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The Top-40 Most Infamous Serial Killers


America is fascinated and horrified by serial killers in equal measure. We want to know the details of every case and explore how a person could ever commit such atrocities.

Infamous serial killers have plagued communities across the world for more than 130 years. Some of these famous murderers are careless and slip up quickly, while others continue their murderous sprees for years before they are caught. A few of the worst serial killers have never been captured.

In this post, we reveal the top-40 most deadly and infamous serial killers, plus an extra 10 who nearly made the cut. Find out who they were, the details of their violent attacks, how they were caught, and what happened to them.

What is a Serial Killer?

You may think this is a simple question, but the serial killer definition is a little more complex than just a person who murders multiple people.

Different authorities have different definitions with which to label serial killers. For instance, the FBI defines a serial killer as someone who murders three or more people over a period of a month or longer. To meet the FBI’s serial killer criteria, the culprit must have had a “cooling off” period in between murders, before deciding to strike again.

But the National Institute of Justice offers an alternative serial killer definition. It states that the killer must have murdered at least two people, motivated by a need for psychological gratification and with the act having sadistic sexual overtones.

According to an article on serial killers in Psychology Today, neither definition can perfectly capture all serial killers. They have varying motives and act under differing psychological states. Some have a type – targeting victims with certain identifiers – while others will kill indiscriminately.

The 40 Most Prolific and Famous Serial Killers in History

In no particular order, here are some of the most prolific serial killers ever seen. We cover the most famous American serial killers, as well as much-feared serial killers worldwide.

Some of the top serial killers on this list are household names, depicted in blockbuster movies and pop-culture references, while others are obscure, unknown, or forgotten.

WARNING: The serial killers listed have committed devastating crimes. Some of the accounts below include gruesome and horrifying details which may cause distress. Read on at your own risk.

1. Samuel Little

  • Confirmed Victims: 50
  • Suspected Kills: 93+
  • Years Active: 1970-2005
  • Date of Birth: 6/7/40
  • Location: California, Texas, Ohio – United States
  • Current Status: Imprisoned
Samuel Little

Serial killer Samuel Little

Samuel Little is one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. Little was in trouble with the law from an early age, and by 1975 he had been arrested no fewer than 26 times across 11 different states – with crimes ranging from fraud to violent attacks.

In the early 1980s, Samuel Little beat two separate murder charges, before being jailed for two and a half years for attempting to strangle two women. After he was released from prison, he moved to Los Angeles and left a trail of victims in his wake, but was not caught until 2012.

Decades on, developments in DNA evidence allowed police to prove that Little had been involved in a huge number of murders. He was eventually tracked to a homeless shelter in Kentucky and was jailed for life in LA after being extradited to California.

In 2018, Little confessed to a catalog of grisly murders, most of which involved women he had strangled. The FBI confirmed that he had killed at least 50 women from 1970-2005, and have so far linked him to 93 murders in total. It is suspected that he may have killed more than 200 people.

2. Dennis Rader

  • Confirmed Victims: 10
  • Years Active: 1974-1991
  • Date of Birth: 3/9/45
  • Location: Kansas – United States
  • Current Status: Imprisoned
  • Nickname: The BTK Strangler / BTK Killer

A seemingly normal husband and father of two, Dennis Rader was a Cub Scout leader and president of his church’s council. But he harbored a well-hidden dark side.

Rader first killed in 1974, when he slew a family of four – including two children aged nine and 11. He went on to kill 10 people in total. After his first crimes, he wrote anonymous letters to TV stations taking credit for the murders and suggesting nicknames for himself. One nickname stuck – BTK, which stands for ‘Bind, Torture, Kill’.

He killed most of his victims by strangling them, using a rope, a belt, or the victim’s underwear. He even took one victim to his church, where he photographed her body in explicit positions.

Rader would probably never have been caught, but for his need for attention. In 2004, with the BTK murders considered a cold case, he contacted the media and said he was planning to kill again. He also sent a floppy disk of crime scene details to police, who were able to trace the disk back to Rader and arrest him at last. Rader was sentenced to 175 years (10 life sentences) in jail.

3. Ted Bundy

  • Confirmed Victims: 30
  • Years Active: 1974-1978
  • Date of Birth: 11/24/46
  • Location: California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington – United States
  • Current Status: Executed
Infamous serial killer Ted Bundy

Serial killer Ted Bundy, pictured at his trial and after capture.

Ted Bundy is one of the most notorious and documented serial killers ever. Over a prolific four-year span in the 1970s, Bundy killed at least 30 women and performed vile acts with their bodies.

Though he had a somewhat troubled childhood, Bundy grew up to be a handsome, charismatic and popular law student. His first confirmed murder came in 1974 when he started to terrorize female students in Washington. Authorities believe Bundy may have started killing as a teenager though, and he has confirmed victims across seven states.

Bundy charmed many of his victims, before kidnapping them and taking them to remote locations to rape and kill. He sometimes returned to the scene later to perform sexual acts with the bodies.

He was arrested in 1975 by a traffic officer who saw Bundy acting suspiciously and recognized his distinctive Volkswagen Beetle from a description provided by a surviving victim. A murder kit was found in his car, and police linked him to a series of killings. During his trial, Bundy managed to escape jail…twice! The second escape saw Bundy disappear for nearly six weeks. He was eventually captured again in Florida as he tried to flee after assaulting and killing six more women. After a high-profile trial and many years of failed appeals, Bundy was killed by electric chair in 1989.

4. Yang Xinhai

  • Confirmed Victims: 67
  • Years Active: 1999-2003
  • Date of Birth: 7/29/68
  • Location: China
  • Current Status: Executed
  • Nickname: The Monster Killer

Yang Xinhai is one of the most prolific serial killers in Chinese history, known for raping and murdering victims across four provinces.

Smart but introverted as a child, Xinhai dropped out of school as a teen in 1985. He was first arrested a few years later, sentenced to work in labor camps after being caught stealing in 1988 and 1991. His crimes soon became more serious though, and Xinhai was imprisoned in 1996 for attempted rape.

After his release in ’99, Xinhai embarked on a vicious killing spree over the next four years. He would break into homes at night and kill everyone inside – often murdering entire families. He used an array of weapons to murder his victims, including hammers, axes, and shovels. Xinhai also raped some of his victims and wore oversized shoes and new clothes to make it harder for police to link him with crime scenes.

Xinhai was arrested at an entertainment venue after being spotted acting suspiciously by routine police patrols. DNA evidence connected him to the spate of killings across China, and he confessed to 67 murders and 23 counts of rape.

He was sentenced to death and was executed by firing squad in 2004, aged 35.

5. John Wayne Gacy

  • Confirmed Victims: 33
  • Years Active: 1972-1978
  • Date of Birth: 3/17/42
  • Location: Illinois – United States
  • Current Status: Executed
  • Nickname: The Killer Clown
John Wayne Gacy

Killer Clown John Wayne Gacy

John Wayne Gacy was a notorious serial killer who murdered at least 33 young men and teenage boys in the 1970s.

Gacy was a successful business owner and family man who was liked by neighbors and respected within the community. But he was also obsessed with young boys.

