Welcome to Freaky Friday! I promised in Wednesday’s review of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre that, today, I would talk about one of the criminals who inspired the movie. And I will.
Before we start, though, understand that this is very disturbing stuff. If you know me at all, you know I don’t say that often.
The other thing I want to say is that there is no way I can talk about every single aspect of this case. This post would be a hundred pages long if I did. Please peruse my sources if the case grabs your interest.
August 8, 1973 — The End
Around 8:30 a.m. officers responded to a hysterical call for help at 2020 Lamar Street in Houston, Texas.
2020 Lamar Street was the home of Dean Corll, a 33-year-old electrician who worked for Houston Power and Light. Mr. Corll was inside the house, dead from six gunshot wounds from a .22 caliber pistol.
The call for help had come from a teenager named Elmer Wayne Henley, who admitted to shooting Corll. He and the other two teenagers found at Corll’s house were taken to the police station for questioning.
Detectives arrived to search the house.
The Killing Room
Houston detectives made a shocking discovery behind the deceptively normal green and white facade of Dean Corll’s house.
The bedroom probably shocked them the most. Its floor was covered with plastic sheeting. There was a board which had handcuffs, ropes, and cords attached to it. This board later became known as the torture board.
A chilling array of items littered the floor. Detectives recovered a bayonet style knife, a dildo, petroleum jelly, glass tubes, and tape.
The weird didn’t stop there. In the backyard, police found a plywood box. This box had air holes cut into it. Police found several strands of human hair in this box.
Is the hair on the back of your neck standing up yet?
Elmer Wayne Henley’s Bizarre Tale
While Houston Police Detectives walked through the spooky scene at 2020 Lamar Street, Elmer Wayne Henley was at the police station telling the craziest tale.
Henley said that Dean Corll had been paying him and another teenage accomplice named David Brooks to procure boys and young men. Corll would then rape, torture, and kill the young men.
But Dean Corll couldn’t have done…that
As soon as Dean Corll’s mother and stepfather learned of Dean’s murder, they assured police that Dean couldn’t have been involved in something like that. Dean was a good man who helped people, a man who befriended wayward teenagers.
The short story of Dean Corll is that his parents divorced when he was young. His mother remarried and started a candy-making business with her new husband. Dean worked in the family business until he was drafted into the US Army.
Dean sought a hardship discharge from the US Army on the grounds that he was needed to help run the family candy-making business. He received an honorable discharge and was named vice-president of Corll Candy.
While he was in the US Army, Corll realized he was a homosexual and experienced his first homosexual encounters. Back home in Houston, Corll hid his homosexuality and even had a longtime girlfriend.
Dean Corll was a man who was known to be generous and helpful to people in need. He passed out candy to neighborhood children who nicknamed him The Candy Man and The Pied Piper. He gave away TVs, money, and seemed to really care about the well-being of other people.
In 1968, when Corll Candy closed, Dean Corll went to work for Houston Power and Light. The community knew him as nothing more than an honest, hardworking man.
Thus, Wayne Henley’s talk about Dean Corll being a murderer didn’t sound quite right. Had the police not found the weird room in Corll’s house with plastic covering the floor, they might have dismissed Henley as a liar. But they kept digging.
The Dark Side of Dean Corll
Dean’s favorite recipients of candy were teenaged boys. He seemed to really enjoy their company and put a pool table in the candy factory so he and his teenaged friends would have a hang-out.
It is important to note that Dean Corll was in his mid-to-late twenties while he was doing all this hanging out with teenagers. During this period, he was also accused of flirting with young male employees of Corll Candy.
One of Dean Corll’s young friends was named David Brooks. Dean wooed David and eventually paid the youth for sexual favors. David and Dean kept up their friendship until the time of Dean Corll’s death.
In 1971, David Brooks introduced Dean Corll to another teenaged boy named Elmer Wayne Henley. The two young men became Dean Corll’s partners in crime.
The Missing Boys
Starting in September of 1970, teenaged boys began disappearing. By August 1973–when Dean Corll was shot to death–twenty-eight boys had disappeared. Twenty of them were from the Heights area of Houston, Texas.
The missing boys ranged in age from 13-years-old to 20-years-old. Most of them were written off as runaways by police.
Some of the parents of missing boys received phone calls and cryptic postcards (ostensibly from their sons) saying that they boys had left to pursue jobs or to travel the country.
Many of the families of these young men knew their sons did not run away. They searched for their missing loved one and conducted their own investigations. They held out hope.
That all changed on August 8, 1973.
With the help of Elmer Wayne Henley and David Brooks, police located where Dean Corll had been stashing his victims’ remains.
Some of the corpses were buried in the dirt floor of a Houston area boat shed rental. Others were buried in a wooded area near a cabin Corll’s family owned at Sam Rayburn Reservoir, which is about two hours north of Houston. Some of the victims were buried on High Island.
The corpses had been buried in plastic sheeting. Lime had been sprinkled over some of them to speed decomposition.
Some of the bodies still had tape over their mouths, rope around their wrists and ankles. Some had rope around their necks. A few had bullet holes in their heads.
These boys–someone’s son or brother, loved and missed by their families–had been used up and thrown away like trash.
Dean Corll had a system.
Elmer Wayne Henley and/or David Brooks lured potential victims into Dean Corll’s vehicle. The victims were not all strangers. Some of the victims were friends of Henley or Brooks. Two of them were former employees of Corll Candy.
Once in the vehicle, the victims were subdued with alcohol or drugs. Some victims, however, were simply tricked into putting on handcuffs.
The victims were taken to Corll’s home, stripped of their clothes, and restrained either on the torture board or Corll’s bed. Some of the boys were forced to write a postcard or call their parents and lie about their whereabouts.
With all loose ends tied up, the torture began.
Corll would pull out the boys’ pubic hair. He inserted a glass rod into the penis of some of his victims. Usually, Corll would force a large dildo into his victim’s rectum. He raped them. Sometimes for days.
Once Dean Corll was done with his toy, he’d either strangle the boy or shoot him in the head.
Elmer Wayne Henley and/or David Brooks would then help Corll remove the corpse from his property and bury it at one of his three dump spots.
Had enough yet? It was hard enough to write, and I’m sure it’s hard to read. I’ll be quick about the last.
Elmer Wayne Henley and David Brooks were tried separately for the part they played in Dean Corll’s crimes.
Elmer Wayne Henley was convicted of six murders and sentenced to six consecutive 99-year terms. I read somewhere that he’d come up for parole but had been denied. He’s still in prison.
David Brooks was convicted of one murder and sentenced to life in prison. He has also been up for parole and has been denied. He’s still behind bars.
The two young men–Henley and Brooks–were from broken homes but neither were considered troublemakers. Corll himself was well thought of in the community. They hid in plain sight. The murders only came to light when they did because Elmer Wayne Henley shot Dean Corll.
Another thing to think about is that only twenty-eight victims are known. One of them was only discovered very recently. It is possible there were more than that.
If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy my fiction. Please take a moment to check it out either on my Looking For More? page or on my Amazon Author Page. I write both horror and paranormal mystery fiction. The topics I research for this blog serve as my inspiration.