In Episode 63, Emily tells the story of Miguel “Mike” Ramirez, cousin to the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, and major influence on Richard’s horrible crimes. Then, Rachel talks about Big Nose George Parrott, an outlaw and future pair of shoes…
Story 1 – Mike Ramirez
Today I am going to tell you a story that I recently heard about that kind of blew my mind. I am thinking it may be a story that not many people know, even though it is a piece of a story that EVERYONE knows.
One of the most notorious, creepy, horrible serial killers out there is The Night Stalker. Richard Ramirez. We’ve likely all heard about this creep. He murdered at least 14 people — and committed countless other violent acts – and in the end, he was convicted to death for the horror that he inflicted on the world.
Now, I’ve listened to countless podcasts and watched a ton of shows about this man. They all talk briefly about Richard’s childhood. But most only mention it and recently, when I was listening to a very thorough podcast on the Night Stalker I heard a piece of this story that I had never heard before. A sinister story in and of itself – and probably a major influence in the life and crimes of Richard.
The story of his cousin – Miguel Mike Ramirez. And although his story is often overshadowed by the crimes committed by his cousin, he is a horrible, horrible character from history and a psychopath in his own right. Today, I’m going to tell you his story.
First let’s talk about Miguel. Miguel went by Mike and he was 11 years older than his cousin Richard. That means that he was the prime age to head off to the Vietnam war. And that is exactly where Mike Ramirez got his start as a creep. Super creep, actually. Now, at first, Mike Ramirez was extremely resentful about being sent to Vietnam. He was so angry about being drafted and decided he was going to take it out on anyone he could.
We’ve talked about this before, there are certain jobs and roles that tend to appeal to people who are interested in abusing power and keeping people down. Going to war is an incredible sacrifice – don’t get me wrong – but for someone who has been craving the opportunity to “legally” hurt people it’s also the perfect place to be.
As a Green Beret, Mike Ramirez was like a fish in water. He freakin THRIVED. And he started using his free time to wreak chaos. He would break into the Vietnamese’s people’s homes and steal from them. Then he quickly escalated to something much, much worse. He would pull the women from their homes and bind them to trees. Trigger warning, to the max here… Now he would then use the fact that they were incapacitated and terrified to torture them for hours and hours on end. He raped them repeatedly. Beat them. Humiliated them by taking photographs of them the entire tire, through all the phases of his torture.
Once he had completed this torture he would decapitate them. This is absolutely horrific physical torture, but he had an even more evil reason for mutilating his victims. He had learned that Vietnamese people had a superstition that if they lost a body part then they would not go to heaven. So, of course, Mike Ramirez took great pleasure in mutilating their bodies. Oh, and of course he took more photos of them after they were deceased.
Then… to make matters even worse… he would shrink their heads. Now, I was wondering what the hell that even meant, so I did some research.
This is not a fun process. It’s actually pretty gross. So, prepare yourself…
Ok, first, the skin and hair had to be separated from the skull to allow them to shrink at different rates. Then, the eyelids were sewn shut and the mouth was stuck closed with a peg. And for the actual shrinking, the heads were put in a big pot and boiled for a very specific amount of time. Then, Staci Lehman writes:
Once removed from the pot, the head would be about 1/3 its original size and the skin dark and rubbery. The skin would then be turned inside out and any leftover flesh scraped off with a knife. The scraped skin was then turned with the proper side out again and the slit in the rear sewn together. The process wasn’t done yet. The head was shrunk even further by inserting hot stones and sand to make it contract from the inside. This also “tanned” the inside, like tanning an animal hide, in order to preserve it.
Once the head reached the desired size and was full of small stones and sand, more hot stones would be applied to the outside of the face to seal and shape the features. The skin was rubbed with charcoal ash to darken it, and as tribesmen believed, to keep the avenging soul from seeping out. The finished product was hung over a fire to harden and blacken, then the wooden pegs in the lips were pulled out and replaced with string to lash them together.
