Armchair Detective: Can You Solve These Historical Cases?

Salutations, detective!  

We’ve compiled a series of criminal profiles and we’d like to put your sleuthing skills to the test. Can you have a gander at these profiles as well as a bit of supporting evidence and determine which figure committed these crimes?  These are notorious individuals lifted straight from the pages of history, so you shouldn’t (with a reasonable historical background) have any trouble determining the responsible party or parties.  If you’re still stuck, the solutions are at the bottom of the page — don’t peek!


1. A mass murderer who killed millions.

If there ever was a more charismatic mad man, they would need an incredibly evil streak to stand up to this man. Our suspect was able to identify with masses of underprivileged peasants in his country, who suffered from an oppressive social gulf of enormous proportions between the extremely rich, very callous ruling class and the poor masses. Our subject studied socialist theory abroad, and then came back to his country as a teacher, impacting thousands with a philosophy that would inspire them to take back their country. He was a strong personality with a message that resonated, and ultimately he was able to build an army and overthrow the government.

And that is where his control became perverted. Once in power, he made sure that this power was ultimate. His jealousy and poor upbringing turned him against intellectuals, and he sent them to agrarian concentration camps. His lack of moral fortitude and compassion turned him against the very people who enabled him to attain power. He began massacring people who disagreed with him or criticized his government.  With no morals, no empathy, and complete control over his country using terror tactics, 7 million people were murdered.

A few million clues: Skulls stacked in caves all over the country next to the killing fields. Testimony from the few traumatized survivors who crossed the borders looking for asylum.


2. A serial killer who struck fear into the hearts of an entire city.

Our profile of this repeat killer is fairly horrific — this person is a paranoid schizophrenic, who may think he is possessed of a demon providing instructions in his head. He is a loner who has difficulty with relationships, especially with women. He is intelligent and enjoys taunting games and puzzles because he thinks he is smarter than everyone else. This profile has generated leads: the strange brother-in-law with a gun fascination, the skulking neighbor who comes home late every night and won’t meet your gaze, and the strange man at the bar with a dislike for pretty girls. In fact, the real UnSub (Unknown Subject) turned out to be all of these characters rolled into one.

Clues: Notes sent to the local paper with a consistent theme and details only the killer would know. Similarities in his victims, most of whom were couples having a romantic liaison in a remote place. Partial fingerprints lifted from the notes which cannot be found in any fingerprint library.


3. This couple terrorized small towns across America.

He was a simple country boy, but felt he could do anything and be anybody. He was not one to follow rules and always wanted to find a shortcut to the riches he felt he deserved. At first, he was repulsed by violence, but once he was shown by his partners that it was all part of the game, he became ruthless. She was petite, pretty and glamorous and seemed like a sweet, innocent girl. In fact, she could use those wiles to sway any man. In fact, she was a master manipulator and bloodthirsty killer. Once she recognized that, in her world, men always had the spotlight, she found in her partner a person that would do anything for her and used this power to climb over her peers. She craved the limelight and wanted to be famous. Together, their low ethical standards were flaunted to the public as part of their outlaw persona. Their  illicit sexual relationship further astonished the prudish citizenry of the time.

Clues: Whenever this couple pulled a robbery, they were too vain to use masks. They allowed a reporter to follow them and interview them, although that reporter soon became repulsed by the increasing rate of violence. Their actions became predictable, which led them into a trap where no mercy was shown.


4. A well-tailored crook with no moral compass.

This man is a self-made billionaire, but completely dishonest. He is charming, lures people in on promises of wealth and security, and then is smart enough to only take care of people in high places while swindling the others for all they had. He has a sharp mind, and can keep several stories going on at once, while hiding the truth through subterfuge and swapping resources around. He is a family man, has loyal followers and the appearance of great success.  He has slipped up a few times, but through inept investigators who were easy to mislead, and powerful friends, he remained at large — hiding in plain sight — for a long time. Over that time period, he managed to talk clever people into investing in well-presented ploys, all of which turned out to be part of a giant Ponzi scheme.

A few clues: Some investors began complaining about their promised investment performance, but they were paid back quickly to shut them up. Investigators were shown elaborate cooked books which seemed to depict an orderly business.


Don’t peek here!  Real CSIs do their homework first.

We caught them, thanks for your excellent detective work. Here are the criminals that you have helped bring to justice. The culprits are:

1) Not Chairman Mao this time, although there are similarities. This criminal was Pol Pot of Cambodia. 2) The New York City ‘Son of Sam’ killer: David Berkowitz.  3) The famous bank robbers, Bonnie & Clyde, who terrorized the Midwestern US in the late 30s. 4) Bernie Madoff, who swindled his investors out of $18 billion.


Your Turn: How many did you deduce correctly, amateur detectives? Would you like to see more cases to solve in the future and turn this into a regular feature? Let us know in the comments — we’d love to hear from you.




  • dobes says:

    I’m not an expert, but #2 seems to be a little off. David Berkowitz, who heard dogs talking to him, killed couples having romantic encounters in parked cars in New York – I was there at the time, and it was terrifying until he was caught. I thought #2 was describing the Zodiac Killer, who operated in Northern California, sent puzzles and taunts to police, and hasn’t been caught.

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