Why is it that we as humans have a fascination with the macabre? Is it because it’s so far-fetched from our everyday lives? Or maybe because it’s a fascinating look at what can go horribly wrong in the human psyche. Serial killers are a prime example of this - they lack empathy, which sometimes leads to horrific crimes.
The following are some of the worst serial killers throughout history.
The films Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs were actually all loosely based on a real person, and that person was Ed Gein. Gein lived in a farmhouse in Wisconsin and was only ever officially linked to two murders of local women. However, in 1957 police found some disturbing things in his home: a collection of human skulls and even more horrifying, furniture and clothing made from human skin and body parts.
Harold Shipman was a notorious British doctor who murdered more than 200 people by injecting them with lethal doses of painkillers before his arrest in 1998. To hide the evidence, he would convince the families of his victims that there was no need to investigate their causes of death, and subsequently cremate the bodies. Shipman was caught when the local undertaker noticed that his patients were dying at alarmingly fast rates.
John Wayne Gacy was a master of deception. To everyone around him he was the friendly neighbor who threw parties and even dressed up as a clown at kids’ birthday parties. He was caught in 1978 when he was the last person to be seen with a missing 15-year-old boy. Police then searched his home and found the bodies of 29 boys who Gacy had raped and murdered.
Jack the Ripper might just be the world’s most infamous serial killer. He killed five women in the late 1800s in England. He mutilated their bodies in a strange manner, suggesting that he was quite knowledgeable about human anatomy. More chillingly, he was never identified, and to this day no one knows who he was.
Richard Ramirez, otherwise known as “The Night Stalker,” murdered more than a dozen people and raped and tortured even more in the Los Angeles area. Ramirez was a Satan worshiper who would often leave pentagrams at the scene of the crime. He was caught in 1985 and sentenced to death, although he would remain on death row for 23 years, eventually dying of complications of B-cell lymphoma in 2013.
Andrei Chikatilo was a Ukrainian serial killer during the days of the Soviet Union. He worked as a school teacher but received constant complaints about inappropriate behavior with the students. After he found that he was unable to find work at any school, he turned to befriending young runaways at train stations and bus stops. He would lure them into a nearby forest and rape and murder them. Chikatilo was found guilty in 1992 for the murders of 56 people.
Ali Asghar Borujerdi was the first reported Iranian serial killer of the 20th century. His family moved to Iraq when he was young. Starting when he was just 14, Borujerdi began assaulting and murdering teenage boys in Baghdad. He had murdered 25 people before fleeing to Iran, where he murdered an additional eight.
Ted Bundy was certainly one of the most notorious serial killers in American history, and it isn’t hard to see why. He was well-educated: he graduated from the University of Washington, but then went on to commit his first murder in Seattle in 1966. He traveled across the Pacific Northwest, killing more women, and eventually onto different states. He managed to escape police custody twice, and moved to Florida, where he committed his final murders. He even represented himself in court. He was executed in 1989 and the actual number of his victims remains unknown to this day.
Herman Webster Mudgett, or H.H. Holmes as he’s better known, was one of America’s first celebrity serial killers. He was a well-known con artist and was said to have murdered the owner of the pharmacy for which he worked, then taking it over. His most notable act, however, was his “murder castle” where he would lure his victims and transport them through trap doors and secret chutes. He used his house as a hotel during the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Needless to say, many of the guests did not make it out alive.
Also known as the “BTK Killer,” Dennis Rader was a master of deception, just like John Wayne Gacy. He was a devoted family and businessman by day, and killer by night. “BTK” stood for “bind, torture, kill,” and described what Rader would do to his victims. He often left clues for the Wichita police, which led to his arrest in 2005. He plead guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder.
The Green River Killer reportedly killed up to 80 women in Washington state in the 1980s and ‘90s. His victims consisted mainly of runaways and young prostitutes, whom he would bring back to his home, strangle, and then dump in the wooded areas nearby. His nickname came from some of the bodies turning up in the Green River. Ridgway was able to avoid the death penalty by pleading guilty and giving the police information on the whereabouts of his victims.
Pedro Rodrigues Filho might just be the most terrifying serial killer on this list. By the age of 18, he had already killed 10 people, with his first murder being at the age of 14. While serving time in a Brazilian prison for the murders, he killed his own father who was also in prison at the time for murder. The craziest part, however, is that he managed to murder 47 inmates while he was in prison.
Ahmad Suraji was an Indonesian serial killer who began his killing spree in 1986. He told police that he was inspired to murder after his late father told him in a dream to kill 70 women. He killed his victims while pretending to be a healer - he would bury them up to the waist, letting them believe that it was all part of the cure, and then strangle them.
Jeffrey Dahmer was known for sexually assaulting and murdering young men of color in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. The most horrifying details of his murders that he admitted in his 1991 trial were that of necrophilia and consuming the body parts of some of his victims. Police had also discovered disturbing photographs in his home of dismembered bodies and severed heads.