Richard Kuklinski

History Uncovered Episode 43:
Richard Kuklinski, The Mafia Killer Known As ‘The Iceman’

Published September 29, 2023

Hitman Richard Kuklinski claimed to have killed some 200 people in ways that remain viscerally horrifying several decades later — but many believe that his story is largely made-up.

They called him the “Iceman.” And for years between the 1950s and the 1980s, Richard Kuklinski more than lived up to his reputation. This cold-blooded killer allegedly murdered dozens, if not hundreds of people in gruesome ways — sometimes for the mob, sometimes for fun — then froze the bodies to obscure the victim’s time of death and throw off police.

After he was finally arrested in 1986, Kuklinski wasn’t shy about bragging. He ultimately claimed to have killed between 100 and 200 people, using everything from icepicks to crossbows to chainsaws. He even once tied a man up inside a cave and let swarms of rats eat him alive.

Assuming the stories are true — and there is some doubt about that, as some mobsters claim that they never heard of Kuklinski — the “Iceman” carried out untold numbers of murder contracts for the mob, including feared Gambino family member Roy DeMeo. Because Kuklinski weighed 300 pounds and stood six-foot-five, he was an especially formidable and fearsome hitman. He allegedly executed hits with such enthusiasm that his associates called him the “devil himself.”

Richard Kuklinski

Public DomainThough Richard Kuklinski lived as a seemingly normal family man for decades, his true identity as the Iceman killer was finally revealed in the 1980s.

Because Kuklinski claims to have killed hundreds of people, exactly what he did — and who he did it for, if anyone — can be difficult to ascertain. But he seemed to be especially skilled at disposing of bodies, allegedly removing his victims’ teeth and fingers before dumping their bodies in places like mine shafts or the Hudson River.

Kuklinski also infamously froze some of his victims’ bodies so that the police couldn’t tell when exactly he’d killed them. Kuklinski later claimed that he’d picked up the technique from another contract killer named Robert Prongay, whom the police allegedly nicknamed “Mister Softee” because he had a day job operating an ice cream truck.

By the time Kuklinski died in prison in 2006, he had repeatedly and gleefully spoken of his murderous exploits — both those that really happened and those that he likely made up — with HBO documentarians, writers, criminologists, and more.

But what is certain is that, regardless of his actual body count, the Iceman remains one of the most terrifying figures in modern history.

Delve deeper into the twisted story of Richard Kuklinski.

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