Anytime talk of serial killers pops up amongst horror fans, you’re almost guaranteed to hear about Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, the Zodiac Killer, and so on. In other words, the real popular ones – kind of like high school jocks. But, as with everything, there are often many others – and far more interesting ones – lurking just below the surface. Once again, your trusty guide is here to lead you through all that is strange, arcane, and well-off the beaten track. Here are 10 lesser-known serial killers.
Years active: 1920 – 1929
Number of known victims: 21
In his autobiography Panzram: A Journal of Murder, Panzram writes, “In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arsons and, last but not least, I have committed sodomy on more than 1,000 male human beings. For all these things I am not in the least bit sorry.” Sounds just like the kind of guy you’d wanna invite over for dinner, aye? By age 14, Panzram was an alcoholic and constantly in trouble with authorities for burglary and theft. He began his killing spree in August, 1920. His spree would last eight years. He was brought to justice in 1928. Though arrested for burglary, he voluntarily confessed to the killing of two young boys. In prison, he killed Robert Warnke, the foreman of the prison laundry, and was sentenced to death by hanging. When asked if he had any last words, he replied: “Yes, hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could kill a dozen men while you’re screwing around!”
Years active: 1926 – 1927
Number of known victims: 22
Nelson began a criminal career early, spending time in San Quinten and the Napa State Mental Hospital. He began his killing spree in 1926, usually offing landladies. He’d approach them under the pretext of renting a room, study a well-worn Bible to throw them off guard, the kill them and engage in necrophilia with the corpses. He even throttled the 8-month-old daughter of one of his victims. Police had a hard time bringing him to justice as “serial killers” were a new thing at the time. After many false arrests, Nelson was brought to justice – only to escape his prison cell. But he was re-captured the next day. He was sentenced to death by hanging.
Years active: 1913 – 1929
Number of known victims: 10
Neighbors described him as a “mild, conservative, soft-spoken man, a churchgoer and lover of young children.” Sounds just like the description of a man who enjoyed brutally slaying his victims before, supposedly, drinking their blood. Kurten was one of 13 children. He first derived sexual pleasure at a young age from helping a local dogcatcher catch and kill strays. By age 13, he was committing acts of bestiality, often killing the animals beforehand to heighten sexual pleasure. He then moved on to arson, saying, “The sight of the flames delighted me.” He began killing in 1913 by slitting the throat of Kristine Klein, aged 13. He amassed nine more victims, two of them as young as 5-years-old. Kurten was finally apprehended in do due a mis-addressed letter. He was sentenced to be beheaded. He asked the executioner beforehand: “Will I still be able to hear for a moment the sound of my blood gushing? That would be pleasure to end all pleasures.”
Years active: 1880 – 1896
Number of known victims: 6 (100+ suspected)
Amelia Dyer is one of the most prolific serial killers in British history. Trained as a nurse and mid-wife, she turned to baby farming for financial means. Baby farmers would take unwanted children from parents – for a fee of course – under the guise of raising them as their own. More often than not though, these children were killed. Initially, Dyer would let the children die of starvation or neglect. However, she wished to speed up the process, thus allowing her to pocket more of the fee. She did this by wrapping edging tape around their throats. She discarded the bodies in the Thames. She eluded authorities for many years, but was caught once when a doctor grew suspicious of the number of children dying in her care. However, she was only charged with neglect and sentenced to six months hard labor. She was eventually brought to justice in 1896, charged with only one murder, and hung.
Years active: 1992 – 1999
Number of known victims: 138 (300 suspected)
Garavito’s victims were mostly peasant children between the ages of 6 and 16. He would offer them gifts or money to gain their trust, then take long walks with them – which usually ended in the child being molested and raped. Then Garavito would slit their throats and dismember the bodies. Some corpses showed signs of prolonged torture. He was eventually apprehended and sentenced to 30 years in prison, the maximum sentence in Columbia. The sentence was reduced to 22 years for cooperation and good behavior.
