Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Haunted Crime Scenes

Haunted Grave

As the year 1950 drew to a close, ex-convict William "Cockeyed" Cook, in his black leather jacket and "hard luck" tattoos, went on a murder spree. Once abandoned by his father (who'd raised him and his motherless siblings in an abandoned mineshaft), this 21-year-old forced people to become his hostages. Near Joplin, he hijacked a family in their car and made them drive him from one state to the next. Back in Missouri, when a police officer drove by, he panicked and shot the three children, the parents and their dog. Then he drove around with their corpses for a while before depositing them in an abandoned mineshaft (much like the one in which he was raised).

Then he forced a salesman to drive him to California, where he killed the man. He was unaware that his identity was known from a clue he'd left behind and a manhunt was on for him across the Southwest. He kidnapped several other people and took two men hostage in Mexico, but the authorities recognized and grabbed him before he could harm his intended prey. Cook was convicted in Missouri of the murder of the family of five, but California got him for the salesman and executed him in the gas chamber on December 12, 1952.

Peace Church Cemetery
Peace Church Cemetery

Cook's body proved a nuisance to his relatives, so he was buried in an unmarked grave in the right rear area of Peace Church Cemetery in Jasper County, Missouri, according to Three years later his father was buried there as well. Since it's now a run-down place, unkempt and rather deteriorated, with only 29 plots, it naturally has the reputation of being haunted. But Cook is not famous among spree killers, so his grave isn't visited the way someone might travel to see the last resting place of Charles Starkweather, whose spree was only eight years later and whose case gained national attention.

Supposedly a ghostly figure has been spotted over Cook's grave, along with moving lights and strange noises. Some people have approached the figure only to see it vanish right in front of them. One story has it that Cook was buried outside the boundaries of the sacred ground, in order not to disturb the spirits of the others. Perennially an outsider, his spirit may be seeking a way in.

It's interesting that many of the ghosts are associated as much with offenders as victims. Thus, our ghost stories appear to feature unquiet souls among victims seeking peace or resolution, but also damned souls who might never find rest. Among these is a woman who was legally acquitted but lives on in the minds of many as a murderess who did not receive her due.

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