7 of History's Most Notorious Serial Killers  (2024)


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Tim Newcomb Tim Newcomb is a freelance journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. He has written regularly about sports gear, stadiums, tennis, architecture, and infrastructure for Popular Mechanics, Forbes,...

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Strictly speaking, a serial killer is someone who murders at least two people in separate events that occur at different times. While “serial murder” is not formalized by any legal code, the crimes of serial killers have often been seized on by the media and the public consciousness—especially in cases where there are many victims or the murders are carried out in gruesome fashion. The following list explores some of the most notorious serial killers the world has ever known.

  • Jack the Ripper

    We call him “Jack the Ripper,” but we don’t really know who the person behind one of the older and most notorious murder sprees was. The killer appeared in London’s Whitechapel district in 1888 and murdered five women—all prostitutes—and mutilated their corpses. Police surmised the killer was a surgeon, butcher, or someone skilled with a scalpel. The killer mocked the community and the police by sending letters outlining the acts. Although many suspects have been named over the years, the killer has never been identified.

  • Jeffrey Dahmer

    Jeffrey Dahmer started killing in 1978, just 18 years old, and wasn’t arrested for murder until 1991, after a would-be victim escaped and led police back to Dahmer’s Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home. It was there that some of the gruesome details of his life of killing were seen via photos of mutilated bodies and body parts strewn across the apartment. He even had a vat of acid he used to dispose of victims. In all, Dahmer killed 17 people, mostly young men of color. He served time in prison twice—the first time for molestation and the second time for murder—and was killed by a fellow inmate in 1994.

  • Harold Shipman

    Harold Shipman, also known as “Dr. Death,” is believed to have killed an estimated 250 patients. This doctor practiced in Greater Manchester, England, and between 1972 and 1998 he worked in two difference offices, killing all the while. He wasn’t caught until a red flag was raised by several people, including an undertaker who was surprised by the sheer number of cremation certificates Shipman was a part of, along with the fact that most of the cases were elderly women found to have died in bed not at night but rather during the day. Police mishandled the investigation, and Shipman kept killing until he got greedy and tried to concoct a will for a victim that named him beneficiary, which led the victim’s daughter to become suspicious. He was finally convicted in 2000 and committed suicide while in prison in 2004.

  • John Wayne Gacy

    A construction worker known by his suburban neighbors as outgoing, John Wayne Gacy was involved in politics and even acted as a clown for birthday parties. He was no clown. Gacy came under suspicion in 1978 when a 15-year-old boy, last seen with him, went missing. That wasn’t the only time families of missing boys had pointed fingers at Gacy, but it was the first time authorities took them seriously. Soon after, a search warrant granted police access to the Gacy home, with the smell of nearly 30 bodies buried in a four-foot crawl space under his home. He was convicted of 33 counts of murder, with additional counts of rape and torture, and was executed by lethal injection in 1994.

  • H.H. Holmes

    Chicago has had its share of killers, but perhaps none more haunting than H.H. Holmes, the pharmacist who turned a hotel into a torture castle. Ahead of the 1893 world’s fair, Holmes moved to Chicago and started outfitting a three-story hotel with all manner of nefarious contraptions, including gas lines, secret passages and trapdoors, hallways to dead ends, chutes to the basem*nt, soundproofed padding, and torture devices strewn throughout a maze. The gas allowed Holmes to knock out his guests before the worst of what was to happen came next, often on his surgical tables. He then burned the bodies in the building’s furnace, selling skeletons to medical schools and running life insurance scams. In all, he copped to more than 30 murders—found only after a fellow scammer turned him in for falling short on a financial agreement—before he was hanged in 1896.

  • Pedro Lopez

    One of the world’s most prolific serial killers might still be out there. Pedro Lopez is linked to more than 300 murders in his native Colombia and in Ecuador and Peru. At least one-third of those murders were tribal women. After Lopez’s arrest in 1980, police found the graves of more than 50 of his preteen victims. He was later convicted of murdering 110 girls in Ecuador and confessed to 240 more murders in Colombia and Peru. The “Monster of the Andes” didn’t even spend 20 years in prison, as he was released in 1998 for good behavior. More than 20 years since, his whereabouts remain unknown.

  • Ted Bundy

    Ted Bundy loved the attention his murders garnered him, and many in the United States were more than happy to give him that attention. The western U.S. was his hunting ground, with an unknown number of murders piling up—mostly college-age women—from Washington and Oregon all the way to Utah and Colorado. Bundy was once arrested in Colorado and convicted of kidnapping, but he escaped custody, moving to Florida where he killed multiple times more. Bundy’s final arrest and its aftermath captured the attention of the nation, as the accused murderer acted as his own lawyer during what is believed to have been the first televised murder trial, welcomed interviews, and boasted of the fans he had created. He was eventually executed in an electric chair in 1989.