His first murder victim was a 16-year-old boy, who he picked up at the Chicago bus station in 1972. Gacy stabbed the boy, and described it as “the ultimate thrill.” Over the next six years, Gacy killed more than 30 youngsters. He owned a construction company and employed many teenage boys and young men – some of whom he sexually assaulted, tortured, and killed.

Gacy also trained to be a clown so that he could volunteer as an entertainer at community events. When his crimes came to light, he earned the nickname of The Killer Clown. He would gain the trust of his victims, sometimes by giving them alcohol or drugs, before handcuffing and strangling them. Most of Gacy’s victims were buried in the crawl space under his home.

He was finally caught by police in 1978 and was convicted after being deemed mentally fit by psychologists. Gacy spent 14 years on death row and was executed in 1994. The serial killer’s final words were: “Kiss my ass.”

6. Ronald Dominique

  • Confirmed Victims: 23
  • Years Active: 1997-2006
  • Date of Birth: 1/9/64
  • Location: Louisiana – United States
  • Current Status: Imprisoned
  • Nickname: The Bayou Strangler

Ronald Dominique is a serial killer and rapist from Bayou Blue, Louisiana, who killed up to 23 victims across the state in a decade-long murder spree.

Dominique killed his first target in 1997. With some of his victims, he would go to gay bars and offer to pay money for sex. In other cases, he would kidnap men by offering them drugs, or by showing them a picture of a woman he claimed was willing to pay for sex. In either case, Dominique would lure the man to a secluded location before raping and then strangling him.

The main motivation for Dominique was to sexually assault his victims. He later told police that he only killed the men so they would not be able to say anything, allowing him to evade capture.

Dominique was caught when a task force – created to catch the strangler – received a tip naming him as the killer. He was arrested, and soon confessed to killing 23 men. He was convicted of eight counts of murder but avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty. Dominique was instead given eight life sentences.

7. Jeffrey Dahmer

  • Confirmed Victims: 17
  • Years Active: 1978-1991
  • Date of Birth: 5/21/60
  • Location: Ohio, Wisconsin – United States
  • Current Status: Dead
  • Nickname: The Milwaukee Cannibal / Milwaukee Monster
Jeffrey Dahmer

Cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer as he was interviewed for the TV show Dateline.

One of the worst serial killers in American history with particularly disturbing tendencies, Jeffrey Dahmer was known for sexually abusing, dismembering, and even eating some of his victims over his reign of terror.

As a child, Dahmer was fascinated with dead animals, had dark sexual fantasies, and abused alcohol. He killed for the first time when he was 18, three weeks after graduating high school – beating a teenage boy with a dumbbell and choking him, before dissolving his flesh in acid and crushing his bones to hide the evidence.

Dahmer did not kill again for almost 10 years. But in 1987 he embarked on a twisted rampage of luring male victims to his home before drugging, raping and killing them. He kept ‘trophies’ from many of his victims, such as bleached skulls or preserved genitals and other body parts.

The despicable killer was only caught in 1991 when a would-be victim escaped Dahmer’s apartment and led police back to him. Officers found a huge array of evidence, from pictures and body parts to severed heads in his fridge. Dahmer admitted his crimes, which included engaging in necrophilia and cannibalism. He received 16 life sentences and was beaten to death in jail by a fellow inmate in 1994.

8. Mikhail Popkov

  • Confirmed Victims: 78
  • Suspected Kills: 84
  • Years Active: 1992-2012
  • Date of Birth: 3/7/64
  • Location: Russia
  • Current Status: Imprisoned
  • Nickname: The Werewolf / The Angarsk Maniac

Mikhail Popkov mutilated a huge number of women over a 20-year period, making him Russia’s most prolific serial killer ever.

Popkov worked as a police officer and security guard in the city of Angarsk, but started raping and killing women in 1992 (when he was aged in his late 20s). He claims to have started his murderous crusade because he suspected his wife was cheating on him. In response, he set out to purify Angarsk by killing supposedly immoral women.

Referred to as ‘The Werewolf’ or ‘The Angarsk Maniac’, Popkov earned his nicknames due to the level of mutilation he inflicted on his victims. Between 1992-2012 he killed at least 77 women and one male police officer – but some believe he has more than 200 victims. He mostly targeted prostitutes and drunk women aged 16-40.

Popkov was caught when tire marks led authorities to believe that a police vehicle had been present at multiple crime scenes. They took DNA samples from 3,500 current and former officers, leading them to Popkov.  He was arrested in 2012 and is now serving two life prison sentences.

9. Randy Kraft

  • Confirmed Victims: 16
  • Suspected Kills: 67
  • Years Active: 1971-1983
  • Date of Birth: 3/19/45
  • Location: California, Oregon, Michigan – United States
  • Current Status: Imprisoned (Death Row)
  • Nickname: The Scorecard Killer / Freeway Killer / Southern California Strangler
Randy Kraft

Serial killer Randy Kraft – The Scorecard Killer.

Randy Kraft is a serial killer who kidnapped, raped and murdered more than 60 boys and young men before dumping them by California highways.

The intelligent Kraft worked and studied in Orange County after being discharged from the U.S. Air Force for informing superiors he was gay. He was first suspected of sexually assaulting a young teen in 1970, before murdering for the first time in ’71.

Kraft picked up many of his victims at the side of the road, luring them into his car with the offer of a ride, or drugs and alcohol. He used booze and tranquilizers to incapacitate his victims, before torturing, sexually abusing, and strangling them.

One of Kraft’s nicknames was The Freeway Killer because he dumped the bodies of most of his victims next to SoCal freeways. Kraft was caught when officers spotted him driving erratically in 1983. They pulled him over and found his latest murder victim bound on the passenger seat. He was dubbed ‘The Scorecard Killer’ because officers found a card in his possession listing code words for all of his 60+ victims.

Though he denies all crimes, Kraft was found guilty of 16 murders in 1989 and is still waiting on death row.

10. Paul John Knowles

  • Confirmed Victims: 20
  • Suspected Kills: 35+
  • Years Active: 1974
  • Date of Birth: 4/17/46
  • Location: Nevada, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Alabama – United States
  • Current Status: Dead
  • Nickname: The Casanova Killer

Paul John Knowles was a serial killer who went on a murderous multi-state rampage across the U.S. after being dumped by his fiancée.

Knowles was first locked up when he was 19 after kidnapping a police officer. While in prison, he proposed to a woman he had been writing to. Upon his release, he traveled to her California home, but she broke off the engagement after meeting him in person.

That same night, Knowles killed three people in San Francisco, before traveling back to Florida. He was jailed again after a bar fight but managed to pick the lock on his cell and flee – launching a terrifying murder spree through Ohio, Nevada, Texas, Georgia, Virginia, and Alabama.

Knowles was known to be smooth-talking and handsome, earning the nickname of The Casanova Killer. He seemingly killed at random – men, women, children, and the elderly were all targeted with different murder methods, leaving police baffled as they carried out a multi-state manhunt.

The killer was eventually caught by a shotgun-wielding civilian as he fled police officers, dogs, and helicopters. Knowles admitted to 35 murders and took police on a tour of the crime scenes, but tried to escape and was shot dead.

