Let me tell you this story in upstate New York, there's this little village called Driton, and for centuries, the people there have welcomed strangers into their churches and into their homes. It used to be one of those places where everyone in town was invited to a wedding.
So it was a really close or really trusting community in 1842. A stranger arrived. He was a handsome, charming, brilliant scholar named Edward Rohloff. He found work with a local farming family, a very prominent family.
Their home was always open to anybody that needed a place to stay or PASSERS-BY. You know, they were just that kind of people.
But something about Edward Roloff was just troubling. He was arrogant. He was snide, and he was sometimes really cruel. And he was absolutely obsessed with his own academic research.
He seemed like what you would call an incredible narcissist. He's very hostile to people who don't appreciate his own genius. He seduced the family's teenage daughter. And from the very beginning, their relationship was unstable, their fights were vicious, and then they were deadly.
There's a story about him taking her away and her turning around and waving. And that's the last memory like her mother and some of them had of her.
It was a terrible tragedy. It's not that we hadn't had murders here. But not a murder like that, Edward Roloff killed at least five more people over the next 25 years.
Now, this is the beginning of a time when railroads make it possible to move around. It was not particularly uncommon for people to carry on double lives.
People fall for the snake oil salesmen. They actually enjoy the snake oil salesman.
He had everybody fooled for a long time, a sort of like a Ted Bundy. He's confusing to me. And he was the boogeyman in upstate New York.
He's not confusing to me. He's a psychopath.
When Rudolph was caught, it seems like he would finally be punished. But that's not what happened. Scholars and scientists jumped to his defense.
Rudolph claimed that he had made this groundbreaking discovery in the field of linguistics and a lot of people believed him. They argued that his mind was just too valuable to waste on the gallows.
Yeah, if there was a kind of magical key to understanding these languages and that would have made a lot of people's lives a lot easier, would his brain really save his life?
Are there some ideas so astounding, some minds so brilliant that they should allow a killer to get away with murder?
People really think that the brain can justify behavior and this is totally mistaken.
Edward Rudolph's brutal crimes and his incredible brain would make history by marking the birth of modern neuroscience. This is just a world changing difference in how we think about brains. It's right up there with understanding evolution.
I'm Kate Winkler Dawson. And this is tenfold more Wicked, a podcast about the most intelligent killer in American history. Tenfold More Wicked premieres on Monday, November twenty third on exactly right, subscribe now on Stitcher, Apple podcasts or wherever you like to listen.