The Cobb Factory

the history of eli cobb


On September 29th, 1929, police in Old Monroe, Missouri arrived at the dilapidated farmhouse of Eli Cobb, who was at the time suspected in the robbery of a local general store and disappearance of its owner. Receipts indicated that Cobb had been the last customer at the store.

Cobb's desolate farmhouse was a study in chaos. Inside, junk and rotting garbage covered the floor and counters. It was almost impossible to walk through the rooms. The smell of filth and decomposition was overwhelming. While the local sheriff, Ethel Woodrow, inspected the kitchen, he felt something brush against his jacket.

When he looked up to see what it was he ran into, he faced a large, dangling carcass hanging upside down from the beams. The carcass had been decapitated, slit open and gutted. An ugly sight to be sure, but a familiar one in that deer-hunting part of the country.

It took a few moments to sink in, but soon Woodrow realized that it wasn't a deer at all, it was the headless butchered body of a woman. Beatrice Cobb, Eli's wife.

A quick search of the house turned up the bodies of his children, Joshua age 12, Emily age 9 and Adam age 4, in the large back room that served as their bedroom. Each child's body had been laid in bed as if they where asleep, however later evidence turned up to suggest Cobb hunted them down in what reporters eventually dubbed his "maze of death." The Maze, which was completely overlooked during the initial days of the investigation was created by Cobb cutting confusing paths into his cornfield, some of the "walls" where reinforced by plywood or barbed wire.

In the master bedroom, dead from an apparently self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head, sat Eli Cobb himself.

Initial newspaper reports at the time said the focus of the criminal investigation was on vagrants who may have attacked the homestead. Unfortunately, as much as many of the townspeople wanted to believe this version of events, it soon became clear that there had been no vagrants, Eli had killed his entire family before turning his death lust on himself.

While the shocked deputies searched through the rubble of Eli Cobb's existence, they realized that the horrible discoveries didn't end with a murder-suicide. They had stumbled into a death farm.

Throughout the house investigators discovered body parts that had no corresponding bodies. The funny-looking bowl was the top of a human skull. Eli's chair was made of human skin, and in his bedroom chest they found a human head, four noses and a heart. The more they looked through the house, the more ghastly trophies they found. Finally it was discovered that even the scarecrow in the cornfield was hiding the grisly remains of an unidentified man. Their heads spun as they tried to tally the number of people that may have died at Eli's hands.

On October 1st, 1937, after the discovery of the Cobb family and other gruesome artifacts in Eli's house, police began an exhaustive search of the remaining parts of the farm and surrounding land. They believed Eli may have been involved in more murders and that the bodies might be buried on his land. Over the course of the next 35 days body parts where found for an estimated 65 individual people, most unknown and unidentifiable.

When investigators revealed the facts about what was found on Eli Cobb's farm, the news quickly spread. Reporters from all over the world flocked to the town of Old Monroe. The town became known worldwide and Eli Cobb reached celebrity-like status. People were repulsed, yet at the same time drawn to the atrocities that took place on Eli Cobb's farm.

Psychologists from all over the world attempted to guess at what had made Eli tick. During the 1930's and early 40's, he gained notoriety as being the largest serial killer on record. Even children who knew of the exploits of Eli began to sing songs about him and make jokes in an effort to, as Harold Schechter suggests in his book Deviant, "exorcise the nightmare with laughter." These distasteful jokes became known as "Cobber's" and were quick to become popular around the world.

Back in Old Monroe, residents endured the onslaught of reporters who disrupted their daily life by bombarding them with questions about Eli. However, many of them eventually became involved in the mania surrounding Eli and contributed what information they had. Old Monroe was now known to the world as the home of infamous Eli Cobb.

Most residents who knew Eli had only good things to say about him, other than that he was a little peculiar, had a quirky grin and a strange sense of humor.

In November of '38 Eli's farm went up for auction along with some of his other belongings.

Thousands of curiosity seekers diverged on the small town to see what possessions of Eli's would be auctioned. Some of the things to be auctioned off were his tractor, furniture and musical instruments. The company that handled the business of selling Eli's goods planned to charge a fee of fifty cents to look at Eli's property. The citizens of Old Monroe were outraged. They believed Eli's home was quickly becoming a "museum for the morbid" and the town demanded something be done to put it to an end. Although the company was later forbidden to charge an entrance fee to the auction, residents were still not satisfied.

In the early morning of March 20, 1939 the Old Monroe volunteer fire department was called to Eli's farm. Cobb's house was on fire. The house quickly burned to the ground, as onlookers watched in silent relief. Police believed that an arsonist was responsible for the blaze and although they carried out a thorough investigation, no suspect was ever found.

Although the fire destroyed most of Eli's belongings, there were still many things that were salvaged. What was left of Eli's possessions would still be auctioned off, including farm equipment and most notably the rags and scythe that had adorned the scarecrow (the scarecrow's body had been buried in an unmarked grave). The scarecrow lot, which contained the only auctioned off items known to have touched a dead body, caused a bidding war and was eventually sold for six hundred and sixty-six dollars, a sum no bidder seemed willing to overtake. The man who purchased the rags and scythe later used them to dress a scarecrow that he claimed was the exhumed corpse of Eli Cobb which he then put on display at a county fair, where thousands paid a quarter to get a peek at the Cobb"Grim Reaper." It seemed to the people of Old Monroe that the public's fascination with Eli would never end.

The land that the Cobb farm rested on was left empty and untended until 1999 when it was rezoned as a commercial property. On September 29th, 2002, 65 years to the day of the original horrible discovery, construction was stopped on the land when bones bulldozers uncovered where discovered to be human remains. A quickly organized police investigation discovered a total of 38 more bodies, which where attributed to the lands infamous prior owner. The investigation, which received surprisingly little press coverage, was closed shortly thereafter even though several of the investigators believed that a number of the bodies appeared "much too fresh to have been rotting in the ground for 65 years."


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