Though the world would be far happier and calmer without people that kill others, there is no way to avoid these people. There have been far more accounts of serial killers than ever before and knowing a bit about them is the easiest way to start to understand what pushes another individual to kill. There have been plenty of serial killers over the years and knowing a few of them is at once interesting and very helpful.
The technical definition of a serial killer is anyone that has killed more than three people over a period of three months or more. Someone that kills more than one person all at once is likely going to be branded a mass murderer rather than a serial killer. There is generally a cooling down period between killings with a serial killer. Psychologists site the cool down period as a length of time in which the desire to kill was satiated by the first murder. In order for the FBI to call someone a serial killer, they generally need to have worked alone, have a minimum of two murders in their wake, and the murders have to have been separate events. This definition is somewhat loose and can be altered to fit the unique situation of each murder.
There is little evidence to cite any real reason for murders to become serial killers. Most psychologists cite financial gain, thrill, mental illness, or even attention seeking as reasons why someone might murder another person. That being said, these are not the only motives. Some people may kill others to fulfill some sick and twisted desire or need that they have that stems from something in their past. Some people kill because they are truly mentally ill, and others still kill for no real reason at all.
The Origin of the Term
The term serial killer was not always present. In the past, people that killed tons of people were just crazy and were not considered serial killers but rather murderers. The term first popped up with Jack the Ripper. He is cited as the first modern serial killer in the terms that we have chosen to define a serial killer. His murder rampage took place in 1888 in London. Jack the Ripper killed 5 prostitutes over a series of a few months. The reason that he is cited as the first serial killer is the methods that the police used in attempts to find him and arrest him.
Police in London used new investigative techniques in an attempt to apprehend the killer. He was subject to a massive manhunt, criminal investigations, large teams of officers focusing on the case, house to house inquiries, forensic evidence, and tracing suspects. Some of the earliest profiles of a killer were pioneered during this time as well. Though they did not catch Jack the Ripper during his crime spree, there have since been advances in forensics that have allowed researchers today to collect and test organic material that was found on the shawl of the first victim.
The First American Serial Killer
The first serial killer in the United States is cited as being H.H. Holmes. He was alive in the 1890’s and was responsible for the murder and kidnapping of 27 victims. Holmes went one step further than most would have suspected during this time taking victims to his hotel in Chicago where he kept them in rooms, hid them behind false walls, and murdered them all over the hotel. Holmes constructed his World’s Fair hotel in an effort to create a place for himself to take victims that he abducted from the World’s Fair that was only blocks away.
Holmes constructed the hotel with murder in mind creating soundproof rooms, installing soundproof bank vaults, and even installing gas lines to rooms that allowed his to slowly asphyxiate his victims. He would then drop his victims down a chute that led to the basement where he would strip them of flesh, dissect them, and crafted into skeleton models that Holmes would then sell to medical schools. He also cremated some bodies and threw others into large pits that he had dug. Holmes had plenty of connections from his time in medical school and as a result he was able to quickly and easily sell bodies.
Holmes was eventually caught in 1894 for an outstanding warrant for horse theft in Texas. The custodian for the Castle, the name that Holmes gave his hotel, told police that he had never been allowed to clean the top floors so police began to investigate. The police found the bodies and 27 murders were confirmed before Holmes was tried and then hanged at Moyamensing Prison.
Though Holmes was the first, there have been literally hundreds since his killing spree. Sadly enough, 76% of all modern serial killers originate in the United States. One such killer is Edmund Kemper. Kemper was dubbed the co-ed killer for the series of murders that he carried out in California in the 1970s. Kemper killed women in the Santa Cruz area including his own mother and her friends. Kemper also murdered his own grandparents when he was 15 as well as a body count that was in the double digits. Kemper targeted young, college age women mainly whom he tortured and then murdered. Kemper asked for the death penalty but was instead given life in prison with no chance of parole. Kemper is one of the most famous serial killers in America.
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley
This pair are some of England’s most notorious serial killers since Jack the Ripper. The pair was arected for kidnapping and killing 5 children from the years of 1963 to 1965. Their victims were between 10 and 17. The pair would lure the children away, sexually assault them, then brutally murder them before throwing them into shallow graves. One victim was found in Brady’s home and another was never found. Hindley died in prison while Brady is in prison on hunger strike to this day.
Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono (Hillside Stranglers)
This pair terrorized the greater California area for a year between 1977 and 1978 kidnapping, raping and then strangling 10 girls between the ages of 12 and 28. The men would kidnap then rape, torture, and strangle the girls in the hills above Los Angeles which led to the nickname. Both pleaded not guilty by means of mental insanity and Bianchi was found to be faking mental illness. Both were sentenced to life in prison where Buono died of heart attack. You can find a serial killer list online quite easily as people are very interested in the making of a serial killer and what really makes them tick.
Donald Henry Gaskins
This killer was dubbed the hitch hiker killer because he picked up hitch hikers and murdered them. He drove around coastal highways in the south and picked up those that needed rides before he would torture, mutilate, and eventually kill them. He confessed to killing 80 or 90 victims of which only 8 were confirmed. Gaskins was caught because an associated turned him in claiming to have seen him murder two people. He was given the death sentence that was then commuted to life in prison. He then killed another inmate and is the only man to have ever killed an inmate on death row.