7 of History's Most Notorious Serial Killers  (2024)


7 of History's Most Notorious Serial Killers ? ›

After his release, authorities have reportedly attempted to track him down, but Pedro Lopez's whereabouts remain unknown even today. According to the Daily Star, Lopez claimed he was killing three girls every week during the peak of his killing spree. He claimed to have killed over 240 women.

Where is Pedro Lopez now? ›

After his release, authorities have reportedly attempted to track him down, but Pedro Lopez's whereabouts remain unknown even today. According to the Daily Star, Lopez claimed he was killing three girls every week during the peak of his killing spree. He claimed to have killed over 240 women.

Who is the #1 serial killer in the US? ›

Samuel Little

Who was the worst serial killer that killed the most people? ›

Serial killers with the highest known victim count
NameCountryPossible victims
Luis GaravitoColombia Ecuador Venezuela194–300+
Pedro LópezColombia Peru Ecuador300+
Javed IqbalPakistan100
Mikhail PopkovRussia83+
29 more rows

Who is the youngest serial killer? ›

According to ABP News, Amarjeet Sada was responsible for the murders of three, out of which two went unreported. His horrific actions made him known as the world's youngest serial killer.

Did Pedro Lopez have children? ›

Pedro Lopez, 1903 - 1960

Pedro married Lorenza Lopez (born Martinez). Lorenza was born on month day 1906, in birth place, Texas. They had 11 children: Ernesto Lopez Martinez, Jesus Martinez Lopez and 9 other children.

Who was Pedro Lopez' mother? ›

Who is the twin serial killer? ›

Storyline. This installment details the 1990s serial killer Larry Hall, who murdered young women. His identical twin brother, Gary Hall, has never been a suspect in the murders of Larry Hall, who was eventually convicted and sentenced to prison.

Who was the black serial killer that killed 93 people? ›

It was a race against the clock when an ailing Samuel Little started confessing his crimes from behind bars. Little, who said he murdered 93 people, mostly women, between 1970 and 2005, was serving three life sentences in California for killing Linda Alford, Guadalupe Apodaca and Audrey Everett.

Who killed the most humans in history? ›

The most such killing was done by the Soviet Union (near 62,000,000 people), the communist government of China is second (near 35,000,000), followed by Nazi Germany (almost 21,000,000), and Nationalist China (some 10,000,000).

Who was the nastiest serial killer? ›

7 of History's Most Notorious Serial Killers
  • Jack the Ripper. We call him “Jack the Ripper,” but we don't really know who the person behind one of the older and most notorious murder sprees was. ...
  • Jeffrey Dahmer. ...
  • Harold Shipman. ...
  • John Wayne Gacy. ...
  • H.H. Holmes. ...
  • Pedro Lopez. ...
  • Ted Bundy.

Which serial killer was never caught? ›

Serial Killers That Were Never Caught: Jack the Ripper, Zodiac Killer & More.

Who is the most recent serial killer? ›

NameCountryYears active
Charles RowlandUnited States2021
Daniel PrintzUnited States2017–2021
Fabricio Eloy LudeñaEcuador2017–2021
José Tiago Correia SorokaBrasil2021
10 more rows

What serial killer has a daughter? ›

Dennis Rader terrorized Kansas for decades before his arrest in 2005. His daughter, Kerri Rawson, could not bear to see him until this June, when she visited him in prison to help investigators. Kerri Rawson sees her life in two parts: before and after she learned that her father was a serial killer.

Who is the oldest serial killer in history? ›

Gilles de Rais was born during the Hundred Years War and fought alongside Joan of Arc. He is considered to be the first recorded serial killer of modern history, having been active prior to Vlad The Impaler and Countess Elizabeth Báthory.

Which state has the highest number of serial killers? ›

New York is the state with the most serial killers, with a total of 18 serial killers born in the state. California comes in as the second state with the most serial killers, with 15, followed by Texas with 8, and Illinois and Ohio with 7 each.

Did Pedro Lopez go to court? ›

In 1995, Pedro Lopez was put on trial in Colombia for murder, but he was declared insane and sent to a mental hospital instead of prison.

What happened to the Boston Strangler? ›

His lawyer then sent the police to re-arrest him in Lynn, Massachusetts. Following the escape, he was transferred to the maximum security prison known at the time as Walpole, where he later recanted his Strangler confessions. On November 25, 1973, he was found stabbed to death in the prison infirmary.

Who was the serial killer in Cuba? ›

Francisco del Junco (born August 3, 1957) is a Cuban-American serial killer who killed and subsequently burned the corpses of four Miami prostitutes during a period of around eight months.

What did Harold Shipman do? ›

Shipman was eventually charged with the murder of 15 women and found guilty on 31 January 2000. It was clear that he had covered his tracks by altering records and falsifying death certificates. On every level he had abused the trust that his patients put in him.

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