Billy Gohl

Ghoul of Grays Harbor, Billy Montana

Confirmed Kills
Suspected Kills
Total Possible Kills
Years Active
February 6, 1873
Died in prison
Alive or Dead?
Died in Prison
US States Operated
Info Box

Billy Gohl, a German-American, is among the well-known serial killers in American history who was charged with murdering many people. He was accused of killing sailors that traveled through the Aberdeen sailors union, Washington. Before he was apprehended in 1910, he was connected to several killings.

Recent research, however, has seriously questioned the claims made against Gohl. It is now thought that Gohl was unfairly held responsible for the fatalities, which were brought on by unintentional causes. Therefore, the killer(s)’ real identity is still a mystery.

Billy Gohl was given a life term in jail at the Walla Walla State Penitentiary where he passed away in 1927 after being spared the death penalty by the jury’s prayer for mercy.

The historian Andrew Goings contends that the multiple bodies found at union official Ghoul of Grays Harbor were the result of unintentional deaths brought on by hazardous circumstances on the docks and in the lumber business, despite subsequent research throwing doubt on the validity of the claims against William Gohl. 

Goings further contends that Gohl unfairly held union members accountable for these fatalities by important local merchants who wanted to get rid of a significant player in the neighborhood labor movement. Therefore, it’s probable that Gohl was falsely imprisoned in labor history and did not merit the life sentence he eventually received.

Early Life

Gohl is thought to have killed countless migrant laborers during his time working as a bartender. He is believed to have stolen the riches from these workers before disposing of their bodies, which were frequently discovered washed up on the coast.

A man and his wife’s disappearance, as well as arson, were among the other crimes for which Gohl was wanted. The case against Gohl was strengthened when a human skull was discovered buried next to one of his cabins.

Despite all of this, Gohl spent several years evading capture and conviction. He was eventually apprehended, prosecuted for his crimes, and given the death penalty. Gohl paid the ultimate price for his misdeeds by dying in the electric chair.

Gohl would frequently contact sailors who had just landed at Aberdeen’s harbor and inquire about any family or friends they might have nearby.

The subject of money and other things would then come up in his talk. Gohl would pick the sailor as his next victim if he was only passing through and had more than a little sum of money or goods.


  •  Peter Stogneff
  •  William Wiltshire
  •  Johnnie Johnson

The Union Building served as the perfect setting for Gohl to locate and kill victims. Soon after sailors disembarked at the harbor, they would approach the Sailor’s Union building headquarters, where Gohl would be alone in charge of the union building proved.

He had the chance to learn about the sailors’ money and to ask them personal questions. If a sailor fit Gohl’s criteria, he would murder them and take their money or valuables. The Union building was also convenient for escaping Gohl because it helped him conceal the evidence of his crimes.

Before Peter Stogneff went missing, one of Gohl’s victims, the killings were unsolved for years. Stogneff’s family started looking into his disappearance, and they ultimately found evidence that Gohl had been preying on seamen at Aberdeen’s harbor.

Gohl was detained and faced many murder charges. He was found guilty and given the death penalty.

In the union building, Gohl would shoot his victims, loot them, and then dump their bodies in the Wishkah River or highly profitable Grays Harbor.

According to some accounts, a chute from a trapdoor in the structure led directly into the river, but according to others, Gohl used a small launch to dump the dead in the harbor. Nothing was done to catch Gohl until an accomplice, John Klingenberg, was brought back to Aberdeen.

Gohl was suspected of being responsible for the enormous number of sailors who vanished after disembarking in Aberdeen.

Klingenberg, who had been an accomplice of Gohl’s in several murders, eventually led the authorities to Gohl. Klingenberg recounted how he and Gohl would find victims, kill them, and dispose of the bodies.

Klingenberg showed the police where he and Gohl had buried some of their victims. This evidence was enough to convict Gohl, and he was sentenced to death.


Gohl was spotted by Klingenberg with Charles Hatberg, a seaman whose body was discovered in the port soon after he vanished. Gohl killed Hatberg, according to Klingenberg’s confession, because Hatberg allegedly told a detective that Gohl had shot a cow the summer before. 

Even though he was suspected of many more murders, Gohl was apprehended and found guilty on two charges. He was sent to the state jail after receiving a life sentence.

The second count, in addition to Hatberg, was for the murder of John Hoffman, a witness to the Hatberg killing who was shot and wounded by Gohl the night of the crime and killed by Klingenberg the next day. Klingenberg received a life sentence as well.

In the same location as Hoffman’s body, a human skeleton was discovered, however, it is unknown if it belonged to Hoffman.

The body of Carl O. Carlson, which was discovered floating in the water, and other bodies discovered in the Grays Harbor region have been identified as victims of Gohl. Later, Gohl was sent to a facility for criminally ill people.

Gohl’s time in prison was short-lived, as he was sentenced to death and electrocuted in 1927. His last words were, “I am not guilty of any of the crimes I have been convicted of. I forgive all my enemies.”


Even though Gohl was only tried and convicted of two murders, it is believed that he killed many more seamen in the years he spent preying on them. The number of his victims will never be known for certain, but it is thought to be at least a dozen, and possibly as many as twenty-five. 

Gohl’s gruesome crimes terrorized the city of Aberdeen and left a lasting impression on those who lived there.

Billy Gohl’s story was the basis for a movie that was released in 1976. The film starred Kris Kristofferson and Sarah Miles. It was directed by Lewis John Carlino and adapted from the novel of the same name by Yukio Mishima.

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