|The Most Famous Serial Killers in History|
Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper is the best known pseudonym given to an unidentified serial killer active in the largely impoverished districts in and around Whitechapel, London, in 1888. The name originated in a letter by someone claiming to be the murderer that was disseminated in the media. The letter is widely considered to be a hoax, and may have been written by a journalist in a deliberate attempt to heighten interest in the story. Other pseudonyms used for the killer were "The Whitechapel Murderer" and "Leather Apron".
Attacks ascribed to the Ripper typically involve women prostitutes whose throats were cut prior to abdominal mutilations. The removal of internal organs from at least three of the victims led to proposals that their killer possessed anatomical or surgical knowledge. Rumours that the murders were connected intensified in September and October 1888, and media outlets and Scotland Yard received a series of extremely disturbing letters from a writer or writers purporting to be the murderer. One letter, received by George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, included half of a preserved human kidney, supposedly from one of the victims. Mainly because of the extraordinarily brutal character of the murders, and because of media treatment of the events, the public came increasingly to believe in a single serial killer, Jack the Ripper. Extensive newspaper coverage bestowed widespread and enduring international notoriety on the Ripper. An investigation into a series of brutal killings in Whitechapel up to 1891 was unable to connect all the killings conclusively to the murders of 1888, but the legend of Jack the Ripper solidified.
As the murders were never solved, the legends surrounding them became a combination of genuine historical research, folklore, and pseudohistory. The term "ripperology" was coined to describe the study and analysis of the Ripper cases. There are over one hundred theories about the Ripper's identity, and the murders have inspired multiple works of fiction.
Charles Milles Manson (born November 12, 1934) is an American criminal who led what became known as the Manson Family, a quasi-commune that arose in California in the late 1960s. He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit the Tate/LaBianca murders, carried out by members of the group at his instruction. He was convicted of the murders themselves through the joint-responsibility rule, which makes each member of a conspiracy guilty of crimes his fellow conspirators commit in furtherance of the conspiracy's object.
Manson is often associated with the phrase "Helter Skelter," a term taken from the Beatles' song of that name. At trial, and in his book about the murders (also titled Helter Skelter), Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi presented the theory that Manson considered the song a coded message to the Family, instructing them to prepare for (and precipitate) an apocalyptic race war. The confluence of rock music, hippie culture, and shocking violence held the nation's attention; eventually, Manson became a pop culture icon of insanity, violence, and the macabre.
At the time the Family began to form, Manson was a recently-released and unemployed ex-convict who had spent more than half his life in correctional institutions. Before the murders, he was on the distant fringe of the Los Angeles music industry, chiefly through a chance association with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. After his arrest, recordings of songs written and performed by him were released commercially. The Beach Boys themselves had already recorded one of Manson's songs, as Never Learn Not To Love, although without credit to Manson. More recently, artists including Guns N' Roses and Marilyn Manson have covered songs by Manson.
Manson was sentenced to death, but that sentence was automatically commuted to life imprisonment when a 1972 court decision briefly eliminated the death penalty in California and canceled all death sentences pending in the state. California's eventual reinstatement of capital punishment was not retroactive; Manson is currently an inmate at Corcoran State Prison.
Edward Theodore "Ed" Gein (August 27, 1906 – July 26, 1984) was an American murderer and grave robber. His crimes, which he committed around his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, garnered widespread notoriety after authorities discovered Gein had exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin.
After police found body parts in Gein's house in 1957, he confessed to killing two women, Mary Hogan, a tavern owner, in 1954, and Bernice Worden, a Plainfield hardware store owner, in 1957. Initially found unfit to stand trial, following confinement in a mental health facility, he was tried in 1968 for the murder of Worden and sentenced to life imprisonment, which he spent in a mental hospital.
If Gein was guilty of murdering only the person he was convicted of killing, he would not technically meet the definition of a serial killer, though his case influenced the creation of several fictional serial killers, including Norman Bates from Psycho, Jame Gumb from The Silence of the Lambs, and Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who operated in Northern California in the late 1960s. His identity remains unknown. The Zodiac killer coined his name in a series of taunting letters he sent to the press. His letters included four cryptograms (or ciphers), three of which have yet to be solved.
The Zodiac murdered victims in Vallejo, Lake Berryessa, and San Francisco between December 1968 and October 1969. Four men and three women between the ages of 16 and 29 were targeted. Numerous suspects have been named by law enforcement and amateur investigators, but no conclusive evidence has surfaced.In April 2004, the San Francisco Police Department marked the case "inactive" but re-opened it some time before March 2007. The case also remains open in the city of Vallejo as well as in Napa and Solano Counties. The California Department of Justice has maintained an open case file on the Zodiac murders since 1969.
Theodore Robert "Ted" Bundy, born Theodore Robert Cowell (November 24, 1946 – January 24, 1989), was an American serial killer active between 1973 and 1978. He twice escaped from county jails before his final apprehension in February 1978. After more than a decade of vigorous denials, he eventually confessed to over 30 murders, although the actual total of victims remains unknown. Estimates range from 26 to over 100, the general estimate being 35. Typically, Bundy would bludgeon his victims, then strangle them to death. He also engaged in rape and necrophilia. Bundy was executed for his last murder by the state of Florida in 1989.
