WARNING: This article contains descriptions of murders and links to photographs of the victims bodies. These are not just the standard notorious murderers; these are some of the most horrific killers to have been found guilty of their crimes. They are on this list either because of the nature of their crime, or the sheer number of their killings. Graphic images are marked with [!]. In no particular order:
1. Gilles de Rais, Born 1404 [Crimelibrary]
Gilles de Rais (a French nobleman) is considered to be the precursor to the modern serial killer. Before he began his killing spree, he rode as a military captain in the army lead by St Joan of Arc – though it is unlikely that she knew him. He was accused and ultimately convicted of torturing, raping and murdering dozens, if not hundreds, of young children, mainly boys.
According to surviving accounts, Rais lured children, mainly young boys who were blond haired and blue eyed (as he had been as a child), to his residences, and raped, tortured and mutilated them, often ejaculating, perhaps via masturbation, over the dying victim. He and his accomplices would then set up the severed heads of the children in order to judge which was the most fair. The precise number of Rais’s victims is not known, as most of the bodies were burned or buried. The number of murders is generally placed between 80 and 200; a few have conjectured numbers upwards of 600. The victims ranged in age from six to eighteen and included both sexes. Although Rais preferred boys, he would make do with young girls if circumstances required.
At the transcript of the trial, one of Gilles servants Henriet (an accomplice to his crimes) described the actions of his master, which were essentially:
Henriet soon began to collect children for his master, and was present whilst he massacred them. They were murdered invariably in one room at Machecoul. The marshal used to bathe in their blood; he was fond of making Gilles do Sillé, Pontou, or Henriet torture them, and he experienced intense pleasure in seeing them in their agonies. But his great passion was to welter in their blood. His servants would stab a child in the jugular vein, and let the blood squirt over him. The room was often steeped in blood. When the horrible deed was done, and the child was dead, the marshal would be filled with grief for what he had done, and would toss weeping and praying on a bed, or recite fervent prayers and litanies on his knees, whilst his servants washed the floor, and burned in the huge fireplace the bodies of the murdered children. With the bodies were burned the clothes and everything that had belonged to the little victims. An insupportable odour filled the room, but the Maréchal do Retz inhaled it with delight
Images: Castle of Machecoul
2. Richard Trenton Chase, Born 1950 [Crimelibrary]
Richard Trenton Chase (May 23, 1950 – December 26, 1980) was an American serial killer who killed six people in the span of a month in California. He earned the nickname The Vampire of Sacramento due to his drinking of his victims’ blood and his cannibalism. He did this as part of a delusion that he needed to prevent Nazis from turning his blood into powder via poison they had planted beneath his soap dish.
On December 29, 1977, Chase killed his first victim in a drive-by shooting, Ambrose Griffin, a 51-year-old engineer and father of two. Chase’s next victim was Teresa Wallin. Three months pregnant, Teresa was surprised at her home by Chase, who shot her three times, killing her. He then had sex with the corpse and mutilated it, bathing in the dead woman’s blood. On January 27, Chase committed his final murders. Entering the home of 38-year-old Evelyn Miroth, he encountered her neighbor, Don Meredith, who he shot with the same .22 handgun. Stealing Meredith’s wallet and car keys, he rampaged through the house, fatally shooting Evelyn Miroth, her 6-year-old son Jason, and Miroth’s 22-month-old nephew, David. As with Teresa Wallin, Chase engaged in necrophilia and cannibalism with Miroth’s corpse. Chase returned to his home, where he drank David’s blood and ate several of the infant’s internal organs before disposing of the body at a nearby church. A witness saw him leaving the scene where he left perfect fingerprints and shoe-prints – leading to his arrest.
On May 8 Chase was found guilty of six counts of first degree murder and was sentenced to die in the gas chamber. Waiting to die, Chase became a feared presence in prison; the other inmates (including several gang members), aware of the graphic and bizarre nature of his crimes, feared him, and according to prison officials, they often tried to convince Chase to commit suicide. On December 26, 1980, a guard doing cell checks found Chase lying awkwardly on his bed, not breathing. An autopsy determined that he committed suicide with an overdose of prison doctor-prescribed antidepressants that he had been saving up over the last few weeks.