11. Pedro Lopez

  • Confirmed Victims: 110
  • Suspected Kills: 300+
  • Years Active: 1969-1979
  • Date of Birth: 10/8/48
  • Location: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
  • Current Status: Unknown
  • Nickname: The Monster of the Andes
Pedro Lopez Serial Killer

Prolific serial killer Pedro Lopez

Pedro Lopez is one of the most prolific serial killers the world has ever seen, murdering hundreds of children across three countries.

A lot of the information known about Lopez is from an interview with the killer himself. As such, not all of the details can be verified, but he paints a picture of a brutal decade-long murdering rampage.

Lopez’s mother was a prostitute and his father was killed just before he was born. He was thrown out of his home as a child and claims he was raped while living on the streets of Colombia. As a teenager, he started stealing cars and was jailed at the age of 18.

The first time Lopez murdered was to take revenge on a gang that attacked him in prison. After his release, he started killing young girls at an alarming rate. Over the next decade, Lopez killed more than 300 girls, before he was arrested in Ecuador in 1980 after being cornered by people who saw him attempt to abduct his latest victim. He was jailed after confessing to 110 murders in Ecuador, and a further 240 across Colombia and Peru.

Lopez was released from Ecuadorian jail in the 1990s and handed over to Colombian authorities. He was declared insane and held in a secure hospital, but was later discharged on bail. His current whereabouts are unknown.

12. Patrick Kearney

  • Confirmed Victims: 21
  • Suspected Kills: 43
  • Years Active: 1962-1977
  • Date of Birth: 9/24/39
  • Location: California – United States
  • Current Status: Imprisoned
  • Nickname: The Trash Bag Killer

Patrick Kearney was a serial killer who preyed on victims along California freeways before dumping their remains in trash bags.

Kearney was bullied as a teenager and became obsessed with the idea of killing people. He mainly picked up victims at gay bars or targeted hitchhikers that he came across while driving. Kearney killed his first victim – an unidentified hitchhiker – in 1962. He claimed several other victims in the following years, before killing at a higher rate in the 1970s.

As a skinny man who stood at just 5 ft 5ins, Kearney quickly refined his killing method to make sure his victims could not fight back. After luring people into his car, he would drive along a freeway, steering with his left hand, and then shoot the victim in the head with his right hand.

Known to be a necrophile, Kearney would take his deceased victims to secluded locations to sexually assault and beat their bodies. He would then dismember them, securing body parts in trash bags, and disposing of them in canyons and landfills.

Kearney eventually turned himself in after police tagged him as a suspect. He admitted killing more than 40 victims and is now in prison serving 21 life sentences.

13. H.H. Holmes

  • Confirmed Victims: 9
  • Suspected Kills: 27
  • Years Active: 1891-1894
  • Date of Birth: 5/16/1861
  • Location: Illinois, Indiana – United States
  • Current Status: Dead
H.H. Holmes Serial Killer

First known American serial killer H.H. Holmes

Wondering who the first American serial murderer was? Look no further! One of the earliest known serial killers was Henry Howard Holmes, who murdered a series of men, women, and children before being hanged for his crimes.

A notorious con artist, H.H. Holmes started killing in 1891 and later had a ‘murder castle’ built. This three-story building housed a pharmacy and apartments…but it also had a few unusual features. The second story included secret passageways, soundproofed rooms, sealed gas chambers, and chutes for bodies to be dumped into the basement.

Holmes had a lucrative business of selling organs on the black market, while bones would be sold to medical schools or laboratories. In addition to the murders, Holmes is known to have committed arson and insurance fraud, among his other crimes. Police eventually caught up with him, and he was convicted and hanged in 1896.

Before his death, Holmes was paid $7,500 by a newspaper for an exclusive confession – a huge sum at the time. He admitted to 27 murders and several attempted murders. However, some of those he claimed to have killed were still alive, and it is accepted that Holmes was lying up until the end.

Some accounts now say he killed 200+ people, but these have been debunked as exaggerated myths.

14. Irina Gaidamachuk

  • Confirmed Victims: 17
  • Years Active: 2002-2010
  • Date of Birth: 1972
  • Location: Russia
  • Current Status: Imprisoned
  • Nickname: Satan in a Skirt

Not many of the most notorious serial killers in history are women, but Irina Gaidamachuk more than earns her place on the grisly list.

An alcoholic from a young age, Gaidamachuk’s targets of choice were elderly women. The mother-of-two would knock on the doors of her victims and claim to be a social worker to gain access to their apartments. Once inside, she would kill them using a hammer or an axe before stealing their money. In some cases, she would start a fire on her way out to cover her tracks.

Gaidamachuk killed 17 women before a would-be victim managed to escape and give a description to the police. After she was caught, the killer said she had only carried out the crimes for the money. In some cases, the victim had as little as $20 for her to steal. She said she needed cash for alcohol after her husband tried to make her quit her drinking habit by cutting her off financially.

A lenient judge sparked outrage by only sentencing Irina Gaidamachuk to 20 years in prison, giving her a lighter punishment because she is a mother with dependent children.

15. Charles Ng

  • Confirmed Victims: 11
  • Suspected Kills: 25
  • Years Active: 1984-1985
  • Date of Birth: 12/24/60
  • Location: California – United States
  • Current Status: Imprisoned (Death Row)
Serial killer Charles Ng

Mugshots of serial killer Charles Ng from 1982 and 2018.

Charles Ng is a convicted serial killer who sexually abused, tortured, and murdered his victims at a secluded killing cabin.

Born in Hong Kong, Ng moved to California on a student visa in 1978. But he quickly dropped out of school and joined the U.S. Marines using forged paperwork to escape hit and run charges. Ng eventually had to serve 18 months in a military jail after he was caught stealing automatic weapons. Following his release, he left the armed forces and linked up with friend Leonard Lake.

Lake was renting a remote cabin in Northern California, where he had built a dungeon and had already killed two people. The like-minded Charles Ng joined Lake on a murderous spree over the next year. They kidnapped at least 11 victims (thought to be up to 25), locking them up at the cabin and then raping, torturing, and killing them.

The pair were captured when Ng was caught shoplifting. He managed to flee, but Lake was caught by police and took a cyanide pill. Police identified Lake and found his cabin, where officers discovered evidence including human remains and detailed journals.

Charles Ng managed to escape to Canada but was caught shoplifting again. He was eventually extradited to California, where he was convicted of 11 murders in 1999 and is on death row.

16. William Bonin

  • Confirmed Victims: 21
  • Suspected Kills: 36+
  • Years Active: 1979-1980
  • Date of Birth: 1/8/47
  • Location: California – United States
  • Current Status: Executed
  • Nickname: Freeway Killer

William Bonin was a much-feared serial killer who raped, tortured, and murdered at least 21 young males across Southern California.

Bonin was abused and molested as a child, but joined the U.S. Air Force after high school and won a medal for bravery while serving in Vietnam. He was later jailed twice for a series of incidents in which he propositioned, beat, or raped young boys, before turning to murder after his release in 1978.

Most of his kills followed the same pattern. Bonin – often working with accomplices Vernon Butts, Gregory Miley, and James Munro – started abducting boys and young men. He lured or forced victims into the back of his van, before tying them up, raping and torturing them.

