Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Crimes of Bela Kiss

War Casualty?

On October 4, 1916, Dr. Nagy received a message from a Serbian hospital claiming that a solider named Bela Kiss died of typhoid in 1915. It was followed by another message that said that Kiss was alive and a patient at the hospital. Dr. Nagy traveled immediately to the hospital, which was then in Hungarian hands. 

"I think we have your man," the military commander told Dr. Nagy. Nagy was overcome with excitement. They did not reach the hospital until dark and when the reached the ward where Bela Kiss was recuperating, they were in for a shock. The man in Kiss's bed was dead, but it was not Bela Kiss.

French Foreign Legion
French Foreign Legion

Somehow, Kiss had been warned and had substituted the body of another soldier in his bed. 

Dr. Nagy made sure that all of Hungary knew that the Monster of Cinkota was still alive. Tips poured in from every part of the country. Then followed many sightings of Bela Kiss in disparate places around the world. Someone claimed to have seen the serial killer walking down a Budapest street in 1919.

Five years later, in 1920, a suspicious member of the French Foreign Legion went to a police station to report a fellow Legionnaire that he believed could be Kiss. The man, who gave his name as Hoffman, an alias that Kiss used, bragged about how good he was with a garrote. The police went to the unit to question Hoffman only to find that he had deserted without warning.

New York subway exit near Times Square
New York subway exit near Times
Square

A Hungarian soldier claimed that Bela Kiss was imprisoned in Romania for burglary. Another said he died of yellow fever in Turkey.

A New York City homicide detective named Henry Oswald felt certain he saw Bela Kiss walking out of the Times Square subway station in 1932. Oswald was nicknamed "Camera Eye" by other detectives for his extraordinary memory for faces, so many people gave credence to his report. The enormous crowd in Times Square prevented Oswald from pursuing the suspect. However, after the detective's report, some people became convinced that Kiss, who would have been in his late 60s at the time, was living in New York.

In 1936, gossip had it that Kiss was working as an apartment building janitor. The police went to the building to interview this janitor, but he had taken off and left no information behind.

As noted by David Everitt in Human Monsters, "Despite all this alleged globetrotting by Kiss, no other murders were ever attributed to him." Unfortunately, that does not necessarily mean that Bela Kiss stopped killing, only that, if he did, they were not traced to him.

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