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Robert Hansen: The "Butcher Baker" Serial Killer Who Hunted His Victims Like Wild Animals

Updated: Jan 30

A deeply disturbing story of murder. Serial Killer Robert "The Butcher Baker" Hansen abducted exotic dancers and sex workers before releasing them into the Alaskan wilderness and hunting them like wild animals.

Story of Robert Hansen
Robert Hansen was one of the most twisted and brutal serial killers in modern history

In the 1924 short story "The Most Dangerous Game," author Richard Connell recounts the tale of a wealthy Russian aristocrat who, bored with trapping animals, lures a big-game hunter to his island and hunts him for fun.

Ever since the release of the story, the disturbing thought of humans hunting humans has captivated people all over the world. The idea has been the plot of many movies, TV shows, and novels, but has generally been associated with fiction.

In the 1970s, Robert Hansen, who became known as the "Butcher Baker,", turned this premise into a brutally horrific reality that would span a decade. In his local town, Robert Hansen had a reputation as a friendly and approachable man, however, in the woods of Alaska his warped and disturbed side caused unbelievable terror for his victims.

Throughout the 70s and early 80s, Robert Hansen would abduct exotic dancers and sex workers and release them deep in the woods, allowing him to stalk and hunt them like he would a wild animal.

This is the horrifying true story of Robert Hansen, the "Butcher Baker," serial killer.

The Early Years Of Robert Hansen

On February 15, 1939, Robert Christian Hansen was born in Estherville, Iowa, his father was a Danish immigrant and a strict disciplinarian who owned a bakery.

Working long hours in the family bakery, Robert Hansen's childhood was not an easy one. He was naturally left-handed, however, he was forced to use his right hand instead, this resulted in him developing a stutter which he would carry with him for the rest of his life.

During his teenage years, he was extremely shy and suffered at the hands of school bullies. His bad acne and strong stutter made him a frequent target for ridicule, the girls he liked rejected him and the boys laughed at him.

Deemed as an outcast of society, Hansen spent most of his time alone. As time passed, he became a passionate hunter, using the sport as a way to channel his anger and fantasies of killing.

Robert Hansen's Desire For Revenge

In 1957, Hansen hoped to make something of himself and leave his troubled childhood behind him. At 18-years-old he joined the United States Army Reserve.

After serving approximately a year in the Army Reserves, Robert Hansen became an assistant drill instructor in Pocahontas, Iowa, He even married a young woman that he had started courting whilst stationed there.

Although his life appeared to be heading in the right direction, Hansen struggled to shake off the hate he had built up during his youth and still felt mistreated by the community and fiercely wanted revenge. When Hansen was 21, in 1960, he convinced a young employee of the bakery to assist him in burning down a school bus garage. The boy that had helped him confessed and Hansen was arrested, which led to his wife divorcing him. Once again Robert Hansen was all alone, and this time he was incarcerated as well.

Hansen was jailed for 3 years for arson for his attack on the school bus garage, however, he was released after serving just 20 months. Following his release, he was jailed several more times for petty theft. During this period he met another local woman and remarried.

In 1967, Robert Hansen decided that he had grown tired of the United States and moved to Anchorage, Alaska. He moved into a small, quiet community, which was about as far from his life in Iowa as he could possibly get. Whilst here he fathered two children with his wife and settled into a relatively normal routine, becoming well-liked within the local community and opening up a small bakery.

Although most of the local residents bought into Robert Hansen's pretense of being a happy baker and loving family man, before long cracks started to appear in his fictitious exterior.

In 1972, Hansen was arrested twice, once for raping a prostitute and once for the abduction and attempted rape of a housewife. Walking free for his crimes, and unknown to authorities, Robert Hensen's murder spree started in 1973.

In 1976, Robert Hansen was arrested again for shoplifting a chainsaw, for this, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison. However, he appealed the sentence and was released shortly afterward. He continued to prey on sex workers and strippers who he forced to act out his disturbing fantasies.

Cindy Paulson Escapes Robert Hansen

More than a decade after Robert Hansen moved to Anchorage, in 1983, a 17-year-old girl named Cindy Paulson was spotted frantically running down Sixth Avenue, handcuffed, and barefooted.

Cindy Paulson escaped Robert Hansen
Cindy Paulson managed to escape almost certain death at the hands of Robert Hansen

Cindy Paulson, who was a prostitute, was picked up by a traveling motorist who brought her back to safety, this was when she told her story to the police. The terrified young woman explained how she was held hostage by a man who'd handcuffed her to his car, held her at gunpoint, and taken her to his house where he chained her up by her neck.

Whilst being held captive, Cindy Paulson was tortured and repeatedly raped. Her kidnapper attempted to take her onto a plane and take her to his cabin which was hidden in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, about 35 miles north of Anchorage. As he was preparing the plane for takeoff, Cindy Paulson managed to escape, she left her shoes behind as evidence.

