Halloween Feature Story: History’s Top 5 Serial Killers

Ellie Hood

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!! Warning !! Graphic Content

l. Jeffrey Dahmer
Years Active: 1978-1992
Victim Count: 17+


As a kid, Dahmer had a strange obsession with bones, specifically how they fit together. Dahmer would collect either collect roadkill or kill animals himself with the intent of preserving their bones in his father’s backyard shed. He committed his first murder at the age of 18 and continued to murder until his arrest in 1992, at the age of 32. Dahmer typically drugged his victims, raped them, dismembered them, and then saved their body parts in his apartment. Dahmer was also notorious for eating some of his vicitms, which were mostly young, non-white males.

 

2. Ted Bundy
Years Active: 1966-1989
Victim Count: 30+


Other than his massive victim count, one of Bundy’s most notable claims-to-fame was how normal he looked. Handsome, charming, and well educated, America was shocked when he confessed to the rape and murder of over 30 girls, one only 12 years old. Bundy was active primarily in the Pacific Northwest, with his murders taking place in Seattle, Utah, and Colorado. After escaping from prison twice in Colorado, he moved onto Florida where he broke into a sorority and beat several the girls to death. Bundy was finally arrested in Florida and was executed in 1989.

 

3. John Wayne Gacy
Years Active: 1972-1978
Victim Count: 33


John Wayne Gacy hid his murderous personality from his neighbors behind the clown suit he often wore to birthday parties he volunteered at. In 1978, police found the decomposing bodies of 29 teens that Gacy had raped and murdered stuffed away in a crawl space in Gacy’s house. After arrest, Gacy admitted to the murders of four more young men, whom he left in a nearby lake. The police department came under a lot of fire even after Gacy’s arrest as many families of the victims say they reported Gacy as a suspect long before his arrest. Gacy was executed in 1994.

 

4. Ed Gein
Years Active: unknown-1957
Victim Count: 2 (lower than the others, but read)

Ed Gein grew up an abused child, but when his mother passed away in 1945, Gein decided that he was going to turn his house into a sort of “shrine” dedicated to her. After the disappearance of store clerk Bernice Worden, the police obtained a search warrant for the Gein family property, where they found Worden’s decapitated corpse hanging from the rafters. They also found household items, such as chairs and bowls, fashioned from human bone and skin; faces hung on the walls; and a vest made from a human torso. Many of these body parts were stolen from graves. When asked why he had done such a thing, Gein told the media he was trying to create new version of his mother. Gein was diagnosed with schizophrenia and declared unfit for trial. He died in a mental hospital in 1984.

 

5. H. H. Holmes
Years Active: 1893
Victim Count: 27 confessed, 200+ suspected


H. H. Holmes was nothing more than a pharmacist when he set up his “castle” at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. His three-story inn looked normal from the outside, but behind it’s sound-proof walls, it was a full-fledged “macabre torture chamber.” The inn was a web of secret passages and dead ends fitted with hidden peepholes, gas lines, and trap doors. At one part of the inn, a greased chute led down to a basement where Holmes had a furnace, a surgical table, and a medieval rack. Holmes’s preferred targets were young women, whom he lured his inn, gassed them, and performed horrible experiments on them before skinning them and selling their skeletons to universities. Holmes was arrested for insurance scams while running his “murder castle,” and the investigation led to four murder convictions. Holmes was hanged in 1896.

 

Works Cited and Photo Credits:

Bodner, Brett. “A Look at How Infamous Serial Killers like Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz Were Caught on the Birthday of Ed Gein.” Nydailynews.com, New York Daily News, 8 Apr. 2018.

“Jeffrey Dahmer.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 26 Aug. 2019.

Jenkins, John Philip. “H.H. Holmes.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc..

“John Wayne Gacy.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 9 Sept. 2019.

Maranzani, Barbara. “8 Of History’s Most Notorious Serial Killers.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 18 July 2017.

Sederstrom, Jill. “Who Was The Victim That Ted Bundy Admitted Taking Back To His Home?” Oxygen Official Site, 19 Aug. 2019.

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