Serial killers are those who murder at least two people in separate events that occur at different times. While “serial murder” is not formalized by any legal code, the crimes of serial killers have often been captured by the media and the public awareness especially in cases where there are many victims or the murders are carried out in a grim fashion. The following list explores some of the most famous serial killers the world has ever known.
Most Famous Serial Killers
Jack The Ripper
The first name that comes when the discussion on serial killers begin is Jack the Ripper. We call him “Jack the Ripper,” but we don’t really know who the person behind one of the older and most famous murder bouts was. The killer arrived in London’s Whitechapel district in 1888 and killed five women, all of them were prostitutes, and maimed their corpses. Police assumed the killer was a surgeon, butcher, or someone proficient with a scalpel. The killer taunted the community and the police by mailing letters describing the acts. Although many suspects have been named over the years, the killer has never been recognized.
One of the most famous serial killers, Jeffrey Dahmer killing in 1978, when he was just 18 years old and wasn’t caught for murder until 1991 after a would-be victim fled and accompanied police back to Dahmer’s Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home. It was there that some of the grim details of his life of killing were seen via photos of maimed bodies and body parts scattered across the apartment. He even had a container of acid he used to dispose of victims. In all, Dahmer killed 17 people, mostly young men of color. He served time in prison twice the first time for molestation and the second time for murder and was killed by a fellow inmate in 1994. He was also known as the Milwaukee Cannibal.
Harold Shipman, who is also known as “Dr. Death,” is considered to have killed at least 218 patients, although the total is pretty apparent closer to 250. This doctor practiced in London and between 1972 and 1998 worked in two different offices, killing all the while. He wasn’t arrested until a red flag was raised by several people, including an undertaker who was shocked by the sheer number of cremation certificates Shipman was a part of, along with the fact that most of the cases were old women found to have died in bed not at night but rather during the day. Police mishandled the investigation, and Shipman continued killing until he got greedy and tried to concoct a will for a victim that named him heir, which led the victim’s daughter to become skeptical. He was eventually sentenced in 2000 and committed suicide while in prison in 2004.
John Wayne Gacy
A construction worker recognized by his suburban neighbors as outgoing, John Wayne Gacy was involved in politics and even performed as a clown for birthday parties. Gacy came under doubt in 1978 when a 15-year-old boy, last seen with him, got lost. That wasn’t the only time families of missing boys had pointed fingers at Gacy, but it was the first time authorities took them sincerely. Shortly after, a search warrant allowed police access to the Gacy home, with the essence of nearly 30 bodies buried in a four-foot crawl space under his home. He was sentenced to 33 counts of murder, with further counts of rape and torture, and was killed by lethal injection in 1994. He went on to be known as the Burial King.
Chicago has had its share of serial killers, but maybe none more haunting than H.H. Holmes, the pharmacist who turned a hotel into a torment castle. Ahead of the 1893 world’s fair, Holmes relocated to Chicago and began outfitting a three-story hotel with all manner of evil contraptions, including gas lines, hidden passages and trapdoors, hallways to dead ends, channels to the basement, soundproofed padding, and torment devices were spread throughout a maze. The gas provided Holmes to knock out his guests before the worst of what was to happen came next, often on his surgical tables. He then burned the bodies in the building’s furnace, trading skeletons to medical schools and operating life insurance scams. In all, he copped to more than 30 murders which were discovered only after a fellow scammer turned him in for falling short on a financial deal. Then he was executed in 1896.
Pedro Lopez is one of the world’s most prolific serial killers and he might still be out there. Pedro Lopez is connected to more than 300 murders in his native Colombia and in Ecuador and Peru. At least one-third of those murders were tribular women. After Lopez’s imprisonment in 1980, police discovered the graves of more than 50 of his preteen victims. He was next sentenced to murdering 110 girls in Ecuador and admitted to 240 more murders in Colombia and Peru. The “Monster of the Andes” didn’t even spend 20 years in prison, as he was released in 1998 for good behavior. More than 20 years after his whereabouts remain obscure.
