The world has witnessed many serial killers. The list of such people who have committed inhumane crimes is endless. But then there are some who have actually stolen the spotlight for the hideous crimes committed against humanity. Here are 27 most evil and notorious serial killers the world has ever seen:
1 | The Zodiac Killer: Still Unidentified
The killer fashioned this name for himself in taunting letters he sent to the Bay Area Press. He left ciphers to be decoded and out of the four he sent, only one was definitely solved. The killer operated in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His last letter said: Me-37 and SFPD (San Francisco Police Department)-0. He claimed to have killed 37 victims but the newspapers confirmed only 7. The case file is still open.
2 | Donald Henry Gaskins: The Hitchhikers’ Killer
The Hitchhikers’ Killer Henry Gaskins has claimed to have killed between 80 and 90 people by torturing and mutilating them. He started killing in 1969, picking up hitchhikers on the coastal highways of the American South. A criminal associate witnessed him killing two young men and confessed to the police. He was sentenced to death which was later turned to life imprisonment without any parole. Gaskins added another murder to his name and became the only man to have ever killed an inmate on death row.
3 | Tsutomu Miyazaki: The Human Dracula
Besides the ‘Human Dracula,’ Tsutomu Miyazaki got more names due to his hideous acts. Some of them were The Otaku Murderer, The Little Girl Murderer or Dracula Miyazaki. The reason for this being that he abducted little girls, killed them and indulged in sexual activities with their corpses. On one occasion, he not only drank the victim’s blood but ate her hand as well. He also preserved body parts as trophies and sent postcards to the families describing the murder. His father committed suicide and Miyazaki was hanged in 2008, at the age of 45.
4 | Luis Garavito: The Beast
Also dubbed by the media as the Le Bestia (The Beast), the Colombian is probably one of the world’s worst serial killers. He confessed to the torture, rape and murder of 147 young boys. But the actual number is believed to be over 300. He was found guilty on 139 counts, which should amount to 1,853 years in prison. But Columbian law limits it to 30, which is what he was sentenced to in 1999. He may be released earlier for cooperation and good behaviour.
5 | Ahmad Suradji: The Sorcerer
The cattle-breeder from Indonesia admitted to killing 42 girls and women between 1986 and 1997. As a part of his ritual, he used to bury them waist deep. Bodies were found in a sugarcane field with their heads facing his house, which he believed would give him more power. Suradji was sentenced to death by a firing squad in 2008.
6 | Alexander Pichushkin: The Chessboard Killer
Alexander Pichushkin was also known as the ‘Chessboard Killer’ and the ‘Bitsa Park Maniac’. His targets were homeless men whom he lured to his house with vodka. He is believed 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 initially said he wanted to complete the number of squares on a chessboard and kill 64 people. Also, it is believed that he was in competition with another Russian serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo, who was convicted in 1992 for 53 killings. It was the very same year Alexander started killing.
7 | Andrei Chikatilo: The Butcher Andrei
Andrei Chikatilo, also known as the Butcher of Rostov, 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 responsible for sexually assaulting, killing and mutilating 53 women and children between 1978 and 1990 in Russia. After being captured in 1992, he was ordered to be killed by a firing squad in 1994.
8 | Charles Edmund Cullen: The Angel Of Death
Edmund Cullen worked as a nurse in many hospitals but kept switching jobs as he was fired for suspicious behaviour from many of them. He confessed to murdering 40 elderly patients in New Jersey from 1984 to 2003. He did this by poisoning his patients to death with unprescribed medication. He stated that he wanted to relieve the patients from their suffering much like an angel would. Experts say he had more than 300 victims. Cullen has been imprisoned for life.
9 | Patrick Wayne Kearney: The Trash Bag Killer
Also called the Trash Bag Killer, he operated between 1975 and 1977. Kearney had a high IQ but once captured, he confessed to 32 murders of homosexual men. Kearney would dump their bodies along California highways and wrapped them in trash bags thus earning the name. He was convicted of 21 murders, but was sentenced to life because of his confession.
10 | Dennis Rader: Bind Them, Torture Them, Kill Them (BTK Murderer)
Between 1974 and 1991, Dennis Rader murdered 10 people in Wichita, Kansas. He even sent letters to police taunting them under his alias name BTK which stood for ‘Bind, Torture, Kill’. His technique was to stalk his victims before breaking into their homes, binding their limbs and finally strangling them.
