The Crying of Gilgo Beach

Article by Shane Cashman

Will website detectives help crack the Long Island Serial Killer case?

I was once told by a woman who calls herself a witch that I was a prostitute in a past life — or, rather, in her own words: a woman of ill repute. I’m not normally one to put stock in this kind of thing, but when she told me that, I didn’t have to engage in a lot of mental gymnastics for it to make a strange sort of sense.

The woman’s words came back to me when I found myself compelled to investigate the unsolved murders of sex workers whose remains were discovered lined up along a lonely beach-town road. There were times it did feel like a past life had hijacked my brain, convincing me to fall in with an internet crowd trying to solve the Long Island Serial Killer case.

These sleuths are stay-at-home moms, taxi drivers, psychics, people on bed rest, bankers, and even a former Las Vegas haunted-house employee — dedicated amateurs who’ve spent years scouring the internet, looking for anything the authorities might have missed, anything that could lead to the capture of a canny killer believed to have been operating in the shadows for 20 years.

Early on, I told myself I wouldn’t become a desktop detective. I rationalized the time and energy I began directing toward this mystery by classifying my interest as basic human curiosity —

I just wanted to know who these people, these keyboard Sherlocks, were. It seemed worth looking into, journalistically — a varied group of Americans attaching themselves to a notorious serial-murder case.

And yet here I am, one cold January day, walking the shoulder of Ocean Parkway on a desolate barrier island off Long Island’s southern shore. I’m following a video map I found on YouTube, one that traces the steps of the killer, who used this stretch of road as a secret graveyard. The map shows where the perpetrator is believed to have carried his victims’ bodies, wrapped in burlap sacks, from a car and dumped them in bramble, mere feet from the road’s edge.

No one knew a killer had been depositing bodies and body parts in the South Shore region of Long Island when Shannan Gilbert went missing in the predawn gloom of May 1, 2010.

Ocean Parkway Road View

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