Images: [!] A victim
3. Jeffrey Dahmer, Born 1960 [Crimelibrary]
Dahmer murdered at least 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991, with the majority of the murders occurring between 1989 and 1991. His murders were particularly gruesome, involving acts of forced sodomy, necrophilia, dismemberment, and cannibalism. Dahmer committed his first murder when he was 18, killing Steven Hicks, a 19 year-old hitchhiker. Dahmer invited Hicks to his house, and killed him because he “didn’t want him to leave.”
On September 25, 1988, he was arrested for sexually fondling a 13-year-old Laotian boy in Milwaukee, for which he served 10 months of a one year sentence in a work release camp. However, in 1988 there was not yet a law requiring offenders to register when convicted of a sex crime against a minor. He convinced the judge that he needed therapy, and he was released with a five-year probation on good behavior. Shortly thereafter, he began a string of murders that would end with his arrest in 1991.
In the early morning hours of May 27, 1991, 14-year-old Milwaukee Laotian Konerak Sinthasomphone (the younger brother of the boy Dahmer had molested) was discovered on the street, wandering nude. Reports of the boy’s injuries varied. Dahmer told police that they had an argument while drinking, and that Sinthasomphone was his 19 year-old lover. Against the teenager’s protests, police turned him over to Dahmer. They had no suspicions, but reported smelling a strange scent. That scent was later found to be bodies in the back of his room. Later that night Dahmer killed and dismembered Sinthasomphone, keeping his skull as a souvenir. By the summer of 1991, Dahmer was murdering approximately one person each week.
On July 22, 1991, Dahmer lured another man, Tracy (Traci) Edwards, into his home. According to the would-be victim, Dahmer struggled with Edwards in order to handcuff him. Edwards escaped and alerted a police car, with the handcuffs still hanging from one hand. Edwards led police back to Dahmer’s apartment. The story of Dahmer’s arrest and the gruesome inventory in his apartment quickly gained notoriety: several corpses were stored in acid-filled vats, severed heads were found in his refrigerator, and implements for the construction of an altar of candles and human skulls were found in his closet. Accusations soon surfaced that Dahmer had practiced necrophilia, cannibalism, and possibly a form of trepanation in order to create so-called “zombies.”
The court found Dahmer guilty on 15 counts of murder and sentenced him to 15 life terms, totalling 937 years in prison. At his sentencing hearing, Dahmer expressed remorse for his actions, also saying that he wished for his own death. On November 28, 1994, Dahmer and another inmate named Jesse Anderson were beaten to death by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver while on work detail in the prison gym. Dahmer died from severe head trauma in the ambulance en route to the hospital.
Images: [!] A victim, [!] Parts of another victim
4. Albert Fish, Born 1870 [Crimelibrary]
Albert Fish, also known as the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria and possibly the Brooklyn Vampire, boasted that he molested over 100 children, and was a suspect in at least five killings. Fish confessed to three murders that police were able to trace to a known homicide, and confessed to stabbing at least two other people. He was put on trial for the murder of Grace Budd, and was convicted and executed.
Fish was visited in prison by the mother of his victim Billy Gaffney to get more details about the death of her son. Fish said:
[I c]ut one of my belts in half, slit these halves in six strips about 8 inches long. I whipped his bare behind till the blood ran from his legs. I cut off his ears, nose, slit his mouth from ear to ear. Gouged out his eyes. He was dead then. I stuck the knife in his belly and held my mouth to his body and drank his blood. I picked up four old potato sacks and gathered a pile of stones. Then I cut him up. I had a grip with me. I put his nose, ears and a few slices of his belly in the grip. Then I cut him through the middle of his body. Just below the belly button. Then through his legs about 2 inches below his behind. I put this in my grip with a lot of paper. I cut off the head, feet, arms, hands and the legs below the knee.
In addition to this horrifying description, Fish confessed to eating parts of Billy:
I made a stew out of his ears, nose, pieces of his face and belly. I put onions, carrots, turnips, celery, salt and pepper. It was good. Then I split the cheeks of his behind open, cut off his monkey and pee wees and washed them first. I put strips of bacon on each cheek of his behind and put them in the oven. Then I picked 4 onions and when the meat had roasted about 1/4 hour, I poured about a pint of water over it for gravy and put in the onions. At frequent intervals I basted his behind with a wooden spoon. So the meat would be nice and juicy. In about 2 hours, it was nice and brown, cooked through. I never ate any roast turkey that tasted half as good as his sweet fat little behind did.
