Episode 19: Todd Kohlhepp, Amazon Review Murderer and The Great Storm of 1913
- Pretend podcast music (because we couldn’t find any we liked enough for a theme song).
- Ali has a weird laugh. It is often loud.
Today’s podcast will be about a serial killer who also left reviews on Amazon regarding his murderous tools and a giant storm in the Great Lakes area that killed hundreds of people.
Our podcast is now available on Anchor, another platform.
A young girl named Hannah, she’s only 17-years-old, has a podcast called True Crime Within. She wants to work in criminology. Take a listen to her!
The Great Lakes Storm of 1913
This was a hard article to write and there were even little issues, like not being able to get information from the Coast Guard because we record early, and the government is shut down.
The average temperatures on the Great Lakes varies between the different lakes and depths, but on average, they are around 55-degrees Fahrenheit or between 12-13 degrees Celsius. During the fall months, cold and dry air comes down from Canada while warm and moist air comes up from the Gulf of Mexico and off the Lake waters. The cold air from the north hits the warm waters of the lakes and starts spinning. The winds will start a cyclone system that is fed by the warmth of the water and Gulf winds.
The weather systems that creates these storms are referred to as November Gales or November Witches. They can create 50-foot waves, release several inches of rain or snow, and maintain high-force winds. Since 1847, there have been 25 storms in the Great Lakes area that have taken human lives.
During a storm called The Big Blow of 1905, where there were 27 boats that were lost (read sunk). A storm in November 1975 was known to sink the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, with all crew members losing their lives. (You don’t just drown in the Great Lakes, you can also die of hypothermia.)
Gordon Lightfoot singing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vST6hVRj2A
From November 7 to November 11, 1913 the Great Lakes area suffered through a huge storm. The storm would later earn the names Freshwater Fury, White Hurricane, and the Great Lakes Storm of 1913. The Great Storm was created when two major storm fronts collided over the waters, one with hurricane force winds and the other with a blizzard of snow. Meteorologists in the area had been taken by surprise when this happened. In the beginning of the week, the weather conditions were originally described as everything from ‘fair’ to ‘brisk’.
The weather conditions were extra dangerous as it would often have lulls in the wind causing people to put their guard down, and the storm itself was very slow to move out of the area. Usually, storms with such high wind velocities last for less than six hours. The Great Lakes Storm of 1913 lasted for multiple days, with hurricane grade winds lasting for 16 hours. The first few days were considered the pre-storm which lead to the growth of the actual ‘white hurricane’.
On Friday, the 7th, the storm had been rated ‘moderately severe’. The winds were getting faster and the temperatures had fallen quickly in the last 24 hours. By 10 a.m. the Coast Guard stations and the United States Department of Agriculture Weather Bureau offices had placed flag signals indicating a storm warning with northwestern winds.
Late in the same afternoon, they then signaled that there were hurricane winds over 74 mph heading into the area. There was a blizzard heading toward Lake Huron and winds over Lake Superior were already up to 50 mph.
The morning of Saturday, November 8th, had the storm upgraded to severe. At this point, the strongest portion of the storm was centered over the eastern portion of Lake Superior. The winds coming from the north were now blowing at up to 60 mph during gusts.
People began to set themselves up for disaster as sucker holes were created in the storm. (A sucker hole is a lull in a storm that leads people to believe the weather has broken.) Gale wind signal flags were up in over 100 ports on the lakes, but sailors were mollified into a false sense of safety by the clearer weather and the knowledge that storms of such a large magnitude usually don’t last very long and they had already been on alert for two days. They resumed their travels on the Lakes.
Noon on Sunday, the 9th, the lower Lakes were beginning to see gale force winds. However, barometric pressure began to rise, giving people hope that the storm was blowing over. This was all false hope.
The different storm fronts collided.
In the four hours between 8 p.m. and midnight, the storm became a weather bomb. (A weather bomb is the rapid deepening of cyclone winds and rainfall.) The winds had now kicked up to 70 mph across the four western lakes (not Lake Ontario, but Huron, Erie, Michigan and Superior). Consequently, major shipwrecks occurred on all the lakes except for Ontario.
(To memorize the five great lakes use “HOMES.” Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior.)
On the 9th, the worst of the wind is blowing over Lake Huron. Winds with gusts up to 90 mph and waves over 30 feet high, created whiteout squalls in the area as it began to also snow. Witnesses claimed that the waves were both high and coming in rapid succession, often three hitting at a time.
That day a rare phenomenon happened on the Lake Huron, where the wind was blowing in the opposite direction from the waves. This was due to the storm spinning like a cyclone.
Lake Ontario joins the super storm fray. The wind blowing over the Lake Ontario brought a blizzard with it, carrying it into eastern Ohio and Michigan.