He disappeared in 1988, but remerged in around 2005 when he sent a floppy disc to the press which helped in tracing him. Rader confessed to his crimes and is serving 10 consecutive life sentences with the earliest release date possible on February 26, 2180.
11 | John George Haigh: The Acid Bath Murderer
John George Haigh was also known as the ‘Acid Bath Murderer’ and operated during the 1940s. He was convicted for the murders of 6 people, although he claimed to have killed 9. He was a professional conman, who lured wealthy people by charm and deceit, into to a warehouse where he shot them. Later he would dissolve their bodies in sulphuric acid then forge papers to sell their possessions and collect their life savings. He was sentenced to death and hanged in 1949.
12 | Javed Iqbal: The Evil Pakistani Serial Killer
This Pakistani serial killer, named Javed Iqbal, was sentenced to be dismembered in 100 pieces, strangled in front of the victims’ family and then burned in acid, the same way he killed over 100 16-year-old boys. Before his execution, he was found dead in his cell, along with an accomplice on October 8, 2001. They had apparently committed suicide by hanging themselves with bedsheets, but there is speculation that they were murdered.
In December 1999, Iqbal sent a letter to police and a Lahore newspaper chief news editor Khawar Naeem Hashmi confessing to the rape and murder of 100 runaway boys, all aged between 6 and 16. In the letter, he claimed to have strangled and dismembered the victims mostly runaways and orphans living on the streets of Lahore and disposed of their bodies using vats of hydrochloric acid. He then dumped the remains in a local river.
Inside Iqbal’s house, police and reporters found bloodstains on the walls and floor, along with the chain with which Iqbal claimed to have strangled his victims and photographs of many of his victims in plastic bags. These items were neatly labelled with handwritten pamphlets. Two vats of acid with partially dissolved human remains were also left in the open for police to find, with a note claiming the bodies in the house have deliberately not been disposed of so that authorities will find them.
13 | Edmund Kemper: Big Ed
Edmund Emil Kemper III is an American serial killer, rapist, cannibal, and necrophile who murdered ten people, including his paternal grandparents and mother. He is noted for his large size, at 6 feet 9 inches, and for his high intellect, possessing an IQ of 145. Kemper befriended the very police officers investigating his murders and would socialize with them at a bar called the “Jury Room.” They called him “Big Ed” and never suspected him. When he initially confessed, they thought he was pulling a prank.
Kemper was indicted on eight counts of first-degree murder on May 7, 1973. He was assigned the Chief Public Defender of Santa Cruz County, attorney Jim Jackson. Due to Kemper’s explicit and detailed confession, his counsel’s only option was to plead not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges. Kemper twice tried to commit suicide in custody. Strangely, he apologized to one of his victims for accidentally touching her breast whilst he restrained her. Shortly after this he murdered her.
Kemper was first eligible for parole in 1979. He was denied parole that year, as well as at parole hearings in 1980, 1981, and 1982. He subsequently waived his right to a hearing in 1985. He was denied parole at his 1988 hearing, where he said: “Society is not ready in any shape or form for me. I can’t fault them for that.” He was denied parole again in 1991 and in 1994.
He then waived his right to a hearing in 1997 and in 2002. He attended the next hearing, in 2007, where he was again denied parole. Prosecutor Ariadne Symons said: “We don’t care how much of a model prisoner he is because of the enormity of his crimes.” Kemper waived his right to a hearing again in 2012. He was denied parole in 2017 and is next eligible in 2024.
14 | Robert Hansen: The Butcher Baker
Robert Christian Hansen, known in the media as the “Butcher Baker”, was an American serial killer. Between 1971 and 1983, Hansen abducted, raped, and murdered at least 17 women. Robert Hansen abducted his victims and flew them to his isoIated cabin in the Alaskan mountains. He then released them and hunted them with a knife and a Ruger Mini-14. However, he was charged with 4 murders. He then received a sentence of 461 years in prison. Hansen died on August 21, 2014, aged 75, at Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage, due to natural causes, lingering health conditions.
15 | Paul Knowles: The Casanova Killer
The Casanova Killer Also known as the Casanova Killer, Knowles used 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 included men, women and children. The man from Florida was eventually killed by an FBI agent in 1974 when he was trying to escape.
