"We Were Invited By Elmer Wayne Henley To Go To A Party": 19 People Share Their Close Encounters With Serial Killers

    "I just talked with Paul, and we figured this photo was taken right after he committed his second murder."

    WARNING: This post contains mentions of rape, violence, killing of children, and death. Please proceed with caution.

    Every month, I ask BuzzFeed readers to share the creepiest things they've ever experienced. I've been doing this for a while now, and I started to notice that a truly shocking number of people were sharing stories in which they or someone they knew had a run-in with a serial killer. This got me wondering just how many people have actually had an experience like this, because it seems like it's waaay more than I'd previously thought. So naturally, I turned once again to BuzzFeeders like you and asked people to share their serial killer encounters. Here are 19 of their stories:

    1. "One of the Hillside Stranglers — Angelo (Tony) Buono — lived in Glendale, California next to a teen center in 1968. For a while, he was a volunteer councilor at the center. After closing, he would often invite a few teens to sit on his porch and drink beer. I drank many a beer on that porch with him. He told stories about being some kind of mobster. He was dismissed from the center because of a few girls complaining of 'creepy' behavior, including my 16-year-old sister."

    Angelo Buono

    2. "My great uncle witnessed serial killer Wayne Nance leaving the home of two of his victims (the parents were murdered, while the children survived) in the middle of the night. My uncle, a secret smoker, was having a cigarette on his porch and noticed a truck leaving the house across a field from his home. As this was a rural area where everyone knew everyone, it was odd to have anyone coming or going at that time of night. My uncle is mentioned (briefly) in the Wikipedia article about him. Nance is known to have killed at least six people but is suspected of killing more. He was killed by one of his intended victims less than a year later."

    A man lighting a cigarette

    3. "When I was a teenager, I was in a band in Atlanta. My partner, who was Black (yes, this will figure into this later), and I were the lead singers, and we had different backup musicians. Right after graduating high school, we were approached by a local producer who had aspirations of signing us as a duo to include recordings, promoting, and gigs. We went to his studio downtown to meet with him and discussed our future. After about an hour or so, we left without a contract, but he stated he'd like to meet with my partner later to discuss details. We both looked at each other to try and figure out why he wanted to meet with him and not both of us. We talked about it later, and we decided that he wasn't a good fit for our style of music and never met with him again. About a year or two later, the producer was arrested for murder. The producer's name? Wayne Williams: the Atlanta child murderer."


    According to the FBI, Wayne Williams kidnapped and murdered an estimated 29 Black children, teens, and young adults from 1979 to 1981. Most of them were boys. You can read more about his case here.

    Wayne Williams being escorted by police

    4. "I'm not gonna mention the name of the killer, but this happened to my friend when we were in our early 20s. My friend lived with her parents in an apartment building. A guy in his 50s moved into the same building. My friend started getting these weird notes in the mail that were like love letters. They were so poorly written that at first she thought a kid had written them. Pretty soon the letters turned threatening. Someone also started coming to their door when my friend was alone. This someone tried to take a peek through the peephole a few times. My friend and her parents went to the police, who did nothing."

    "Finally, one day, in the middle of the day, this someone tried to break in through the door, thinking my friend was home alone. Luckily, her dad was there, too, and they called the police. The police arrived and found and arrested her 50-year-old neighbor who turned out to be the intruder. He had leather gloves and tons of rope with him. My friend and her parents found out during the trial that this guy was a serial sex offender and had killed people by asphyxiation. He had also been classified as a psychopath. What makes me super angry was that he got a super light sentence. That kinda person has no business living around regular people."


    A person breaking into someone's house

    5. "Bruce Mendenhall was naked in the bathroom of the truck stop I worked at, washing himself from the sink. I was alone, with one entrance in/out and away from the main building, as a 24-year-old woman, cussing out a serial killer for lewd behavior. Found out from news after his arrest who he was. I've been more careful with strangers ever since then."


    While the actual number is uncertain, Bruce Mendenhall, aka the Truck Stop Killer, is estimated to have been involved in the deaths of as many as nine women

    Closeup of Bruce Mendenhall

    6. "It was 1974 in west Seattle, and I was staying overnight at my girlfriend's place. She lived in her parents's rental house with a roommate. At about 2 a.m., someone knocked on the front door. The bedroom was situated so that I could peek out the bedroom window and see the front porch. I didn't recognize who it was, so thought nothing of it and went back to sleep. A couple days later, her roommate answered a knock at the door to some guy saying, 'Oh you're not the one,' and proceeded to ask her where the other girl (my girlfriend) was. He didn't know her name, just called her the other girl. With that on top of other odd things going on at the time, my girlfriend and I decided to move her out of that house and into our own place."

    "A few months later, I was back at the rental doing some repairs with my future brother-in-law. The couple that had moved in after we left had moved out already. Turns out, the female tenant had been abducted at Lake Sammamish State Park and murdered by Ted Bundy. She looked very similar to my girlfriend, with long dark hair.