The victims of the storm on November 9th, were found the morning of the 10th as snow and winds continued to batter the area. People saw large ships that were upside down in the water. One of the overturned boats, the Charles S. Price was the first fully loaded ore carrier to have capsized on a Great Lake. More boats sank in the storm, and 12 of them lost their entire crew.
Two hundred and fifty sailors died, some of their bodies later washing ashore to be buried.
The sailors on the Great Lakes weren’t the only ones affected. A recently built breakwater in Chicago, Illinois meant to protect the area from storms, was swept into Lake Michigan. Milwaukee, Wisconsin also lost a newly built breakwater in Lake Michigan. Cities around Lake Huron had four-foot-high drifts.
In Ohio, there were blizzards with snowdrifts six feet high in Cleveland. Streets were abandoned while people sheltered in place inside nearby buildings. Businesses took up to a week to burrow their way out of the snow. Power was out across Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario. Telephone and telegraph poles were knocked down, along with power lines, eliminating communication. When Cleveland rebuilt after the storm, the city started a decade-long project to move all utility cables underground.
As the storm blew through Tuesday the 11th, it lost its power and was downgraded to a regular storm.
The Great Lakes Storm of 1913 was the most destructive and deadliest natural disaster on the lakes in recorded history. It was been estimated that more than 19 ships were destroyed, 19 ships were stranded, and 250 people were killed. It was also a huge financial loss, with both the ships, their crew, and the cargo going missing, it cost the US about $5 million (around $127 million today).
The weather forecasters that worked during that time did not have the knowledge that we have today. Complaints came out against the USDA Weather Bureau, charging that they were ill prepared for the storm and did not communicate proper warnings. Later analysis of the storm and its impact changed how meteorologists and response teams handle storm preparedness and warnings.
Todd Kohlhepp, Amazon Review Murderer
Tod Kohlhepp was born in 1971 in Florida. He lived with his mother and step-father, although he did not get along with his stepdad. He had a troublesome childhood. At age nine he was diagnosed with explosive behavior and preoccupied with sexual content. He was an angry kid and when he was younger, he a goldfish by pouring bleach into its bowl. He spent 3.5 months in a mental hospital due to an inability to get along with others.
In 1983 he moved in with his biological father. Together they collected weapons. They did not have a good relationship.
In 1986, when he was 15, he kidnapped a 14-year-old girl in Arizona. He threatened her with a revolver, tied her up and abused her. Todd then walked her home and threatened to kill her siblings if she told anyone. She told. He went to prison for 15 years and had to register as a sex offender.
While in prison he was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. A judge stated that he was likely not to be rehabilitated. Todd gets out in 2001 and moved to South Carolina to be with his mother.
He graduated from college with a business degree in 2008. He also received a realtor’s license in 2006 after lying on the application about his criminal history. Todd built a business that received an award for doing good business. He also got a pilot license and bought several properties.
In 2016, he hired Kayla Brown and Charles Carver. They cleaned houses for him. Todd had them come to his property and Todd takes Charles and Kayla hostage. He then kills Charles and keeps Kayla. Later Todd claimed he killed Charles because he had a smart mouth. After Charles died, Todd kept Kayla in a shipping container. He had an elaborate plan to build a house with a soundproof room where he was going to keep Kayla.
During this time, Todd had gotten into Charles’ Facebook page and was posting under his name. Charles family didn’t think the posts were something Charles would write.
In 2016, Todd also confesses to what was called the ‘Superbike Murders’ that took place in 2013. Four people had died at a motorcycle shop. It was a huge cold case. Todd killed them after he tried to return a motorcycle he couldn’t ride. He had felt that the people in the shop were making fun of him. Todd told his mom it had to be done.
Side note: Todd’s mom was found dead in 2017 of was believed to be natural causes.
Todd also confessed to a 2015 murder of a couple named Megan and Johnny Coxie. They were buried on his property.
All together he confessed to seven murders to try to avoid the death penalty. Todd was given seven life sentences instead. After conviction he sent a letter to media saying there were more murders. He didn’t elaborate after that.
Todd had done Amazon reviews on his murder tools. Examples: For a foldable shovel, he said ‘Keep in car when you have to hide the bodies and you’ve left the full-sized shovel at home. Does not come with midget, would be nice.’ Todd’s chainsaw review, ‘Works excellent. Getting the neighbor to stand still while you chase them is hard enough without having an easy to use chainsaw.’ Stun gun review, ‘Great item. Seriously trying to find a reason to zap one of my agents for being lazy. It is going to be a new motivation tool’. He described one knife as ‘black as his soul’.
He reviewed over 140 murder items. Serial killers struggle to keep quiet.