Bonin dumped most of the victims’ bodies at the side of freeways, earning him the nickname: ‘The Freeway Killer’ – a moniker shared with two other unconnected serial killers in California (Randy Kraft and Patrick Kearney – both also mentioned on this list).

As the killings made major headlines, police received a tip about Bonin and caught him in the act in the back of his blood-splattered van. He was convicted of 14 murders (though his actual death toll is thought to be much higher) and became the first person to be executed by lethal injection in California in 1996.

17. Andrei Chikatilo

  • Confirmed Victims: 52
  • Suspected Kills: 56+
  • Years Active: 1978-1990
  • Date of Birth: 10/16/36
  • Location: Russia
  • Current Status: Executed
  • Nickname: The Rostov Ripper
Andrei Chikatilo Serial Killer

Andrei Chikatilo inside a protective cage in court.

Andrei Chikatilo was a serial killer in Russia known for brutally stabbing and slashing more than 50 victims.

Chikatilo had an unhappy childhood, plagued by poverty, starvation, and abuse. He witnessed wartime horrors in the 1940s and later suffered from crippling shyness and impotence.

After becoming a teacher, Chikatilo sexually assaulted several of his students before being forced to resign. His first murder came in 1978 when he lured a 9-year-old girl into his home to rape her, before strangling and stabbing the child.

Chikatilo killed upward of 56 victims in total, both boys and girls. He usually murdered by stabbing the victim many times, mutilating their bodies even after their deaths, and cutting out their eyes. He later admitted to removing and chewing on various body parts.

Police started to link the savage crimes in 1983 and launched a major investigation. Chikatilo was questioned twice and placed on a suspect list by the police but continued to kill until 1990.

He was eventually caught and confessed to killing 56 people under intense questioning. In a controversial trial, he was sentenced to 86 years in prison plus the death penalty. After two unsuccessful appeals, Chikatilo was executed with a gunshot to the head in 1994.

18. Pedro Rodrigues Filho

  • Confirmed Victims: 71
  • Suspected Kills: 100+
  • Years Active: 1967-2003
  • Date of Birth: 6/17/54
  • Location: Brazil
  • Current Status: Free
  • Nickname: Pedrinho Matador / The Brazilian Dexter

Pedro Rodrigues Filho has racked up a huge number of murder victims – but typically only targets criminals and wrongdoers.

Filho is one of the more fascinating serial killers of all time – a brazen murderer who mainly kills bad guys. He killed for the first time when he was just 14, shooting the deputy mayor of his hometown with a shotgun, right in front of City Hall. He did so because the deputy mayor had recently fired Filho’s father for suspected petty theft.

In the following years, Filho’s father killed his mother, and the young killer took revenge by visiting his dad in prison and stabbing him 22 times. Before murdering his father, Filho had also tortured and killed a host of drug dealers and traffickers in Brazil.

Filho was arrested and sentenced to 126 years in jail in 1973 – but did not stop killing criminals. He murdered a further 47 people while in prison, all fellow inmates. This bumped his sentence up to 400 years.

However, the law in Brazil caps prison sentences at 30 years. Filho served 30 years, plus an extra four years for the murders committed behind bars. He was released in 2007. One of his nicknames is ‘The Brazilian Dexter’, named after the hit tv show about a serial killer who only kills criminals.

19. Richard Ramirez

  • Confirmed Victims: 14
  • Years Active: 1984-1985
  • Date of Birth: 2/29/60
  • Location: California – United States
  • Current Status: Dead
  • Nickname: The Night Stalker
Richard Ramirez the Night Stalker serial killer

The picture of Richard Ramirez (taken in 1984) that was distributed to the media and led to his capture (left), and a mugshot taken in prison in 2007 (right).

One of the most notorious serial killers of all time, Richard Ramirez broke into the homes of his victims at night and spread fear through the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.

Referred to in the media as the ‘Night Stalker’, Ramirez started abusing drugs as a youngster and was heavily influenced by his cousin, who shared pictures and stories of people he killed and raped while serving in Vietnam.

In 1984, Ramirez claimed his first victim – a nine-year-old girl who he raped, beat, stabbed, and then hanged. Soon afterward, he started his spree of home invasion murders. Ramirez picked targets at random, killing men and women of all ages.

His varied murder weapons included guns, knives, machetes, and hammers. Sometimes he killed people while they were asleep, surprising others while they were awake. He often sexually assaulted women and sometimes stole valuables from the homes.

Police finally identified Ramirez from evidence found at the crime scenes. They released his picture to the media, and Ramirez was cornered by a group of residents that recognized him from the newspaper pictures.

Famous murderer Ramirez, who claimed to be a Satanist, was convicted and sentenced to death. The Los Angeles serial killer was on death row for 23 years before dying of cancer aged 53.

20. Luis Garavito

  • Confirmed Victims: 138
  • Suspected Kills: 300
  • Years Active: 1992-1999
  • Date of Birth: 1/25/57
  • Location: Colombia
  • Current Status: Imprisoned
  • Nickname: The Beast (La Bestia)

The fearsome Luis Garavito has the most confirmed victims of any known serial killers in history.

Garavito was beaten and molested as a child. He fled from his abusive home life at an early age, choosing to live on the streets instead. It is thought that he started killing around 1992 when a large number of young boys aged 6-16 began disappearing from the streets of Colombia.

His targets were mostly poor or homeless children. Garavito would tie the youngsters up and sexually abuse them before killing his victims. In total, he is believed to have murdered about 300 children. But it was several years before a serious investigation was launched, as many of the disappearances went unreported.

In 1997, several mass graves were discovered. The following year, evidence left at another crime scene led police to Garavito. They linked him to the crimes with DNA evidence and discovered journals detailing his horrific killing spree.

Garavito was convicted of 138 murders and sentenced to 1,853 years in jail…but could be out as early as 2021. Prison sentences in Colombia cannot exceed 40 years, and his sentence was cut to 22 years for helping police find the bodies of his victims.

21. The Zodiac Killer

  • Confirmed Victims: 5
  • Suspected Kills: 37
  • Years Active: 1968-1974
  • Location: California – United States
  • Case Status: Unsolved
  • Nickname: The Zodiac
Zodiac Serial Killer

A police sketch of the Zodiac killer based on witness accounts.

More than 50 years later, people are still fascinated by the mystery of the Zodiac – a notorious serial killer who was never caught or conclusively identified.

The first Zodiac murders took place a few days before Christmas in 1968 near San Francisco, when two people in a parked car were shot. A string of similar attacks followed in the next few months. But the killings gained attention when several letters were sent to the media by the murderer.

Zodiac letters coined his iconic pseudonym and contained codes and cryptograms with taunting messages from the killer. Only seven victims have been conclusively linked to The Zodiac, two of whom survived. But in his final letter in 1974, the killer claimed he had committed 37 murders.

Police formed a sketch of the victim from survivor accounts and sifted through a mountain of evidence – from handwriting analysis to hotline tips. They identified several key suspects, but no one was ever charged.

The Zodiac case has been the subject of movies, documentaries, podcasts, and much more. Despite recent attempts to trace DNA from the Zodiac letter stamps, it is considered a cold case.

