Throughout history, the world has been plagued by some of the most heinous acts of violence imaginable. Behind these acts lurk the worst of human kind - the serial killers. Ted Bundy, Harold Shipman, Andrei Chikatilo, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Albert Fish are just a few of the names that have struck fear into the hearts of millions. This article delves into the chilling crimes committed by these individuals and many others, shedding light on the darkest corners of the human psyche. From the unidentified terror known as Jack the Ripper, to the monstrous acts of Pedro López, prepare to be horrified and intrigued by these infamous figures.
Ted Bundy (1946-1989)One does not need to be an American or have experienced life in the 1970s to be familiar with the name Ted Bundy.
Bundy undoubtedly stands out as one of the most disturbed serial killers (not to mention kidnappers, rapists, burglars, and necrophiles) in history. His method consisted of abducting his female victims, sexually assaulting them, and then dismembering their bodies. He would often keep their heads as macabre mementos.
Prior to his execution in 1989, Bundy confessed to kidnapping and murdering 30 women, although the actual number is believed to be much higher.
Harold Shipman (1946-2004)Harold Shipman, famously known as "Doctor Death," is suspected of having caused the deaths of 218 of his patients between 1972 and 1998. The true number of his victims is likely even more staggering.
As a practicing physician, Shipman had convenient access to potential victims, enabling him to carry out his lethal spree without arousing suspicion.
However, due to Shipman's involvement in numerous cases where patients inexplicably died, people began to grow suspicious. Most of his victims were elderly women, whom he claimed passed away in their sleep. However, it was noted that many of these deaths occurred during daytime, a fact that struck some as peculiar. Moreover, Shipman requested an unusually high number of cremation certificates, drawing the attention of an undertaker who reported the suspicious circumstances surrounding the cremations.
Ultimately, Shipman was convicted in 2000, thanks in part to a report filed by the daughter of one of his victims who stated that he had attempted to draft a will on behalf of the deceased, naming himself as the beneficiary. Shipman took his own life while incarcerated in 2004.
Andrei Chikatilo (1936-1994)Between 1978 and 1990, Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo committed sexual assaults, murders, and mutilations on over 50 young women and children. Chikatilo's preferred method of killing involved stabbing and slashing his victims with a knife, some of whom were as young as nine years old.
Chikatilo later confessed that he was only able to achieve sexual gratification through the act of stabbing women, a compulsion that made it nearly impossible for him to resist his strong homicidal desires.
Chikatilo earned a reputation under several aliases, including the "Butcher of Rostov," the "Red Ripper," and the "Rostov Ripper." He admitted to the gruesome murders of a total of 56 victims, although he was tried and sentenced for 53. Chikatilo met his end in 1994 when he faced a firing squad and was executed.
Jeffrey Dahmer (1960-1994)No compilation of the most disturbed serial killers can exclude Jeffrey Dahmer from its ranks.
Dahmer, infamously known as the Milwaukee Cannibal, ultimately received convictions for the murder of 17 young men over a span of 14 years. However, Dahmer's crimes extended beyond murder, as he also committed acts of rape, dismemberment, and even cannibalism against his victims.
During his trial, Dahmer even confessed to drilling holes into the heads of his victims in an attempt to transform them into compliant, unthinking sex slaves. Although it is likely that Dahmer would have been sentenced to death for his abhorrent deeds, he met his own demise when he was beaten to death in prison in 1994.
Albert Fish (1870-1936)When a serial killer garners nicknames such as "The Brooklyn Vampire," "The Moon Maniac," "The Werewolf of Wysteria," "The Gray Man," and "The Boogey Man," it is evident that their sheer madness is undeniable.
Fish was tried, convicted, and found guilty of raping, murdering, and cannibalizing three children in the early 1900s. However, he claimed to have taken the lives of around 100 children. He even boasted about having "children in every state."
What truly exhibits Fish's derangement is the fact that he wrote a letter to the mother of one of his victims, a 10-year-old named Grace Budd. In this letter, Fish meticulously described how he enticed the innocent girl, strangled her, and then proceeded to dismember her body over a period of nine days, relishing in his horrifying acts.
