The Five Most Frightening Serial Killers
Serial killers are the most frightening of monsters. Unlike the movie vampires, werewolves, and undead psychopaths in hockey masks that terrified us during our youth, serial killers are fact, not fiction. That walk among us, many able to blend into society like venomous chameleons. They ride beside us on the train and eat at our favorite restaurants. One might even live next door.
Many murderers suffered abuse during their childhoods, leading to psychosis later in life. Brain abnormalities afflict others. And some kill simply because they love it, or in the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, because they have a taste for it.
The FBI defines ‘serial killer’ as one who murders three or more victims over a significant length of time. That’s a broad definition. On any given day, statistics show there are 25 to 50 active serial killers stalking the United States. If that isn’t chilling enough, the number was much higher just four decades ago, before three-strike laws and increased data sharing among law enforcement agencies reduced their numbers. But they’re still out there.
Today we bring you the five most chilling serial killers to haunt humanity.
The Green River Killer – Gary Ridgeway
The second-most prolific serial killer to haunt the United States, Gary Ridgeway, also known as the Green River Killer, was convicted of 49 murders. Ridgeway focused on women and teenage girls, many of whom were sex workers in Washington State during the 1980s and 1990s.
Ridgeway preferred to strangle his victims by hand, dump their bodies in the woods, then return to have intercourse with the corpses.
On November 30, 2001, DNA evidence led police to arrest Ridgeway outside a truck factory in Renton, Washington, for the murders of four women. He is serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole.
Jack the Ripper
Perhaps the most famous of serial killers, Jack the Ripper has inspired countless books and movies. Unlike his compatriots, he was never caught.
Stalking prostitutes through the east side of London, Jack the Ripper murdered three women in 1888 and removed their organs, suggesting to the police that he possessed a surgical background.
Anonymous members of the public sent multiple letters to newspapers, claiming responsibility for the murders. One person signed the letter “Jack the Ripper”, and although the police believed the letter was a hoax, the name stuck.
Between 1888 and 1891, eleven gruesome murders occurred in Whitechapel and Spitalfields. Though police never connected the murders to the initial three deaths in 1888, many believed the same killer committed the atrocities.
The question will linger forever. Who was Jack the Ripper?
John Wayne Gacy – The Killer Clown
Between 1972 and 1978, John Wayne Gacy raped, tortured, and murdered 33 teenage boys and young men in Chicago, Illinois. He was later dubbed “The Clown Killer” because he dressed as a clown and performed at children’s birthday parties. After Gacy killed his victims, he hid their bodies inside the crawl space in his house.
Police long suspected Gacy as a serial killer but couldn’t prove his guilt until the psychopath murdered Robert Piest, a fifteen-year-old boy who Gacy had met in the pharmacy where Piest worked. The boy wanted to switch jobs and work with Gacy, a construction contractor. Pharmacy employees recalled Gacy entering the store and speaking with Piest, but Gacy denied bringing the boy into his home.
Police caught the lie after Piest’s workmate told them she’d borrowed the boy’s jacket during her break and forgotten a receipt in the pocket. After executing a search warrant, authorities located the receipt inside Gacy’s house of horrors.
Remembered for dismembering his victims and consuming their bodies, Jeffrey Dahmer achieved chillingly legendary status as a serial killer in the last decade of the twentieth century. Between 1987 and 1991, Dahmer murdered seventeen men in Milwaukee before the would-be eighteenth victim escaped. After arresting Dahmer, police discovered his stash of body parts.
Dahmer’s first victim was an eighteen-year-old hitchhiker he picked up during 1978 and transported to his father’s home. When the boy attempted to leave after consuming alcohol, Dahmer clubbed him in the head with a barbell, killing him. To conceal his crime, the psychopath cut the boy into pieces and stored the body parts in garbage bags, which he buried in the woods.
Growing more disturbed, Dahmer had multiple run-ins with the police prior to his eventual killing spree. In 1982, police arrested Dahmer after he exposed himself at a state fair. He was also caught molesting a 13-year-old boy.
During his four-year murder rampage, Dahmer often had sexual intercourse with his victims’ corpses. So the victims were always with him, he kept body parts, including skulls, as he had during his childhood with dead animals he’d discovered along the road. The serial killer stored organs in jars and often consumed them. He died in prison in 1994.
Known as the Co-ed killer, Edmund Kemper murdered ten people before turning himself in to the police in 1973. Among his victims were his mother and her friend, plus six female college students who he disfigured before having intercourse with their corpses.
A serial killer who engaged in necrophilia and cannibalism, Edmund Kemper murdered his first victims at the age of fifteen. He shot his grandmother while she worked on a children’s book, then fired the gun at his grandfather, who had returned from the store. After killing his grandparents, Kemper phoned his mother. She urged him to call the police, and Kemper was arrested and incarcerated at Atascadero State hospital, where he befriended his psychologist. Kemper so impressed the psychologist that he became his apprentice. The doctor eventually released Kemper into his mother’s care. Having convinced multiple psychologists that he was no longer a danger, Kemper had his juvenile record sealed.
Between 1972 and 1973, Kemper murdered six student hitchhikers, then bludgeoned his mother with a pick hammer. After killing his mother, Kemper had sex with her corpse.
Kemper is currently serving a life sentence in prison.
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