This post is part of my research into a project about Florida’s most prolific serial killer called Boogeyman: The Murders and Myth of Gerard John Schaefer which I am worked on in conjunction with Paradise After Dark. If you know a bit about the case, you’ll understand this is a long process and many strands to try and untangle. Whether it is the heinous nature of the crimes he is being accused of or the haunted legends surrounding the locations he is associated with, the tales get weirder as we look deeper into them.
Please contact me with any corrections, additions, or clarifications. This project begs for it.
There’s a mystique surrounding serial killers that invites their actions to play in the imagination of folklore. Their deeds become hyperbolic. Dead bodies they claim will never be found, the colorful unsubstantiated background that molded them, the nature of their hunt. Often when caught they want nothing but an audience, and we the public fill in the holes by pouring our worst fears and hidden passions in their hints and implications. They become fictionalized, reflections of what we need them to be, folk heroes running through our minds like sociopathic Johnny Appleseeds.
Gerard John Schaefer built his mythology by allowing people to sift through what might be the truth of his crimes. Out of one side of his mouth he would brag and then with his other file a lawsuit against someone for hinting he might be the monster the people believed him to be. He was not above inflating his number of bodies and then straight out denying murders where there was evidence of him having been involved. It fit the man who could be seen by one person as harmless, even romantic in his dealings with women and then turn around and engage in some of the most degrading and violent sexual acts with a willing partner only to then write or act out those same acts with an unwilling one. There is that duality to us all, but once arrested Schaefer seemed to enjoy and encourage the mystery around him.
It was not just the whispers and winks that led to the legend. The playground of evidence the police found when they invaded his mother’s house was like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle spanning a dozen states with no picture on the box to go by. On April 7, 1973, Doris and Teresa Schaefer’s Ft. Lauderdale residence was searched with special attention given to areas he had warned the women never to look into. What was seized that day has been the subject of speculation and misdirection for almost 40 years, with no single law enforcement agency willing or able to give a full account of what was found. His writing, much of which would go on to help convict him and then be published by Sondra London in the book Killer Fiction, was collected. Various trophies, such as driver’s licenses, clothing, and jewelry were also recovered. The problem was, with no direct record of all his murders, it was nearly impossible to connect the items with a possible crime.
Was a shirt taken off a victim in another county or another state or just an article which may have meant something to him? What was evidence and what was a red herring or the subject of fantasy?
This did not stop law enforcement from leaking some of what they had seized in hopes of closing other cases. It also didn’t stop other departments from across the country from calling up to try and solve any unsolved crimes in their town. The race was on and the media helped to fuel it, bring his murder total up with every inquiry and rumor. News outlets from across the country picked up the leaks knowing the love of a good serial killer and its impact on circulation. One report would be scooped up by the wire and published in dozens of papers until the speculation became truth. Schaefer had killed over 20 people they reported, and that might just be the tip of the iceberg.
The Fort Worth Telegram covered the story. It was republished by the Ottawa Journal and the Boston Globe. The Lincoln Star proclaimed, “28 Florida Slayings May Be Connected.” Every part of the country was hearing about the Boogeyman from the Sunshine State, and the stories were beginning to inflate.
One such story appeared in the Palm Beach Post-Times under the headline 6 Dead: 28 May Be: A Trail of Butchered Girls. It went on to print the names and details of several women whose murders fit in with his timeline and listing other crimes, sometimes just names, that he may have been involved in. Not much is written about why he was being connected (was it his MO, evidence from the house, confession or eye witness accounts) but it was enough of a story to be reprinted, with each publication editing it a little for their audience and space the article could be given in their paper.
Two of the names printed and repeated were 14 year old Katrina Bivens and her 12 year old sister Sandra. Both girls were reported missing out of Lake Park since January of 1970 from Palm Beach County. Their proposed abduction was said to be similar in details as others Schaefer was involved in and fit one of his preferred victim pools. There were also, of course, two of them, which was rapidly becoming a familiar Schaefer pattern. The article offered little in terms of details, but by the time the story reached Utah and Nebraska, he was obviously the killer of these young girls.
The only problem is there’s no evidence these girls had ever even been missing.
In his book Hangman, perhaps the definitive work on the progression of Schaefer and his crimes, Michael Newton details his own private odyssey trying to follow up on their story. According to his research, “I found that no record of the sisters existed in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database.” He further goes on to discuss his inquiries into multiple law enforcement agencies and newspaper archives only to find no reference and no written reports on the siblings. Following in his footsteps, I was also unable to find any reference to the children except for the multiple reprintings of the Palm Beach news report. The girls, like so much of the Schaefer story, are not so much made up as molded and then projected with smoke and mirrors.
Except there was another little reference I was able to find. When I added a few different keywords and Katrina’s middle name, an interesting rabbit hole opened up. If researching the misdirection of Schaefer, the oddness of the true crimes and the weirdness of the paranormal attached to him, had prepared me for anything, what happened next proved there was little hope anything connected to The Boogeyman would be normal.
There was an odd marriage announcement published in the Sun Sentinel on October 31st of 1985. A vampire by the name of Count Zecula was marrying the love of his afterlife, a woman by the name of Katrina Marie Bivens, under the Halloween full moon. Zecula, or Michael Goodson as his non-horror associates knew him, planned a ceremony he promised would reflect his station as Florida’s leading authority on all things vampire. There is not much of Bivens in the article beyond her love of Goodson, her embracing of his Count Zecula persona, and her good humor of the wedding he had been planning for over a year.
The picture of the two of them published the next day in the Tallahassee Democrat says it all. The Count’s teeth are barred, love in his eyes and blood in the corners of his mouth. And then there is Katrina’s slight smirk as she holds out a vampire bat. The smile was familiar. It was the same cheeks, maybe with a little less of that childhood weight she still held at 14, and there was something about the slight reflection of mischief in her eyes that could be seen. This was the same girl, older by 15 years, who had disappeared in 1970 who may have never actually disappeared. The name was the same, the ages matched up, and the hometown of the bride was listed as West Palm Beach.
What were the odds?
Lauren Samples and I researched the woman a bit more. We were able to track a Katrina Goodson out of Florida, through a divorce and into a new name and marriage. There was also a phone number and e-mail which seemed to be active. My attempts to contact her have since gone unanswered, but that is par for the course.
It does seem to fit a search to understand a man whose shadow has loomed over so much of Florida history for the past 50 years. A missing girl who was never missing ends up marrying a vampire under the full moon on Halloween. Another victim shuffled into a story which continues to confuse and seduce. I’ll keep you all updated on the story of Vampire Bride Bivens if I find anything, but like so much of the Boogeyman, it will probably only lead to more myth.
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