The description that Paulson gave of her kidnapper perfectly fitted that of Robert Hansen, she even identified his plane and described his stutter. Even with this information, the local police force seemed hesitant to bring him in for questioning, although he was no stranger to being on the wrong side of the law, the local baker was a popular member within the community.

When authorities did speak to Hansen, he confessed that he had met with the girl but claimed that she was attempting to set him up after he refused to pay her "extortionate demands". Robert Hansen told the police about a friend of his who provided him with a strong alibi, he was quickly released.

The FBI Puts Robert Hansen Into Their Sights

During this time several sex workers and strippers had gone missing and bodies were starting to turn up, Alaska State Troopers were convinced that they had the case of a serial killer on their hands.

The Matanuska-Susitna area of Alaska
The Matanuska-Susitna area of Alaska

Two bodies were discovered in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, along with .223 shell casings close by, this led to Robert Hansen being the prime suspect, but the police required proof, and they didn't have any.

These events led to the FBI becoming involved, including the now-retired FBI agent John Douglas, a man who played a big part in pioneering the field of criminal profiling (the story of John Douglas was depicted in the Netflix series Mindhunter).

John Douglas put together a psychological profile of the killer based on the injuries inflicted on the recovered bodies and the details of the case. He theorized that the killer was likely an experienced hunter with low self-esteem and a history of being rejected by women - and that he also likely had a stutter.

Although Robert Hansen had been cleared of the accusations several times before, it was impossible to ignore, he fit the profile almost exactly, he had a cabin in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, he owned a bush plane, he fitted the description, and he had a strong stutter.

The police quickly managed to obtain a warrant to search Robert Hansen's home, car, and plane. What they discovered shocked them to the core, the despicable horror that Hansen had inflicted on his victims was beyond belief.

How Robert Hansen Hunted His Victims

Back in Anchorage, Robert Hansen was a well-respected local business owner who was known for his bowhunting skills. He held several bowhunting records and his home was decorated with animals he had killed mounted on the walls, and cabinets filled with hunting trophies. However, no one knew that Hansen had been collecting "trophies" from those he had slaughtered for more than a decade.

Targetting mainly exotic dancers and sex workers from in and around Anchorage, Hansen would abduct the women and either drive or fly them in his privately owned bush plane out to his cabin in the Alaskan bush.

The woman that didn't fight back against him would be raped and then brought back to the town, he would threaten to return and kill them if they ever spoke of what he had done. The women that refused to cooperate with him suffered a fate of unthinkable horror.

Robert Hansen would take his victims deep into the wilderness, his preferred location was along the Knik River, this is where he would release the women, who for a brief period would be led to believe they had a chance to escape and make their way home. When they ran for their lives, hoping to reach safety, Hansen would track them, hunting them just as he would a wild animal.

Authorities sifting for body parts along the Knik River in Alaska in April 1984
Authorities sifting for body parts along the Knik River in Alaska in April 1984

Hansen would torment the women, chasing them through the wilderness for hours and sometimes even days at a time, armed with a large hunting knife and a .223-caliber Ruger Mini-14 rifle, once he caught up with the women he would shoot them just as he would game on a hunt.

In 2013 the story of Robert Hansen's 12-year murder spree was detailed in the movie Frozen Ground starring John Cusack as Robert Hansen and Nicolas Cage as the Alaskan State Trooper who investigated the murders.

The Sentence And Death Of Robert Hansen

While authorities were searching the home of Robert Hansen, they discovered an aviation map of the area that was hidden within the headboard of his bed. It was covered with tiny "X's" which showed the kill and burial sites of his victims - some the of "X's," matched the locations of where police had previously discovered bodies. In total there were 24 "X's" detailed on the map.

Douglas had stated in his psychological profile that he believed the killer would likely keep souvenirs of his victims. When searching the basement of Robert Hansen's house, police uncovered a collection of jewelry, within the collection was a necklace that belonged to one of the victims.

In 1984, whilst facing mounting evidence, Robert Hansen confessed to authorities that he had murdered 17 women and raped a further 30 women over a period spanning 12 years.
The "Butcher Baker" the true account of an Alaskan Serial Killer

As part of a plea bargain, Robert Hansen was only charged with four of the 17 murders he confessed to - authorities believe that he actually murdered more than 20 women.

Robert Hansen was sentenced to 461 years plus life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was initially imprisoned at United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg. In 1988 he was moved back to Alaska and served a brief period at Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau before being sent to Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward until May 2014.

Robert Hansen died on August 21, 2014, at the age of 75 at the Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage of natural causes and ongoing health issues.

Now you have learned about the horrific crimes of Robert Hansen, take a look at the story of Fritz Haarman the "Vampire of Hanover" who sold the meat of his victims.


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