, reported her friend missing one afternoon. This important phone call started the investigation that eventually ended Haigh’s string of murders.
Detectives discovered Haigh was an acquaintance of Durand-Deacon. This led them to search his property where the acidic vats were kept. There, they found a dry cleaners receipt for Mrs. Durand-Deacon’s coat, along with undissolved gallstones and teeth in the sulfuric acid vats. Mrs. Durand-Deacon’s dentist matched the teeth, and the Acid Bath Murderer was finally caught.
On August 10, 1949, John George Haigh was hanged in Wandsworth Prison. He tried pleading insanity, but failed. The judge only took a matter of minutes to find him guilty; the evidence was overwhelmingly against him.
The Acid Bath Murderer was one of the most gruesome serial killers of all time. While his abusive childhood may have played a huge role in his affinity for murder, this once-intelligent young man turned a dark corner he couldn’t come back from.
Thankfully Haigh was caught. Many of these killers remain at large for too long. But detectives put the clues together and brought an end to his reign of terror.
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