Featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Believe it or not, horoscopes were once linked to a serial killer…and, no, we’re not talking about The Zodiac!
Who wouldn’t want to answer an ad for a personalized, ten-page horoscope advertised as, “Absolutely FREE” in their local paper? The ad went out in a French newspaper on April 16, 1968. All readers had to do was send in their name, address, date, place of birth, and a few tidbits of personal information to receive a custom personality profile. Submissions flooded in and 500 people received their horoscopes. Urged to reply back, many were impressed with the accuracy of their profiles. About 95% claimed they were spot on.
Despite the seemingly supernatural accuracy, they had been duped. Every respondent was sent the exact same report. The architect of this scam was psychologist Michel Gauquelin, who had commissioned a professional astrologer to do a chart and interpretation of a real person. That person was Dr. Marcel Petiot—one of France’s most notorious serial killers.
Known for taking the lives of over 60 people in wartime France, Marcel Petiot’s story is harrowing. His life of crime began in his teenage years and ran parallel to a successful military, political, and medical career. He was a corrupt doctor, prescribing addictive substances and scandalously having affair with a patient’s daughter.
In 1933, settled in Paris, Petiot established himself as a member of La Résistance. He promised a path to safety and freedom to those leaving Nazi-occupied France. His fees were exorbitant. The few who could afford his 25,000 franc fee—about half a million dollars today—were sorely surprised. Under the guise of inoculating patients against various diseases required to leave the country, Petiot injected them with cyanide, stole all their money, and disposed of their bodies in quicklime, underground, or the Seine river. Pétiot went on trial March 19, 1946 with a total 135 criminal charges. He was convicted of 26 murders—a fraction of the truth—and was sentenced to beheading.