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Joe Ball
Joseph D. Ball.jpg
Joe Ball, the notorious serial killer, wearing a swimsuit and holding a bottle of alcohol
Born Joseph D. Ball
(1896-01-05)January 5, 1896[1]
San Antonio, Texas[1]
Died September 24, 1938(1938-09-24) (aged 42)[1]
Elmendorf, Texas
Other names The Alligator Man, Butcher of Elmendorf

Joseph D. Ball (January 5, 1896[2] – September 24, 1938)[1] was an American serial killer, sometimes referred to as "The Alligator Man",[3] the "Butcher of Elmendorf"[4] and the "Bluebeard[3] of South Texas". He is known to have killed two and is said to have killed as many as 20 women in the 1930s. His existence was long believed to be apocryphal, but he is a familiar figure in Texas folklore.


After serving on the frontlines in Europe during World War I, Ball started his career as a bootlegger, providing illegal liquor to those who could pay. After the end of Prohibition, he opened a saloon called the Sociable Inn in Elmendorf, Texas. He built a pond that contained six alligators because he misunderstood the term corpus delicti, believing that a murder conviction without a body would be impossible.[citation needed] He charged people to view them, especially during feeding time; the food consisted mostly of live cats and dogs.[4]


After a while, women in the area were reported missing, including barmaids, former girlfriends and his wife. When two Bexar County sheriff's deputies went to question him in 1938, Ball pulled a handgun from his cash register and killed himself[3] with a bullet through the heart (some sources report that he shot himself in the head).

A handyman who conspired with Ball, Clifford Wheeler, admitted to helping Ball dispose of the bodies of two of the women he had killed.[3] Wheeler led them to the remains of Hazel Brown and Minnie Gotthard. There were few written sources from the era which could verify Ball's crimes. Newspaper editor Michael Hall investigated the story in depth in 2002, and wrote on his findings for Texas Monthly.[4]

In popular cultureEdit

The film Eaten Alive by Tobe Hooper was inspired by Joe Ball.


External linksEdit

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