Years active: 1967 – 1987/1971 – 1987
Number of known victims: 13
Couple who are horror fans always joke about becoming a “killer couple,” but Fred and Rosemary West were a “killer couple.” Fred was 27 and still married to Catherine Costello when he met Rosemary Letts. He’d already begun killing young women, his first victim being Anna McFall – a woman who was pregnant with their child! Catherine eventually left him, leaving their two daughters in his care. Fred then married Rosemary; a year later, their daughter, Heather, was born. Their house had a room where Rosemary would offer services to men while Fred watched through peepholes. One such men was her own father. in 1971, Catherine returned to claim her and Fred’s daughter, Charmaine. Neither women were ever seen again. The couple began their killing spree in 1973, murdering young women, ages ranging from their teens to mid-twenties. Their last victim was their daughter, Heather. The couple were apprehended shortly thereafter, in 1987. When police raided the house, they found a videotape of Fred raping one of his seven daughters. The couple confessed to nine killings. The victim’s bodies were found in various spots in the house and the land upon which it stood. Before they could face trial, Fred hanged himself in his prison cell. Rosemary was sentenced to ten terms of life imprisonment.
Years active: 1964/1972 – 1973
Number of known victims: 10
His nickname sounds like an exploitation film, and his life and crimes play out like one as well. Kemper’s first victims were his grandparents, both of whom he shot with a .22 rifle given to him by his grandfather. He was 14. When asked why, he said he “just wanted to know how it would feel to shoot Grandma.” He was committed to the state hospital at Atascadero until he was 21. His spree began with two 18-year-old co-eds, both of whom he stabbed and slashed to death. He then dismembered them. Kemper continued picking up women and murdering them, then dismembering them and dumping the parts in various locales. The authorities began searching for “The Co-ed Killer.” His final murders involved taking a hammer to his mother while she slept, cutting out her larynx and feeding it into the waste disposal – “It seemed appropriate as much as she’d bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years.” Then, he invited his mother’s friend over for a “surprise dinner.” He strangled her when she arrived, then cut off her head. Afterwards, he headed east, drove for many hours, then stopped in Pueblo, Colorado, and called the Santa Cruz police to confess that he was “The Co-ed Killer. Upon conviction, he was asked what he considered a suitable punishment. “Death by torture,” was his response. As there was no death penalty in California at the time, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Years active: 1918 – 1924
Number of known victims: 27 (more suspected)
If you’d bought meat on the black market during post-World War I Germany, there’s a chance it could have come from Haarman. What’s so special about it? It was human flesh. Haarman started off as a common thief. He was also an informant for the police. After being arrested, he graduated to murder. His victims were all young boys and men whom he’d lure to his apartment and bite their necks, sometimes while sodomizing them. He and his lover, Hans Grans, would then sell the victims possessions on the black market for money. Haarman would dismember the bodies and dump them in the river Leine; supposedly, he sold their flesh on the black market saying it was meat. This method came back to bite him, however, as the skeletal remains surfaced further down the river. Haarman was suspected as he had prior convictions for molesting children and was connected to the disappearance of Friedel Rothe in 1918. Haarman confessed to between 50 – 70 murders, but police were only able to connect him to 27. He was charged with 27 murders, convicted of 24, then beheaded.
Years active: 2006 – 2007
Number of known victims: 3
Never heard of him? No surprise. He’s a serial killer from India. He also happens to be the world’s youngest known serial killer at eight-years-old. He killed three children, the oldest being eight-months-old – by beating them to death with a brick. Also, his first two victims were family members: his six-month-old cousin and eight-month-old sister. To make matters worse, his family knew about his first two killing but didn’t tell authorities because it was a “family matter.” I guess killing family members in India is perfectly okay. His final victim was the six-month-old daughter of a fellow villager. This one led to his arrest.
Years active: 1977 – 1978
Number of known victims: 6
Richard Trenton Chase earned his nickname because he would drink the blood of his victims and feast upon their organs. Chase drank the blood because he was afraid his his blood turn to powder. He began his career by capturing and killing animals, drinking their blood and eating their flesh raw. He soon moved on to human game. He was obsessed with the Hillside Strangler and believe he was a victim of a Nazi/UFO conspiracy – the same conspiracy that Chase believed himself to be a victim of. His first victim was a 51-year-old man whom Chase killed via drive-by shooting. Next, he broke into the home of Teresa Wallin, who was three-months-pregnant. Chase shot her three times, committed necrophilia, then bathed in her blood – literally. His next victims were his last: 38-year-old Evelyn Miroth, her Six-year-old son, Jason, and her 22-month-old nephew, David. Miroth’s neighbor, Dan Meredith, was also present. As per usual, Chase defiled Evelyn’s corpse and consumed bits of her and the other’s organs. After this murder, Chase was apprehended. While in prison, Chase committed suicide by overdosing on anti-depressants prescribed to him by the prison doctor.