Mike Ramirez then used the heads as PILLOWS while he was in Vietnam. And although no one knows exactly how many people he tortured and killed in Vietnam… he had 29 confirmed kills. Though the number was likely much much higher. And at the end of the war, when he went back to America, he had EIGHT shrunken heads with him in tow.
Want to know something terrible? His commanders KNEW he did the things he did. They were perfectly aware that he was torturing and killing Vietnamese civilians. They called it a “dark coping mechanism” and gave him several medals.
He won the National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, Purple Heart Medal, Republic of Vietnam Medal, Good Conduct Medal (ha, ironic), and Two Bronze Loops.
People seemed to actually respect his accomplishments and were all impressed by the fact that he was such a great soldier. Apparently, at one point, his platoon of twenty men was surrounded by the Vietcong; Mike Ramirez and another soldier were the only two to make it out alive.
Yep. He was literally never punished for the war crimes he committed in Vietnam.
So, like a high school quarterback that never gets over peaking in high school, Mike Ramirez came back to America and was furious about the fact that no one in the regular world seemed to care about his war crimes. He had to get a stupid JOB and do what normal people do in the real world?!
So, eventually, he found his orange sock – or impressed some poor woman with his ability to be manly or something – and got married. Her name was Jessie and although she had a job, did all the housework, kept him somewhat together, birthed two children etc etc. etc. he was not happy with life.
That bitch wife was telling him to get a job (how dare she), but he didn’t want to work. He just wanted to sit in the closet, dig out the secret suitcase that he kept UNDER THEIR MARITAL BED and stare lovingly at the pictures of mutilated men and women and pet the disgusting shrunken heads he kept there.
Of course, after a little while – as with most psychopaths – just personally remembering the ‘good ole days’ when you were legally allowed to torture and murder people wasn’t enough. He got the itch. He wanted to kill again. Or at least talk about the times he killed! So, he decided to look around and find someone that would be into hearing about these tales.
This is when he turned to his cousin, Richard. He saw the young, impressionable 13-year-old and thought… ah… a protégé. And he invited Richard to hang out. Because it’s totally normal for a 24-year-old with a wife and kids to want to spend all his time with a 13-year-old.
But, alas, they would spend their days driving around and smoking weed. And Mike Ramirez would regale Richard with stories from his past. Stories about how he killed. Soon enough he was showing Richard the photos that he had and the shrunken heads that he had. And soon after that he started talking to Richard about HOW to stalk and how to kill. There’s no evidence that they actually did any crimes together, beyond probably stalking some women and maybe some peeping tomming, but this definitely seems like a pivotal moment for young Richard.
Unsurprisingly, Mike’s wife Jessie did not really like that he spent all his time with a pre-teen – especially because she needed him to get off his ass and get a job. She would talk to him regularly about how he had to stop hanging out with his cousin and get a job so he could help support the struggling small family. Of course, Mike Ramirez refused and this lead to a lot of friction between them.
Finally, on May 4, 1973 things kind of came to a head in the Ramirez home.
Per usual, Mike was home, not working, and he had invited his cousin Richard over to hang out and play pool. Mike Ramirez and Jessie’s two young sons were there – and I’m editorializing here but I’m guessing they were not being watched very closely while Richard and Mike played pool and got off talking to each other about murder.
At one point, Richard actually went over to the fridge to grab a drink and sitting there, in the fridge, in plain sight, was a .38 caliber revolver.
This was, I’m sure, somewhat startling to a 13-year-old, so he asked Mike Ramirez what the gun was for! And that’s when Mike was like, “I might be using it soon and I want it easily accessible and I want it to be cold.”
I did look this up – because I was super confused as to why someone would want their gun to be cold. If you are a gun aficionado listening to this episode, do you have an explanation? Because everything I seemed to read said this was possibly bad for the gun. SO…. Who effin knows.
Anywho, Jessie finally comes home and sees that Richard is there and she has had enough. She loses it and starts going off on Mike Ramirez. She’s like seriously guy? Seriously? We can’t afford groceries and you’re still here chillin with your homie that’s a child? She really unleashed and let him have it.