22. Alexander Pichushkin

  • Confirmed Victims: 48
  • Suspected Kills: 62
  • Years Active: 1992-2006
  • Date of Birth: 4/9/74
  • Location: Russia
  • Current Status: Imprisoned
  • Nickname: The Chessboard Killer

Alexander Pichushkin is a prolific Russian serial killer who is believed to have murdered 62 people over 14 years.

Pichushkin – nicknamed ‘The Chessboard Killer’ after his capture – suffered a brain injury when he fell off a swing as a child. It is believed this may have affected his impulse control, but he also became increasingly hostile as he was bullied throughout his youth.

He first killed when he was just 18, and went on to murder a huge number of people. He started by luring victims into the sewers to kill them. He later switched to a more bold and brutal method, killing using a hammer.

Police captured Pichushkin in 2006 after retracing the steps of his final victim and finding surveillance footage of her leaving a train with her killer.

Pichushkin was taught to play chess by his grandfather and was an outstanding player. When police raided his home, they found a chessboard with dates written in 62 of the 64 squares – believed to represent each of his murders. This inspired his ‘Chessboard Killer’ nickname.

In 2007 he was convicted of 49 murders and jailed for life, with the first 15 years of his sentence ordered to be in solitary confinement.

23. Albert Fish

  • Confirmed Victims: 3
  • Suspected Kills: 100+
  • Years Active: 1924-1932
  • Date of Birth: 5/19/1870
  • Location: New York – United States
  • Current Status: Executed
  • Nickname: The Gray Man
Albert Fish Serial Killer

The disturbed Albert Fish.

Hamilton Howard Fish – known as Albert Fish – was a highly disturbed serial killer who committed a series of brutal crimes in the New York area.

Fish spent some of his childhood in an orphanage and blamed his later behavior on the abuse he suffered there. When he was 20, he moved to New York City and started working as a prostitute. At this time, Fish also started sexually abusing young boys and developed an obsession with mutilation, self-harm, and cannibalism.

Albert Fish claimed to have killed more than 100 people, though police only linked him conclusively to five murders using physical evidence. He was said to target victims who were mentally handicapped, who he said would not be missed, as well as women and children. He used knives and cleavers to mutilate and torture his victims.

Suffering from psychosis, Fish claimed he was doing God’s work. After killing his final victim – a young woman named Grace Budd – he sent a letter to her mother describing how he ate her remains. It was through this letter that police traced and caught Fish.

He was convicted of murder and executed by electric chair in 1936. The unhinged serial killer’s final words were: “I don’t even know why I’m here.”

24. Randall Woodfield

  • Confirmed Victims: 1
  • Suspected Kills: 44
  • Years Active: 1980-1981
  • Date of Birth: 12/26/50
  • Location: California, Oregon – United States
  • Current Status: Imprisoned
  • Nickname: The I-5 Killer
Randall Woodfield

Drafted by the Green Bay Packers – Randall Woodfield.

Randall Woodfield is a multi-state serial killer who claimed the lives of up to 44 people through Portland, Oregon, and California.

How many serial killers start out as NFL hopefuls? At least one, as Woodfield was once a talented football star. He is from an affluent family and was a star athlete in high school, with coaches and teammates describing him as soft-spoken and gentlemanly. But it was at this time that he started displaying dysfunctional behavior. Woodfield was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, but was cut from his first training camp and never played in the NFL.

After his footballing failures, Woodfield moved back to Portland and was jailed in 1975 for sexually assaulting and robbing women at knifepoint. After release, his crimes escalated.

Woodfield killed for the first time in 1980, before committing a series of robberies at gunpoint along the I-5 interstate corridor, sometimes wearing a fake beard as a disguise. He also committed several murders in early 1981, with most victims being sexually assaulted and shot in the head.

Woodfield was caught after being identified by surviving robbery victims. He was investigated and charged with murder, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery, receiving a life sentence plus an additional 90 years. Woodfield was only convicted of one murder, but evidence has later linked him to as many as 44 killings.

25. Jack the Ripper

  • Confirmed Victims: 5
  • Possible Kills: 11+
  • Years Active: 1888-1891
  • Location: London – England
  • Case Status: Unsolved
  • Nickname: Jack the Ripper / Whitechapel Murderer
Jack the Ripper Serial Killer

An artist’s impression of police finding a murder victim left by Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper is one of the most famous unidentified serial killers ever – a murderer who stalked the streets of London, murdering and mutilating a series of women and evading capture.

The infamous Ripper murders are steeped in legend. They start with five victims who were killed between August and November 1888. These murders are referred to as ‘the canonical five’ and are the only murders definitively linked to the Ripper.

Each of the victims is believed to have been a prostitute. They had their throats cut and were mutilated in increasingly vicious ways. In some cases, the Ripper removed organs from the bodies, leading to suspicions that the culprit was a surgeon or butcher.

Several other murders from 1888-1891 have been linked to Jack the Ripper, but experts believe they are unconnected due to the differences in M.O.

In official police case files, the killer is referred to as ‘The Whitechapel Murderer’. The nickname Jack the Ripper was first signed in letters supposedly written by the killer and sent to the police. However, it is widely believed that they were fakes, written by journalists to boost interest in the case. Police investigated more than 300 suspects, but Jack the Ripper was never caught.

26. Larry Eyler

  • Confirmed Victims: 21
  • Suspected Kills: 24
  • Years Active: 1982-1984
  • Date of Birth: 12/21/52
  • Location: Illinois, Indiana – United States
  • Current Status: Dead
  • Nickname: The Interstate Killer

Larry Eyler was a serial murderer who targeted teenage boys and young men, dumping their bodies along interstates throughout the Midwest.

Openly homosexual, Eyler was well known in the Indianapolis gay scene in the 1970s, known to be quiet and laid back, but with a well-hidden sadistic and violent streak.

Eyler almost killed for the first time in 1978, but his victim survived a stab wound and was paid off so he wouldn’t talk. When he started killing in 1982, Eyler usually plied victims with alcohol, before stabbing, slashing, and mutilating them – dumping the bodies along interstates in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Wisconsin. Many of the victims were homosexual.

After receiving a tip, a special police task force was started to investigate Eyler. He was eventually charged, but several key pieces of evidence were excluded because officers failed to follow proper police procedures.

Eyler was bailed…but killed a 16-year-old boy just six months later. He dumped the dismembered body in several different trash bags in the bins outside his apartment but was caught by the janitor. This time, the case against him was conclusive and he was sentenced to death.

In 1994 – before Eyler could receive the death penalty – he died of AIDS complications. Before his death, he confessed to more than 20 murders in total.

27. Juan Corona

  • Confirmed Victims: 25
  • Years Active: 1971
  • Date of Birth: 2/7/34
  • Location: California – United States
  • Current Status: Dead
  • Nickname: The Machete Murderer
Juan Corona Serial Killer

Juan Corona, who buried his victims on a California farm.

Juan Corona was a Mexican serial killer who slew his victims with a machete and then buried their remains on a farm.

Corona first entered the U.S. illegally in 1950. But he suffered a mental breakdown just five years later and was deported after being treated for paranoid schizophrenia with shock therapy. He moved back to California legally with a green card in 1962.

