Lurking in the Shadows:
10 Serial Killers to Give You Goosebumps
Ten terrifying real life killers.
February 29, 1956 – October 9, 2002
Between 1989 and 1990, Aileen Wuornos murdered a total of seven men in Florida while working as a prostitute. In order to cover up her slayings, she claimed that her victims had raped or attempted to rape her and that their killings were an act of self-defense.
Once arrested, Wuornos was sentenced to death for six of the seven murders. On October 9, 2002, she was executed via lethal injection by the State of Florida.
November 12, 1934 – November 19, 2017
Charles Manson was a musician before forming his infamous cult, the Manson Family, in California’s desert during the late 1960s. Though he never personally carried out any murders, he used the Family to do his bidding. Manson was found guilty of conspiring to commit the murders of seven people in 1971: actress Sharon Tate, four individuals at Tate’s residence, and married couple Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. He was convicted thanks to the joint-responsibility rule.
With the temporary elimination of the death penalty in 1972, Manson’s death sentence was changed into a life sentence. He died in prison in November 2017.
David Berkowitz – “Son of Sam”
June 1, 1953 –
David Richard Berkowitz (born Richard David Falco) is most known by his nicknames “Son of Sam” and the “.44 Caliber Killer.” Over the course of one year and two days, spanning from July 29, 1976 to July 31, 1977, Berkowitz killed a total of six people and injured seven using a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver. He was finally apprehended on August 10, 1977.
Dennis Rader – The “BTK Killer”
March 9, 1945 –
Dennis Rader dubbed himself the “BTK strangler” and the “BTK killer,” with the acronym “BTK” standing for “Bind, Torture, Kill” (his nefarious modus operandi). Between 1974 and 1991, Rader murdered ten people in and around Wichita, Kansas. During the 90s and early 2000s, he sent letters to the police and the news, describing the murders in detail. It wasn’t until 2004, when Rader returned to sending letters, that the police able to arrest him, finally convicting him in 2005.
August 27, 1906 – July 26, 1984
Ed Gein was extremely close with his strict and slightly domineering mother. When she died, he took on a life of crime, exhuming corpses from graveyards and turning them into trophies by using their skin and bones. He even fashioned himself a “woman suit” made of skin. He eventually confessed to murdering two women: Mary Hogan, a tavern owner, on December 8th, 1954, and Bernice Worden, a hardware store owner, on November 16, 1957. Gein was confined to a mental health facility when he was deemed unfit for trial. After his release, he was tried in 1968 for Worden’s murder. He spent life imprisonment at a mental hospital.
Ed Gein influenced several fictional killer characters such as Norman Bates (Psycho and sequels), Leatherface (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), Buffalo Bill (The Silence of the Lambs), Ezra Cobb (Deranged), Bloody Face (American Horror Story: Asylum), and Eddie Gluskin (Outlast).
Henry Lee Lucas
August 23, 1936 – March 12, 2001
Henry Lee Lucas confessed to hundreds of murders that had been previously unsolved. Even despite his confessions, he was convicted of the murder of eleven people, sentencing him to death (which was later commuted to life in prison in 1998). However, it is widely believed that Lucas falsely confessed, as the logistics of the confessions seemed highly improbable, though law enforcement believes that Lucas had knowledge of the unsolved crimes that only the killer could have known. Henry Lee Lucas died in prison on March 13, 2001.
At Least 5 Victims
“Jack the Ripper”
“Jack the Ripper” was one of the earliest known serial killers. Lurking around in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888, the Ripper killed female prostitutes who worked in the impoverished areas. The named Jack the Ripper originated from a letter written and sent by someone who claimed they were the killer (though the letter – the “Dear Boss” letter – is believed to be a hoax created by a journalist in order to gain interest in the story). Other names include “the Whitechapel Murderer” and “Leather Apron.”
The ripper’s MO consisted of killing prostitutes via slitting their throats and proceeding to mutilate the abdominal mutilations. Evidence pointing towards Jack the Ripper having surgical or anatomical knowledge is present in three of the killings, where internal organs were removed. The idea that the murders were connected started to become more prominent during September and October 1888. George Lusk of the Whitechap Vigilance Committee received the “From Hell” letter by Jack the Ripper, which included have of a preserved human kidney that was supposedly from one of his victims.
It is unknown how many of the known murders were done at the hands of Jack the Ripper. However, there are five murders (Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly) that took place between August 31st and November 9th of 1888, and they are considered the most likely to be linked (they are dubbed as “the canonical five”). The crime was never officially solved, and there are now over one hundred theories about Jack the Ripper’s real identity. In September 2014, a DNA test proved 99.2% positive for ripper suspect Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew who lived in Whitechapel and worked as a hairdresser. In 1891, he was admitted to an insane asylum. He died in 1919.
May 21, 1960 – November 28, 1994
Jeffrey Dahmer “the Milwaukee Cannibal” committed the rape, murder, and dismemberment of seventeen men and boys between 1978 and 1991. Even though he had been diagnosed by prison psychiatrists and psychologists as suffering from a borderline personality disorder, Dahmer was considered legally sane at his trial.
He was convicted of fifteen of the murders and was sentenced to fifteen life terms on February 15, 1992. A sixteenth life term was added on for a murder he had committed in Ohio in 1978. A fellow inmate at Columbia Correctional Institution, Christopher Scarver, beat Dahmer to death on November 28, 1994.
John Wayne Gacy
March 17, 1942 – May 10, 1994
John Wayne Gacy – the “Killer Clown” – was the murderer of at least thirty-three teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978. Each of the victims was killed inside Gacy’s home, lured there by either force or deception. Once there, he would proceed to murder his victims either by asphyxiation (suffocation) or strangulation with a tourniquet (excluding his first victim, who was stabbed to death). Twenty-six of his victims were buried in the crawl space of his home, three were buried on the property, and the other known four were dumped in the Des Plaines River.
While he was convicted of the thirty-three murders, twelve of them earned him the death penalty on March 13, 1980. Gacy spent fourteen years on death row before he was executed via lethal injection on May 10, 1994 at the Stateville Correctional Center. The nickname “the Killer Clown” came from the fact that John Wayne Gacy would dress up as his own character, “Pogo the Clown”, at fundraising events, parades, and birthday parties.
At Least 30 Victims
November 24, 1946 – January 24, 1989
Theodore Robert “Ted” Bundy killed several girls and young women during the 1970s (possibly earlier). Though he denied his crimes for decades, he finally confessed to thirty murders between 1974 and 1978 in at least seven states. The total is unknown for sure, but it could be considerably higher. Exploiting his charismatic charm, Bundy would approach them in a public place by either pretending to be hurt/disabled or being some sort of authority figure. He would then proceed to overpower and assault them at a more secluded location.
Sometimes, Ted Bundy would return to the crime scene for hours at a time to groom and have sexual relations with the rotting corpses until putrefaction and destruction by animals made any more interaction with the body impossible. He is known to have beheaded at least twelve of his victims, and he even kept a few of the heads in his apartment as trophies. In a small number of instances, he broke into homes at night and bludgeoned his victims while they slept.
Bundy was originally arrested in 1975 in Utah for aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault, which started to provoke suspicions of Bundy being tied to a list of unsolved homicides in multiple states. Now facing murder charges in Colorado, Bundy managed to craft two dramatic escapes from prison. While free, he performed more assaults – including three homicides – before he was captured and imprisoned in Florida in 1978.
In two separate trials for the Florida killings, Bundy received three death sentences. On January 24, 1989, Ted Bundy was executed by means of the electric chair at Raiford Prison in Starke, Florida.