16 | William Bonin: The Freeway Killer
The Freeway Killer Bonin was also known as the ‘Freeway Killer’. Between 1979 and 1980, he raped, tortured and murdered at least 21 young men. Bonin would dump their bodies along freeways in South California. After being convicted for 14 of his killings, he was executed by lethal injection in 1996. His sadistic side was still seen during his prison sentence where he corresponded with many of his victims’ families about how their children reacted to his torture.
17 | Aileen Wuornos: The Monster
Aileen’s story allowed Charlize Theron to win an Academy Award. She played Aileen in the 2003 movie, ‘Monster’. While working as a prostitute, Aileen killed seven men in Florida for their money and confessed to shooting them, claiming all of them had either raped or attempted to rape her. She died in 1992 by lethal injection.
18 | Tommy Lynn Sells: The Most Dangerous Texan Killer
The Brutal Texan Tommy Lynn Sells is perhaps the most dangerous Texan in history. He claimed to have killed at least 70 people. He brutally murdered people between 1985 and 1999 including stabbing a 13-year-old girl 16 times. Sells broke into the bedroom of a 10-year-old girl, stabbing her and left her to die. But despite her injures, she managed to survive and gave a detailed description of Sells to the police. He was sentenced to death & remains on death row in a high security prison in Texas.
19 | Pedro Rodriguez Filho: The Killer Of The Serial Killers
The Brazilian Maniac Arrested in 1973, Pedro Rodriguez was later convicted in 2003 for the murder of at least 71 people and was then sentenced to 128 years imprisonment. Pedro is known as the perfect psychopath. He was born with brain damage from his father beating his mother whilst Pedro was in her womb. He was only 14 when he committed his first killing. Most of his victims were either serial killers or wicked persons in society.
Pedro wreaked havoc on local drug dealers, in revenge for his girlfriend’s killing while he was imprisoned. In prison, he even executed his own father, who was also serving time for murder. Pedro went onto kill at least 47 inmates while imprisoned. His continued killings have led to his sentence to be increased to 400 years imprisonment.
20 | Harold Shipman: Doctor Death
“Doctor Death” who killed 218 patients in the early 1970s in England. Dr. Harold Shipman, nicknamed “Doctor Death” after his horrific killing spree came to light, was sentenced to life in prison after killing over 200 patients. One of history’s deadliest serial killers was a married family man who managed to squeeze in 218 credited murders (and as many as 250) while working as a popular British physician. Harold Shipman began his murderous spree in 1972, and it’s believed he killed at least 71 patients while working at his first practice, and double that number at a second practice he joined after butting heads with colleagues who found him arrogant, brusque and overconfident.
Finally, in 1998, both a local undertaker and another doctor noticed the unusually high number of cremation certificates Shipman had signed off on. They also noticed striking similarities in the recently-deceased patients themselves; the majority were elderly women who were found sitting up and fully clothed, not in bed as would usually be the case with the gravely ill.
Despite these clues, this initial investigation was shoddily handled, allowing Shipman to kill three more times. Shipman’s luck ran out later that year, when the daughter of his final victim, lawyer Kathleen Grundy, claimed he’d not only killed her mother, but had also tried to create a new, fake will, naming him as her sole beneficiary. Unlike his earlier victims, Grundy had not been cremated, and an autopsy revealed lethally high levels of diamorphine (the drug Shipman used for most of the killings). He was formally charged with 15 murders, and was convicted and sentenced to life without parole in 2000. Shipman died in 2004, after committing suicide in his cell. He never admitted to any of the killings.
21 | Belle Gunness: She Married To Kill
Belle Gunness who killed up to 15 men for their insurance. The woman who became known as the “Lady Bluebeard” immigrated to America from Norway in 1881, settling in where she married a fellow Norwegian immigrant. The couple had four children (two of whom died young) and ran a candy store. By 1900, the store had mysteriously burned down, and Genness’ husband was dead. Although both happened under suspicious circumstances, Genness was able to collect multiple insurance policy payouts allowing her to purchase a farm in La Porte, Indiana. She quickly remarried, and just eight months later her second husband died.