John Wayne Gacy (1942-1994)There are different degrees of derangement, and John Wayne Gacy, the infamous serial killer, squarely resides in the most chilling category.
Gacy, nicknamed the "Killer Clown," due to his role as "Pogo the Clown" at children's parties and charitable events, used this occupation as a means to effortlessly gain access to his victims.
Over a span of six years, Gacy was convicted of the rape, torture, and murder of 33 teenage boys. He would entice them to his home, where he would strangle or asphyxiate them before burying their remains on his property. Gacy met his own demise in 1994, when he was executed for his heinous crimes.
Jack the Ripper (Unidentified Serial Killer ∼1888)Jack the Ripper is a name that has become universally recognized, yet the true identity of the perpetrator behind these gruesome crimes remains shrouded in uncertainty. Whoever this individual may have been, Jack the Ripper was undoubtedly deranged.
In 1888, Jack the Ripper spread terror throughout London's Whitechapel neighborhood by slashing the throats and abdomens of at least five prostitutes, leaving them for dead. On occasion, he would even remove the uterus of his victims, treating it as a grotesque trophy.
While it is highly unlikely that Jack the Ripper's true identity will ever be fully uncovered, "ripperology" - the study and analysis of these murders - has spawned countless speculative novels and films over the years, fueling discussions surrounding the enigma that is Jack the Ripper.
Joachim Kroll (1933-1991)Joachim Kroll, a German serial killer, committed the heinous acts of murdering at least 14 individuals, including young children, between 1955 and 1976. Kroll's modus operandi involved strangled his victims using nothing but his bare hands, after which he engaged in necrophilic acts and then dismembered their bodies for consumption.
Interestingly, Kroll's reign of terror finally ended when a neighbor noticed plumbing issues and reported a blockage. Authorities discovered that the pipes were clogged with human remains.
Upon his arrest, Kroll was in the process of cooking body parts taken from his latest victim, a 4-year-old named Marion Ketter.
Pedro López (1948-)Pedro López's series of deranged killings is horrifying enough, but what is even more atrocious is the fact that López's current whereabouts remain unknown.
This Colombian native claims responsibility for raping and murdering upwards of 300 women across Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, with around 100 of his victims belonging to indigenous tribes.
In 1980, the "Monster of the Andes" was apprehended and provided authorities with the locations of 53 grave sites containing the remains of girls between the ages of nine and twelve.
López was convicted of 110 murders in Ecuador, and he confessed to an additional 240 killings in Colombia and Peru. He was subsequently declared insane. Shockingly, López was released in 1998 on the grounds of "good behavior," and while there are widespread rumors, his precise whereabouts today remain unconfirmed.
Gilles de Rais (1404-1440)Gilles de Rais, a wealthy knight and lord who was hailed as a leader in the French army and fought alongside Joan of Arc, was also a profoundly disturbed serial killer.
Between 1432 and 1433, Gilles engaged in the sodomization and subsequent murder (or ordering the murder) of at least 40 children. Decomposing naked bodies of numerous young boys were discovered at his estate in 1437.
A 1971 biography delved into the chilling manner in which Gilles lured these boys to their tragic fate. He would dress them in elegant attire, treat them to a lavish feast, and indulge them with copious amounts of wine. Eventually, Gilles would confront each child, revealing the true horror of their situation, before proceeding to snuff out their innocent lives.
Richard Ramirez (1960-2013)For more than a year during the 1980s, Richard Ramirez instilled fear in countless neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles.
With the moniker of the "Night Stalker," Ramirez would invade homes, brutally slaying the inhabitants, sometimes subjecting them to sexual assault prior to their deaths. His victims ranged from individuals in their early twenties to a 79-year-old woman. Ramirez used a variety of weapons, including handguns, knives, a tire iron, a machete, and even a hammer.
Throughout his proceedings, Ramirez never showed the slightest hint of remorse for his appalling crimes. He was handed a death sentence; however, he succumbed to lymphoma before the execution could be carried out.
