As we are constantly reminded by movies and TV-shows, serial killers are scary. Rather than killing people close to them or who they feel have wronged them, they target people for their own inexplicable reasons, and often have terrifying rituals for completing their kills.
So, of the many serial killers in history, that have been caught, which are the scariest?!
Warning – this list contains some gruesome details.
Everyone has heard of Ted Bundy, the American serial killer that kidnapped female victims in order to rape and dismember them, often keeping their heads as souvenirs. Bundy was executed in 1989 after admitting to killing 30 women, though authorities think that the number is much higher.
In the 1980s this Russian serial killer, also known as the Butcher of Rostov, raped, murdered and mutilated more than 50 women and children. After being caught, Chikatilo claimed that he could only achieve sexual climax by stabbing women, a fact that fuelled his urge to kill. Chikatilo confessed to 56 counts of murder and was executed in 1994.
Peter Niers was a bandit, black magician and a serial killer that allegedly killed 544 people over a period of 15 years. As well as committing rape and murder, Neirs was also accused of eating some of his victims, and using others in diabolical rituals. Niers was tortured and killed in the Bavarian city of Neumarkt in der Oberpflaz in 1581.
Known as the Milwaukee Cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer was convicted of killing 17 men over a 14-year period. Dahmer liked to rape his victims and then dismember and sometimes eat them. While on trial, Dahmer admitted to experimenting with drilling holes into his victim’s skulls in order to turn them into mindless sex slaves. He was beaten to death in prison in 1994.
Dubbed the Brooklyn Vampire among other things, Albert Fish was convicted of raping, killing and eating three children in the early 1900s, but it is thought that he actually killed more than 100 children during his time on the street. Fish also liked to taunt the families of his victims. He sent a letter to the mother of one girl detailing how he lured her into his possession, strangled her and then cut her into pieces and ate her over the course of nine days. While the jury at his trial believed that Fish was insane, they decided to execute him anyway, and he died by the electric chair in 1936.
John Wayne Gacy
Called the Killer Clown, John Wayne Gacy attended children’s birthday parties dressed as Pogo the Clown. Gacy killed at least 33 teenage boys over a six-year period, luring them to his home where he would rape and torture them. He was executed in 1994.
Catalina de Los Rios Y Lisperguer
Catalina was a Chilean aristocrat who is said to have been a brutal overlord to her indigenous workers and to have killed about 40 people. Catalina’s peers thought that she was violent tempered and enjoyed torturing her subordinates, and also delighted in sacrilege and sex. She is thought to have murdered her slaves, her lovers, a priest and even her own father. Catalina used her wealth to avoid repercussions, even donating a significant portion of her estate to the Catholic church. She was eventually convicted of her crimes and died while under house arrest in 1665.
Jack the Ripper
The only serial killer on the list that was never caught, the true identity of Jack the Ripper remains unknown until this day, although there is a great deal of speculation. In 1888, he terrorised the Whitechapel neighbourhood in London by slitting open the throats and abdomens of at least five prostitutes that worked in the area. In some cases, he would remove the woman’s uterus, pointing towards the motivation for his crimes and suggesting he had some kind of medical knowledge.
The German serial killer Joachim Kroll killed at least 14 people, including children, between 1955 and 1976. After strangling them with his bare hands, Kroll liked to have sex with his victim’s corpses, and then cut up their bodies to eat. Kroll was caught when one of his neighbours complained about a problem with the plumbing, which turned out to be blocked with human guts. Kroll was arrested while in the process of simmering the body parts of his most recent victim, a four-year-old girl. Kroll received a live sentence in 1982, and died of a heart attack in 1991.
Giulia Tafona was a famous poisoner in 17th century Italy, who helped many women kill their husbands, probably with some form of arsenic. For this reason, the strong poison Acqua Tofana is named after her. She worked wither her daughter Girolama Spera and other assistants to produce and distribute her poison. Some people say she even had a school for poisoners in Palermo. She is thought to have been responsible for over 600 deaths in 10 years. She was executed with her accomplices in 1659.
Known as the Werewolf of Bedburg, Peter Stumpp was a German farmer with only one arm that reported murdered 14 children and two pregnant women in 15th century Germany. After being caught Stumpp admitted to drinking the blood of livestock, (and he probably drunk the blood of people, though he did not admit this), and to eating human foetuses, and his own son’s brain. Under brutal torture Stumpp claimed that he was a victim of the devil, who was truly responsible for his grizzly crimes.
Pedro López is probably the most terrifying serial killer on this list due to the fact that he is still at large. The Monster of the Andes was arrested in 1980 after raping and killing more than 300 women, at least 100 of them tribal women, across Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Lópex was found guilty of murdering 110 girls in Ecuador and also confessed to an additional 240 murders in Peru and Colombia. He led authorities to the graves of 53 victims between the ages of nine and twelve. Lópex was unsurprisingly declared insane, but surprisingly was released in 1998 for good behaviour. His current whereabouts are unknown.
Gilles de Rais
Gilles de Rais was a wealthy knight in the French army in the early 15th century. He reportedly sodomized and then murdered at least 40 children during his life. Many naked bodies of young boys were found at his estate in 1437. It is thought that he lured the boys to his house by outfitting them in fancy clothes and providing them with a large meal and a lot of wine. Rais kidnapped a cleric during a Church dispute, which led to an investigation that revealed his crimes. Rais admitted to his crimes and was hanged and burned in 1440.
The Nightstalker Richard Ramirez terrorized Los Angeles throughout the 1980s. He would break into the homes of his victims in order to rape and murder them, using a variety of weapons including handguns, knives, a tire iron, a machete and a hammer. He was not overly picky with his victims, which ranged from men and women in their early 20s to a 79-year-old woman. After being caught, Ramirez never expressed any remorse for his crimes. He died of lymphoma in 2013 before his death sentence could be carried out.
Marcel Petiot was a French serial killer that preyed on Jewish refugees trying to flee France during the Nazi occupation. A doctor, during the Nazi occupation, he offered to help Jews by giving them medicine to protect against disease. He would in fact inject them with poison in order to watch them die and then steal their valuables before disposing of their bodies in his basement furnace. After the French liberation he was arrested and almost 30 corpses were found in his home. When on trial he admitted to killing more than 60 people, and was executed in 1946.