At his trial, several psychiatrists testified about Fish’s sexual fetishes, including coprophilia, urophilia, pedophilia and masochism. X-rays of Fish’s pelvis show needles which he inserted in to his skin for sexual pleasure.
Images: X-Ray of Fish’s pelvis, Closer view of the X-Ray, Cottage where one murder took place
5. Andrei Chikatilo, Born 1936 [Crimelibrary]
Andrei Chikatilo was a Ukrainian serial killer, nicknamed the Butcher of Rostov and ‘The Red Ripper.’ He was convicted of the murder of 53 women and children between 1978 and 1990. In 1978, Chikatilo moved to Shakhty, a small coal mining town near Rostov, where he committed his first documented murder. On December 22, he lured a nine-year-old girl to an old house which he bought in secret from his family and attempted to rape her. When the girl struggled, he stabbed her to death. He ejaculated in the process of knifing the child, and from then on he was only able to achieve sexual arousal and orgasm through stabbing and slashing women and children to death. Despite evidence linking Chikatilo to the girl’s death, a young man, Alexsandr Kravchenko, was arrested and later tried and executed for the crime.
He established a pattern of approaching runaways and young vagrants at bus or railway stations and enticing them to leave. A quick trip into a nearby forest was the scene for the victim’s death. In 1983, he did not kill until June, but then he murdered four victims before September. The victims were all women and children. The adult females were often prostitutes or homeless tramps who could be lured with promises of alcohol or money. Chikatilo would usually attempt intercourse with these victims, but would usually be unable to get an erection, which would send him into a murderous fury. The child victims were of both sexes, and Chikatilo would lure them away with his friendly, talkative manner by promising them toys or candy. In the USSR at the time, reports of crimes like child rape and serial murder were often suppressed by the state-controlled media, as such crimes were regarded as being common only in “hedonistic capitalist nations.”
In 1988 Chikatilo resumed killing, generally keeping his activities far from the Rostov area. He murdered a woman in Krasny-Sulin in April and went on to kill another eight people that year, including two victims in Shakhty. Again there was a long lapse before Chikatilo resumed killing, murdering seven boys and two women between January and November of 1990. He was finally caught when trying to approach young children whilst under police surveillance. He went to trial on April 14, 1992. Despite his odd and disruptive behavior in court, he was judged fit to stand trial. During the trial he was famously kept in a cage in the center of the courtroom; it was constructed for his own protection from the relatives of the deceased. The trial had a very disturbing atmosphere. The relatives kept shouting threats and insults to Chikatilo, demanding the authorities to release him so that they could execute him on their own. He was found guilty of 52 of the 53 murders and sentenced to death for each offense.
He was executed by firing squad (shot in the back of the head) on February 14, 1994 after Russian president Boris Yeltsin refused a last ditch appeal by Chikatilo for clemency.
Images: [!] Head of a victim, [!] Body of a victim
6. Joachim Kroll, Born 1933 [Crimelibrary]
Kroll was a German serial killer and cannibal. He was known as the Ruhr Cannibal (Ruhrkannibale), and the Duisburg Man-Eater (Duisburger Menschenfresser). He was convicted of eight murders but confessed to a total of 13.
On July 3, 1976, Kroll was arrested for kidnapping and killing a four-year-old girl named Marion Ketter. As police went from home to home, a neighbor approached a policeman and told him that the waste-pipe in his apartment building had blocked up, and when he had asked his neighbor, Kroll, whether he knew what had been blocking the pipe, Kroll had simply replied; “Guts”. Upon this report, the police went up to Kroll’s apartment and found the body of the Ketter girl cut up: some parts were in the fridge, a hand was cooking in a pan of boiling water and the intestines were found stuck in the waste-pipe.
Kroll said that he often sliced portions of flesh from his victims to cook and eat them, claiming that he did this to save on his grocery bills. In custody, he believed that he was going to get a simple operation to cure him of his homicidal urges and would then be released from prison. Instead he was charged with eight murders and one attempted murder. In April 1982, after a 151-day trial, he was convicted on all counts and was given nine life sentences.
He died of a heart attack in 1991 in the prison of Rheinbach, near Bonn.
7. Dennis Rader, Born 1945 [Crimelibrary]
Rader is an American serial killer who murdered at least 10 people in Sedgwick County (in and around Wichita), Kansas, between 1974 and 1991. He was known as the BTK killer (or the BTK strangler), which stands for Bind, Torture and Kill, an apt description of his modus operandi. Letters were written soon after the killings to police and to local news outlets, boasting of the crimes and knowledge of details. After a long hiatus these letters resumed in 2004, leading to his arrest in 2005 and subsequent conviction.