    In the mail we gathered that'd been delivered to the house after her partner moved out, we found letters addressed to Ted Bundy. The guy I saw at 2 a.m. that one night I now recognized as Ted Bundy.


    Ted Bundy

    7. "My dad was born and raised in the Bronx and was in his 20s when the Son of Sam was active in the '70s. One night, he and his girlfriend were sitting in their car after he picked her up from work. They noticed a car slowly drive past them. A few minutes later, he saw the same car pull up behind them with no headlights on. He wasn’t able to make out who was in the car, but after a few minutes of seeing no movement, he got nervous because the Son of Sam was targeting couples sitting in cars."

    "He pulled away, but quickly noticed that the driver started following them, so he pulled up to a local bar that had a crowd gathered outside. When he did, the car slowly drove past them. They waited there for a few hours before going home and thankfully didn’t see the car again. He obviously doesn’t know for sure if it was the Son of Sam, but he said after that, his gut always told him that there was a good chance it was."


    Side-by-side of a sketch and photo of the Son of Sam

    8. "My aunt was a nurse at the prison Son of Sam was an inmate at in Upstate New York. She told me a story about the time he either got attacked or got into a fight. After it was over, she had to sew a piece of his ear back on."

    Closeup of the Son of Sam

    9. "My mother was working at a bank in the '90s. At the time, they didn't yet have the bulletproof glass, and she was standing at the head teller's window. Danny Rolling (the inspo for Scream) came in and pointed a gun at her head until she gave him the money he was after. She put a dye pack in one of the bags, so some of the money was ruined, and he had to rob another bank."


    Danny Rolling, also known as the Gainesville Ripper, killed five University of Florida students in 1990. He was also convicted of robbing a bank in Gainesville the same week that the bodies of his victims were found in 1992. You can read more about his case here.

    Screenshot from "Scream VI"

    10. "My father-in-law worked with Robert Shulman in the post office, said he always had cuts and bandages on his hands."


    Robert Shulman is a serial killer who admitted to murdering and dismembering five sex workers in Long Island, New York in 1996.  

    A man delivering a package

    11. "My mom was at Gilchrist Beach in Texas with her younger cousin. She was about 18, and her cousin was 14. A guy approached them and, while only looking at her cousin, asked if they wanted to go to a party. My mom got weird vibes and decided against it, going back to the cabin with her cousin. A couple weeks later, my mom saw a photo of the beach guy in the paper. He had murdered some man who had been killing young boys. Creepy beach guy was Elmer Wayne Henley."


    Elmer Wayne Henley was convicted for aiding Dean Corll — aka the Candy Man — in the murder of at least six of 28 young boys in the early '70s. As this person mentioned, he eventually killed Dean in 1973. You can read more his case here.

    People sitting in the grass

    12. "In Houston in 1971, a friend and I worked late nights at a gas station. We were invited by Elmer Wayne Henley to go to a party with his friend Dean Corll. We didn't go, but he came back several more times with invitations and offered us free weed as well."

    Elmer Wayne Henley

    13. "Back in the early '80s, kids were allowed to roam freely. Parents were less concerned, I suppose. I was a free range kid. My single mom would work late, so I was home alone a lot. One night, my brother happened to visit the apartment we lived in. Someone knocked on our door. It was Fred, a neighbor from a few apartments over. Fred was a friend's stepdad. I knew him — would start pickup games of football, kickball, Marco Polo, etc. in the pool with us kids. So, when Fred knocked, I almost opened the door."

    "My brother stopped me. I told my brother, 'That's Fred. He's cool.' My brother replied, 'I don't know him, so he is not coming in.' He opened the window just a crack and asked what the man wanted. 'Uhhh, can I get some water? I'm really thirsty,' Fred asked. My brother handed him a cup of water through the window. Then, Fred asked if he could use the phone. I guess Fred thought that would get him into my apartment. My brother grabbed the wall phone, with the super long extension cord, and handed it to Fred, again, through the window.

    I thought my brother was being ridiculous. I knew Fred, and he knew me. Fred knew I was home alone often, but clearly, he didn't expect my brother would be at my place that day. Well, he certainly didn't get in that night. That turned out to be a good thing. 

    Less than two years later, Fred was arrested in connection with the death of 12-year-old Amanda Ray. He was also suspected for the disappearance of a 5-year-old boy many years prior, too. Cold case detectives are convinced he also was the murderer of 4-year-old Neely Smith, who was abducted from our apartment complex and killed, but the case is still unsolved.

    His name is Fred Coffey. He is currently serving a life term in one of the North Caroline correctional facilities. I am convinced Fred was coming for me that night, and by the grace of God, I was spared."  