Dennis RaderTravis Heying / Getty Images In January 2022, a new documentary delved into the origins, motivations, and eventual capture of Dennis Rader, also known as the "BTK Killer," who sowed terror in Witchita, Kansas, commencing in the mid-1970s.
"I led a seemingly conventional life, yet my thoughts concealed a disturbing darkness," Rader shared in the documentary that aired on A&E at the beginning of January.
Over the course of a 17-year rampage, which ceased in 1991, Rader was linked to ten murders.
In the accompanying photo, Dennis Rader is seen on a video screen during his first court appearance, which took place on March 1, 2005 in Wichita.
Robert Lee YatesSpokane Police Robert Lee Yates confessed to the murders of 13 women in Spokane, Washington. After killing his victims, he would dispose of their bodies in remote rural areas. He was later convicted of two additional murders.
Yates's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after the abolition of the death penalty in the state.
Chester TurnerCalifornia Department of Corrections Chester Turner was found guilty of murdering 14 individuals in Los Angeles during the 1980s and 1990s. Most of his victims endured rape and strangulation.
Prosecutors labeled Turner as "one of the most prolific serial killers in the city's history." He currently resides on death row.
Randy Steven KraftFair use Randy Steven Kraft, known as the "Scorecard Killer," committed the depraved acts of drugging, raping, torturing, and murdering at least 16 young men between 1972 and 1983. The majority of these murders occurred in California.
Kraft earned his nickname due to the eerie list he left behind, chronicling his victims. Investigators deduced that Kraft had potentially killed 67 men based on this list and other evidence, although he was only convicted for 16 murders. Currently, he resides on death row.
Charles Ray HatcherBettendorf Iowa Police Department Charles Ray Hatcher raped and murdered no fewer than 16 individuals, primarily young men and boys, across Missouri, California, and Illinois between 1969 and 1982.
He ultimately took his own life while in prison.
The Zebra KillingsHandout From October 1973 to April 1974, a wave of racially motivated murders unleashed fear in San Francisco. These crimes became known as the "Zebra Killings," named after the police radio band that was dedicated to investigating these killings.
Ultimately, Manuel Moore, Larry Green, Jessie Lee Cooks, and J.C.X. Simon were convicted of taking the lives of 15 individuals. They referred to themselves as the "Death Angels," while law enforcement authorities labeled them as a cult.
The Death AngelsBettmann The Death Angels struck fear into the hearts of San Francisco residents for a total of 179 days.
In this photograph, taken on May 1, 1974, Mayor Joseph Alioto addresses the public during a press conference, revealing that the murders in San Francisco were part of a conspiracy orchestrated by an unknown cult.
Carroll ColePolice mugshot Carroll Cole, between 1948 and 1980, committed a minimum of 15 strangulations, including that of a young boy. He willingly confessed to these acts, admitting that there might have been more killings since he was typically intoxicated during those times. The state executed him in 1985.
Randall WoodfieldFair use Randall Woodfield, also known as "The I-5 Killer," was linked to 18 murders spanning Washington, Oregon, and California from 1979 to 1981. It is suspected that he may have had up to 44 victims. He gained notoriety for sexually assaulting his female victims. Woodfield is currently serving a life sentence at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem.
Paul John KnowlesAP After escaping from prison in 1974, Paul John Knowles embarked on a killing spree that claimed the lives of 20 individuals across the United States. His murderous rampage came to an end when a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent fatally shot him after Knowles attempted to shoot a sheriff.
Samuel MasonPublic Domain Captain Samuel Mason, a Virginian who fought in the American Revolutionary War, assumed leadership of the Mason Gang following the war. Along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, this group of river pirates was held responsible for the deaths of at least 20 people.
Larry EylerPolice mugshot Convicted of murdering a 15-year-old boy, Larry Eyler confessed to at least 21 additional killings of young men and boys across five states between 1982 and 1984. Eyler exhibited extreme violence during the sexual acts with his victims. He succumbed to AIDS-related complications while on death row in 1994.