David Richard Berkowitz (born Richard David Falco, June 1, 1953), also known as Son of Sam and the .44 Caliber Killer, is an American serial killer and arsonist whose crimes terrorized New York City from July 1976 until his arrest in August 1977.
Shortly after his arrest in August 1977, Berkowitz confessed to killing six people and wounding seven others in the course of eight shootings in New York between 1976 and 1977; he has been imprisoned for these crimes since 1977. Berkowitz subsequently claimed that he was commanded to kill by a demon who possessed his neighbor's dog.
Berkowitz later amended his confession to claim he was the shooter in only two incidents, personally killing three people and wounding a fourth. The other victims were killed, Berkowitz claimed, by members of a violent Satanic cult of which he was a member. Though he remains the only person charged with or convicted of the shootings, some law enforcement authorities argue that Berkowitz's claims are credible: according to John Hockenberry formerly of MSNBC, many officials involved in the original "Son of Sam" case suspected that more than one person was committing the murders. Hockenberry also reported that the Son of Sam case was reopened in 1996 and, as of 2004[update], it was still considered open.
Mary Ann Cotton
Mary Ann Cotton (October 1832 – 24 March 1873) was an English serial killer believed to have murdered up to 21 people, mainly by arsenic poisoning.
Nannie Doss (November 4, 1905 – June 2, 1965) was a serial killer responsible for the deaths of eleven people between the 1920s and 1954. She finally confessed to the murders in October 1954, when her fifth husband had died in a small hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In all, it was revealed that she had killed four husbands, two children, her two sisters, her mother, a grandson and a nephew. She has been given the monikers "The Giggling Nanny", "The Giggling Granny" and "The Jolly Black Widow".
Juan Vallejo Corona (born c. 1934) is a Mexican-born serial killer.
He was convicted of the 1971 murders of 25 itinerant laborers; men who had been found buried in shallow graves in the orchards of fruit ranches in Sutter County, California, along the Feather River north of Yuba City, where they did seasonal harvesting and thinning jobs.
At that time, these gruesome crimes represented the worst and most notorious serial murders in U.S. history. The local sheriff said even more men may have been buried in the area.
Corona was sentenced in 1973 to 25 life sentences. His second trial, in 1982, failed to render an acquittal and he was returned to prison to serve out his sentence.
Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo (October 16, 1936 — February 14, 1994) was a Soviet serial killer, sex offender, child molester and paedophile, nicknamed the Butcher of Rostov, The Red Ripper or The Rostov Ripper. He was convicted of the murders of 52 women and children, mostly in Rostov Oblast, Russian SFSR, between 1978 and 1990 (some victims were murdered in other regions of Russia and in Ukrainian and Uzbek SSRs).
Gilles de Rais
Gilles de Rais, Seigneur and Baron de Retz (1404 – 1440), was a Breton knight, the companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc, and a Marshal of France, but is best known as a prolific serial killer of children. He was born in late 1404 to Guy de Laval and Marie de Craon, but grew up under the tutelage of his maternal grandfather Jean de Craon following the deaths of his parents in 1415. De Rais' fortunes increased substantially with his marriage in 1420 to the wealthy Catherine de Thouars, and gifts of money granted him following the War of the Breton Succession. From 1427 to 1435, Rais served as a commander in the Royal Army, and in 1429 fought beside Joan of Arc in some of the campaigns waged against the English and their Burgundian allies during the Hundred Years War. In 1434–35, he retired from military life, dabbled in the occult, and depleted his wealth by staging an extravagant theatrical spectacle of his own composition.
Sometime between spring 1432 and spring 1433, the first child-murder occurred and was followed by similar crimes. The victims may have numbered in the hundreds. In 1440, Rais reacted violently in a dispute with a clergyman and the church conducted an investigation in which his crimes were brought to light. At his trial, the parents of missing children in the surrounding area and Rais's own accomplices-in-crime testified against him. The ecclesiastical court excommunicated him and the secular court condemned him, although the church reversed his excommunication when he confessed and repented shortly before his death. He was executed by hanging at Nantes on 26 October 1440.
Conspiracy theories involving the church in the death of Rais and speculation regarding witchcraft persecution have been put forth but without considerable support, especially by Aleister Crowley. Rais has had some cultural impact and is one among several candidates believed to be the inspiration for the 1697 fairy tale Bluebeard by Charles Perrault. His life is the subject of several modern novels, and the subject of various rock bands albums and songs.
Miyuki Ishikawa (1897 - ?) was a Japanese midwife and serial killer who is believed to have murdered many infants with the aid of several accomplices throughout the 1940s. It is estimated that her victims numbered between 85 to 169, however the general estimate is 103. When she was finally apprehended, the sentence she received was remarkably light considering that Miyuki's actions resulted in a death toll so high that it remains unrivaled by any other serial killer in Japan. According to a report of "Children's Rainbow Center", a writer referred the incident as "unbelievable and unbearable."