Ted Bundy was one of the most renowned serial killers and liked the attention his murders garnered him, and many in the United States were more than pleased to give him that attention. The western U.S. was his hunting ground, with an anonymous number of murders piling up, essentially college-age women from Washington and Oregon all the way to Utah and Colorado. Bundy was once imprisoned in Colorado and sentenced to kidnapping, but he fled custody, moving to Florida where he killed many times more. Bundy’s final arrest and its aftermath caught the attention of the nation, as the accused murderer appeared as his own lawyer when what is believed to have been the first televised murder trial, embraced interviews, and bragged of the fans he had built. He was ultimately electrocuted in an electric chair in 1989. He was also known as the Crazy Necrophile.
The Zodiac Killer
The killer created this name for himself in mocking letters he mailed to the Bay Area Press. He gave ciphers to be decoded and out of the four he sent, only one was clearly solved. The killer worked in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His last letter said: Me- 37 and SFPD (San Francisco Police Dept.)- 0. He declared to have killed 37 victims but the newspapers validated only 7. The case file is still open. David Fincher also made a movie about him called Zodiac.
Donald Henry Gaskins
Known as the Hitchhikers’ Killer, he has declared to have killed between 80 to 90 people by torturing and maiming them. He began killing in 1969, picking up hitchhikers on the coastal highways of the American South. A criminal partner saw him killing two young men and admitted to the police. He was convicted to death which was later turned to life imprisonment without any parole. Gaskins attached another murder to his name and became the only man to have ever killed an inmate on death row.
He got his name The Human Dracula due to his hideous acts. Some other names were The Otaku Murderer, The Little Girl Murderer, or Dracula Miyazaki. The cause for this being that he kidnaped little girls, killed them and indulged in sexual activities with their corpses. In one incident, he not only drank the victim’s blood but ate her hand as well. He also stored body parts as trophies and mailed postcards to the families describing the murder. His father committed suicide and Miyazaki was executed in 2008, aged 45.
Called the La Bestia (The Beast), the Colombian is apparently one of the world’s most harmful serial killers. He admitted to the torment, rape, and murder of 147 young boys. However, the number is considered to be over 300. He was pronounced guilty on 139 counts, which should amount to 1,853 years in prison. But Columbian law restricts it to 30, which is what he was convicted of in 1999. He may be released shortly for cooperation and good behavior.
The cattle-breeder from Indonesia, known as The Sorcerer, confessed to killing 42 girls and women between 1986 to 1997. As a part of his routine, he used to bury them waist-deep. Corpses were discovered in a sugarcane field with their heads facing his house, which he thought would give him more power. Suradji was convicted to death by a firing squad in 2008.
Known as the ‘Chessboard Killer’ and the ‘Bitsa Park Maniac’, his targets were homeless men whom he attracted to his house with vodka. He is thought to have killed 49 people, most of them with repeated hammer blows to their heads, and inserted a vodka bottle into the gaping skull wound. He originally said he desired to complete the number of squares on a chessboard and kill 64 people. Furthermore, it is considered that he was in competition with another Russian serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo, who was sentenced in 1992 for 53 killings. It was the very same year Alexander began killing.
Called the Butcher of Rostov, he said, “When I used my knife, it brought psychological relief. I know I have to be destroyed. I was a mistake of nature.” He was guilty of sexually assaulting, killing, and mutilating 53 women and children between 1978 and 1990 in Russia. After being arrested in 1992, he was commanded to be killed by a firing squad in 1994.
Charles Edmund Cullen
Known as the Angel of Death, he worked as a nurse in many hospitals but kept switching jobs as he was fired for unusual behavior from many of them. He admitted to murdering 40 elderly patients in New Jersey from 1984 to 2003. He did this by poisoning his patients to death with unprescribed medicine. He said that he desired to relieve the patients from their pain much like an angel would. Authorities say he had more than 300 victims. Cullen has been jailed for life.
