One of the largest archives of true crime on the Internet, Crime Library has nearly 15 years’ worth of research, photos, and articles on criminals throughout history. But can its wealth of knowledge make criminals smarter? Or the cops who try to catch them? Let’s find out!
Founded in 1998 by Crimescape Editor Marilyn Bardsley, Crime Library was immediately popular for its well-researched articles—written by professional crime writers including expert forensic psychologist Dr. Katherine Ramsland—and the nonclinical tone with which it described gruesome and shocking real-life crime throughout history.
Although the site’s scope is broad-reaching, tales of bloody murder will always reign supreme at Crime Library. The abundance of harrowing tales of the capture or escape of various killers throughout history prompted us to put together a little test to find out: Are you smarter than the average cold-blooded killer? What about the people responsible for catching them? Test your wits with real-life scenarios from Crime Library in the 13-question quiz below.
Quiz: Criminal intelligence
1) You’re a cop policing an area where a known serial killer has been picking up prostitutes, trussing them up with duct tape, taking them out to the lake, shooting them in the head, and dumping the body.
One night, you pull a guy over for hanging out by a brothel. He’s carrying a fully loaded handgun, and his truck is suspiciously, spotlessly clean—all except for the rolls of duct tape in the back seat. Do you:
A) Apologize for the confusion, since he’s clearly not the serial killer you’re looking for, and tell him to have a nice day.
B) Arrest him for a concealed weapon but then release him.
C) Do a background check for any suspicious activity.
Answer: B) Arrest him for a concealed weapon but then release him. You release him without investigation, or doing anything like, oh, noting “BTW MIGHT BE SERIAL KILLER” in his file.
2) Congratulations! You’ve just killed someone for lots of money! You come home and, naturally, tell your wife that you did it. This confession is:
A) Enough to send you to jail for the rest of your life.
B) In no way a dampener on your relationship.
C) Completely inadmissible in court.
D) Irrelevant, since your wife knows better than to squeal.
Answer: C) Completely inadmissible in court. In several states, including the one you live in, the law states that confessions made between married couples are private for life and can in no way be used against you later. And they say marriage doesn’t come with privilege!
3) You’re at home watching TV when you see your own picture on a local Unsolved Crimes report. Do you:
A) Change your hairstyle / hair color / physical appearance as much as possible so no one will recognize you after seeing the photo.
B) Phone in an anonymous tip identifying the individual in the photograph to be a random citizen with no connection to you or the case.
C) Call the police to ask them why they’re showing your photo on TV.
D) Cry and turn yourself in.
Answer: C) Call the police to ask them why they’re showing your photo on TV. Unfortunately, the police arrest you.
4) You and various members of your family are watching TV when an episode of Unsolved Mysteries comes on. The voice on the recording of their main suspect sounds very, suspiciously, like your relative’s ex-husband. Awkward. Do you:
A) Gossip about it with all your other relatives.
B) Immediately call the police.
C) Squirm uncomfortably, wait a while, and then phone in an anonymous tip to the Unsolved Mysteries hotline.
D) Freak out and never date anyone else again.
Answer: A) Gossip about it with all your other relatives! Although relatives were known to have recognized the voice, it’s not clear that any of them contacted police at all.
5) You’re trying to prosecute a gaggle of unsavory kids for murder. You have an expert witness who’ll claim that the boys were all involved in a satanic cult. But as you’re going to trial, the defense points out that he isn’t an expert of anything—he got his doctorate from a mail-order scam school. Do you:
A) Withdraw his testimony.
B) Let him testify about possible occult connections to the case but keep him from speculating whether or not the teenagers themselves were involved in anything satanic.
C) Let him testify about teenage involvement in the occult but keep him from speculating about direct occult connections to the case.
D) Present him as an expert anyway, let him testify that the murders were satanic in nature because they happened on the night of a full moon and also testify that the teens on trial were involved in satanic ritual because they did things like wear black and listen to loud music.
Answer: D). Just one of many factors which eventually led to the freeing of the West Memphis Three.
6) The owner of the home you’re trying to rob thwarts you! You escape but realize you’ve left your backpack, which contains your identifying info, there at his place. Do you:
A) Go back and attempt to steal the backpack before it gets turned into the police.
B) Leave town.
C) Lie low and get fake IDs for yourself.
D) Go back to the house you robbed and explain to the owner that you left your backpack, and could he please give it back? You kinda need it to protect your identity from the police he’s almost certainly contacted.
Answer: D). Do we even need to say it?
7) Six months pass after the events in question 1. You get a call about a fight between a prostitute and a guy whom she says wants to take her up to the lake and handcuff her. Do you:
A) Tell the prostitute and the guy who wants to handcuff her not to go up to the lake because they’ve been finding dead prostitutes up there, geez.
B) Remind them to take along mosquito spray.
C) Bring them both in for questioning.
Answer: A) Tell the prostitute and the guy who wants to handcuff her not to go up to the lake because they’ve been finding dead prostitutes up there, geez.
Specifically: “Geez…don’t do that. We’re finding girls up there dead.“
8) So you’re going to kill your girlfriend’s husband for fun and profit. Do you:
A) Buy everything you need for the murder at the same store, at the same time.
