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« Livin and Mayan | Main | Breakfast Links »

10 Notorious Serial Killers

Posted by Razen on December 14, 2006.

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After the popularity of my last article on Christian tourist traps I thought it only fitting to turn the tables 180 degrees and explore the darker aspects of mankind.

So take a trip, if you dare, into the minds of those whose moral code lies unwanted and wasted. Discover the men who consider the lives of fellow humans to be nothing more than playthings for their amusement. Come witness the crimes of those who kill for pleasure, and murder for fun.

10. Servant Girl Annihilator – 1884 to 1885 – Austin Texas

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The end of the 19th century saw the beginnings of a new type of crime; the modern serial killer. While some consider Jack the Ripper the first modern serial killer, the events in Austin Texas preceded him by almost 3 years and proved to be just as brutal. The first victim was found on New Years Eve in 1884, a servant girl found outside her home, raped and violently murdered. Over the months more murders occurred and the papers of the era had a field day coining the term “the servant girl annihilator.”

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The first victim, Molly Smith

By the end of September there had been 5 victims, all black servant girls who lived behind the homes of their employers. Citizens discussed forming vigilante groups to keep watch and the local Marshall invited a team of detectives from Houston to help with the case. As a result several local black men were arrested and subjected to brutal interrogation methods before being released. While the white populace was concerned they felt somewhat protected by the fact that the killer had never attacked a white woman. That fact was to soon change.

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A moonlight tower still standing in Austin

On Christmas Eve 1885 the killer struck again, brutally raping and mutilating the bodies of 2 well to do white women, Sue Hancock and Eula Phillips. Local papers announced these new developments with such headlines as “BLOOD, BLOOD, BLOOD!” and “The Demons Have Transferred Their Thirst For Blood To White Women!” These new attacks coupled with the newspapers stirred up such fear that some now spoke of the attacker as a supernatural being. Firearms were sold in number, the governor offered a reward, and bars were forced to close at midnight. “Moonlight Towers” of steel with bright spotlights were erected around town in an effort to provide safety.

Because of these precautions, or some other unknown factor, the killings abruptly stopped almost a year to the date that they had begun. Over the decades several suspects have been brought forward under different theories but to this day the case have never been solved.

9. Killer Cop - late 60s to 1973 - Broward County Florida

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Gerald Schaefer mugshot

Police officer Gerald Schaefer must have crossed his fingers while he took the oath to protect and serve. In July of 1972 he drove two female hitchhikers to a swamp, handcuffed them to a tree, and tied nooses around their necks. He then incredibly went back to work, leaving the 2 girls there. When he went back to the swamp later for more fun he discovered the girls missing. He then calmly called the Sheriff and told him “I’ve done something foolish. You’re going to be mad at me.”

The girls were found and Schaefer plea-bargained down to one count of aggravated assault. Incredibly he spent only six months behind bars and passed the time by writing “fiction” stories that detailed horrendous acts against young females. Evidently none of this seemed unusual to the authorities and he was released.

Perhaps someone should have read those stories because in the middle of 1973 the decomposing bodies of 2 other missing girls were found. Police searched Schaefer’s home and found personal items of not only these 2 girls but 6 others who had vanished in the area as far back as 1969. Also found was 11 guns, 13 knives, pictures of Schaefer in women’s underwear, and a notebooks full of writings and sketches regarding the torture and murder of “whores.”

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Sketch by Schaefer

Schaefer was promptly arrested, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. His filled his time in jail by filing dozens of frivolous lawsuits, marrying a Philipino mail-order bride, posing as a female dominatrix in several different mail fraud schemes, and acting as a jail house informant against other prisoners. His life ended abruptly on December 3rd, 1995 when a fellow prisoner slashed him multiple times across the face and throat. A book of his “fictional” stories was published in 1989

8. Axeman of New Orleans – 1918 to 1919 – New Orleans

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In the early morning hours of May 23, 1918, Jake Maggio entered his married brother’s room after hearing loud noises. There, in a bloody bed, lay his dying brother next to his dead wife who had her throat slashed so violently that her head was nearly severed from her body. This was the first attack by a man who became known simply as “The Axeman.”

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The first victims of the Axeman

More attacks occurred over the summer, mostly women, although one other man was killed. The city became rife with supposed sightings of the killer, some of which said he dressed as a woman to better disguise himself. Other rumors spoke of a supernatural figure that no mortal could stop. The Axeman helped to keep this fear alive by sending a letter to several newspapers on March 13th, 1919 that read in part:

Esteemed Mortal:
They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a fell demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman….