We all know a man with this kind of approach to life doesn’t take too kindly to being yelled at, especially in front of his cousin that looks up to him. How embarrassing. So he snapped back at her and said “keep your mouth shut. I’ll get a job when I want, not when you say I should.”
But she was relentless that day, she kept trying to talk to him about money and about how it was inappropriate that he hung out with Richard so much, etc. etc. and finally Mike Ramirez had enough. He stood up and walked to the fridge and pulled out the gun.
Jessie actually laughed when she saw the gun. She was pretty fearless and obviously didn’t think that her deadbeat husband had it in him to actually take action. So she was like “ok, Mike, what’s your plan with that thing?”
And he straight up said… if you don’t stop talking and nagging. I’m going to kill you.
Jessie scoffed and said he was full of it. She walked right up to him so they were face to face, standing inches away from each other and she locked eyes with him and said… I dare you.
This was ballsy. But it was also a horrible mistake because without another word Miguel raised the gun, pointed it at her forehead and pulled the trigger. Killing her instantly.
This was in front of Richard. And in front of their kids. She fell to the floor, lifeless and blood was pouring out of her head. The kids were absolutely horrified by this, of course, and started crying loudly. Mike Ramirez told Richard to get home as fast as possible and never speak a word of what he saw to anyone.
And that’s what Richard did. He ran and left the scene. So, we are not able to say what exactly happened next. You would almost think that Mike Ramirez was cleaning up and disposing of the body – and maybe he was trying and just sucked at it – but he was arrested very soon after murdering Jessie. Like, within a few hours. So maybe he called the police and confessed to his crime or maybe someone heard the gunshot or maybe someone saw him trying to drag the body somewhere, who knows. But he was arrested.
Creepily, when word got around to the family that their cousin had snapped and killed his wife, Richard’s mom send her husband (Richard’s dad) and Richard over to their home the next day to find some jewelry and goods that they wanted to make sure stayed in the family and didn’t get seized. So although Richard’s parents didn’t know that he had actually been there when the murder happened, they did take him back to the scene of the crime to help loot the victim’s home.
Later Richard said that the body was gone but the blood was still on the floor everywhere and the smell of that dried blood turned him on. Gross.
Shockingly, Mike went on trial for murder and was found NOT GUILTY by reason of insanity. I think they called it PTSD from the war and put him in a medical facility, not a prison. After a few years, he was out and able to go on living his life like a normal human that hadn’t murdered 30+ people! He went to work for the Texas Workforce Veterans Services in San Antonio and by all accounts seems to have lived a normal life after that. Hopefully rehabilitated. Not sure I trust that he was though.
AND of course, by this time Richard, his cousin, was on an actual murder rampage and was making headlines around the country so even if Mike did commit crimes that are on the record somewhere I couldn’t find them. Almost all of his story is overshadowed by Richards. I mean, in the movie The Night Stalker they literally don’t even mention Mike and this instance probably was pretty formidable for Richard.
In the end, Mike passed away in April of 1995 at the age 47 and I think it’s inappropriate but the army gave him a hero’s burial, complete with a twenty-one gun salute and everything.
And that is the story of Miguel “Mike” Ramirez – the lesser know Ramirez who had a kill count that was actually twice as high as his more famous cousin, The Night Stalker.
Story 2 – George “Big Nose” Parrott
Are you ready to hear about “Big Nose” George Parrott?
Normally I like to start these stories in a biography-type fashion, but I read multiple sources and couldn’t find anything on our buddy George before 1878. At this point, George Parrott is already an established train robber, running with a gang of other unsavory characters.
That August, the gang of outlaws planned a train heist, deciding they would rob the Union Pacific Railroad pay car around Como, Wyoming.
I know this is not what 19th century Wyoming is like, but I read that the pay car was carrying all of its employees pay in cash, which made it a great target to unscrupulous people. But for some reason, the picture in my head is from the old, cartoon Robin Hood, where Prince John is bumping along in his carriage full of jewels all like “doo be doo,” not realizing that Robin Hood and Little John are about to turn his world upside down.
