Top 10 serial killersby James Harle
at University of York 03rd October 2012 13:55:28
I think we can all agree that there’s something strangely compelling about serial killers. The murder of a fellow human creature seems so far beyond the boundaries of everyday life, so obviously in contravention of every rule that society relies on, that one can’t help but look at mass murder as a kind of incredible fiction which occurs in reality. The horrors that human beings have visited on each other often defy even the powers of imagination- so please, suspend your disbelief for this top ten of the most grotesque serial killers ever. The most grotesque to ever be apprehended, that is.
1. Albert Fish (19th May 1870 – 16th January 1936)
An American child rapist and cannibal, Albert Fish was better known as ‘the boogeyman’. With only four known victims, Fish doesn’t seem worthy of the top spot- but consider this: he’s easily the most creepy serial killer of them all. Quite apart from apparently taking two jolts in the electric chair because of 29 needles he had masochistically inserted into his pelvic region, Fish was known for writing letters to his attorneys and victims’ parents detailing his exact methods. He was called ‘the boogeyman’ because when questioned over victim Billy Gaffney’s disappearance, his friends said simply that the boogeyman had taken him.
2. Jeffry Dahmer (21st May 1960 – 28th November 1994)
A big name in the world of serial murder, Jeffrey Dahmer is perhaps best known for his habit of dissolving the bodies of his victims into sludge in acid vats he kept in his apartment. Probably the most horrific part of these murders was the fact that one victim- Konerak Sinthasomphone, aged 14- managed to escape Dahmer’s apartment only to be returned to his killer by the police, who were convinced by Dahmer that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old boyfriend. Imagining that he could turn his captives into zombies, Dahmer would drill holes into the skulls of his victims and inject acid into their brains while they were still alive. He died in prison in 1994.
3. Pedro Alonso López (8th October 1948 -)
Pedro Alonso López, a Columbian serial killer also known as ‘the monster of the Andes’, is perhaps the most prolific killer of the twentieth century. Accused and convicted of murdering 110 young girls in Ecuador alone, he has confessed to 240 further murders in other countries, and is suspected of many more. Despite being on track for the highest bodycount of any serial killer ever, López was released from prison in 1998- only 15 years after being imprisoned. His current whereabouts? Unknown.
4. Gennady Mikhasevich (1947 – 1987)
You may not have heard of soviet serial killer Gennady Mikhasevich, who was responsible for a respectable 43 confessed victims. His methods were simple- assaulting women and strangling them by roads at night - and his motives were too: he resented women after his girlfriend left him when he joined the army. What’s interesting about Mikhasevich is that he participated as a volunteer in the police investigation of his own crimes - and his kill count of 43 does not account for the 14 people tortured and executed by the Militsiya for murders that Mikhasevich himself had committed.
5. Charles Manson (12th November 1934 - )
Everyone knows Charles Manson, the swastika-headed mastermind behind the Manson Family murders. Technically not a serial killer, Charlie did not commit even a single murder himself- but that didn’t stop him from capturing the fearful imagination of the entire world. The Manson Family, a kind of spiritual commune, carried out a spate of murders to try and precipitate an apocalyptic race war which Manson called ‘Helter-Skelter’ in 1969. Apprehended the same year, Manson is still living in San Quentin prison, and in fact recently wrote an open letter to performer and namesake Marilyn Manson which can be seen on his website. Manson continues to exert a strong influence from inside his cell, and there are a number of people who follow his spiritual teachings to this day.
6. Ted Bundy (24th November 1946 – 24th January 1989)
Another famous murderer, Ted Bundy confessed to 30 killings before his execution, and described himself as “the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet.” Bundy’s speciality was murder-rape, and he also habitually engaged in necrophilia with the bodies of his victims. His modus operandi was simple yet effective: he would use his handsome features and often a feigned handicap to lure girls to his car, before bludgeoning them and transporting them to uninhabited locations. What most people don’t know is that Bundy would probably have been acquitted of the murders for which he was initially indicted if he hadn’t made two incredibly daring escape attempts, both successful, which led to further murders.
7. Ed Gein (27th August 1906 – 26th July 1984)
Ed Gein is one of the few serial killers to now be less well-known than the fictional killers he has inspired - Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jame Gumb in The Silence of the Lambs, and Norman Bates in Psycho. Like Manson, however, Gein is not an official serial killer- with only two murders to his name, he is more infamous for his habit of exhuming and dissecting female corpses in the pursuit of building a ‘woman-suit’ which he could wear. Many have attributed the death of county sheriff Arthur Schley, who originally discovered the remains in Gein’s house, to the shock of having to come to terms with such a grizzly collection of human remnants.
8. Myra Hindley (23rd July 1942 – 15th November 2002) and Ian Brady (2nd January 1934 -)
Myra Hindley and Ian Brady are perhaps the two most notorious British serial-killers of all time. Also known as the ‘moors murderers’, several analysts have described their spate of murders as the unfortunate result of a sadist - Brady- forming a relationship with someone so used to receiving and dealing out pain. To this day the debate persists over which was more evil - the criminally insane Brady, or Hindley, who was quite sane but also participated in the murders. Forty years later, the family of one victim - Keith Bennett - continue to search the moors for his remains. It is believed that Brady knows where Keith’s body is buried, but on two subsequent outings he has lead the family fruitlessly all over the moors.
9. Fred West (29th September 1941 – 1st January 1995)
Fred West has recently been the subject of a 2011 ITV drama Appropriate Adult. The Gloucester-based murderer was most active in the mid to late seventies, and with the help of his wife Rosemary tortured, raped and murdered between 11 and 13 women. Born into a household which was allegedly rife with incest and bestiality, West went on to father a large family with Rosemary, who was also a prostitute. After a long and confusing series of incestuous murder-rapes and the killings of anyone who found out too much about the Wests’ ‘sex circle’, the pair were eventually caught in 1994 when social workers reported a joke West had made about burying one of his daughters under the patio.
10. John (14th February 1845 – 15th August 1893) and Sarah Makin (20th December 1845 – 13th September 1918)
John and Sarah Makin were a pair of Australian child-murderers active at the end of the 19th century. Their plan was fairly simple: they were baby farmers, an old term for people who adopted or cared for children for money. The Makins, however, soon decided that they would rather collect the money and not look after the children, so they began to murder the infants and toddlers that came into their care. Their business was discovered when a plumber tackling a blockage in their drain found that it was made up of the remains of two children. The parts of between 12 and 13 infants were later discovered at the Makin house. John was hanged, but Sarah escaped capital punishment on the grounds of being a woman. She was paroled 19 years later.