Joseph D. Ball was an American serial killer, sometimes referred to as “The Alligator Man”, the “Butcher of Elmendorf” and the “Bluebeard of South Texas”. He is said to have killed at least 20 women in the 1930s. His existence was long believed to be apocryphal, but he is a familiar figure in Texas folklore. Number of victims: 5 to 14 +
Joseph D. (Joe) Ball (January 6, 1896 – September 24, 1938) was an American serial killer, sometimes referred to as “The Alligator Man”, the “Butcher of Elmendorf” and the “Bluebeard of South Texas”. He is said to have killed at least 20 women in the 1930s. His existence was long believed to be apocryphal, but he is a familiar figure in Texas folklore.
After serving on the front lines in Europe during World War I, Ball started his career as a bootlegger, providing illegal liquor to those who could pay. After the end of Prohibition, he opened a saloon called the Sociable Inn in Elmendorf, Texas. He built a pond that contained five alligators and charged people to view them, especially during feeding time; the food consisted mostly of live cats and dogs.
After a while women in the area were reported missing, including barmaids, former girlfriends and his wife. When two Bexar county sheriff’s deputies came to question him in 1938, Ball pulled a handgun from his cash register and killed himself with a bullet through the heart (some sources report that he shot himself in the head). If he were tried and convicted of the murders, he would have surely been sent to the electric chair.
A handyman that conspired with Ball, Clifford Wheeler, admitted to helping Ball get rid of the bodies of two of the women he had killed. Wheeler led them to the remains of Hazel Brown and Minnie Gotthard. Wheeler told authorities that Ball murdered at least 20 other women, but the alligators had disposed of any evidence. There has never been any firm evidence that the alligators actually ate any of his victims.
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