Using personal jargon for his killing equipment, Rader casually described his victims as his “projects” and at one point likened his murders to euthanizing animals by saying he “put them down.” Rader created what he called a “hit kit,” a briefcase or bowling bag containing the items he would use during murders: guns, tape, rope and handcuffs. He also packed what he called “hit clothes” that he would wear for the crimes and then dispose of. Rader bound, tortured, and killed his victims. Rader would strangle his victims until they lost consciousness, then let them revive, then strangle them again. He would repeat the pattern over and over again, forcing them to experience near-death, becoming sexually aroused at the sight of their struggles. Finally, Rader would strangle them to death and masturbate to ejaculation into an article of their clothing, usually underwear.
Rader was particularly known for sending taunting letters to police and newspapers. There were several communications from BTK during 1974 to 1979. The first was a letter that had been stashed in an engineering book in the Wichita Public Library in October 1974 that described in detail the killing of the Otero family in January of that year. In early 1978 he sent another letter to television station KAKE in Wichita claiming responsibility for the murders of the Oteros, Shirley Vian, Nancy Fox and another unidentified victim assumed to be Kathryn Bright. He suggested a number of possible names for himself, including the one that stuck: BTK
A sample of one of his letters:
The victims are tie up-most have been women-phone cut- bring some bondage mater sadist tendencies-no struggle, outside the death spot-no wintness except the Vain’s Kids. They were very lucky; a phone call save them. I was go-ng to tape the boys and put plastics bag over there head like I did Joseph, and Shirley. And then hang the girl. God-oh God what a beautiful sexual relief that would been. Josephine, when I hung her really turn me on; her pleading for mercy then the rope took whole, she helpless; staring at me with wide terror fill eyes the rope getting tighter-tighter.
Rader plead guilty and was sentenced to life in prison – a sentence he is currently still serving.
Images: [!] Bound neck of victim, [!] Body of another victim, [!] Clothed body of bound victim, [!] Bound in grave
8. John Haigh, Born 1909 [Crimelibrary]
John George Haigh (July 24, 1909 — August 10, 1949), the “Acid Bath Murderer”, was a serial killer in England during the 1940s. He was convicted of the murders of six people, although he claimed to have killed a total of nine, dissolving their bodies in sulphuric acid before forging papers in order to sell their possessions and collect substantial sums of money. He acted under the mistaken belief that police needed a body before they could bring a charge of murder. As a consequence, he was convicted through forensic evidence and executed on August 10, 1949.
After hiring rooms in Glouster Road, London, he bumped into an old wealthy boss William McSwann in the Goat pub in Kensington. McSwann introduced Haigh to his parents, Donald and Amy, who mentioned that they had invested in property. On 6 September, 1944, McSwann disappeared. Haigh later said he hit him over the head after luring him into a basement at 79 Gloucester Road, London SW7. He then put McSwann’s body into a 40-gallon drum and tipped sulphuric acid on to it. Two days later he returned to find the body had become sludge, which he poured down a manhole.
He told McSwann’s parents their son had fled to Scotland to avoid being called up for military service. Haigh then took over McSwann’s and when Don and Amy become curious about why their son had not returned after the war was coming to an end, he murdered them too. On July 2, 1945, he lured them to Gloucester Road and disposed of them.
Detectives soon discovered Haigh’s record of theft and fraud and searched the workshop. Police not only found Haigh’s attaché case containing a dry cleaner’s receipt for Mrs Durand-Deacon’s coat, but also papers referring to the Hendersons and McSwanns. Further investigation of the sludge at the workshop by the pathologist Keith Simpson revealed three human gallstones.
It was reported that Haigh, in the condemned cell at Wandsworth Prison, asked one of his jailers, Jack Morwood, whether it would be possible to have a trial run of his hanging so everything would run smoothly. It is likely his request went no further, or, if it did, the request was denied. Whatever the case, Haigh was led to the gallows by Chief Executioner Albert Pierrepoint on August 10, 1949.