    A man breaking into a home

    14. "When my son was about 4 years old, we used to drive up to Mendocino and stay at a friend's cabin. One Sunday when we were driving back to Sonoma County on a very curvy road, the big rig behind us kept flashing his lights. I knew that meant that maybe something was wrong with the car. I pulled over on a pull out, and the truck pulled in behind me. The driver got out and told me my back tire looked dangerously flat. So we were standing there looking at my perfectly inflated tire when I noticed that he had a tire iron in his hand but was trying to hide it behind him. He offered to give me a ride into to town when all of a sudden my son's head popped up in the back seat."

    "He'd been sleeping and scrunched down in his car seat. The man looked startled and grabbed my arm. I jerked it back, jumped in the car, and pulled out on the road. He got in the truck and rode my ass all the way down the mountain. I did a few fancy turns when we got to the next town and lost him. 

    The next day at work, I was reading a newspaper, and it had a drawing of a man who was killing women by pretending to be a truck driver who pulled them over because something was wrong with their car. I called the police in Mendocino and went up to give a statement and look at mugshots. The killer was caught soon after, and I will always remember how my son popping up like that probably saved my life."


    A dark road at night with a car's headlights in the distance

    15. "I was separated from my wife, and she started dating another man. It bothered me that in no time, he was around my kids. I did some digging and found out the guy was married with two children — one of them being an infant. I told my ex-wife, who immediately began to defend him. Fortunately, the relationship ended, but shortly thereafter, I was watching the news and saw that a suspect had been arrested for the murder of a 15-year-old girl in what was previously a cold case. It was him."

    "When they said his name, it blew me away. They showed a picture of the victim, and she looked very similar to my ex-wife. When the trial happened, the main prosecutor's witness was the man's wife. Turns out, she actually had become so pissed off that he was having affair with my ex-wife that she called police and told them he killed the girl. The guy is now in prison. They even covered the case in one of those crime shows."


    A man's hands handcuffed

    16. "Several of my friends have told me how they worked at Bojangles or Taco Bell with convicted serial killer Henry Louis Wallace in Charlotte, North Carolina. It seems the '80s and '90s in Charlotte was a dangerous place to be."


    Henry Wallace, also known as the "Taco Bell Strangler," was active in Charlotte from 1992 through 1994, where he killed and raped nine young Black women. You can read more about his case here.

    People walking into a Taco Bell

    17. "I lived with one, I suppose. My ex-fiancé was in prison for three decades, and during that time, he became a high ranking member of a gang. While in prison, he was involved with the killing of several other prisoners, namely (though not limited to) child molesters. Anyways, when we were together, he would tell me about what happened, and as 'tough' of a man as he was, he would lay in bed with me and cry about how awful he felt as a human being for taking lives. It was pretty bizarre. Spoiler alert: He ended up back in prison, only this time he will never see the light of day again. It was sad in some ways to see someone so institutionalized and yet be in love with them knowing that they weren't meant for this world (the free one) and that the lives of all those people involved were just wasted."

    A guard locking a prison cell

    18. "Steve Brooks from St Pete, Florida was a dear friend. He had previously spent time in prison and was living life on the outside. My family was new in the area, and he spent time at my home, taught my kids how to tell if people were trying to sell them drugs, helped my family get acclimated to the area. We barbecued with him and his family and spent lots of time with him. I knew he was a criminal before, but it really felt like he was a changed man. In 2017, a person he worked for was murdered in a parking lot, and a couple of months later, he led police on a chase from Florida to Pennsylvania by way of Alabama. He murdered an elderly couple and stole their car. Steve ended up being shot by police because he didn’t give up. I wish the families of his victims all the peace in the world; it was a very sad ending to what seemed like a fresh start for this man."

    A police car with the lights on

    19. "My husband and I live in Buffalo, New York. We had the Bike Path Rapist, aka the Bike Path Killer, who committed a series of rapes and murders around bike paths in the area between 1975 and 1994. At the time, he (Altemio Sanchez) was all over the news because advances in DNA technology tied Altemio to the deaths and murders, exonerating and freeing Anthony Capozzi, who had been serving time for the conviction. A few days later, my husband (then-boyfriend) came over to my parents' house to pick me up. He turned and handed me a big photo of his little league team and said, 'Hey, recognize anyone here?' I saw a friend of his, 'Paul,' but noticed nothing else. He then pointed to the coach and goes, 'Recognize him? That’s Coach Sanchez. Coach Altemio Sanchez.'"

    "He continued, 'I just talked with Paul, and we figured this photo was taken right after he committed his second murder.' My husband can’t remember much about how Sanchez was because it was so long ago, but he said from what he remembers, he was just a normal guy, nothing out of the ordinary. All told, Sanchez has been connected with up to 15 rapes between 1975–1994 as well as the three murders, but it is suspected the true number is quite higher. Sanchez recently died on September 29, 2023 while serving a 75-year life sentence, in what is being ruled a suicide."


    A bike path

    Have you ever had an encounter with a serial killer? If so, tell us about it in the comments below or via this completely anonymous form.

    Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.