The Phantom of Heilbronn

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By Wess Haubrich. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

“The eyes are not responsible when the mind does the seeing.” — Publilius Syrus

Fear compelled her heart to build up to a terrifying and deadly 100 mph crescendo…

Shallow, rapid half gasps emanated from the 62-year-old widow as her skin turned a pallid blue… the Monster garroting her with steel wire from her kitchen.

Slow… FAST! … Slow… FAST! … Slow.

The hands of the Monster were possessed by the brute strength of a seasoned bare-knuckle boxer and the dexterity of an accomplished concert pianist — completely enveloped by fury spawned in the latter circles of hell.

FAST! (and sustained as the widow squirmed, trying in vain to fight back)

Lieselotte Schlenger expired on the floor of her beloved kitchen that day in 1993. Her death marked the opening of the Pandora’s box that was the Phantom of Heilbronn case — though no one would realize this for another eight years.

The Phantom of Heilbronn case exposed glaring problems in forensic science and what happens when universal cognitive biases taint an investigation — all wrapped up in a tale that rivals the best crime fiction.

Like a malevolent Proteus in Greek mythology, the Phantom was a ghostly, shapeshifting boogeyman (or woman) terrorizing the populations of three countries. The Phantom changed and became lesser known when (s)he was pursued by law enforcement.


It would take more than mere mortals to catch this Monster. Law enforcement would have to use the best of science at the time, combined with questioning their own cognitive biases and the deepest logical connections between both forensic and behavioral evidence.

That last part gets even harder when one of your own is assassinated while eating and the alt-right hurls itself — Nazi salutes first — into your investigation.

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35 episodes