Gunness claimed that he’d received a fatal burn from scalding water and had been hit on the head by a heavy meat grinder. While an inquest was held, no proof of foul play could be produced, leading to another hefty insurance payout. She then began placing newspaper advertisements in search of a third husband, with the requirement that potential suitors had visit to her Indiana farm. Several prospective suitors made the trek, only to disappear forever ― just one made it out alive, after reportedly waking up to see a sinister-looking Gunness standing over him. Nobody knows for certain just how many people Belle Gunness murdered, but it seems she herself met a grisly end.
In February 1908, a fire devastated the farm. Amongst the wreckage were the bodies of Gunness’ remaining children and the decapitated corpse of a woman. Although officials identified the remains as Gunness’, doubt quickly spread, as the body was much smaller than the tall, heavyset Belle Gunness. The search for her missing head (which never turned up) led to the gruesome discovery of almost a dozen bodies, including the missing suitors and several children. Ray Lamphere, a former farmhand that she had fired a few years earlier and later claimed was threatening her life, was arrested and tried for the crimes, but was only convicted of arson. Belle’s true fate remains unknown, although unverified “sightings” continued for decades after her death.
22 | Ed Gein: The Butcher Of Plainfield
The psycho serial killer Edward Theodore Gein supposedly murdered 3 people, eviscerating them and hiding body parts in his house. The man whose macabre and horrific acts helped inspire Psycho, Silence of the Lambs and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre grew up in an isolated area of. He was an abused child of an alcoholic father and a puritanical and domineering mother who instilled in her son a pathological fear of both women and sex. When his father, brother (many believe he was the murderer of his own brother) and mother died within a 5-year period, he was left alone at the family farm, where he eventually cordoned off parts of the house turning it into a shrine, of sorts, to his mother.
Thirteen years later, local police arrived at the farm, following up on a tip regarding missing hardware store owner Bernice Worden. They discovered Worden’s headless corpse hanging upside down from the rafters. Their search of the property revealed a hall of horrors that included human body parts turned into household items such as chairs and bowls, faces used as wall hangings and a vest made up of a human torso.
Many of these gruesome items were from already-dead bodies that Gein had stolen from their graves. Ed read books on human anatomy and Nazi concentration camp experiments. He was very interested in it all, especially the female anatomy. His grave robbing began in 1947, after two years of his mother’s death. But he had murdered one other woman in addition to Worden. He claimed that he was using the body parts to assemble a new version of his beloved mother. Gein was diagnosed with schizophrenia and declared unfit for trial. A decade later, he was convicted of one of the murders, but was declared insane at the time of the crime. He spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital. Read More
23 | H.H. Holmes: The First American Serial Killer
Dr. Henry Howard Holmes is regarded as America’s first-ever serial killer after he confessed to murdering over 27 people in his infamous Illinois “hotel” in the late 19th century. Holmes’ technique was to turn his hotel into a “murder castle” which was full of booby traps and torture devices where he would skin and dissect his victims.
24 | John Wayne Gacy: The Killer Clown
The Burial King John Wayne Gacy operated between 1972 and 1978 in Chicago, Illinois. He sexually assaulted and murdered 33 teenage boys and young men. Gacy would lure his victims to his home with the promise of work or money before murdering them by strangulation using a tourniquet. He buried 26 of his victims in the crawl space under his house and later disposed the bodies off in the Des Plaines River. John Wayne Gacy was charged with committing 33 murders. Gacy was later executed by lethal injection. To most of his suburban Chicago neighbours, John Wayne Gacy was a friendly man who threw popular block parties, volunteered in local Democratic politics and often performed as a clown at local children’s parties.
But Gacy, who had already served a stint in prison for sexually assaulting a teenaged boy, was hiding a horrific secret right beneath his neighbors’ unseeing eyes. In 1978, when a 15-year-old boy who had last been seen with Gacy (whose construction business the teenager was hoping to work for) went missing, police obtained a search warrant for Gacy’s house. There they found a class ring and clothing belonging to several young men previously reported missing. In a 4-foot crawl space beneath the house, where a penetrating odor was present, they were shocked to find the decomposing bodies of 29 boys and teenagers that Gacy had raped and murdered.
Gacy’s ex-wife had complained about the odor for years, but Gacy had chalked it up to moisture-causing mildew. Law enforcement also came under criticism, as the family members of several of the victims had previously pointed to Gacy as a possible suspect. In addition to the bodies found at his house, Gacy admitted to killing several additional men, disposing of their bodies in a nearby lake. His attempts at presenting an insanity defense failed, and he was convicted on 33 counts of murder. Gacy was sentenced to death and spent 14 years on death row before he was executed by lethal injection on May 10, 1994.