Though he had anger problems, nobody suspected Corona as a mass murderer until 1971. By that time, he worked as a coordinator who contracted migrant laborers to work on local farms. But Corona was killing some of these workers – hacking them to death with a machete and then burying them in shallow graves on one of the farms.

Corona was caught when a farm owner spotted a fresh hole filled in on his property. Police found a body in the grave, before discovering the remains of 24 other men who had been killed from February-May 1971. It is suspected that further victims existed but were not found.

Officers found evidence linking the crimes to Corona, both in the graves and at his home. He was found guilty and given 25 life sentences. After appeal, he was found guilty again in a second trial. Corona later suffered from dementia and died in prison in 2019, aged 85.

28. David Berkowitz

  • Confirmed Victims: 7
  • Years Active: 1976-1977
  • Date of Birth: 6/1/53
  • Location: New York – United States
  • Current Status: Imprisoned
  • Nickname: Son of Sam / .44 Caliber Killer

David Berkowitz was a serial killer who gunned down a string of victims and spread fear through New York City in the 1970s.

Postal worker Berkowitz was obsessed with starting fires as a child, before moving on to violent crimes. Berkowitz botched his first murder attempt when he tried to stab two women on Christmas Eve, 1975.

After his initial failure, Berkowitz went on a shooting rampage throughout New York. He typically targeted pairs of people sitting together, usually in parked cars. The shooter killed seven people in total, leaving others with serious gunshot wounds. He appeared to have a type – women with long dark hair – and many women changed their look to avoid being targeted.

The murders left New York in a state of panic. At one crime scene, Berkowitz left a letter for police, referring to himself as ‘Son of Sam.’

Berkowitz was eventually caught after his car was discovered filled with guns, ammo, and maps linking him to the shootings. He initially claimed that his neighbor’s dog was possessed by a demon and told him to kill – but later retracted his satanism claims. He submitted a guilty plea and is now serving life in prison.

29. Gary Ridgway

  • Confirmed Victims: 49
  • Suspected Kills: 71
  • Years Active: 1982-1998
  • Date of Birth: 2/18/49
  • Location: Oregon, Washington – United States
  • Current Status: Imprisoned
  • Nickname: The Green River Killer
Serial killer Gary Ridgway

Serial killer Gary Ridgway in 1982 (left) and a mugshot from his murder charge in 2001 (right).

Gary Ridgway is the second most prolific American serial killer, murdering 49 confirmed victims over a reign of terror spanning more than 15 years.

Ridgway has a low IQ and suffered psychological problems from childhood. He fantasized about killing his mother and then stabbed a youngster when he was just 16, though his six-year-old victim survived. Later he joined the Navy and saw combat in Vietnam.

While he was married three times and became devoutly religious, Ridgway was obsessed with having sex with prostitutes. When he started killing through the 80s and 90s, most of his victims were also sex workers. He would have sex with the woman, then strangle her, usually with his bare hands.

Ridgway dumped the bodies of his victims in wooded areas around the Green River. Sometimes he crossed into other states or purposefully contaminated dumping scenes to confuse the police. He also often returned to sexually assault the bodies.

A suspect in the killings as early as 1983 due to his penchant for prostitutes, police only managed to link Ridgway to the murders using DNA evidence in 2001. He confessed to killing 71 people to avoid the death penalty and was convicted of 49 murders.

Ridgway was given 48 life sentences, plus an additional 480 years for tampering with the bodies.

30. Willy Pickton

  • Confirmed Victims: 6
  • Suspected Kills: 49
  • Years Active: 1995-2002
  • Date of Birth: 10/24/49
  • Location: Canada
  • Current Status: Imprisoned
  • Nickname: The Pig Farmer Killer

Robert ‘Willy’ Pickton is a Canadian serial killer who was convicted of murdering women and disposing of their remains on his farm.

Pickton owned the farm near Vancouver with his siblings. In 1996 he launched a non-profit called the ‘Piggy Palace Good Times Society’ – seemingly a front for having huge parties and raves in a converted slaughterhouse on the farm.

But farmworkers started to notice several women(including multiple sex workers) who visited the farm going missing. Police eventually raided the farm as part of a massive investigation into missing women across British Colombia. They excavated the land and found human remains from numerous murder victims, as well as items belonging to the women.

Pickton was charged with the murder of 27 women in total, but reportedly admitted to an undercover officer that he had killed 49, and hoped to make it an even 50. In court, he maintained he was not guilty.

In a long and drawn-out trial, with appeals on both sides, Pickton was found guilty of second-degree murder of six victims, with the other 20 murder charges stayed. In 2007 he was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

31. Charles Manson

  • Confirmed Victims: 9
  • Years Active: 1968-1969
  • Date of Birth: 11/12/34
  • Location: California – United States
  • Current Status: Dead
Serial killer Charles Manson

Charles Manson pictured in 1968 (left) and in prison in 2014 (right).

Charles Manson was an infamous cult leader who encouraged his followers to commit a series of murders in the 1960s.

Manson is unlike most other serial killers in that he did not kill the victims himself. But he was convicted on several counts of first-degree murder for his role in the killings.

A singer/songwriter who once wrote a song for The Beach Boys, Manson spent many of his early years in and out of prison. After his release in 1967, Manson started to attract followers and created a California commune. Some followers believed Manson was a manifestation of Jesus and devoted themselves to him. He and his band of acolytes were later referred to as The Manson Family.

This group was responsible for a series of killings, including the high-profile murder of pregnant actress Sharon Tate. It is believed that the ‘Family’ killed on Manson’s instruction, though it is accepted that he did not give explicit murder orders. One theory is that the deaths were designed to incite a race war.

Manson and several of his followers were sentenced to death for their crimes. This sentence was later downgraded to life imprisonment when California abolished the death penalty. During his trial, Manson carved a cross into his forehead which he later had adapted into a swastika tattoo in prison. Manson never showed any remorse and died in prison in 2017 after a battle with cancer, aged 83.

32. Javed Iqbal

  • Confirmed Victims: 100
  • Years Active: 1998-1999
  • Date of Birth: 10/8/56
  • Location: Pakistan
  • Current Status: Dead
  • Nickname: Kukri

Javed Iqbal was a Pakistani serial killer who sexually abused and murdered 100 young boys in just six months.

Iqbal targeted boys between the ages of 6 and 16 – mostly orphans and runaways who were living on the streets. He was only caught after six months of committing brutal murders because he sent a letter to his local newspaper confessing to the crimes.

In the letter, Iqbal said he had raped and killed 100 boys by strangling them with a chain, then dissolving their remains in acid and dumping it into a river. Police raided the serial killer’s home and found evidence that had been purposefully left for them to find – remains soaking in acid vats, the murder weapon, and photos of each victim sealed in plastic bags with handwritten notes.

A manhunt was launched, and Iqbal handed himself in a month later. Police also arrested four of his accomplices.

Iqbal later denied any guilt and recanted his confession, but was sentenced to death. The court ordered that he be killed with the chain he used on his victims and that his body be dissolved in acid. He hanged himself in his cell before this could happen in apparent suicide – though it is speculated that he was killed by police while in custody.

