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Scariest Serial Killers

Current Events, Misc | By The Top 13 on May 12, 2010

Earlier this year, as a California jury convicted serial killer Rodney Alcala of five murders in that state, investigators across the country considered whether he also might be a suspect in unsolved killings elsewhere. Some even suggested that Alcala might be the most prolific serial killer in this country's history. And that got us thinking about serial killers, particularly who are the scariest, based on a combination of the nature of the atrocities they committed, the number of victims, and the panic that their crimes caused. Here are the Top 13 Scariest Serial Killers.

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John Wayne Gacy

1

John Wayne Gacy

The Killer Clown

Molested as a child, Gacy was himself abusing boys by the time he was 25. After serving 18 months for those assaults, he returned to his hometown and started what appeared to be an upstanding, quiet life. In late December of 1978, however, a search of Gacy's home revealed what he really had been up to the previous six years. The man who would become known as the Killer Clown for his hobby entertaining kids as a Clown, had killed a staggering 33 young men and boys (at least). Gacy typically picked up runaways or male prostitutes, handcuffed them, and choked them while he sexually assaulted them. Then, he'd either bury the bodies in the crawlspace of his house or dump them in the Des Plaines River.

David Berkowitz

2

David Berkowitz

Son of Sam

Though Berkowitz had fewer victims than all but one other killer on this Top 13 (six killed, seven wounded), he terrorized a city like no other serial killer ever has. Berkowitz taunted New Yorkers as he unleashed a reign of terror on the city's young couples, writing bizarre, incomprehensible warning letters that he left at crime scenes and sent to reporters. Berkowitz, who was also a shockingly prolific arsonist, has claimed that he was commanded to kill by a demon who possessed his neighbor Sam's dog. Linked to occultists and Satanists, the Son of Sam's modus operandi was to shoot couples sitting in parked cars.

Jeffrey Dahmer

3

Jeffrey Dahmer

Dahmer's crimes were as gruesome as any of the serial killers on this Top 13. Not only did he sexually abuse and murder the young men and boys he attacked, but Dahmer also dismembered, engaged in necrophilia, and cannibalized many of his victims in his Milwaukee apartment. In his youth, Dahmer displayed many of the telltale signs of his future, like torturing animals, and by the time of his arrest in the summer of 1991, he was killing nearly a person every week. Police found a collection of body parts in Dahmer's apartment that he kept as souvenirs.

Ted Bundy

4

Ted Bundy

The Campus Killer

Intelligent and charming, Bundy essentially hid in plain sight throughout most of his four or five years of persistent killing. Despite tips pointing to him, police never focused on the handsome Washington state law student, who often used fake injuries and a smile to attract his victims. Bundy, who may have been the product of an incestuous relationship between his mother and her father, beat, strangled, and raped his 35-plus victims, many of whom were students at various Washington universities. After his first conviction in the attacks, Bundy managed to escape twice, traveling east to commit further atrocities at a sorority house in Florida, where he was ultimately captured, convicted, and executed.

Gary Ridgway

5

Gary Ridgway

The Green River Killer

Somehow, Ridgway - with a reported I.Q. of just 82 - managed to elude a massive task force hunting him for nearly twenty years. During that time, the man known to the public as the Green River Killer because he dumped most of his victims in the woods surrounding that river, strangled at least 71 prostitutes and runaways near Seattle and Tacoma in Washington. After his arrest, Ridgway, ultimately identified by DNA testing of semen preserved from his victims, described murdering young women as his "career."

Ed Gein

6

Ed Gein

The Plainfield Ghoul

Raised on a Wisconsin farm by an abusive, religious fanatic mother, the true number of Gein's victims likely will never be known. He confessed to only two killings, but was suspected of at least a few others. And when police searched Gein's secluded farmhouse, they discovered a real house of horrors, with body parts from dozens of women scattered everywhere, as well as masks and other clothing made of skin. In addition to his killing, Gein was a prolific grave robber, regularly exhuming and stealing the corpses of women, including his mother. Gein was the inspiration for a number of movie characters, including Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs.

Charles Ng and Leonard Lake

7

Charles Ng and Leonard Lake

Both Lake and Ng had served in the military and spent time in prison when they met in rural California in 1982. The pair became fast friends and Ng moved into Lake's remote ranch, where they began collecting women to be slaves with which they planned to repopulate the world after a coming nuclear war. Along the way, they sexually abused, tortured, and murdered at least twelve people, including two full families, videotaping many of their exploits. When police arrested Lake on a gun charge, he took a cyanide pill. Ng was later caught in Canada. Fast forward 1:45 into the video below for a story about Ng and Lake.