Now, to be exact, at 12:15 (earthly time) on next Tuesday night, I am going to visit New Orleans again. In my infinite mercy, I am going to make a proposition to you people. Here it is: I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have mentioned.”

That next Tuesday found hundreds of dance halls packed to capacity and countless jazz parties being thrown in the homes around town. No one was murdered that night.

But murders continued in the months ahead until a final one was committed in October. Then, as quickly as they had begun, the killings were over. In the end, no one was ever convicted of the crimes and they still remain unsolved. The mystery of the Axeman was never unraveled.

7. Son of Sam – 1976 to 1977 – New York City

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David Berkowitz

The Son of Sam may be the only killer on this list with his own website. Currently serving a 350-year prison term, David Berkowitz claims to have turned his life around thru his conversion of Christianity. He has repeatedly said that he does not wish parole and now spends his time counseling other inmates.

But life for David in the 70’s was a whole different story. In 1974, suffering from a mental problems, David was discharged from the army and began to set random fires as a pyromaniac. He was never caught in this phase of his "career" and his personal diary records dozens of such blazes that David set during this time.

Berkowitz soon became convinced that dogs howling near his home were actually demons ordering him to kill and he moved to a new address. Unfortunately his new neighbor, Samuel Carr, had a labrador retriever and David soon began to believe that the dog was host to a demon named General Jack Cosmo. Cosmo ordered David to kill and thus began his murderous spree. Armed with a 44-caliber handgun, David rampaged thru the boroughs of New York City, targeting women with long dark hair or couples who sat in cars at night. He left a boasting letter to the police at one shooting and then sought greater fame by mailing a long tirade to the columnist of a local paper.

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Portion of letter from the Son of Sam to the New York Daily News

Berkowitz was finally caught when a witness saw him leave the scene of a crime in a car with a parking ticket waving from the windshield. Police tracked him down and his first words upon arrest were, “What took you so long?”

6. Werewolf of Wysteria ? to 1934 - various locals and New York City

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Albert Fish

Edward Budd was delighted when Albert Fish answered his “work wanted” ad. Jobs weren’t easy to come by in 1928 and Fish promised the boy a salary of 15 dollars a week to work on his farm outside the city. After visiting the family several times, Fish offered to take Edward’s 10-year-old sister Grace, to a niece’s party. The family said yes, not wanting to seem untrusting to their newfound benefactor, and the little girl was never seen alive again. The crime remained unsolved for six years until a police detective planted a phony article in the newspaper announcing that an arrest in the case was imminent. A few days later the Budd family received a letter that read in part:

“I choked(Grace) to death, then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms. Cook and eat it. How sweet and tender her little ass was roasted in the oven. It took me 9 days to eat her entire body.”

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Wanted Poster for Albert Fish sent out by the NYPD

Using a notation on the paper that the letter was written on, police tracked down Albert Fish and arrested him. He confessed to the crime and gave the police enough evidence to collaborate what he had written. He also claimed ownership to earlier abductions of other missing children and his horrifying statements confirmed additional acts of murder and cannibalism. Fish calmly claimed to have preyed on more than 100 children in 23 different states and said he didn’t know why he did it. He further revealed a bizarre list of sexual fetishes that ran from coprophilia to urophilia pedophilia, and masochism.

At his trial Fish claimed insanity but a jury judged him to be both sane and guilty. He was electrocuted on January 16th, 1936 at Sing Sing. His last words were reported to be, “I don’t know why I’m here.”

5. Bloody Benders – 1872 to 1873 – Labette County Kansas

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Kate Bender

The immigrant Bender family, John, Almira and their two children John Jr. and Kate, came to Kansas in 1871. They promptly set up a small cabin as an inn and store for weary travelers coming in from across the plains. Kate was the only one of the family to speak English with ease and she soon used her charm and good looks to start a job as a Spiritualist. What no one knew was that both the Inn and Kate’s occult activities were merely covers for a series of ghastly murders.

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The Bender Family Inn

Visitors to the Inn wanting a meal or the services of Kate would be seated with their back to a curtain and made to feel at home. Then, when the moment was ripe, one of the Bender family would come up from behind the gauze and strike the guest over the head with a ball peen hammer! The bodies were disposed of in the cellar and a nearby orchard after anything of value was taken from the corpse. This method of enriching the Inn coffers went on for over a year before suspicion was raised.

