ByTommy DePaoli, writer at
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Tommy DePaoli

Ever wonder where Ryan Murphy got the inspiration for his rampaging, murderous clown Leigh Emerson in [American Horror Story](series:206668)? Well, despite most people considering Christmas a time for good will and peace on Earth, some troubled individuals have used the holiday to commit horrendous murders.

These are the five most gruesome crimes to ever occur at Christmastime (WARNING: these stories are extremely graphic in nature and contain real accounts of murder).

1. Covina Massacre, 2008

On Christmas Eve night, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo put on a Santa suit and headed over to a party his former in-laws' place. Sounds appropriate for Christmas, right? Well, except for the fact that the "presents" that Pardo brought with him included a wrapped homemade flamethrower and four 9mm semi-automatic handguns.

When he entered the home, he began shooting at random, immediately shooting an eight-year-old girl who was excitedly running to greet him (thankfully, she ended up living). After shooting many more members of his former wife's family, he used his makeshift flamethrower to douse the house in gasoline and set it on fire. In the end, nine people (including his ex-wife and former in-laws) were killed by gunshot wounds or flames.

Authorities suspect that Pardo was still furious about the divorce and having to pay alimony to his ex-wife. While he had concocted a plan to escape by plane with almost $17,000 in cash, the burns he suffered committing his horrible crimes drove him to commit suicide.

2. Ashland Tragedy, 1881

While three teenages (Robert Gibbons, Fannie Gibbons, and their friend Emma Carico) slumbered in the Gibbons home in the early hours of Christmas morning, intruders broke in and beat them to death with axes and a crowbar. The assailants then lit the house on fire, leaving charred remains with their skulls viscously cracked open.

A local bricklayer named George Ellis ultimately told police that he commited the crime along with coworkers William Neal and Ellis Craft. Because the public was so enraged by the murders, the trio needed to be removed from Catlettsburg jail to avoid a lynch mob. Following the trial, Neal and Craft were sentenced to death by hanging, and Ellis was given a life term. The townfolk were furious with this verdict, however, and removed Ellis from his jail that very night and lynched him.

3. Dallas Christmas Massacre, 2011

In another horrendous example of a murderer taking advantage of Santa's jolly effect on people, Aziz Yazdanpanah wore the iconic red and white suit to go on a murderous rampage. Like Pardo, he was experiencing financial troubles, and his rage was directed toward his estranged wife and family.

Yasdanpanah arrived at his wife's apartment where his family had just finished unwrapping gifts. He opened fire on his wife, daughter, son, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and niece, killing them all in the living room and kitchen. When the police found the carnage, Yasdanpanah had already turned the gun on himself.

4. The Los Feliz Murder Mansion, 1959

According to his neighbors, Dr. Harold Perelson was a respectable family man residing in a nice area of Los Angeles. That is until he murdered his wife in cold blood and then pursued his oldest daughter. After enjoying a calm dinner and putting his two younger to bed, Dr. Perelson grabbed a hammer from the garage. He returned to his bedroom and, with excruciating force, pummeled his wife's head. When Judye, his eldest daughter, saw the grisly sight, her father attempted the same attack on her, but she was only wounded and stunned. She escaped to the neighbors who called the police, and Dr. Perelson drank a bottle of acid in the living room, leaving all his children thankfully alive.

His motive for the murders is still a mystery.

Though the actual murder occurred on December 6th, the mansion was all decked out for the upcoming holiday. The freakiest part of all is that the Christmas Tree and the still-wrapped presents remain from the original owners remain untouched, and the house still sits almost exactly how it did on that fateful day in 1959. Though there is a "No Trespassing" sign, the spot has become a destination for visitors interested in the macabre.

5. Charlie Lawson Murders, 1929

Just before Christmas in 1929, Charlie Lawson took his large family (wife Fannie and their children: Marie, 17; Arthur, 16; Carrie, 12; Maybell, 7; James, 4; Raymond, 2; and Mary Lou, 4 months) on an uncommonly lavish trip to buy new outfits and take a family portrait. The new garments would turn out to be burial clothes.

On Christmas Day, Lawson began slaughtering his family with a shotgun. He shot Carrie and Maybell first, and then pursued his wife. Hearing the shots, the little boys tried to hide, while Marie screamed. He found and killed them all, even the infant Mary Lou. The only survivor was his eldest son Arthur, who returned to the farm with a police officer to find that his father had committed suicide.

Perhaps the most insidious element of this story is the potential motive. In their book White Christmas, Bloody Christmas, M. Bruce Jones and Trudy J. Smith argue that based on the testimony of people who knew the Lawsons intimately, Charlie and his eldest daughter Marie had likely been having an incestuous affair. A friend of Marie's even claimed that Marie told her she was pregnant with Charlie's baby, and both Charlie and his wife knew about it. The theory goes that Lawson was either racked with guilt or so unwilling to father a child with his daughter that he snapped and slaughtered the whole family. Either way, it's easily the most heinous Christmas murder in the country's history.

After a list like this, do me a favor and take a minute to wish your friends a "Merry Christmas" and a "Happy New Year." The holidays should a time of joy, not of fear, and these brutal, true stories should serve as a reminder to be good to your neighbor.

Which of these news stories made you want to run over and hug your family the most?


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