The Mystery Behind Disappearing And Murdered Grateful Dead Fans

For decades, up until and even after the death of lead guitarist and vocalist Jerry Garcia in 1995, one of the biggest bands on the road has been the Grateful Dead. The jam band formed in the 1960s, and by the '70s, they had a loyal fan base. Then the band kept touring, and touring, and touring, decade after decade. Indeed, the Grateful Dead were even at the forefront of a counterculture of a sort, composed of people who not only dug the band but followed them across the country, hitting up their concerts and soaking up the atmosphere with other fans.

For a band and a community of fans based on peace and good vibes, it turns out that the Grateful Dead fandom has more than its share of murder. As The Daily Beast notes, over the years several fans have turned up dead near the site of Grateful Dead concerts, often showing signs that they were victims of violence. Is it the work of one serial killer targeting Deadheads? Or is it that the murder victims share the commonality of having lived a vagabond-like lifestyle influenced by the Grateful Dead and, as such, wound up crossing paths with murderers? 

Grateful Dead murders go back to at least 1985

Back in 1985 during the Reagan administration, Mary Gioia, 22, and Greg Kniffin, 18, were found murdered at a Grateful Dead fan commune in San Francisco, The Rainbow Village, according to The Daily Beast. They were beaten and shot to death, but they would not be the last Dead fans to be mysteriously killed or go missing. Loudwire reported several fans of the band also appear to have disappeared into thin air after having gone to — or attempted to go to — Grateful Dead concerts. Several other murders associated with the band's fans happened throughout the 1990s and well into the 2000s.

The "Dead and Gone" podcast explores these killings, with hosts Jake Brennan and Payne Lindsey quick to point out that the deaths and disappearances are likely not the work of any one killer. Indeed, the entire counterculture surrounding the band lends itself to some of its fans being exposed to predators — in particular, being on the road and away from home, oftentimes camping (instead of, by contrast, staying in a secure hotel or home), and the fact that sometimes Dead fans are under the influence of drugs and alcohol putting them at even further risk. 

"There are plenty of opportunities for a wolf in sheep's clothing to take advantage of the vulnerability," Lindsey told The Daily Beast.