Beware the boogeyman, keep your cross around your neck, carry a silver bullet. We all know the stories of supernatural monsters that haunt the night. These are children’s tales told to frighten and excite.
But one year in Romania, an entire city was gripped by the fear that these kinds of tales bring. They found out how truly terrifying it can be when a monster comes out of the pages of fiction and stalks the night…
Alone In The Night
Late one night in April, Elena Oprea was out walking alone. She had finished her shift waiting tables at a restaurant in Bucharest just a little while ago and was making her way home through the unusually stormy weather. She knew it wasn’t necessarily safe for a woman to be out but it was a short walk and she was almost home.
Eyes In The Dark
What Elena didn’t know was that she wasn’t alone. There was someone else out in the storm with her, watching her, following in her footsteps. That person’s name was Ion Rimaru but before that name would become famous, he would come to be known by another name: The Vampire of Bucharest…
Strange Little Boy
Decades before that stormy night, Rimaru was just a strange little boy with a sad upbringing. Born in Caracal, Romania he was the first eldest of three sons born to Ecaterina and Florea Rimaru. Perhaps because of his home life Ion was quiet and shy and mostly kept to himself.
Monster at Home
As far as his home life, it couldn’t have been much worse. Though it’s not clear that he himself was abused, it’s certain that he had to witness his mother being abused. His father would brutally attack her every single day, right in front of their children…
Rimaru wasn’t well suited to academics or to socializing with others. His peers viewed him as an outcast and when he became the subject of a scandal in the 9th grade, it did nothing for his image. He had apparently been carrying on a romantic relationship with his teacher’s daughter, a girl significantly younger than him.
There were a couple of other notable negative events in Rimaru’s teenage years, one coming that same year when he was forced to repeat the 9th grade after failing his classes. The other bombshell came when he was convicted of aggravated theft at the age of 18. Aside from that, Rimaru kept his nose relatively clean. He even maintained a perfect grade in conduct throughout high school…
After high school, though he graduated with a barely passing grade, Rimaru was accepted into the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bucharest and began to attend classes there in 1966. His academic difficulties would continue and he would eventually have to repeat his second and third years at the school. And though he would be diagnosed with several mental disorders, there would be no more notable dark spots on his record.
That is, of course until that stormy April night in 1970 when Rimaru followed Elena Oprea as she walked home. That night, Rimaru would ambush and brutally kill the waitress shortly before she got to her apartment. It would be the first of over a dozen attacks that would terrorize Bucharest for months to come…
Dark and Stormy Nights
Over the next year, Rimaru would attack over a dozen more women, growing more and more brazen with each attack. His methods were simple: he would find some woman walking the streets alone but rather than attacking her then and there, he would follow her for several nights, memorizing her route. Then, on a night when the weather was poor, either due to heavy fog, driving rain, even snow storms, he would strike.
Rimaru would always use one of 4 tools, a hammer, a hand axe, an iron bar, or a knife to viciously assault his victims. But the disgusting thing that earned him the name “Vampire of Bucharest” is he would always bite the women he attacked, sometimes sucking their blood, sometimes eating their flesh. Rimaru would also sexually assault them, sometimes after he’d killed them.
Fear of the Dark
As word of the monstrous killer spread, a panic took hold of Bucharest. Police knew they had a bizarre serial killer on their streets. They even had firsthand accounts of Rimaru’s attacks when several of his victims survived. But because they released very few details about the attacks, wild rumors began to spread. For fear of this real-life boogeyman, many women refused to go outside after 9pm, or would only travel escorted by men or in large groups.
While they were already actively searching for Rimaru, it was the unspeakably vile nature of his 8th attack that led police to begin an unprecedented manhunt. Exactly one year after he killed his first victim, Rimaru attacked a woman named Gheorghiţa Popa. When police found her body, she had 48 stab wounds to the head, chest, groin and legs, five blows to the head, ribs crushed by stomping, and her genitalia mutilated and presumably cannibalized…
As far as police were concerned, the attack on Popa was the final straw. They launched “Operation Vulture,” named after the street where she had been murdered, mobilizing 6,000 men from various city and national law-enforcement, including the secret police to patrol the streets each night. Though they made thousands of arrests, Rimaru still managed to evade capture and make several more attacks in the coming months.
The big break in the case came in May of 1971, when police found a peculiar piece of evidence at the scene of another murder. They found a blood-soaked doctor’s note from the Bucharest Students’ Hospital. Between the victim’s fingers’ they also found strands of hair, presumably from her killer. Though the note was unreadable because of the stains, the police now had their first solid evidence to go on…
The doctor’s note was from a month prior when Rimaru had been diagnosed with “suspected periodic epilepsy,” one of the various mental afflictions he suffered from. Police were able to use the letterhead to determine it had been written by Dr. Octavian Ienişte. He’d seen 83 students in the past month, 15 of which, including Rimaru, had not deposited their diagnoses with the University.
The Search Narrows
Just like that, police were able to narrow their suspects from every man in the city down to just 15 students. The 15 students were immediately placed under heavy surveillance and toward the end of the month, police searched Rimaru’s dorm. In it, they found the axe and knife he’d used in several of the attacks. The Vampire was captured…
After his arrest, Rimaru simply stared off into the distance, remaining completely silent. In order to get the confessions they needed from him, an officer went undercover as a supposed thief and shared a cell with him. All in all, he admitted to killing 4 women, attempting to kill 6 others, as well as a number of sexual assaults and thefts. The hair found between one of his victim’s fingers matched his and his surviving victims were able to pick him out of a line up. It was an open and shut case.
Rimaru had expected that he would be allowed an insanity defense. He was shocked when the judge declared he was not impaired by mental illness and immediately recanted his previous confessions, then refused to speak even to answer his lawyer’s questions. When his death sentence was announced in court, applause broke out in the courtroom…
In the Family
After Rimaru’s arrest and during his trial, police came to suspect that his father Florea Rimaru knew about his crimes. They even believed that his father had egged him on and arrested him 3 times, but couldn’t gather enough evidence to charge him.
Like Father, Like Son
Years after Rimaru’s death, his father Florea fell from a train and died. While it was officially an accident that led to his doom, some have suggested that he had actually been killed by the Romanian secret police. When they checked his fingerprints against those found at the scene of a string of 4 killings that took place back in 1944, they matched. Just like his despicable son, Florea Rimaru had been a serial killer as well.