The disturbing story of 'The Iceman' Richard Kuklinski

Looking back on his childhood, Richard Kuklinsi said that at the age of 13, he realized "that it was better to give than to receive." Before that, as the Crime Museum describes, Kuklinski had long been on the receiving end of merciless abuse by both his parents and a gang of neighborhood bullies, which he'd "coped" with by slaughtering cats and dogs to feel less helpless. In 1948, though, he adopted his golden rule.

Kuklinski first decided to give back to gang leader Charley Lane, a bane of his upbringing for years. Unleashing years of pent-up anguish, Kuklinski bludgeoned him to death with a wooden dowel. Showing an early aptitude for murder, he ripped out Lane's teeth with pliers and hacked off his fingers with a hatchet to make the body harder to identify. Lane's remains were never found. Still eager to give, Kuklinski tracked down the rest of Lane's gang and beat them within an inch of their lives with an iron rod.

For Kuklinski, murder would be the gift that kept on giving. He became a widely feared pool shark who constantly smelled blood in the water because he constantly shed it. He shot, stabbed, or beat to death anyone who made him feel slighted. He became a valued asset to organized crime. By the time Kuklinski was caught, he had made a name for himself as a prolific hitman. That name was "Iceman."

The Iceman killeth

Richard Kuklinski earned his infamous moniker, "the Iceman," by stashing victims in freezers to obscure their time of death. But Biography writes that he would also toss bodies off bridges and dump them down mineshafts, making sure to remove teeth and fingers. The Iceman committed murder using a depraved array of methods. He employed hand grenades, chainsaws, crossbows, ice picks, and guns. Standing at an intimidating 6-foot-5 and weighing 300 pounds, Kuklinski could also murder men with his bare hands. But the favorite tool in his arsenal was a nasal spray bottle full of cyanide.

Kuklinski became one of the Genovese crime family's favorite contract killers. He also did jobs for the Gambino outfit. After his capture, Kuklinski claimed to have murdered more than 100 people. Sometimes he inflated that figure to 200. Perhaps he lost count. According to Kuklinski, his long list of victims includes the missing Teamster, Jimmy Hoffa. He recounted stabbing the union leader with a hunting knife, hiding Hoffa in a barrel, and then disposing of it in a car that was crushed, via the Crime Museum.

Kuklinski was ultimately nabbed in an undercover operation in which he attempted to purchase cyanide. In 1988, he was convicted of murder. Behind bars, he became a macabre celebrity by boasting about his many homicides in interviews. He died in 2006.