This American Born Scottish killer was known to have killed 9 people across southern Scotland between 1956 and 1958. The man was suspected of killing as many as 18 but police could not prove it. He was caught because he was using stolen bank notes at a local pub to purchase drinks. He confessed when his mother confronted him at a local police station where he was being held. He was then hanged at the Glasgow Barlinnie Prison in 1958. He was one of the last men to be hanged in Scotland before they ended capital punishment.
John George Haigh
Also known as the acid bath killer, he was convicted of murdering 6 people. He claimed to have killed 9 however. He targeted wealthy individuals and charmed them and conned them into believing that he was a wealthy business man. He would then lure them to a warehouse here he would shoot them, dissolve their bodies in sulfuric acid, then go through their possessions and collect their life savings. He was convicted because police found traces of human remains and he was sentenced to death and hanged in Wandsworth Prison.
Fred and Rose West
This notorious pair tortured, raped, and murdered at least 11 young women in their 25 Cromwell street home in Glouchester. The pair would kidnap the women, rape, torture, and eventually murder the women in their home that was later nicknamed the house of horrors. The pair was convicted after human remains were found on their property and police obtained a search warrant. The pair were convicted but Fred West hanged himself in prison before the trial was concluded leaving his wife to be convicted of all the murders. The house was demolished in 1996 to discourage people from visiting it.
Robert Hansen serial killer was a man that was known as the butcher baker was an American serial killer that was active between the years of 1971 and 1983. He was a killer that was known to have killed at least 17 women. He would kidnap the women, handcuff them, rape and torture then eventually murder them. He was found out when one of his victims escaped and managed to turn him in. Cindy Paulson managed to escape, get picked up by a trucker, then made it to a hotel where police eventually found her and took her statement. She helped police find Hansen who was then arrested, convicted of four counts of murder, and was forced to help police locate the bodies of the other women he murdered. He was given a sentence of life without parole but died in 2014 from health complications.
Also known as the Yorkshire Ripper, was a British serial killer that was active from 1981 until he was captured. He was convicted of killing 13 women and attempting to murder 7 more. He targeted prostitutes in the Leeds and Bradford areas. He was convicted of murder after he was taken in for driving with a fake license plate and pleaded insanity as an attempt at leniency. He was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.
Also known as the night stalker, Ramirez was known to have killed an unknown number of people. His victims ranged from 9 years old to a married couple in their 60s. Ramirez would break into the homes of his victims who were chosen at random, he would then shoot, stab, rape, and mutilate his victims before he killed them. He would also smear pentagrams on the walls in the victims own blood. He was captured and convicted in 1985 and died in his cell in 2013.
Perhaps one of the most notorious serial killers of his time, Dahmer was convicted of killing, dismembering, eating, and raping 17 men and boys between the years of 1978 and 1991. Dahmer was a man who as a child would torture and kill animals in the basement of his home. Dahmer, who was not admittedly gay, would kidnap and rape his victims. In his early years he would first befriend his victim then lure them back to his home where they would have sex and he would kill them. As his crimes escalated however, Dahmer tried frontal lobotomies where he would drill holes in the skull of his victims before pouring in acid in an attempt to make them into a slave.
Dahmer also admitted to dissolving bodies in acid, eating and cooking parts of his later victims, and even having sex with a corpse. One victim was able to escape and tried to turn Dahmer in but he intercepted and claimed that they were having a lovers spat before taking the boy back to his home and killing him. Dahmer was eventually caught when one victim managed to escape and alert police. He was convicted of 15 counts of murder and was later beaten to death by a fellow inmate.
Some claim that Nilsen is the British equivalent of Jeffrey Danmer. Nilsen was a homosexual killer that would lure his victims to his home, rape and then murder them. Nilsen would dissect and dispose of the bodies by either burning them or flushing parts down the toilet. He was discovered when human flesh was found in the sewage system. He was convicted of 6 counts of murder and two attempted murder and was sentenced to the maximum of life in prison.
Ted Bundy was seen as one of the most famous serial killers of all time and has been included on numerous top serial killers lists. Bundy was known for raping and killing dozens of women and girls during the 1970s. He would lead them to secluded areas where he would then rape, murder and torture them. He decapitated at least 12 of of his victims and kept their heads in his apartment as trophies. He managed to escape police twice during which time he committed three more killings. He was convicted of multiple murders and was eventually given the electric chair as a method of death.
>Pedro Alonso Lopez
As one of the world’s most prolific serial killers. He is a Columbian born serial killer that is accused of raping and killing more than 300 girls across south America. He would lure them to a secluded area, rape, torture and eventually kill them, most by strangulation. He would then buy their bodies. He was arrested following a botched kidnapping attempt at a market where he then confessed to killing 300 girls. Police did not believe him until a flash flood uncovered a mass grave with 53 bodies in it. He was imprisoned but only served 18 years before he was released. He was picked up again in 2002 however and was sentenced to life in prison.
Serial killers are not the norm but there are far more of them than we like to admit. There are more people out there with sick and twisted desires and fantasies than we may ever know. It is always helpful however to know a bit about these twisted people and what made them tick. You can learn more about any of these killers by simply searching for them. There have been thousands of books written on the subject and taking the time to read a few is not only interesting but also immensely helpful to those that want to know just what makes these people tick. Being a serial killer is often not a choice for these twisted individuals but knowing about them is a choice that many choose to make.