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The search for the dead

While details of how the Benders were found out differ, it is known that when a posse of armed men arrived at the scene in May of 1873 they found the inn abandoned and the Benders long gone. A search of the grounds led to the discovery of a cellar floor that was clotted with dried blood and ripe with the stench of decomposed bodies. Mounds of dirt in the orchard revealed over twenty-four corpses. Search parties were sent in all directions to find the family but none were successful. The Benders faded into the Kansas landscape and were never seen again.

4. Killer Clown – 1972 to 1978 – Chicago Illinois

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John Wayne Gacy as his alter ego, Pogo the Clown

Gacy may lay claim to the title of the most notorious of killers on this list. His long list of victims, his part time job as clown, and his aspirations as a jailhouse painter all left an indelible mark upon the consciousness of America.

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Gacy with First Lady Rosalynn Carter

The fact that Gacy’s spree lasted so long was a result of his Jekyll and Hyde persona. By day he was a respectable member of his community, a business owner, prominent member of the Democratic Party, and a children’s entertainer as Pogo the Clown.. At night he cruised the streets, looking for young men to torture and murder in his suburban home. Once he had the boys back at his home he would offer to show them a magic trick involving handcuffs. But there was no trick, the handcuffs were normal, and with them Gacy was able to overpower the teenagers and chloroform them. For 6 years the bodies stacked up in the crawlspace under his home until he was forced to begin throwing them into the nearby Des Plaines River from lack of room.

Gacy was finally undone by an act of strange charity; he let his last victim go after a night of torture. The young man was able to lead detectives back to Gacy’s home and police soon found that the remains of 29 victims buried in the crawlspace and entombed beneath the patio floor.

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Self Portrait by Gacy

Gacy was sentenced to death in 1980 and spent the next the next 14 years reveling in his fame by creating a virtual cottage industry of paintings. His self-portraits, images of Snow White, Elvis, and others now sell for thousands of dollars. While over 300 people attended a bonfire in 1994 to watch 25 of the paintings burned this only increased the value of the remaining pieces.

3. Night Stalker – 1984 and 1985 – Los Angeles and San Francisco

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Ramirez showing the devil sign after being given the death penalty

Richard Ramirez’s favorite album was AC/DC’s Highway to Hell and he loved to shout “Hail Satan” during his trial to unnerve the jury. He drew pentagrams on his body and claimed to be a Satanist. But it was the killings he committed that put action to his words and filled the residents of California with true fear in 1985.

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Flashing his pentagram palm at trial

Richard’s favorite victims were the old. He’d sneak into their homes at night, quickly kill any males and then take his time by sexually torturing the elderly females in the house before murdering them. He’d then ransack the house, looking for valuables and souvenirs before leaving. At some scenes he would mark the walls and victims with pentagrams. He would let some victims live if they would give allegiance to the devil. “Swear your love for Satan,” he demanded from one victim.

Over the course of a few short months he murdered 13 people before a witness was able to jot down the license plate of the car he was using. Two days later Ramirez’s photo was put out in newspapers and televisions. The next day citizens in an east Los Angeles neighborhood identified him. He was almost beat to death by a crowd before police were able to take him into custody.

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Art by Richard Ramirez

At his trial Ramirez acted bored, bobbing his head to music only he could hear. When he was given the death penalty he replied, “Big deal. Death comes with the territory. I'll see you in Disneyland". He currently sits on death row in San Quentin. A magazine editor married him in a jail house ceremony in 1996.

2. Zodiac Killer – 1968 to 1970 - California

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The Zodiac Killer in costume

This is the Zodiac speaking,” began the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle. “…school children make nice targets. I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning. Just shoot out the front tire and pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.

It was just the latest missive from a mysterious killer who had methodically killed six people and taunted the police with their inability to find him. Victims were usually young couples in deserted areas but one couple was attacked during the day while on a picnic. Weapons varied from pistols to knives. A survivor of one attack described a terrifying costume the killer wore of a black executioner’s hood and a bib with a circled cross on the front. The killer calmly spoke to this victim before stabbing him and his date over and over again with a foot long bayonet.

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1969 Wanted Poster for the Zodiac Killer

Zodiac delighted in sending out letters promising more bloodshed and containing cryptograms that remain a mystery to this day. He repeatedly sent letters to both the police and newspapers claiming unsolved murders as his own and handing out clues that only the killer would know.

He was almost captured during a December 1969 murder in San Francisco but was able to make a getaway after a bungled description was given out to investigating officers. He later boasted that a policeman had talked to him just after the crime.