William BoninThe prosecuting attorney in William Bonin's trial described him as "the most arch-evil person who ever existed." In just a year, from 1979 to 1980, Bonin took the lives of between 21 and 36 people. He gained the moniker "the Freeway Killer" due to his habit of abandoning the victims' bodies along California's freeways. Law enforcement already had knowledge of Bonin as they had previously convicted him for sexual assault and the murder of a young hitchhiker in 1979. Despite committing another act of molestation that should have resulted in his return to prison, a clerical error spared him, leading to police surveillance. Williams was eventually apprehended and spent numerous years on death row until his execution by lethal injection in 1996.
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Coral Eugene WattsCARLOS OSORIO/AP Carl "Coral" Eugene Watts, also known as "The Sunday Morning Slasher," committed at least 14 officially recognized murders between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s. Authorities suspected him of up to 100 additional murders in total. In this 2004 photo, Watts awaits the closing arguments during his murder trial in Pontiac, Michigan.
Wayne WilliamsFBI Wayne Williams was convicted in 1982 for killing two adult men; however, the Atlanta Police Department concluded that Williams was responsible for at least 23 killings that terrorized the city. Referred to as the Atlanta Child Murders case, these crimes claimed the lives of at least 28 African American children and young adults in the Atlanta area. The cessation of the murders coincided with Williams's imprisonment. While serving a life sentence, he maintains his innocence.
Earle NelsonDuring 1926 and 1927, Earle Nelson committed over 22 homicides across the United States. Nelson often targeted unsuspecting landladies, posing as a prospective renter. His spree came to an end in June 1927, in Canada, where he murdered his final two victims. The husband of Emily Patterson, one of his last victims, discovered her lifeless body beneath their bed, triggering an investigation that led to Nelson's capture. Canadian authorities swiftly sentenced Nelson to death, and he was hanged in January of the following year.
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Ronald Joseph DominiqueAlex Brandon/AP Ronald Joseph Dominique confessed to the rape and murder of at least 23 men in Louisiana over a span of ten years, beginning in 1997. Believing it would help him avoid capture, Dominique claimed he resorted to killing his victims. He is currently serving a life sentence in prison.
Belle GunnessAP Belle Gunness, a Norwegian-born American, engaged in a spree of serial killing from 1884 to 1908 in Illinois and Indiana. She is believed to have murdered 14 individuals, predominantly men whom she enticed to her Indiana home with promises of marriage.
Juan Corona/ AP Mexican national Juan Corona was convicted of the murders of 25 individuals. Their bodies were discovered buried in peach orchards along the Feather River in Sutter County, California, in 1971. All of Corona's victims were migrant farm workers. In this 1973 file photo, Corona acknowledges his supporters as he departs the Solano County Hall of Justice in Fairfield, California, after receiving a sentence of 25 consecutive life terms. In 2019, Corona passed away at the age of 85 due to natural causes in an outside hospital.
The Infamous Dean CorllResponsible for the notorious Houston Mass Murders, Dean Corll teamed up with two others (David Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr.) in the horrific torture and slaying of over 28 individuals during the 1970s. The media later nicknamed him the Candy Man due to his ownership of a candy factory and his habit of distributing confections to local children. In 1973, Corll tried to eliminate his accomplices, but Henley foiled his plan by fatally shooting him before he could execute it.
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The Gruesome Tale of Filipe EspinosaLibrary of Congress This 19th-century Mexican-American murderer was connected by authorities to approximately 32 killings in the Colorado Territory during the summer of 1863.
The motive behind this killing spree, which also involved his brother, Vivian, remains unknown. Eventually, a tracker named Tom Tobin located Espinosa, dispatched him, and brought his head, along with Vivian's, to Fort Garland, Colorado, as seen in this historical photograph.
The Notorious Donald HarveyAl Berhman / AP Dubbed the "Angel of Death," this former nurse's aide received multiple life sentences after confessing in 1987 to murdering three dozen hospital patients in Ohio and Kentucky during the 1970s and '80s.