But like I said, this was not a cartoon, and not nearly as adorable. Big Nose George and his bros loosened a spike in the railroad and wrapped it with telegraph wire. Then, they hid in the bushes, ready to tug out the rail when the train came, so the train would derail and they could rob the pay car.
Okay, it’s kind of cute. Very much 1920s train-robber with mustache vibes.
Unfortunately for George et. Al, a railroad employee saw the wobbly spike, fixed it all up, and let the police know that something was amiss before the train could be derailed.
So the outlaws were all, “whoopsy daisy,” and made a run for Rattlesnake Canyon, about 25 miles away from the scene of the intended robbery. But they weren’t out of the woods yet. Deputy Robert Widdowfield and Detective Henry “Tip” Vincent tracked them into the canyon. When the outlaws were confronted by law enforcement, they responded in full force; the deputy and detective were killed on August 19, 1878. Oh, and then the gang dismembered their bodies.
Obviously, this is horrible, and everyone is upset. And the county authorities offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of George and his gang. That would be about $290741.34 now.
So, we go from a haphazard almost robbery to a murder, so these outlaws need to run. Over the next few months, they moved up to what would later become Montana, stealing thousands of dollars along the way. One of the gang members, Dutch Charley, was caught in early 1879, which only amped up the people more. Everyone was pissed about the death of law enforcement, and this is still the wild west. I’m guessing hangings were one of the only forms of entertainment around.
Case and point: On January 23, 1879, Dutch Charley was being transported from Laramie WY back to Rawlins for his trial, when his train stopped to refill supplies and coal. Unfortunately for Charley, an angry mob was awaiting him. They jumped onto the train, dragged him off, and hanged him from a telegraph pole. They didn’t consider Charley worthy of burying in the cemetery in which the deputy his gang murdered was laid to rest, so they buried him in an unmarked grave somewhere in the sagebrush outside of the cemetery.
You would think that this horrible death would be enough to keep the rest of the outlaws laying low, but after a while, they got cocky. Then, in true stupid-criminal fashion, they were allegedly bragging at some bar in Montana about all of their exploits, including the murders they committed in Wyoming. A snitch wired Sheriff James Rankin, who went to Montana in July of 1880, captured Big Nose George, and brought him back to Wyoming. Two of the other gang members escaped, but not George. The Sheriff personally escorted the criminal all the way back to Rawlins for his trial.
George was arraigned on September 13, 1880, at which time he told a lawyer his name was George Francis Warden, and he pled guilty to the charges against him. He later changed his plea to not guilty, but no one was having it, and he was found guilty in December. In the biggest surprise of my research, George’s hanging wasn’t scheduled until the following April.
10 days before George was scheduled to hang, he attempted a jailbreak, using a pocket knife to saw through his leg shackles. He also punched a jailer, Robert Rankin, in the head with said shackles. Unfortunately for George, Robert Rankin’s wife, Rosa, showed up, saw that her husband was knocked out, took his revolver, and shot it in the air, so other men (AKA an angry mob) came to help detain George.
Immediately after his attempted escape, George’s hands were tied behind his back and a noose was tied around his neck. The mob lifted George atop an empty kerosene barrel and tossed the rope over a telegraph pole.
As if the hanging isn’t already a terrifying way to die – the rope broke. George fell and begged the crowd to shoot him instead. But they were like, “this is our sports center!” and instead re-secured his noose, re-shackled his legs and made him climb up a 12-foot ladder. Obviously, with heavy shackles around his legs, climbing was a challenge. And Big Nose George Parrott choked to death, as a crowd of approximately 200 people watched him die.
And yet, no one claimed his body.
But don’t you worry, my sweet chinchilla, because this story is not over yet. You see, there were some doctors in the crowd. There was Dr. John Osborn, whose only job was to make sure that George was dead for realsies, and then there was Dr. Thomas Maghee, who was a physician and surgeon for Union Pacific Railroad. Dr. Maghee and Dr. Osborn claimed George’s body… you know… for science.