33. Bobby Joe Long

  • Confirmed Victims: 10
  • Years Active: 1984
  • Date of Birth: 10/14/53
  • Location: Florida – United States
  • Current Status: Executed
  • Nickname: The Classified Ad Rapist
Bobby Joe Long Serial Killer

Bobby Joe Long after capture.

Bobby Joe Long was a serial killer who preyed on single women and took pleasure in raping and killing his victims.

Long suffered several head injuries as a child in West Virginia and was known to have a dysfunctional relationship with his mother. After moving to Long Beach, CA, he started contacting women through classified ads, offering to fix their household appliances. If they were alone in their home, he would rape the women. He was not caught before moving on from California to Florida.

In the Tampa Bay area, Long continued to answer adverts and raped more than 50 women in their homes. He was eventually caught and convicted in 1981 but was granted a retrial and the rape charges were dropped.

Long moved on to murdering his victims in 1984. He killed 10 women in eight months, mainly targeting sex workers; five were prostitutes, while two were exotic dancers. He would pick them up in his car and take them to his apartment, before tying them up, raping, and strangling them.

One of Long’s victims escaped and helped lead police to him. Prosecuted for kidnapping, rape, battery, and murder, he received 28 life sentences and four extra 99-year sentences, as well as the death penalty. Long was executed by lethal injection in 2019.

34. Daniel Camargo Barbosa

  • Confirmed Victims: 72
  • Suspected Kills: 150
  • Years Active: 1974-1986
  • Date of Birth: 1/22/30
  • Location: Colombia, Ecuador
  • Current Status: Dead

Daniel Camargo Barbosa is a particularly prolific serial killer who raped and murdered 150 young girls after escaping prison.

Barbosa was fixated on virgins and started his criminal activity by sexually assaulting a series of young girls. When his fifth victim told the police, Barbosa was jailed for eight years.

He was released in 1972 and decided to murder his next victim to avoid a repeat of his capture. Barbosa’s first known kill was in 1974 when he kidnapped a girl from outside a school and took her to a secluded area to rape and kill. He returned to dispose of the body the following day and was arrested.

Barbosa was sentenced to 30 years on a prison island. But in 1984, after 10 years on the island, he managed to escape in a makeshift boat and fled to Ecuador. He lived on the streets, targeting poor and helpless young girls by offering them work and luring them into the woods to rape and kill.

The sadistic murderer was caught again in 1986. He calmly confessed to killing 72 girls in Ecuador, showing no sign of remorse. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 1989 but was killed while behind bars in 1994 by a relative of one of his victims.

35. Albert DeSalvo

  • Confirmed Victims: 1
  • Suspected Kills: 13
  • Years Active: 1962-1964
  • Date of Birth: 9/3/31
  • Location: Massachusetts – United States
  • Current Status: Dead
  • Nickname: The Boston Strangler / The Green Man
Albert DeSalvo Boston Strangler

The arrest of convicted strangler Albert DeSalvo (center).

Albert DeSalvo was convicted of strangling and killing a series of women in a murderous rampage through Boston in the 1960s. But these killings are still shrouded in mystery – and many do not believe DeSalvo to be the real Boston Strangler.

From 1962-1964, police in Boston were chasing two separate criminals. They were hunting a serial rapist, as well as a killer dubbed The Boston Strangler who had raided the homes of 13 single women. The strangler sexually assaulted some of his victims before killing them – usually by strangling them with an item of clothing.

A troubled child from a violent home, DeSalvo was charged for the rapes after being identified by a victim. While awaiting trial, he also confessed to the strangling murders – first to fellow inmate George Nasser, then to authorities. He later recanted that confession.

DeSalvo was sentenced to life in prison in 1967 and later withdrew his strangling confession while behind bars. He was killed by inmates in an unrelated dispute in 1973.

In 2013, new DNA evidence was used to connect DeSalvo to one of the murders. But doubts remain over his status as the real strangler. Many people believe Nasser was the real killer and persuaded DeSalvo to take the fall, while some experts say the crimes would have been committed by several different people due to the differences in M.O.

36. The Golden State Killer

  • Confirmed Victims: 13
  • Years Active: 1976-1986
  • Location: California – United States
  • Current Status: Suspect charged
  • Nickname: The Golden State Killer

The Golden State Killer is a serial criminal who raped and murdered his victims while taunting survivors and the police. This decades-old case has long been unsolved, but a suspect is now awaiting trial.

Police have connected three different crime sets with the Golden State Killer. It is believed that he started with burglaries in Visalia, ransacking more than 120 homes in 20 months.

In 1976 he is believed to have moved to Sacramento and started sexually assaulting victims. He would scout the homes of his 50+ victims, sometimes days ahead of the attack, before breaking in, tying up his victims and raping the women. He always planned an escape route and was never caught.

The Golden State Killer started murdering his rape victims in 1979, killing 13 known victims in total. He would also phone the police and attack survivors, taunting them with details of his plans.

Authorities kept the case open and charged a suspect in 2018 based on DNA evidence. Joseph James DeAngelo, now aged in his 70s, has been charged with murder and kidnapping. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and worked as a police officer for three years in the 1970s. He will now face trial in 2020.

37. Bela Kiss

  • Confirmed Victims: 24
  • Years Active: 1900-1914
  • Date of Birth: 1877
  • Location: Hungary
  • Current Status: Dead
Bela Kiss Serial Killer

Hungarian Bela Kiss – suspected of vampirism.

Bela Kiss was a serial killer who murdered single women and drank their blood, before storing their bodies in metal drums.

Living in a small town near Budapest in Hungary, Kiss killed at least 24 victims over 14 years. He started by defrauding women; contacting single ladies through newspaper adverts and seducing them, before asking them to send him money.

Kiss invited these women to his home, where he would strangle them and store their bodies in large drums on his property. He told neighbors and police that the drums were holding gasoline in preparation for wartime rationing.

The killer was called up to serve in the military in 1914. While Kiss was away the police visited his home to use some of his stockpiled fuel. Instead, they discovered the drums filled with 24 dead bodies. They were drained of blood and had puncture marks on their necks, leading authorities to conclude that Kiss was practicing vampirism.

An alert was issued, but Kiss managed to escape and flee. The fate of Bela Kiss is unknown. There were later sightings of the killer in France and New York, but any additional movements and murders remain unconfirmed.

38. Harold Shipman

  • Confirmed Victims: 215
  • Suspected Kills: 265+
  • Years Active: 1975-1998
  • Date of Birth: 1/14/46
  • Location: England
  • Current Status: Dead
  • Nickname: Dr. Death

Harold Shipman was an English doctor who murdered hundreds of his patients by deliberately administering fatal overdoses.

As a youngster, Shipman was an accomplished athlete and student, training to become a doctor in the north of England. He secured his first job at a doctor’s surgery in 1974 before opening his own practice in Manchester in 1993.

Shipman’s modus operandi was to inject his victims – mostly elderly patients – with an overdose of a pharmaceutical heroin drug called diamorphine. His crimes went undetected for many years until a mortuary worker raised the alarm in 1998 over the high number of cremation requests coming from Shipman. Police exhumed the body of one of his recent victims and found traces of the drug in her system.