Patrick Wayne Kearney
Called the Trash Bag Killer, he operated between 1975 -1977. Kearney had a high IQ but once arrested, he admitted to 32 murders of homosexual men. Kearney would discard their bodies along California highways and wrapped them in trash bags therefore earning the name. He was sentenced to 21 murders but was convicted to life because of his statement.
Amid 1974 and 1991, Dennis Raider killed 10 people in Wichita, Kansas. He even mailed letters to police mocking them under his nickname name BTK which stood for ‘Bind, Torture, Kill’. His method was to track his victims before bursting into their homes, binding their limbs, and ultimately choking them. He left in 1988 but remerged in around 2005 when he sent a floppy disc to the press which helped in tracing him. Raider admitted to his crimes and is serving 10 consecutive life sentences with the earliest release date possible on February 26, 2180.
John George Haigh
Known as the ‘Acid Bath Murderer’, Haigh operated during the 1940s. He was convicted for the murders of 6 people, although he declared to have killed 9. He was a professional conman, who attracted wealthy people by charm and deceit, into a warehouse where he killed them. Later he would dissolve their bodies in sulphuric acid then duplicate papers to trade their possessions and collect their life savings. He was convicted to death and executed in 1949.
Known as the Casanova Killer, Knowles applied his charm into making victims believe him and later killed them. He killed a total of 18 people, although the count might be more. His victims involved men, women, and children. Knowles who belonged to Florida was ultimately killed by an FBI agent in 1974 when he was attempting to escape.
Bonin was also known as the ‘Freeway Killer’. Amid 1979 and 1980, he raped, tortured, and killed at least 21 young men. Bonin would drop their bodies along freeways in South California. After being sentenced for 14 of his killings, he was killed by lethal injection in 1996. His cruel side was still observed during his prison sentence where he communicated with many of his victims’ families about how their children responded to his torture.
There has been a Charlize Theron starrer movie called ‘Monster’ based on Aileen Wuornos’s life. While working as a prostitute, Aileen killed seven men in Florida for their money and admitted to shooting them, declaring all of them had either raped or tried to rape her. She died in 1992 by lethal injection.
Tommy Lynn Sells
Tommy Lynn Sells is possibly the most dangerous Texan in history. He declared to have killed at least 70 people. He viciously killed people between 1985 and 1999 including stabbing a 13-year-old girl 16 times. Sells burst into the bedroom of a 10-year-old girl, stabbing her, and abandoned her to die. Still notwithstanding her injures, she managed to withstand and provided a detailed description of Sells to the police. He was convicted to death & continues on death row in a high-security prison in Texas.
Pedro Rodriguez Filho
Known as the Brazilian Maniac, Pedro was arrested in 1973 and later convicted in 2003 for the murder of at least 71 people. He was then sentenced to 128 years of imprisonment. He was just 14 when he committed his first killing. He wreaked destruction on local drug dealers, in vengeance for his girlfriend’s killing while he was jailed. In prison, he even killed his own father, who was also serving time for murder. Filho went onto kill at least 47 inmates while imprisoned. His continued killings have driven his sentence to be extended to 400 years imprisonment.
Edmund Emil Kemper III is an American serial killer, rapist, cannibal, and necrophile who killed ten people, including his paternal grandparents and mother. He is remarked for his large size, at 6 feet 9 inches, and for his high intellect, possessing an IQ of 145. Kemper is still behind bars and is serving his eight life sentences in the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. He supposedly relishes his life in prison and has so far rejected his right to parole hearings since 1985.
Charles Milles Manson was an American criminal and cult leader. In mid-1967, he created what became known as the “Manson Family”, a quasi-commune based in California. His disciples performed a series of nine murders at four locations in July and August 1969. Manson had been serving his life sentence at Corcoran State Prison, where he’d been imprisoned since 1989. He was refused parole regularly over the years. He died on November 19, 2017.
We are sure that reading about these notorious serial killers would have given you goosebumps. If you have the guts and stomach for reading more of such stuff, click on this link to read about some gory movies.