Javed Iqbal (1956 in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan - October 8, 2001 in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan) was a Pakistani serial killer who was found guilty of the sexual abuse and murder of 100 children. This is disputed now because 26 of the children he claimed to have killed were found alive after his death. The case stands officially closed but allegedly not well investigated.
Thug Behram, (ca 1765 – 1840) of the Thuggee cult in India, was one of the world's most prolific killers. He may have murdered up to 931 victims by strangulation between 1790–1840 with the ceremonial cloth (or rumal, which in Hindi means handkerchief), used by his cult. Behram was executed in 1840 by hanging.
While Behram is sometimes credited with 931 murders, James Paton, an East India Company officer working for the Thuggee and Dacoity Office in the 1830s who wrote a manuscript on Thuggee, quotes Behram as saying he had "been present" at 931 cases of murder, and "I may have strangled with my own hands about 125 men, and I may have seen strangled 150 more.
The case has led to legendary accounts of the Countess bathing in the blood of virgins in order to retain her youth and subsequently also to comparisons with Vlad III the Impaler of Wallachia, on whom the fictional Count Dracula is partly based, and to modern nicknames of the Blood Countess and Countess Dracula.
Harold Frederick "Fred" Shipman (14 January 1946 – 13 January 2004) was a British convicted serial killer and former doctor. He is one of the most prolific known serial killers in history with 218 murders being positively ascribed to him, although the real number may be twice that.
On 31 January 2000, a jury found Shipman guilty of 15 murders. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and the judge recommended that he never be released. The whole life tariff was confirmed by the Home Secretary a little over two years later.
After his trial, the Shipman Inquiry, chaired by Dame Janet Smith, decided there was enough evidence to suggest Shipman had probably killed about 250 people, of whom 218 could be positively identified. About 80% of his victims were women. His youngest victim was Peter Lewis , a 41-year-old man. Much of Britain's legal structure concerning health care and medicine was reviewed and modified as a direct and indirect result of Shipman's crimes, especially after the findings of the Shipman Inquiry, which began on 1 September 2000 and lasted almost two years. Shipman is the only British doctor found guilty of murdering his patients.
Shipman died on 13 January 2004, after hanging himself in his cell at Wakefield Prison in West Yorkshire.
Henry Lee Lucas
Henry Lee Lucas (August 23, 1936 – March 13, 2001) was an American criminal, convicted of murder and once listed as America's most prolific serial killer; he later recanted his confessions, and flatly stated "I am not a serial killer" in a letter to researcher Patrick Poff. Lucas confessed to involvement in about 600 murders, with an average of about one murder per week between his release from prison in mid-1975 to his arrest in mid-1983. A more widely circulated total of about 350 murders committed by Lucas is based on confessions deemed "believable" by a Texas-based Lucas Task Force, a group which was criticized by the Attorney General of Texas, Jim Mattox, and others for sloppy police work and taking part in an extended "hoax".
Beyond his recantation, some of Lucas' confessions have been challenged as inaccurate by a number of critics, including law enforcement and court officials. Lucas claimed to have been initially subjected to poor treatment and coercive interrogation tactics while in police custody, and to have confessed to murders in an effort to improve his living conditions. Amnesty International reported "the belief of two former state Attorneys General that Lucas was in all likelihood innocent of the crime for which he was sentenced to death."
Lucas's sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1998 by then-Governor George W. Bush. It remains the only commutation in Bush's entire history as Governor of Texas and the only successful commutation of a death sentence in Texas since the re-institution of the death penalty in Texas in 1982. Lucas died in prison of natural causes. Because Lucas' death removed the possibility of resolution in many instances, a number of questions remain unresolved. Some authorities—while admitting that Lucas tended to exaggerate his accounts and told some outright lies, and also recognizing that the Lucas Task Force engaged in some very questionable tactics—insist that Lucas was a viable suspect in a number of unsolved murders. Despite these factors, Lucas still maintains a reputation, in the words of author Sarah L. Knox, "as one of the world's worst serial killers—even after the debunking of the majority of his confessions by the Attorney General of Texas."
Lucas allegedly carried out many murders with an accomplice, Ottis Toole, whose reputation as a serial killer is mostly unaltered by Lucas' recantations.
Countess Elizabeth Báthory (7 August 1560 – 21 August 1614) was a countess from the renowned Báthory family. She is possibly the most prolific female serial killer in history and is remembered as the "Blood Countess" and as the "Bloody Lady of Čachtice," after the castle near Trencsén (today Trenčín) in the Kingdom of Hungary, (today's Slovakia), where she spent most of her adult life.
After her husband's death, she and four collaborators were accused of torturing and killing hundreds of girls and young women, with one witness attributing to them over 600 victims, though the number for which she was convicted was 80. In 1610, she was imprisoned in the Csejte Castle, where she remained bricked in a set of rooms until her death four years later.