Mad Gasser of Mattoon: Folklore or Fact?

Some people assault others with guns, knives, or even their bare hands. But what about using gaseous fumes? Also, add to the mix the fact that it’s a serial gasser!

Welcome to the wonderful world of the “Mad Gasser of Mattoon” or his other names, including:

  • Gas Mask and Mad Gasser of MattoonMad Gasser
  • Mad Anesthetist
  • Anesthetic Prowler
  • Mad Gasser of Roanoke


Town folk in the areas of Botetourt County, Virginia and Mattoon, Illinois in the early 1930’s and mid-1940’s said that the “Mad Gasser” was a tall, frail man with dark clothing and tight cap. He was said to have been carrying a pesticide tool used for spraying plants. He also wore a gas mask to protect him from the gasses he’d spray at his victims.


The gasser was said to have struck before the initial cases were reported, but people were too scared to report due to the fact that they may be considered crazy by the people in their town.


The first report that was reported happened in Botetourt County, Virginia from December 22, 1933 until February 1934. During the late night hour of 10:00 pm, at the home of Cal Huffman, his wife began to feel nauseated after smelling an unusual odor. She described it as a “Sweet perfume odor” that made her vomit and become dizzy. About a half an hour later the odor returned prompting Cal Huffman to report the incident to the police. A few hours later, a third attack swept through the entire house. The gas caused headaches, tightening of the throat, and facial swelling. Cal’s daughter’s throat became so constricted that she stopped breathing and had to be administered CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) to be revived.

In Cloverdale, Virginia, a few days later on Christmas Eve, December 24th, Clarence Hall and his family left Christmas mass and returned home around 9:00 that day. They began to feel sick immediately and contacted the local police. The investigation found that a nail had been removed from a part of the house that the smell was the most potent and something was pushed through the hole so the gas could be injected.

A few more occurrences over the next few days were reported by Troutville, VA resident A. Kelly on December 27, and two cases were reported on January 10th, by Haymakertown resident Homer Hylton and G. Kinzie. Hylton reporting hearing two voices outside a window before smelling the sweet gas.

Things seemed to calm for a few years before returning in 1944.

Mattoon, Illinois

The gasser gets his name…

Mattoon’s slogan is “Working Together To Build the Future”. The current town’s people enjoy the parks, lakes, and the vast greenery that encompasses the city, but it was very different in 1944. In the early part of September the town was hit by gas. Not like when you’re watching the football game and you are hit by gas from all those nachos, but by the mysterious gasser. The local newspaper’s headline reads “Anesthetic Prowler on Loose”. The evening before, a local homeowner, Aline Kearney was attacked while lying in bed reading the paper. The sweet gas smell engulfed the room she was in and made her and her three year old daughter sick. Aline was hit so hard by the gas that it paralyzed her legs. She tried to get out of bed, but her legs would not move.

The police arrived after Aline’s sister, who was staying with her called from the neighbors house. The police found no evidence of foul play (the more things change…yada yada) after investigating. When Aline’s husband returned a little after midnight that night, he saw a prowler outside the bedroom window. He chased the prowler up the street, but the prowler escaped into the darkness. The police returned and found nothing (again).

I’m going to interrupt at this point to state the obvious. How in the world did the police find nothing each time they checked on this house? A tall, thin guy in black clothes and a gas mask disappears into the night without being seen by anyone? Were they even looking?

The mysterious man clothed in black was now known as “The Mad Gasser of Mattoon” and he was wasting no time in the gas business. He struck over a dozen times in a few weeks.

Mattoon Attacks Continue

Many more attacks happened in the days and weeks following the Kearney attacks. Some of the reports said that victims were attacked before Aline Kearney. The media was reporting that Nazi’s were coming to America and gassing people.

C’mon, really? Individual gassings as a way to take over a country?

Some people were reporting blue gas and a buzzing sound. Investigations were stopped a week later when after over thirty reports, no leads were discovered. Most victims were found to be all right after the initial attack.


The Llewellyn House

One suspect was reported near the end of the investigation. Farley Llewellyn was a chemistry student at the local college and was accused of being a homosexual. He was considered a suspect because the attacks occurred near his home. He was released as a suspect when the attacks happened while he was on constant surveillance.

Doesn’t that sound like a comic book villain? Imagine this: Farley Llewellyn was an unassuming chemistry student until a horrible accident turns him into “The Mad Gasser of Mattoon”. Can you picture the comic books, the action figures. Stan Lee talking about him as Spiderman’s deadliest foe?

Nothing has ever been found to be the source of the attacks and the official investigations dismissed the “Mad Gasser” theory as a scare tactic by local media.

Whether a mad gasser was the true culprit or not, it does make for cool folklore in the realm of Bigfoot or the Mothman.

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