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A 1970 Zodiac letter to the San Francisco Chronicle (click to enlarge)

In the months and years afterward there have been continued letters sent by the Zodiac. While most are of varying authenticity some of have contain swatches of past victim’s clothing. Others contain unsolved cryptograms where the author claims to offer his identity. To this day the killings by the Zodiac have remained open cases.

1. The Devil in The White City – 1887 to 1895 – Chicago and various locales

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H.H. Holmes

H.H. Holmes was a man determined to make a buck no matter the legality of his means. With a handsome face and charming manner he made the most of what God had given him. His first scams involved various efforts of fraud and forgery such as cures for alcoholism, real estate swindles, and even a machine that he claimed could make natural gas from water.

But Holmes biggest scam came into play when he murdered the owner of a drug store he worked at and then claimed ownership. With the store as capital he began to build a hotel to house the throngs of tourists that were sure to visit the “White City” of the World’s Fair in 1893. It was also during this time that Holmes’ lost his last scrap of humanity and turned into one of the most horrendous murderers of modern times.

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The Murder Castle

This was no ordinary hotel that Holmes had built. He directed the building personally and the commanding structure was three stories high with a deep basement. The edifice contained over 60 rooms, with odd shapes bulging out at peculiar angles. Holmes kept firing workers on the project to keep the full design known only to himself. Inside the building were trap doors, secret passages, hidden stairs, and rooms with various “tricks” that Holmes had thought up.

When the World’s Fair began, many a tourist entered the hotel never to be seen again. Some were locked in for months and monitored by Holmes with an alarm system. He dispatched others by piping natural gas into their room through fiendishly placed gas lines. Others discovered death when blowtorch devices were turned on while they lay in bed. Hidden chutes dumped the bodies into the basement where Holmes had a dissecting table, crematorium, and vats of acid for their quick disposal. In all more than 50 people were thought to have met their demise at the murder castle in four years time.

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1896 illustration from a book on the crimes

Holmes fate caught up to him when an insurance fraud unraveled and he was discovered to have murdered several young children he was traveling with. Police searching his hotel found burnt dresses, vials of poison, and even complete skeletons all hidden away. Holmes confessed to 28 murders and was hanged on November 30th, 1895. A post office now occupies the site where the castle was located.

If you enjoyed this story, read more like it in our Top Ten Lists section.

Reader Comments

FUCKING GREAT READ...well done!

Posted by THE WOLFE.

not bad...where was Ed Gein?

Posted by Fenix.

i hate how history rememmbers such sick people and how killing so many people can make you famous

Posted by clarkson.

I agree with Wolfe, where was Ed Gein? Actually from Wisconsin, his story inspired the Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well as several other horror movies. If anyone hasn't read or seen his story, it is truly disturbing.

Posted by layla.

There is actually a movie out called "Ed Gein". It's a pretty accurate (if somewhat disturbing) portrayal of his crimes... I'd recommend picking it up.

Great article!

Posted by Krista.

pretty good. No Ted Bundy?

Posted by Steve.

You know how companies will compile a page of "celebrity endorsements"? Recently, I found myself quoted on the same webpage as Richard Ramirez and Arthur Shawcross. That gives me the willies just thinking about it.

Posted by Miss Cellania.

Fantastic post, I really enjoyed it. Thanks!

Posted by Evan Erwin.

damn good stuff!! make me proud! and YEAH go Albert Fish!! i knew he'd be on the top 10!! YEAH!

Posted by Killa.

I want to marry Richard Ramirez.

Posted by britty.

Why am i not #1?

When the moon shines on your face you'll feel pale in the glory of my decadense.

Posted by The Zodiac.

Yeah wheres ted bundy, or dalmer or jack the ripper wtf is this shit.

Posted by I love this shit.

Yep Ed Gein is missing :P

Posted by Tiago.

Ill be at the top one day =]

Posted by Captain dave.

Where was the Ripper, Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, Dahmer and my personal favorite Aileen Wurnos?

Posted by Sasha.

Where was the Ripper, Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, Dahmer and my personal favorite Aileen Wurnos? Aside from that, cool list =D

Posted by Sasha.

there's some sick people posting on this. "Ill be at the top one day" wtf?

Posted by mad world.

I think this is a pretty good website. For my high school graduatio project, I did a powerpoint presentation on Ted Bundy. I wish I would've found this site a couple of months ago. Bundy should definitely be listed on here.

Posted by Simone.

I think this is a pretty good website. For my high school graduatio project, I did a powerpoint presentation on Ted Bundy. I wish I would've found this site a couple of months ago. Bundy should definitely be listed on here.

Posted by Simone.