October 17, 1941
Theodore Coneys, later called the “Denver Spider Man,” kills 73-year-old Philip Peters after being caught stealing from Peters’ ice box
Coneys had fallen on hard times and was desperate for food. He and Peters had been friends and Coneys visited his home in hopes of being invited to dinner as he had in the past. Finding no one home, Coneys broke into Peters’ home to steal some food before he found a small trap door in the ceiling of one of the closets, leading to a cramped attic area. Coneys lived in this small space for five weeks undetected, occasionally coming out to steal food.
On October 17, Peters woke at the sounds of Coneys raiding his ice box. During a scuffle, Coneys grabbed a five-pound stove shaker and bludgeoned his elderly friend. After the murder, Coneys scurried back to his hiding area in the attic.
Peters was found by neighbors a few hours after the murder. Though police searched the home, they did not find Coneys nor his hiding place. Eventually, Peters’ wife, who had been hospitalized for a broken hip, returned to the home. For approximately six months, Coneys continued his routine of living in the attic and stealing food from Mrs. Peters. While Mrs. Peters was hard of hearing and mostly unaware of Coneys’ movements, those who helped around the house were not; one of her housekeepers quit when she became convinced the house was haunted after hearing “ghost-like” noises. In spring of 1942, the Peters’ son moved his mother with him in Grand Junction.
For an additional three months, nine months after the murder of Philip Peters, Coneys stayed in the house. Neighbors reported to police strange movements and noises in the empty home. So frequent were these complaints, police began watching the building around the clock. In July, two police officers noticed a movement of a curtain and stormed into the house, just fast enough to watch a boney ankle recede into the trap door. One of the officers grabbed the ankle and pulled an emaciated Coneys from the ceiling; he weighed just 75 pounds (34kg).
Coneys told police he had survived off snow gathered in winter for water, and homemade canned jams and jellies left behind after Mrs. Peters moved. He was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison where he died on May 16, 1967 at the age of 84.
Clipping: The Minneapolis Star (August 1, 1942), via Newspapers.com
“Denver ‘Spider Man’ Given Life Sentence,” The San Bernardino County Sun [San Bernardino, California], November 1, 1942
“Denver’s ‘Spider Man’ Baffled Police, Public,” The Corpus Christi Caller-Times [Corpus Christi, Texas], July 4, 1954
Max Haines, “A Killer in the Attic,” The Ottawa Citizen [Ottawa, Ontario], November 26, 1977
Find A Grave