Joseph Douglas Ball (January 7, 1896 – September 24, 1938) was an American murderer and suspected serial killer, sometimes referred to as the "Alligator Man", the "Butcher of Elmendorf" and the "Blueballs 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.


Ball was the great-great-grandson of John Hart Crenshaw, a notorious illegal slave trader, kidnapper, and illegal slave breeder in Gallatin County, Illinois. 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 for it. 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. He charged people to view them, especially during feeding time; the food consisted mostly of live cats and dogs.


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 with a bullet through the heart (as noted on his death certificate by the coroner, but 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. Wheeler led them to the remains of Hazel Brown and Minnie Gotthard. Few written sources from the era could verify Ball's crimes. Newspaper editor Michael Hall investigated the story in depth in 2002 and wrote on his findings for ''Texas Monthly''.

In popular culture

The film ''Eaten Alive'' by Tobe Hooper was inspired by Ball. The film features a man named Judd, a serial killer who runs a hotel and disposes of his victims' bodies by feeding them to a Nile crocodile.https://archive.org/stream/Deep_Red_Horror_Handbook/Deep_Red_Horror_Handbook_djvu.txt Ball was referenced in ''Bones'' in the fifth episode of season eight, "The Method in the Madness".

See also

* List of serial killers in the United States * List of serial killers by number of victims


External links

CrimeLibrary.com article on Joe Ball

Joe Ball - The Butcher of Elmendorf (documentary)
{{DEFAULTSORT:Ball, Joe Category:1896 births Category:1938 suicides Category:Military personnel from San Antonio Category:Suicides by firearm in Texas Category:United States Army personnel of World War I Category:American bootleggers Category:20th-century American criminals Category:Criminals from Texas