Bodies have been found stuffed inside of wooden barrels all across the world. New York City, in particular, had the highest amount of bodies found in barrels. It turns out that this was a popular way for the Italian mafia to disposed of bodies in the early 1900s. It also provided that extra shock value when the bodies were discovered because the mafia made no attempt to hide the barrels.
Many of the “barrel murders,” as they were called, were never solved.
10Human Flavored Rum
A wine merchant in France promised a friend a barrel of delicious rum in 1891. When his friend received the barrel of goodness, he was so excited that he had to sample it immediately. Upon tasting it, “he found that the rum had a singular flavor; he re-tasted it, without changing his opinion, and ultimately, to learn what there might be abnormal in the cask” he opened it up to have a look. Inside the barrel was the body of the wine merchant’s wife.
The police were called in, and upon arriving at the wine merchant’s home discovered that the wine merchant had committed suicide. He must have realized at some point that he sent the wrong barrel of rum and, instead of facing trial, he offed himself.
9Oystermen Make Gruesome Find
There is a lot one could muck up in any deep water, but a body stuffed inside a barrel is not something that readily comes to mind. In the fall of 1909, two oystermen were dragging the bottom of the James River in Virginia. They managed to pull up a flour barrel that was nailed closed at both ends. Curiosity, of course, got the better of them and they opened one end. Inside the barrel was the body of a severely decomposed person.
The barrel and body were turned over to the police, who said they would investigate the matter. No further reports were made.
8Face Down In A Water Barrel
In 1929, Mr. Henry Davies, a market gardener, claimed he had just returned to his home in Wales when he found his wife head down inside a water barrel located at the back of their home. Instead of trying to remove his wife’s body from the barrel to see if she could be resuscitated, he contacted the police. When asked why he didn’t get his wife out of the water, he claimed he could not push the barrel over. Fortunately for justice, the coroner did not believe him.
The wife’s body was examined, and it was discovered that her death was not caused by drowning. She was beaten to death. Her husband’s hands were examined, and he had abrasions on his knuckles.
At trial, a witness testified to hearing shouts of “murder” come from the Davies house but did not investigate the screaming. The husband was found guilty of willful murder.
When most of us think of the mafia, we think of the 1920s and the speakeasies or when the US declared open war on the mafia in the 1950s. What many of us do not know is that the Italian mafia has been doing its business since the mid-1800s.
In the spring of 1903, the New York City Italian mafia showed its stripes when a body was discovered inside a barrel. Newspapers reported that the body belonged to a man who was giving information about the mafia to the Secret Service. He was found out, his throat was slit, and his body was stuffed into an ash barrel. An old coat was thrown over the top of the barrel’s opening, and the barrel itself was left in plain view on the pavement. A cleaning woman made the gruesome discovery.
6Doubled And Stuffed
Shortly after the Mafia hit, in the spring of 1903, another dead body was found stuffed inside a barrel in New York City. Disposing dead bodies into barrels was suddenly becoming a trend.
In this case, the body was of a woman. She was Italian, so there may have been a tie to the mafia. It was also believed that she was of the upper class, because her hands showed no signs of hard work. She had been killed, stripped of all clothing, bent in half, and stuffed into a barrel. Her murderer placed the barrel along a business street, and it was discovered by two boys while on their way to work.
5Canada Has The Best Creeps
With the “Montreal Mystery,” Canada hit newspapers worldwide in 1910 with its own barrel murder. As the story was reported, a barrel arrived at the Montreal railway station. It was addressed to a janitor who worked at a college that had closed a few years previous to the barrel’s arrival.
Curiosity got the best of human nature, and the barrel was opened. Inside was the “frozen remains of an aged man.” The body was inspected, but there were no outward signs of bodily harm. All that was known was that the barrel was sent from an undisclosed town in Ontario.
4Crushed Into A Half Barrel
Three boys were tending their cows on Staten Island in the winter of 1878. While walking about, they noticed the round edges of a barrel buried in the ground. Wondering if there was anything inside the barrel, they grabbed sticks, and, being boys, began flicking the dirt out of the barrel. They only got down a few inches into the dirt before they discovered the remains of a human arm.
The boys were undoubtedly horrified, and they rushed to get the police. The barrel was dug out of the ground, and they discovered that it was only a half barrel. The body on the inside, a woman’s, had been scrunched up and crushed to fit into the small space: “The woman’s arms were folded across her breast, her lower limbs were bent, doubled, and flattened against her shoulders, and her head bent forward between her knees.” Both her eyes and her skin had decomposed, and her fingers fell off when they removed her from the barrel.
3Clan Na Gael
The Irish republican organization, known as Clan na Gael in the US, was set on getting its people freed from the British in the late 1800s. A lot of ugliness occurred during this time, including the “Dynamite War” where Irish Americans ran a war of terrorism against Britain.
One of their victims in their war was a Dr. Cronin from Chicago. He was murdered and his body was stuffed inside a barrel. The barrel was marked with the word “Traitor” and was dumped on the shore of Lake Johanna.
It is believed that Dr. Cronin, a member of the Clan na Gael, accused the organization’s board of embezzling money. He was labeled a traitor and was accused of being a British spy. He disappeared on May 4, 1889. His presumed body was found on November 11 of the same year.
In 1903, an Italian man sat down at a table to eat when he was suddenly attacked by more than one assailant. He was finally killed after enduring 13 knife wounds. His body was then stuffed into a barrel and left on a New York City street corner. Upon discovery, the body was thought to be that of Quattrocci, a man thought to be part of some ultra-secret society.
Investigating the case, the police went to Quattrocci’s place of employment and found him there, quite alive. They took him to the morgue where they marveled at his likeness to the dead man. No one identified the dead body for fear of retribution.
A gruesome discovery was made in a Pennsylvania mining town in 1906. A man was traveling along a lonely back road when he saw smoke coming out of a wooden barrel. He stopped to have a look and discovered the charred remains of a body.
The body was that of a young woman. She had been murdered, stuffed into a barrel, covered in oil, and burned to a crisp. The coroner discovered axe or hatchet wounds on her neck, probably done to fit her head into the barrel. Her legs were also broken.
There was trouble identifying the body. A miner, whose wife disappeared several weeks previous to the barrel dump, was arrested. The wife’s cousin viewed the remains of the dead body and said it was not the missing woman. A butcher also viewed the body and could not make an identification either way. Later, after gathering all the evidence, the county detective agreed that the husband had not murdered his wife. It had to be the body of some other woman not from the area. Case closed.
Elizabeth spends most of her time surrounded by dusty, smelly, old books in a room she refers to as her personal nirvana. She’s been writing about strange stuff since 1997 and enjoys traveling to historical places.