Nicknamed Dr. Death by the media, Shipman was tried and found guilty of murdering 15 patients. However, a special investigation launched after his conviction concluded that his victim count is 250+, making him one of the world’s most prolific serial killers.

Shipman is the only British doctor ever convicted of killing his patients. He was given life in prison with no chance of release. Shipman managed to hang himself in his cell in 2004, committing suicide just before his 58th birthday.

39. Fritz Haarmann

  • Confirmed Victims: 24
  • Suspected Kills: 27+
  • Years Active: 1918-1924
  • Date of Birth: 10/25/1879
  • Location: Germany
  • Current Status: Executed
  • Nickname: The Butcher of Hanover / Vampire of Hanover
Fritz Haarmann Serial Killer

German biter Fritz Haarmann

Fritz Haarmann was a German serial killer who sexually assaulted young boys, before biting through their throats and mutilating their bodies.

Haarmann was a loner who was convicted of luring young boys into remote areas to rape them when he was just 16 years old. He was caught and committed to a mental institution, but escaped.

He later turned to thieving and spent several short spells in prison. Following World War I, with police resources stretched, he became a police informer. This helped him evade suspicion as he started to kill. Haarmann targeted teenage boys at Hanover train station. He took them to his home, sexually assaulted them, and bit through their throats while strangling them, before dismembering the bodies.

Several sets of remains were found in Hanover as rumors swirled that a serial killer was responsible for the missing teens in the city. Haarmann was caught when a boy who he had raped at knifepoint informed police of the attack. Officers searched Haarmann’s home and found evidence of his many victims, including bloodstains and clothing.

Haarmann confessed to his crimes and admitted having an insatiable urge to bite the Adam’s apples of his victims. He was convicted of 24 murders and sentenced to death. He was beheaded by guillotine in 1925.

40. Carl Eugene Watts

  • Confirmed Victims: 14
  • Suspected Kills: 100
  • Years Active: 1974-1982
  • Date of Birth: 11/7/53
  • Location: Michigan, Texas – United States
  • Current Status: Dead
  • Nickname: The Sunday Morning Slasher

Carl Eugene Watts was an American serial killer who snatched women from their homes to brutally torture and murder.

Watts experienced murderous fantasies as a child and started stalking girls and young women in his early teens. He also showed a penchant for violence – once inexplicably beating a woman while he was doing his paper route. Watts was assessed by mental health professionals, who described him as paranoid and violent with impulse issues.

His first confirmed kill came in 1974 when Watts was 20. He targeted young white women, kidnapping them from their homes. Once he had snatched a victim, Watts would torture them before ending their life. He killed in a variety of ways, including stabbing, strangling, drowning, and beating his prey to death.

Unlike many serial killers, Watts had no sexual motive. The lack of DNA evidence, combined with varying kill methods, made him harder to catch. However, he was captured and identified as a serial killer when two would-be victims escaped.

To ensure a conviction, prosecutors filed lesser charges in exchange for murder confessions from Watts. He was eventually imprisoned for life after later being convicted of two separate murders. He died in prison in 2007 from cancer, aged 53.

Watts was known as the Sunday Morning Slasher because two of his killings were on the front page of Sunday papers. He is suspected of killing upward of 100 women, and the murders were carried out on various days of the week.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions:

41. Moses Sithole

A South African serial killer who murdered 38+ women (1994-95). Beat and sexually assaulted his victims before strangling them with their underwear. Sentenced to 2,410 years in prison.

42. Mohan Kumar

A murderer who preyed on single women looking for husbands in India (2005-09). Wooed at least 20 women and gave them contraceptive pills – which were actually cyanide capsules. Sentenced to death in 2013.

43. Vera Renczi

The first known (and most prolific) female serial killer, who poisoned 35 victims in Romania and Yugoslavia (1920-30). Limited evidence; said to have killed multiple husbands and lovers with arsenic and was imprisoned for life.

44. Robert Hansen

Kidnapped, raped, and killed at least 17 women in Alaska (1971-83). Took many of his victims to secluded areas and hunted them through the Alaska wilderness. Sentenced to 461 years in prison, died in 2014.

45. Yvan Keller

Nicknamed ‘The Pillow Killer’, Keller murdered elderly women in France, Switzerland, and Germany (1989-06). Smothered victims with a pillow and stole their valuables. Accused of 23 murders, but confessed to 150. He committed suicide (hanging) during his trial.

46. Karl Denke

A German cannibal who butchered homeless people and travelers, eating their flesh, or selling it as meat to unsuspecting customers (1903-24). The remains of 42+ people were found in his home. Committed suicide after capture.

47. Peter Sutcliffe

English serial killer, nicknamed ‘The Yorkshire Ripper’ after killing 13 women and injuring nine others (1975-80). Sutcliffe hit victims from behind before stabbing and slashing them. Later had a fixation on sex workers. Jailed for life.

48. Ahmad Suradji

A self-proclaimed sorcerer, Suradji killed 42 girls and women in Indonesia (1986-97). Believed killing the women, drinking their saliva, and burying them facing his home would give him magic powers. Executed by firing squad in 2008.

49. Alexander Spesivtsev

A Russian serial killer who tortured, killed, and sometimes cannibalized women and children (1991-96). Convicted of murdering four people, but is believed to have killed 86. Declared insane, committed to secure mental hospital.

50. Anatoly Onoprienko

A serial murderer who killed more than 50 people in Ukraine (1989-96). Shot most of his victims during armed robberies, as well as killing any witnesses. Sentenced to life imprisonment and died of heart failure in 2013.

Not Serial Killers, But…

Some incidents may involve a murderer killing multiple people without being labeled as a serial killer. One example of this is familicide – otherwise known as family annihilation. Familicide is when a person kills several close family members in quick succession. If the murderer kills all close members of their family, it becomes family annihilation.

One such case to make major headlines recently is that of Chris Watts, who is a family annihilator, rather than a serial killer.

In 2018, Watts was convicted of killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters. It is believed that he strangled his victims before disposing of their bodies. He stuffed the children into oil drums at his workplace, Anadarko Petroleum, and buried wife Shan’ann in a shallow grave nearby.

Watts confessed to the horrific murders after he was caught lying by a police polygraph. He pleaded guilty and was given five life sentences with no chance of parole.

Are There Still Serial Killers Today?

Many people believe that serial killers are a thing of the past. As you can see from our list, a huge number of known American murderers operated in the serial killer heyday of the 1970s and 1980s, when people were more likely to hitchhike on dark roads and leave their doors unlocked.

The major strides in DNA evidence and the addition of millions of security cameras across the world have made things harder for would-be killers.

But there were 16,214 recorded murders in the United States in 2018, and about 40% of all murder cases are currently unsolved. In fact, some experts believe that the number of serial killers operating today may actually be on the rise.

With the increase in media coverage and the general fascination with crime documentaries and TV shows, it is thought that savvy serial killers are now better able to cover their tracks and fool the cops, leading to a rising number of unsolved killings committed by serial offenders.

This list, compiled by Bisnar Chase, covers the most infamous, prolific, and disturbed serial killers who have been caught across the world. Unfortunately, the number of serial killers far exceeds the 50 we cover here. Stay safe, and let us know about any major omissions in the comments section.

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