B) Tell the gun salesman you need a silencer for a 9mm because you’re “making a movie.”
C) Use your best friend as an alibi for the weapon you own, but fail to tell him which weapon he needs to say he was using.
d) All of the above.
Answer: D) All of the above! One too many hits with the football.
9) You’re a cult leader, and you’re very busy and important, so when you hear that police are planning to raid your cult compound on suspicion of your harboring weapons, you’re displeased! Do you:
A) Quickly arrange to ditch the explosives before the cops find them. Along with the chemicals… and the lethal gases… and the biological weapons… and all the LSD… and the $4 million in gold… and the black-market helicopter you stole from Russia… and the people you’re holding captive in secret lairs…
B) Release all the Sarin gas you’ve had stored up in the middle of a busy subway station, in the hopes that it distracts the police so completely they’ll forget about raiding your compound.
C) Cooperate fully with investigators, because as a religious leader you don’t believe in violence and you’re sure they’ll understand that you just have all those strains of Ebola for reasons of defense.
D) Gather your followers for a nice dose of cult-related suicide, because clearly it’s all downhill from here.
Answer: B). We have no idea how murdering 13 people is supposed to be a good way to take the cops’ minds off you, but in any case it doesn’t work, because instead of forgetting about your many chemical-storage facilities, the police just go ahead and raid all of them.
10) You’ve been looking for someone to off your stupid dad so you can get your hands on his inheritance. You’ve decided the best place to look is in your group of RPG nerds. As you plan your murder, which of the following things should you NOT do?
A) Give the RPG villain the same nickname as the one you’ve given your dad, then urge various members of the RPG to practice killing him.
B) Leave details of the murder plot lying around your dorm room and stashed on your computer in easily decipherable code.
C) Write all your accomplices a nice note after the deed to thank them for a job well done.
D) Leave that lying around your dorm room.
E) Frequently tell your friends that you need to find someone to kill your dad.
F) All of the above.
G) None of the above.
Answer: F) All of the above. Kids today, sheesh.
11) You’ve been under the gun all your life, arrested for petty larceny, swindling, and theft. You’ve been issued restraining orders and constantly appear in court battles over family members—leaving a criminal trail from New York to California. Luckily, the whole bit where you tie women up, rape them, and knock them out? That’s flown well under the radar.
So has the serial killing.
Still, given all that exposure to the law you’ve had, it’s never a bad idea to be extra-careful. With that in mind, which of the following would be it be a good idea NOT to do?
A) Keep a diary of your murders.
B) Photograph the unconscious bodies of your rape and murder victims.
C) Make a list of the names of all the women you’ve killed and/or want to kill—also jot down the locations the bodies were found in for record-keeping.
D) Keep A), B), and C) in a safe deposit box in your house, which is currently under supervision by your parole officer.
Answer: D). With clues like these, it’s amazing it took police over 20 years to apprehend the alleged serial killer behind the Alphabet Murders.
12) You and your friends have just killed someone in a bizarre killing in which it’s possible you believed you were a vampire. Since you casually drove up into the front yard of the victim’s house, in broad daylight, the victim’s neighbors have all seen you. They’ve also seen your truck get stuck in the mud as you’re trying to leave the crime scene. Do you:
A) Call a tow truck and give them your real names.
B) Call some trustworthy friends to pull you out of the mud ASAP.
C) Remove the license plate and any other identifying markers from the truck and hoof it to the nearest exit as fast as you can.
D) Ask the neighbors for help, since they’ve already spotted you. Might as well, right?
Answer: A). Call a tow truck and give them your real names.
13) Your entire police force has been mobilized to try to catch a serial killer in one of the biggest special investigations since Ted Bundy. In the middle of all this hubbub, a young girl among the killer’s target demographic goes missing after getting into a dark truck. Her boyfriend gets worried and follows the truck for several miles until the truck finally loses him.
His girlfriend is never seen again.
Undaunted, the boyfriend and his dad start keeping an eye on the place where she was last seen. They spot the truck and follow it back to the owner’s house. Armed with reasonable suspicion and an address, they call the police. You’re the police sent to check up on the call. When you get to the house, the owner of the truck claims never to have heard of the girl in question. Do you:
A) Do a thorough background investigation to look for possible connections to the serial killer.
B) Thank him for his time and leave without pursuing the incident in any way.
C) Bring him in for questioning but release him.
D) Leave but arrange to put a surveillance team on his location.
Answer: B). You do absolutely nothing! By failing to investigate this incident, you fail to connect this report to:
- Another report of an abducted/missing prostitute in the same area who was seen getting into, guess what, a dark truck;
- Another report of the same man being stopped (and released) by police, while holding one of the murder victims in his truck;
- Another report from two years prior of the same man being questioned (and released) by police for choking a prostitute within the target area;
- The fifth and final apprehension (and release) of the same man for propositioning an undercover cop disguised as a prostitute.
All of these things allowed the owner of the truck, Gary Ridgway, to continue killing at least 40 more victims (and by some estimates as many as 70) before eventually being caught.
So how’d you do? Should you read up on your criminal activities, or do we need to avoid you in dark alleys at night?
Illustration by Jason Reed