In 2017, a fellow inmate named James Elliott faced charges for the fatal attack on Harvey.
In this photograph from September 1987, Harvey stands before a judge during his sentencing in Cincinnati.
The Disturbing Acts of Gary RidgwayEarly signs of Gary Ridgway's future as a murderer manifested in his adolesence. At the age of 16, Ridgway committed his inaugural assault when he enticed a six-year-old boy into the woods and thrust a knife through his ribs. According to court statements, Ridgway went on to kill an extensive number of women — many of whom were prostitutes and runaways — to the extent that he lost track. Gary Ridgway, famously known as the Green River killer, carried out these murders in Seattle. And though he has admitted to a significant portion of them, the exact tally of his victims remains uncertain. Presently, he is still alive and serving a life sentence in Florence, Colorado.
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Tommy Lynn Sells: A Savage TexanTommy Lynn Sells is arguably the most dangerous individual in Texan history. He claimed to have taken the lives of no less than 70 people. His spree of brutal murders took place between 1985 and 1999, and included the barbaric stabbing of a 13-year-old girl 16 times. Sells broke into the bedroom of a 10-year-old girl, injuring her with a stab wound and abandoning her to perish. Miraculously, she survived and provided authorities with a detailed description of Sells. He was subsequently sentenced to death and currently remains on death row in a heavily fortified prison located in Texas.
Alexander PichushkinNotorious for his involvement in the termination of somewhere between 49 and 60 individuals, the Chessboard Killer (born Alexander Pichushkin) stands as one of Russia's most infamous serial killers. He often enticed people to his residence with the promise of free vodka, only to murder them thereafter. Alexander's final victim, Marina Moskalyova, met her demise at his hands in 2006. By examining subway footage, the police identified Pichushkin as Moskalyova's companion and used this as pivotal evidence leading to his arrest and ultimate conviction. Pichushkin is presently serving a life sentence in prison.
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John George Haigh: The Gruesome Acid KillerIn the early 1940s, John George Haigh leased a small workshop in Sussex, England. Motivated solely by financial gain, he lured affluent individuals back to his space, only to shoot them in the head. The grisly part came next: Haigh would dissolve the victims' bodies in acid, leaving no trace behind. Haigh's final act as the "Acid Killer" ensued with the murder of Olive Durand-Deacon. After Durand-Deacon went missing, her friend reported the incident to the police, instigating an investigation into Haigh. During the search of his workshop, human gallstones and a piece of dentures belonging to one of the victims were discovered. Haigh was arrested by the authorities and subsequently faced trial for her murder. In a misguided bid to evade the death penalty, Haigh pleaded insanity, even suggesting that he consumed the blood of his victims. However, his defense failed, and the judge sentenced Haigh to death. On August 19, 1949, Haigh was executed by hanging at Wandsworth Prison.
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Elizabeth Bathory: The Bloodthirsty CountessBy some accounts, Elizabeth Bathory is regarded as the most prolific female serial killer in history. This Hungarian countess had an insatiable bloodlust and, between 1585 and 1609, allegedly collaborated with four accomplices to torture and slaughter young women and children for her gratification. Whispers of her heinous deeds circulated through high society, and it was her guardian, György Thurzó, who ultimately apprehended Bathory after reportedly finding one dead girl and another dying on her estate. Since her family held considerable influence, Bathory evaded trial but was confined in 1609. She eventually died of natural causes five years later.
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Albert DeSalvo: The Notorious Boston StranglerAlbert DeSalvo, known as the Boston Strangler, made headlines in the 1960s for a string of rapes and murders that established him as one of the most infamous serial killers of his time. DeSalvo confessed to the killing of 13 women after his capture in 1964. However, shortly after his transfer to a maximum-security prison, he was found dead from multiple stab wounds in 1973. The identity of his assailant remains unknown to this day.