Richard Ramírez

8

Richard Ramírez

The Night Stalker

Fueled by Satanism and a heavy cocaine addiction, Ramírez terrorized Los Angeles for fourteen tense months in the mid-1980s by perpetrating a series of brutal break-ins that typically ended in rape and murder. Ramírez suffered from epilepsy as a child, was sleeping in cemeteries at 10, and was heavily influenced as a young teenager by a disturbed cousin who regaled the future serial killer with stories of torture in Vietnam. In all, Ramírez - who often drew a Satanic pentagram on his body - committed at least fourteen murders and many more attacks.

Henry Lee Lucas

9

Henry Lee Lucas

The Confession Killer

It's unlikely we'll ever know just how many people Lucas killed during his more than 20-year crime spree across the American South. Lucas had a brutal childhood, abused by his alcoholic, prostitute mother, Viola, who would later become his first victim. If you believe the Confession Killer, he was responsible for as many as 600 murders, many of which he claimed were committed with accomplice Ottis Toole, though a now-disputed task force report put the number at 350. Whatever the actual number, Lucas was one of the most prolific serial killers ever, and the film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is based on his confessions.

Dennis Rader

10

Dennis Rader

The BTK Killer

Between 1974 and 1991, Rader, the president of his Wichita church, carefully stalked and killed ten people, including four family members who were his first victims. Like Berkowitz, Rader taunted the police and the public up until his capture in 2005, frequently sending letters with clues about his identity and whereabouts, as well as items taken from the murder scenes to prove his authenticity. And like several of the murderers on this list, there were warning signs; a young Rader tortured animals and had various sexual fetishes. Rader's nickname stands for bind, torture and kill, which accurately describes his brutal modus operandi.

Dean Corll

11

Dean Corll

The Candy Man

Unlike many of the killers on this Top 13, nothing in Corll's life prior to the beginning of his killing spree suggested that he was capable of the atrocities he would go on to commit. Perhaps that's why the quiet architect of the shocking Houston Mass Murders was able to rape, torture and kill at least 27 boys from one low-income neighborhood during just a three-year period in the early 1970s. Corll, who ran a candy shop, paid two teens $200 a victim to procure most of the boys he killed, and was stopped only when one of those accomplices shot him in self-defense while Corll had two other teens handcuffed naked to his torture rack.

Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono Jr.

12

Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono Jr.

The Hillside Strangers

Like a number of killers on this Top 13, Bianchi's mother was a prostitute and his upbringing extremely tumultuous. Diagnosed with numerous mental illnesses as a child in Rochester, New York, Bianchi became a petty thief after graduating high school and was constantly on the move. He settled in Los Angeles in 1977, where he became close with his cousin Angelo Buono. The cousins began working as pimps, but soon stepped up to murder. Over a four-month stretch that year, they kidnapped, raped, tortured, and killed at least ten girls and women in the hills above Los Angeles, creating a panic among the women of that city.

Rodney Alcala

13

Rodney Alcala

The Dating Game Killer

Convicted and sentenced to death earlier this year in the murders of five Southern California women and girls in the late 1970s, Alcala has confessed to as many as 30 killings and is suspected of many, many more murders - perhaps as many as 100 - across the country. Alcala, an amateur photographer who apparently studied film under Roman Polanski, earned his nickname from a successful appearance in 1978 on The Dating Game. Investigators are still trying to identify many of the hundreds of women depicted in provocative photos taken by Alcala, who raped and strangled most of his victims.

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Comments Leave a comment

ajay ★★

Agreed on choice #1.

Also, the woman in the Dating Game clip is incredibly annoying.

3:13 PM   May 12, 2010

tloveisready ★★

This list is so creepy. It's so unsettling to listen to these guys talk about that stuff too.
Also Alcala's picture looks a LOT like howard stern

3:25 PM   May 12, 2010

stillathreat ★★

How about the Beltway snipers, Manson, or Richard Speck?

6:23 PM   May 12, 2010

ajay ★★

Getting sniped isn't quite as scary as getting raped, tortured, and cut into pieces.

6:33 PM   May 12, 2010

johndoeaa 

"When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things. One part wants me to take her out, talk to her, be real nice and sweet and treat her right."

"And what did the other part think?"

"What her head would look like on a stick!”

9:46 PM   May 12, 2010

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