This mystery will be covered more extensively and thoroughly in A World of Terror towards the end of next year. Nevertheless, this entry will cover everything there is to see that's necessary to get the picture of the killer who called himself 3X.
When I began planning A World of Terror, I knew I wanted a roughly 25-75 split of unsolved and known serial killers respectively. This split was so I had a larger focus on the minds of those we know—whether they be those the public knows or a more obscure name—and a smaller focus on the names that chill the everyman, torment detectives, and captivate the amateur sleuths of the world. With this mindset, I got to work finding names that truly defined those three categories.
Two that instantly sprang to my mind were the Zodiac and the Monster of Florence. The former is known around the world as one of the most infamous unsolved crimes—and mysteries as a whole—in history, rivaling the likes of Jack the Ripper in popularity. The latter meanwhile is the European counterpart to the Zodiac, but a significantly more sexually motivated killer. He's also believed by some to also be the Zodiac; the idea being that he fled the United States and went to Italy to continue his rampage.
As I went through numerous stories, lists, and files on unidentified serial killers, I realized something. Many of these individuals echoed any other madman with a gun or knife. There was little to separate them from the sea of other unidentified person who terrorized a neighborhood or city. This forced me to make a decision: either I changed my 25-75 split or I had to dig deeper into the pool of serial killers I'd amassed for stranger stories that I'd otherwise save for a lazy, rainy day to write about.
I contemplated this a bit before deciding that the idea of reducing the split would hinder my ultimate point, which is that while law enforcement can end the terrible reigns of truly evil people, not all will be caught. There are instances in which local police are ill equipped to handle a situation like a serial killer, the killer themselves is one step ahead (the Zodiac falls into this category as an example), or the killer may in fact have law enforcement training and knows how to leave behind little to no evidence.
With that in mind, I got to work digging through what I call my bag of strange. The mysteries and crimes that are more enigmatic than they are chilling or creepy. Stories like the Prophecy of the Popes fall into this category. Their nature is something that I try my best to save for once in a blue moon as they I believe minimize the subjects that I wish to present when discussing a mystery.
Today's mystery is one that fell into that category, but has slowly moved out of it. Known as the 3X Killer (known from here on out as 3X), this mystery is one that I've very rarely seen talked about. The YouTube channel Criminally Listed has covered it, which pleased me and there is a Reddit post on these murders. On the flip side, this story lacks a Wikipedia page. This actually led Tyler—this blogs coauthor—to outright ask me if this mystery was even real, though the details to the mystery itself didn't help matters. It wasn't until he found a New York Times article from back in the 1930s that he realized I wasn't joking about any of this and everything regarding 3X wasn't a joke or exaggeration.
I don't blame him for that skepticism either. Most serial killers are people who murder for the thrill—be that sexual or not—they get from taking another person's life or for extreme hatred towards another gender or race. In the case of 3x, neither of those are applicable. His actions and motivations are much closer to those of a hitman that was hired by an organized crime syndicate.
This isn't terribly uncommon given the time period. The 3X murders happened back in 1930 and as we'll learn, America back then, especially in New York City, had a very real and serious problem with the Mafia. Someone like 3X wasn't necessarily abnormal to everyday life. What him stand out however was how he treated what he did. You see, most hitmen do their job and collect their pay. Should a cop or federal agent have come their way, they'd what they could to make sure they looked the other way. The Shotgun Man is someone who fit this description should you believe the stories of him. Hush money was powerful back then and as we've seen in cases like Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein, it's still powerful.
No, what made 3X stand out was his vocal nature. He sent many letters to the press explaining what he did, why he did it, and what could be done to end his reign of terror before he claimed more lives. This action is something I've rarely, if ever, seen done. 3X seemed to hold the entirety of New York City for ransom and his demands were centered on one man and one many only. This paints a very peculiar picture for the psyche and profile of the man, which we'll discuss after we've covered the story itself. All I'll say for now is that I don't believe that 3X was a man who didn't know what he was doing.
All of this and more is why for this Halloween, we'll take a look at what I consider to be one of the most bizarre serial killers in the world; a crime spree that reads more like a hybrid of a Mission: Impossible film and David Fincher's Zodiac. The final thing I'll note is that, as stated at the very beginning this story will be expanded upon when I get to the World of Terror entry for 3X. That entry will expand upon the journalistic, psychological, and other criminological elements of the case—to the best of my amateurish ability anyways. For the time being, let's go over the case.