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Charles Ng: The Disturbed MurdererBetween 1983 and 1985, Charles Ng (in tandem with his partner in crime, Leonard Lake) inflicted torment and death upon approximately 25 individuals at Lake's cabin in California. The cabin even featured a specially constructed dungeon where many of the murders took place. The duo's victims encompassed friends, neighbors, family members, and unfortunate strangers. "You can cry and plead, as the rest do, but it will serve no purpose. We are quite — ha, ha — unfeeling, so to speak," uttered Ng in one of the two videotapes showcasing their victims' torture and slaughter. Ironically, it was not Ng's murders that led to his apprehension, but rather his shoplifting endeavors. In 1985, Ng attempted to pilfer a vice from a San Francisco store. Suspicions arose when the store owner contacted the police after Ng's departure. When Leonard Lake returned to the store to settle the debt, the police grew skeptical of his identity since it did not match his identification card. Astonishingly, the person on the card was Robin Stapley, who had been missing at that time. The police subsequently searched the cabin, where they discovered incriminating evidence such as records and tapes of the murders. Ng fled to Canada, where he was arrested for a separate theft incident. Eventually, he was extradited back to California, where he faced charges of murder. At present, this 55-year-old individual awaits the death penalty.
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Luis Garavito: The Horrific Beast of ColombiaLuis Garavito, a Colombian serial killer aptly referred to as The Beast, confessed to the rape, torture, and murder of 147 impoverished boys across the country. When arrested in 1999, Garavito faced 170 counts of murder, with some suspecting that his actual tally surpassed 300. Despite the gravity of his crimes, he was sentenced to a mere 22 years in prison, as Colombian law at the time allowed a maximum sentence of 30 years. Additionally, since Garavito assisted the police in locating some victims' remains, his overall sentence was further reduced. Garavito is currently serving his sentence in prison.
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The Butcher of Hanover: Fritz HaarmannThe Butcher of Hanover, also known as Fritz Haarmann, mercilessly butchered at least 24 young boys in Germany between 1918 and 1924. It took two undercover police officers to finally capture Haarmann while he was engaged in a dispute at a train station with teenager Karl Fromm, whom Haarmann had previously raped. Fromm subsequently informed the police of this incident, prompting them to search Haarmann's residence, where they unearthed evidence of his numerous murders. These killings were particularly gruesome among the annals of infamous serial murders, with Haarmann often mutilating and dismembering his victims, sometimes biting through their necks. He met his demise through decapitation at Hanover prison in 1925.
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Anatoly Onoprienko: The Beast of UkraineAnatoly Onoprienko, also known as the Beast of Ukraine, earned his moniker through the murder of 52 people between 1989 and 1996. After an extensive manhunt, the police finally apprehended Onoprienko in 1996. Upon arrest, he claimed that inner voices compelled him to commit these heinous acts. During his trial, Onoprienko narrowly escaped the death penalty due to Ukraine's recent fulfillment of the Council of Europe's regulations, which prohibited member countries from employing capital punishment. Consequently, he was sentenced to life in prison. However, he succumbed to heart failure in 2013.
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Sergei Ryakhovsky: The Moscow MenaceBetween 1988 and 1993, Sergei Ryakhovsky was behind the deaths of 19 individuals in Moscow. The majority of his victims were elderly women, and he had served a previous prison sentence for attempting to rape several older women. In 1993, while investigating a recent murder, the police stumbled upon an abandoned shack with a noose prepared for a forthcoming kill. A surveillance team captured Ryakhovsky, who subsequently confessed to the murders and received a death sentence by firing squad. However, a moratorium on executions in Russia in 1996 resulted in a commutation of his sentence, and he passed away from tuberculosis while serving a life term in a penal colony.
In the dark depths of humanity's history, these names resonate as the embodiment of evil and depravity. From the vile acts of Ted Bundy to the monstrous deeds of Jack the Ripper, the world has borne witness to the sheer wickedness lurking within the minds of these serial killers. As we reflect on their nefarious legacies, we must remind ourselves of the importance of understanding the depths of human evil. By studying these individuals, we hope to prevent such horrors from ever being repeated, ultimately making the world a safer place for all.