September 24, 1938
Joe Ball commits suicide when police questioned him about a recent string of murders
Ball was given the grim monikers of “The Alligator Man,” “The Bluebeard of South Texas,” and “The Butcher of Elmendorf.” During Prohibition, Ball made a living as a bootlegger and once Prohibition was lifted he started a saloon. To bring in more customers, Ball installed an alligator pond and fed the alligators in front of spectators, primarily using live cats and dogs as food.
Little is conclusive about the murders Ball was accused of. There seemed to be quite a bit of speculation regarding many of the waitresses of his establishment going missing, with a total of 12 women in the area, including 2 of his wives. Police gathered enough evidence to arrest Ball, despite no bodies being recovered (the popular theory was that Ball fed his victims to his alligators). On September 24, they visited him at his saloon. He pressed the “No Sale” button on his register, took the pistol he had stored there, and shot himself leaving a “fist-sized hole” in his chest. Because he never confessed nor left any records of his victims, his official death count is unknown. It is suspected to be between 5 and 14 or higher.
Article from the Dunkirk Evening Observer (Dunkirk, NY) October 4, 1938