Top 10 Evil Lairs

For years, the accepted wisdom was that Osama bin Laden was holed up in a cave along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. It turns out he was living in a rather large, heavily armed house in an affluent town outside Islamabad. With his Abbottabad house being carefully examined, TIME takes a look at the horrible hideouts of other evildoers

Full List


  • Hitler’s Bunker
  • As the Soviets were closing in from the East, and British and U.S. troops were moving toward Berlin from the West, Adolf Hitler took refuge in an underground lair — the Führerbunker, a massive complex of rooms directly below the New Reich Chancellery in Berlin. From there and for the last few months of World War II, Hitler plotted maneuvers he believed would crush the Allies and turn the tide of the war toward the Germans. Nothing of the kind came to fruition. The Russians captured the Reichstag in late April, and Hitler realized his time was running out. He hastily married his longtime mistress Eva Braun inside the bunker. And a day later, on April 30, 1945, it is widely believed that Hitler shot himself with a pistol while Braun digested cyanide capsules.
  • Osama bin Laden’s Compound
  • In the end, Osama bin Laden was not hiding in a cave. He was not living hand to mouth on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, as many in the U.S. believed. He was, as White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan recently put it, “hiding in plain sight” in the idyllic, affluent city of Abbottabad, Pakistan — less than a mile from a Pakistani army military academy. Bin Laden lived on the top two floors of a three-story house surrounded by high concrete walls — towering 10 to 18 ft. (3 to 5.5 m) — topped with barbed wire. For security reasons, his hideout did not have telephone lines or Internet. But he apparently did have a computer; Navy Seals snatched several disk drives during their 38-minute mission that ended in the al-Qaeda leader’s death.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer’s Apartment
  • His wasn’t a bunker, a hole or a compound. His was a one-bedroom in Milwaukee’s Oxford Apartments. Serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer occupied No. 213 at the time of his arrest in the summer of 1991. TIME noted that his neighbors had had clues that something was off: “A power saw buzzed at odd hours. The putrid odor of rotting meat flooded the corridors. Occasionally, a tenant would hear a cry or the thump of a falling object on the second floor.” Dahmer, who confessed to murdering 17 boys and young men, surrounded himself with evidence of his gruesome crimes: not just pictures of mutilated human beings, but also skulls, severed heads and other body parts. The Oxford Apartments were later destroyed, as was Dahmer, who was killed by another inmate in 1994.
  • The Manson Family Ranch
  • The Spahn Movie Ranch is just your typical family home. If that family is the Family of Charles Manson and his devoted cult of followers, that is. In 1968, at age 80, dairy farmer George Spahn allowed Manson and his followers to move onto his 500-acre (200 hectares) property near Topanga Canyon in Southern California and live rent-free in exchange for housework and sexual favors from the group’s women. It was from this ranch that Manson directed the killings of actress Sharon Tate — the pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski — and six others over a two-day period beginning Aug. 9, 1969. (Tate, who was just two weeks away from giving birth, was stabbed 16 times.) In an article from 1969, TIME called the killings “one of the grisliest, bloodiest, and apparently most senseless crimes of the century.” After their arrest in October 1969, mastermind Manson and three of his followers were sentenced to death. (When California abolished the death penalty in 1972, their sentences were commuted to life in prison.)
  • H.H. Holmes’ Murder Castle

When a building gets nicknamed the Murder Castle, you know the story behind it is going to be bad. In 1886, H.H. Holmes, a pharmacist who would later be called the first U.S. serial killer, bought a Chicago drugstore that was owned by a cancer-stricken man named E.S. Holton. When Holton died, Holmes bought up surrounding property until he’d acquired an entire city block. He renovated the buildings and turned them into a hotel just in time for the 1893 World’s Fair. But this was no ordinary hotel: most of the rooms were windowless, with stairways to nowhere and hallways that ended in dead ends. Holmes also built gas jets into hotel-room walls, a wooden disposal chute and person-size kiln in the basement. This was the perfect place to murder someone. And that’s exactly what Holmes did: for much of 1893, he tortured and killed an untold number of people at his hotel, mostly young women visiting the city for the World’s Fair. Holmes was caught and eventually hanged. He admitted to killing 27 people, although authorities still wonder if the body count might be dozens more. Strangely, the first floor of the Murder Castle remained a proper drugstore. Every day, customers purchased tonics and medicine, unaware of the horrors taking place directly above them.