25 | Jeffrey Dahmer: The Milwaukee Monster
The Milwaukee Cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer was responsible for dismembering 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. Dahmer also indulged in necrophilia and cooking body parts of his victim, then eating them. He was eventually caught after a prospective victim managed to overpower him. Dahmer was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1992, but a fellow prisoner at the Columbia Correctional Institution killed him two years later.
Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested after police found the body parts of 11 men in his Milwaukee apartment. Dahmer committed his first murder in 1978, when he was just 18. He would go on killing until his arrest in 1991, after an African American man escaped his clutches and hailed down police near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When the victim led police back to his captor’s apartment, they discovered photographs of dismembered bodies, the severed heads and genitalia of several other men and a tub full of acid that Dahmer had used to dispose of some of his 17 victims.
Dahmer had lived a shiftless life, dropping out of college and the Army and living with various family members before being kicked out by his grandmother and settling in the Milwaukee apartment. Three years before his 1991 arrest — and with several murders already under his belt — Dahmer was convicted of drugging and sexually molesting a young teenager. But he was released after serving only a year, continuing his killing binge, which focused almost entirely on young, non-white men.
Dahmer was initially charged with four counts of first-degree intentional homicide, in July 1991. His sensational trial, featuring lurid descriptions of his eating the body parts of some of his victims and admissions of necrophilia, renewed the world’s interest in serial killers. In 1992, Dahmer was sentenced to 957 years in jail, but was beaten to death by a fellow inmate just two years later in 1994.
26 | Ted Bundy: The Lady Killer
The Crazy Necrophile Ted Bundy was an American serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, and necrophile. He operated in various states in the USA and confessed to killing 30 women. He revisited crime scenes and indulged in sexual acts with the corpses. Bundy decapitated at least 12 victims and kept their heads as trophies in his apartment. Aged 42, Bundy died on the electric chair in 1989. His own defence attorney said, “Ted, was the very definition of heartless evil.”
Handsome, well-educated and brimming with charm, Ted Bundy seemed the unlikeliest of serial killers. Which made his decade-long, multi-state killing spree all the more surprising — and to some, appealing. Born to an unwed, teenaged mother, Ted never learned his father’s identity and was raised believing that his grandmother was actually his mother (and his mother actually his sister).
Following a difficult adolescence, Ted graduated from the University of Washington — and soon embarked on his murderous spree, killing his first victim in Seattle in 1966. Focusing primarily on attractive college co-eds, Ted committed a series of murders across the Pacific Northwest. He continued on to Utah and Colorado, killing several more women before being arrested on August 16, 1975.
Despite being convicted of kidnapping, he managed to escape police custody not once, but twice, while awaiting trial in Colorado. He moved to Florida, where he killed several members of a sorority and his final victim, a 12-year-old girl who he raped and murdered. When Ted was finally apprehended while driving a stolen car a week after his last murder, his trial quickly became a media sensation. It was the first murder trial to be fully televised, and featured Ted front-and-center acting as one of his own defense attorneys.
Ted became a media star, welcoming journalists to his cell, receiving letters of admiration from lovelorn fans (and even marrying one of them) and providing an endless list of clues about additional murders he may have committed, in the hopes of delaying his execution. It didn’t work, he was executed in the electric chair in 1989, with the true number of his victims unknown. Read More
27 | Jack The Ripper: The Terror Of East London
There are over 100 possible suspects for “Jack The Ripper” ― the killer who once terrorized the East London. In 1888, London’s Whitechapel district was gripped by reports of a vicious serial killer stalking the city streets. The unidentified madman lured prostitutes into darkened squares and side streets before slitting their throats and sadistically mutilating their bodies with a carving knife. The name “Jack The Ripper” came into being because the victims had organs missing and judging by procedure the killer seemed to have surgical experience.
That summer and fall, five victims were found butchered in the downtrodden East End district, sparking a media frenzy and citywide manhunt. The real killer was never identified. A number of letters were allegedly sent by the killer to the London Metropolitan Police Service (also known as Scotland Yard), taunting officers about his gruesome activities and speculating on murders to come. Without modern forensic techniques, Victorian police were at a loss in investigating the Ripper’s heinous crimes. Read More