When Richard Connell wrote “The Most Dangerous Game”, which is a fictional account of a man being hunted like an animal by another human, he couldn’t have known that life would imitate art in 1967 when Robert Hansen arrived in Alaska.
Hansen would rape and murder upwards of 17 women in the Alaskan Bush, a fact that anyone who knew him would find hard to believe. Like some of the most prolific killers throughout history, Robert Hansen had mastered the art of hiding the inhuman monster inside him. To his friends and family, he was a mild-mannered baker. The loving husband, the good father, all a mask to cover the malignancy inside him. A murderous desire which had grown in him from childhood.
By all accounts, Hansen was a meek child. Skinny and lanky, he had few friends and his stutter made him an easy target for his peers. He found solace in hunting alone in the woods around his home in Iowa. Alone in the woods, people wouldn’t torment him for his pimple scared face. With a gun in hand, he wasn’t shy and timid, he was powerful, able to kill. It was on these hunting trips that he perfected the techniques he would later use on his victims.
Hansen graduated from petty crimes to arson in 1960 when he burned down a school bus garage. That netted him a two-year stint in prison and contributed to the divorce from his first wife. After that he moved around, getting into little run-ins with the law here and there. Until 1967 when he landed in Anchorage Alaska. There in the last frontier, Hansen thrived. He set state records during hunting season and established a successful business. He even found a new wife and started a family. It was also here that he began to rape and murder women.
With hunting being such a large part of his life, it is no small wonder that he would theme his killings around it. Robert Hansen would assault his victims them, then free them into the wilds. There he would stalk and track them through the woods before shooting them and mutilating their bodies with a knife.
His reign of terror lasted from the tail end of the 1960s (some believe as late as 1971) up until 1983 where he hit a snag in the form of Cindy Paulson, the one that got away.
Cindy Paulson was a young prostitute who Hansen abducted and took to his home where he chained her to a small cot. There she was raped for hours. All the while he kept assuring her that if she did as he asked, he would let her go. She was 17. Hansen then told Paulson that he liked her and wanted to take her to his cabin before he let her go. On the way to his plane, the only way to access the remote cabin, Paulson realized that if he got her onboard that there would be no coming back.
So she waited until Hansen was busy loading the plane before making a break for it and flagging down a passing truck. Later she went to the police and described in detail Robert Hansen, his plane, and his house but because of his mild-mannered charisma, Hansen convinced the police that Paulson was just trying to extort him. While he did manage to skirt the law that time, he was on the radar now. It wasn’t long before FBI investigators matched Hansen with their profile of the killer who had been terrorizing Anchorage.
When police searched Hansen’s home they found trophies from the women he’d killed, bits of jewelry and clothing. Along with a map where he had marked the locations of his victims. Faced with the evidence Hansen admitted to committing the murders and to dozens of other rapes. Police, however, suspected that he had killed many more women.
He entered into a plea bargain to avoid press coverage and was sentenced to over 400 years plus life in prison. Robert Hansen died at the age of 75 in 2014 in Alaska at a hospital after being transferred with an undisclosed illness. There are many lingering questions around the Hansen case. The map police seized contained markings which Hansen would not give up. He also claimed to have released several women after they convinced him they wouldn’t go to the police.
The case of the Butcher Baker has captivated the minds of the public since it was uncovered. It even inspired the 2013 film “The Frozen Ground” with John Cusack and the 2007 thriller “Naked Fear”.
(If you enjoyed reading about Robert Hansen, feel free to check out other killers in my Human Monsters category.)
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