Robert Berdella

Robert Berdella mug shot

Robert Berdella was one of the most brutal serial killers in U.S. history who participated in despicable acts of sexual torture and murder in Kansas City, Missouri, between 1984 and 1987. Berdella was born in 1949 in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The Berdella family was Catholic, but Robert left the church when he was in his teens.

Berdella proved to be a good student, despite suffering from severe nearsightedness. To see, he had to wear thick glasses, which made him vulnerable to being bullied by his peers.

His father was 39 years old when he died from a heart attack. Berdella was 16 years old. Not long afterward, his mother remarried. Berdella did little to hide his anger and resentment towards his mother and stepfather.

When Murderous Fantasies Began to Fester

In 1967, Berdella decided to become a professor and enrolled in the Kansas City Art Institute. He quickly decided on a change of careers and studied to be a chef. It was during this time that his fantasies about torture and murder began to fester. He got some relief by torturing animals, but only for a short time.

At age 19, he got into selling drugs and drinking a lot of alcohol. He was arrested for possession of LSD and marijuana, but the charges did not stick. He was asked to leave college in his second year after murdering a dog for the sake of art. For a few afterward, he worked as a chef, but quit and opened his store called Bob’s Bazarre Bazaar in Kansas City, Missouri.

The store specialized in novelty items that appealed to those with darker and occult-type taste. Around the neighborhood, he was considered odd but was liked and participated in organizing a local community crime watch programs. However, inside his home, it was discovered that Robert ‘Bob’ Berdella lived in a world dominated by sadomasochistic enslavement, murder, and barbarous torture.

What Went On Behind Closed Doors

On April 2, 1988, a neighbor found a young man on his porch clad in only a dog collar fastened around his neck. The man told the neighbor an incredible tale of torturous sexual abuse that he had endured at the hands of Berdella.

The police placed Berdella in custody and searched his home where 357 photographs of victims in various positions of torture were recovered. Also found were torture devices, occult literature, ritual robes, human skulls and bones, and a human head in Berdella’s yard.

The Photographs Disclose Murder

By April 4 the authorities had an overwhelming amount of evidence to charge Berdella on seven counts of sodomy, one count of felonious restraint, and one account of first-degree assault.

After closer scrutiny of the photographs, it was discovered that six of the 23 men identified were homicide victims. The other people in the pictures were there voluntarily and participated in sadomasochistic activities with the victims.

The Torture Diary

Berdella established the 'Rules of the House' which were mandatory for his victims or they risked being beaten or receiving bolts of electric shock on sensitive areas of their bodies. In a detailed diary that Berdella kept, he logged details and the effects of the torture he would subject upon his victims.

He seemed to have a fascination with injecting drugs, bleach, and other caustics into the eyes and throats of his victims then anally raped or inserted foreign objects inside of them.

No Indication of Satanic Rituals

On December 19, 1988, Berdella pled guilty to one count of first and to an additional four counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of other victims.

There were attempts by various media organizations to try to connect the crimes of Berdella to the idea of a national underground satanic group but the investigators responded that over 550 people were interviewed and at no point was there any indication that the crimes were connected to a satanic ritual or group.

Life in Prison

Berdella received life in prison where he died of a heart attack in 1992 soon after writing a letter to his minister claiming that the prison officials refused to give him his heart medication. His death was never investigated.

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Montaldo, Charles. "Robert Berdella." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2021, Montaldo, Charles. (2021, September 8). Robert Berdella. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "Robert Berdella." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).