The Unabomber’s Cabin

  • Ted Kaczynski lived inside a 10-by-12-ft. (3 by 3.6 m) shack he built near Lincoln, Mont., for almost two decades. It was a bombmaking, manifesto-writing shack that enabled the Unabomber to terrorize U.S. citizens through mail bombs for years. The one-room cabin — which included books, a workbench, a potbellied stove and plenty of explosive-making materials — was almost demolished after Kaczynski was arrested in 1996. But at the last minute, it was saved and was later put on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., just blocks from the FBI headquarters where the Unabomber was the target of an immense investigation for 17 years.
    Josef Fritzl’s Dungeon
  • Elisabeth, daughter of 73-year-old Josef Fritzl, had been kept captive in a dungeon in Amstetten, Austria, by her father since she was a teenager. Josef had convinced his wife, Elisabeth’s mother, Rosemarie, that Elisabeth had run off to live with a friend, even presenting letters he forced Elisabeth to write. During the time Elisabeth was underground, Josef raped her repeatedly and fathered seven children with her, one of which died soon after being born. Three of Elisabeth’s remaining children were taken upstairs to live with Josef and his wife. This time, Josef convinced Rosemarie that the children had been left at their door as orphans. Elisabeth and the children still living in the dungeon (Kerstin, Stefan and Felix) had come to terms with living in the cramped, dingy space and were sure they would never be freed — at least not while Josef was alive. But when 19-year-old Kerstin fell ill in April 2008, Josef agreed to take her to the hospital. He and Elisabeth carried her out of the house, and Elisabeth was immediately ordered back to her prison. At the hospital, authorities were puzzled by Kerstin’s illness and eventually police authorities took Josef into custody. Elisabeth, then 42, was freed, and in March 2009, Josef pleaded guilty to mass rape, incest, wrongful imprisonment, coercion and murder by negligence and was sentenced to life in prison.

On Nov. 18, 1978, more than 900 people died in the People’s Temple commune in Guyana — better known as Jonestown. Cult founder Jim Jones, who led his followers to suicide and murder, had made his lair his crime scene. Soon after, a TIME correspondent described the “scores and scores of bodies” he saw there: “Couples with their arms around each other, children holding parents. Nothing moved. Washing hung on the clotheslines. The fields were freshly plowed. Banana trees and grape vines were flourishing. But nothing moved.”

Saddam Hussein’s Spider Hole

Eight months after being ousted from power in Baghdad, the Iraqi tyrant was found in December 2003 hiding out in Ad-Dawr, a town 10 miles (16 km) south of his hometown of Tikrit. Saddam Hussein was pulled from a hole with a depth of 6 to 8 ft. (2 to 2.5 m) that was wide enough for him to lie down in. Also found in the so-called spider hole? Two AK-47s, a pistol and $750,000 worth in $100 bills. Saddam’s capture came after a lengthy investigation in which intelligence officers questioned bodyguards and family members close to the deposed leader. When pulled from the subterranean hideout, Saddam seemed confused and disoriented. After the successful capture, President George W. Bush announced to Iraqis, “You do not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again.” Saddam was tried in Baghdad for crimes against humanity during his 23-year rule and was found guilty in November 2006. He was hanged the following month.

Elizabeth Bathory’s Castle

  • She was said to have bathed in the blood of murdered virgins in order to maintain her youthful glow. That’s pretty bad stuff. Countess Elizabeth Bathory, known as the Blood Countess, is regarded by some as one of the influences for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the first decade of the 1600s, Bathory — a Hungarian noble — was arrested and accused of, among other crimes, murdering and torturing young servant girls and townsfolk at her castle in Cachtice, located in what is now Slovakia. Whether or not she killed hundreds or dozens of people (or any, really) will never be known. What is known is that while Bathory was not convicted of any of the crimes she was tried for, she was kept under house arrest in Castle Cachtice, where she died in 1614 after three years of imprisonment.© 2011 Time Inc. All rights reserved


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