9. Javed Iqbal, Born 1956 [Crimelibrary]
Javed Iqbal Mughal (1956?-2001) was a serial killer from Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. He claimed he killed 100 boys during an 18 month period. He had been arrested in June 1998 for sexually abusing 2 boys for money. He went off on bail, and began murdering boys shortly afterwards. Iqbal found boys on the street, charmed them into his confidence, and then drugged, raped, and strangled them. He then cut the body into pieces and put them in a vat filled with hydrochloric acid. Once all of the remains were liquified, he dumped them. He first used the sewer, until neighbors complained of an acrid stench. He then decided to use the Ravi River. The partially liquified remains of two boys, one of whom was named Ijaz, were the only ones found of Iqbal’s victims. He kept the rest in an acid drum outside his house. He also kept clothing and shoes as trophies of his crimes. When he got to his fiftieth victim, he started taking pictures of them.
No one had noticed the disappearance of the boys that Iqbal killed. Iqbal claimed that he could have killed 500 if he had wanted to. He reportedly said “I am Javed Iqbal, killer of 100 children … I hate this world, I am not ashamed of my action and I am ready to die. I have no regrets. I killed 100 children.”
From a letter written by Iqbal:
“I had sexually assaulted 100 children before killing them,” read the first placard. “All the details of the murders are contained in the diary and the 32-page notebook that have been placed in the room and had also been sent to the authorities. This is my confessional statement.”
Iqbal was sentenced to death by hanging, although the judge said he would have liked Iqbal to be strangled 100 times, cut into 100 pieces, and put him in acid. Before this sentence could be carried out, he was found strangled with his bed sheets in his prison cell on October 7, 2001. One of his accomplices, Sajid, was also strangled. Pakistani authorities say that the men committed suicide. Another accomplice had previously fallen to his death from a CIA window.
10. Ted Bundy, Born 1946 [Crimelibrary]
heodore Robert ‘Ted’ Bundy (November 24, 1946 – January 24, 1989) is one of the most infamous serial killers in U.S. history. Bundy raped and murdered scores of young women across the United States between 1974 and 1978. After more than a decade of vigorous denials, Bundy eventually confessed to 30 murders, although the actual total of victims remains unknown. Typically, Bundy would rape then murder his victims by bludgeoning, and sometimes by strangulation. He also engaged in necrophilia.
He would approach a potential victim in a public place, even in daylight or in a crowd, as when he abducted Ott and Naslund at Lake Sammamish or when he kidnapped Leach from her school. Bundy had various ways of gaining a victim’s trust. Sometimes, he would feign injury, wearing his arm in a sling or wearing a fake cast, as in the murders of Hawkins, Rancourt, Ott, Naslund, and Cunningham. At other times Bundy would impersonate an authority figure; he pretended to be a policeman when approaching Carol DaRonch. The day before he killed Kimberly Leach, Bundy approached another young Florida girl pretending to be “Richard Burton, Fire Department,” but left hurriedly after her older brother arrived.
After luring a victim to his car, Bundy would hit her in the head with a crowbar he had placed underneath his Volkswagen or hidden inside it. Every recovered skull, except for that of Kimberly Leach, showed signs of blunt force trauma. Bundy often would drink alcohol prior to finding a victim.
On death row, Bundy admitted to decapitating at least a dozen of his victims with a hacksaw. He kept the severed heads later found on Taylor Mountain in his room or apartment for some time before finally disposing of them. Bundy also confessed to visiting his victims’ bodies over and over again at the Taylor Mountain body dump site. He stated that he would lie with them for hours, applying makeup to their corpses and having sex with their decomposing bodies until putrefaction forced him to abandon the remains.
Despite having five court-appointed lawyers, he insisted on acting as his own attorney and even cross-examined witnesses, including the police officer who had discovered Margaret Bowman’s body. The Judge, when passing sentence said:
“It is ordered that you be put to death by a current of electricity, that current be passed through your body until you are dead. Take care of yourself, young man. I say that to you sincerely; take care of yourself, please. It is an utter tragedy for this court to see such a total waste of humanity as I’ve experienced in this courtroom. You’re an intelligent young man. You’d have made a good lawyer, and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. Take care of yourself. I don’t feel any animosity toward you. I want you to know that. Once again, take care of yourself.”
Bundy was executed in the Electric Chair at 7:06 a.m. local time on January 24, 1989. His last words were “I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends.”
Images: [!] Head of a victim, [!] Another victim, [!] Bundy after his execution
Notable mentions: John Wayne Gacy, David Berkowitz, Herman Mudgett