Also, in a super weird and offensive thing I read online, apparently, when the undertaker attempted to put George into the coffin, George’s nose was so big that it got in the way of closing the lid. They had to force the lid down and then nail it. I’m imagining it’s like when you overfill a suitcase and you have to sit on top of it while zipping simultaneously to get everything to fit.
Originally, the doctors wanted to study George’s brain. Apparently, Dr. Osborn’s wife was criminally insane. So he thought that by studying George’s brain, he could discover a cure for insanity. This straight-up sounds like the origin story of a supervillain in every Marvel movie ever. And as we would probably assume now, there was no noticeable difference between George’s ‘criminal’ brain and a ‘non-criminal’ brain.
Not to be discouraged, Dr. Osborn immediately made a death mask and had George’s body skinned. Real quick, I checked in with our favorite medical consultant, Dr. Google, about why death masks were made. Apparently, it was common practice in the late 1800s to make a death mask immediately after someone died, so you could capture their expression before their features became distorted. That way, doctors could study phrenology.
Phrenology was basically the idea that you could look at someone’s head shape and physical features and figure out personality characteristics and mental capabilities. For example, bumps or divots revealed people’s strengths or weaknesses. By studying criminals’ heads, doctors thought that they could predict which types of people would become criminals based on physiological traits. Oh, and this particular mask didn’t have ears, as George’s ears had been worn off by the friction of struggling with his noose. Obviously, phrenology is bullshit. And also, gross. But it is fascinating.
In addition to the very scientific mask and body-skinning, Dr. Osborn also had shoes and a medicine bag made from George’s skin.
It’s called fashion. Look it up.
Ready for some gory details? The skin he wanted to use was from George’s chest and thighs… including his nipples. Now, the nipples didn’t end up getting used for the shoes, so Dr. Osborn was pretty disappointed, but he still strutted around in those skin shoes, showing them off around town.
Let’s get back to the science-y part. The good doctor Maghee cut George’s skull into 2 pieces. Now I know there was some controversy a couple weeks ago about not knowing which half of the sheep was thrown on stage at a Shakespeare performance, and so I’m here to tell you: it was top and bottom. Dr. Maghee gave the top half to his protégé, Lillian Heath (who BTW eventually became Wyoming’s first female physician). But I’m just saying, I know Valentine’s Day is over: But flowers, guys. Not brains. Never brains.
Anywho, Dr. Maghee continued to study and dissect the brain for a year, keeping George’s brain in a whiskey barrel with a salt solution, you know, because letting it decay would be gross.
But Dr. Maghee didn’t even keep the bottom half of the brain – it was buried in that whiskey barrel with the rest of George’s Bones behind the doctor’s office. Lillian Heath ended up keeping George’s skullcap for a while, using it as an ashtray in her office.
And if we are going to fast forward to slightly more recent history – in 1950, some construction workers were doing some excavating for a department store, and they found the whiskey barrel. Both halves of George’s skull were reunited for a hot minute – Dr. Heath had to give up her ashtray – and then somehow the pieces were separated again. Now, the top of his skull is displayed at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Iowa, and the bottom half of the skull is displayed at the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins, WY. The rest of George’s remains are buried in a secret location, and Dr. Osborn’s medicine bag has never been found.
And wouldn’t you know it, Dr. Osborn continued to be a primary historical figure in Wyoming too. He became governor, and rumor has it, he wore his special shoes to his inaugural ball in 1893. And he continued to climb the political ladder, becoming assistant Secretary of state under Woodrow Wilson.
In even more recent history, in 1995, a forensic anthropologist named George Gill and an archeologist named Mark Miller were studying frontier violence, so they reunited the halves George Parrott’s skull. They compared the skull to those skin shoes. They were able to confirm that the shoes were composed of human skin, but they couldn’t test them nor the skullcap biochemically, because apparently, that would have destroyed the disgusting pieces of… clothing. There is no DNA match as of now, but people are still pretty sure the shoes are made out of the outlaw.
And that is the crazy, fashionable story of Big Nose George Parrott!