It is difficult to believe that anyone could be born evil. Children appear so innocent that it’s hard to imagine that some of them could become notorious serial killers only a few decades later.
However, that is exactly what happened in these cases as these cold-blooded monsters all stole other people’s lives in the most brutal way. Even creepier, there were clear warning signs of their evil potential in their earlier years. But it was completely overlooked until it was too late.
There were many signs that serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer was an evil child. The “Milwaukee Monster” killed and dismembered 17 teenage boys and young men from 1978 to 1991.
From a young age, Dahmer collected roadkill and dismembered the carcasses in the woodland area behind his home. He was fascinated by how the organs “fitted together,” which became the first sign of his obsession with cadavers. He also impaled skulls of decapitated dogs with stakes in the woodland to frighten those who lived in the neighborhood.
Michael Farnsworth, a forensic psychiatrist at the Minnesota Security Hospital, explained, “In a way, I would be more worried about the person who in secret captures animals and tortures them. Jeffrey Dahmer did that. As a youngster, he would capture animals and torture them.”
These were all signs of what was to come later in life as Dahmer tried to use his victims as part of his own twisted zombie experiment.
Edmund Kemper became known as “The Coed Killer” after he murdered 10 people, including his paternal grandparents and mother. With a height of 206 centimeters (6’9″), a weight of over 113 kilograms (250 lb), and an IQ of 145, he was considered a “natural-born killing machine” who could overpower his victims both physically and mentally.
Kemper’s childhood was troubling, to say the least. His emotionally abusive mother would lock him in the basement at night because she believed that he would cause harm to his sisters.
He took out his anger and frustration on the family cats. At just 10 years old, Kemper buried his pet cat alive. Then he dug up its dead body and placed its head on a spike. When he was 13, he used a machete to kill the replacement cat, slicing off the top of its skull as he showered himself in the animal’s blood. In adulthood, he used the same method of decapitation against his own mother.
Known as “The Lust Killer” and “The Shoe Fetish Slayer,” Jerry Brudos murdered at least four women in Oregon between 1968 and 1969. He showed signs of what was to come from a young age as his interest in women’s shoes evolved from curiosity to obsession.
As a young boy, he found a pair of high-heeled shoes and took them home to wear. This angered his mother. However, instead of throwing away the shoes as she demanded, he secretly kept them.
By the time he was a teenager, he took women’s clothing from washing lines and stole his teacher’s high heels from under her desk. At 17 years old, he was treated in a mental ward for nine months because he attacked a girl in a tunnel.
After his release, he settled into married life, but his urges were still there. Brudos lured unsuspecting women to their deaths, often keeping items of their clothing as a sinister reminder of his twisted crimes.
Albert “The Boston Strangler” DeSalvo confessed to the murders of 13 women in the Boston area from 1962 to 1964. His father was an alcoholic who had severely beaten DeSalvo, his siblings, and his mother.
At a young age, the future serial killer trapped small cats and dogs inside crates and then used arrows to shoot them for archery target practice. Despite stints in reform school and the US Army, he was unable to control his behavior.
Then DeSalvo’s killing spree began. He gained access to his victims’ homes by dressing as a workman in green clothing. His victims were tied up and held at knifepoint before he strangled them to death—often with their own stockings.
The attacks became known as the “Green Man attacks” and were terrifying for a lot of women. When DeSalvo was identified as the man responsible, he was sentenced to life in prison.
Ted Bundy is one of the most recognizable and widely discussed serial killers in history. Charming, handsome, and evil to the core, he confessed to brutally assaulting and murdering at least 30 women in several different states during the 1970s. Bundy’s family life was a complicated one. He was brought up to believe that his biological mother was his sister, but he was not mistreated or unloved.
On the documentary-style program Snapped: Notorious Ted Bundy, it was revealed that Bundy had taken knives from the kitchen and placed them on the bed where his aunt was sleeping when he was just a small child. Bundy also became deeply interested in violent crime magazines that often depicted gruesome pictures of slain women.
Psychologist Al Carlisle said, “[Bundy experienced] a lot of sexual relieving through the fictional stories.” Still, nobody could have guessed how violent the young Bundy would grow up to be. On January 24, 1989, he was executed in the electric chair at Florida State Prison.
Albert Fish was a twisted murderer and cannibal who took the lives of three innocent children and bragged that he had molested a total of more than 400 others “in every state.” Pain was the game for Fish. He tortured his victims and even himself as his fetishes included hitting himself repeatedly with a nail-studded paddle.
From a young age, Fish had a destructive and disturbing sexual appetite. When he lived in an orphanage, he became aroused while watching his classmates receive beatings from the teacher. Before age 15, Fish was introduced to urolagnia (sexual excitement associated with urine) and coprophagia (the consumption of feces) through a friend. He also visited public bathrooms to watch the other boys undress.
Fish was caught after he sent a letter to the mother of Grace Budd, his 10-year-old victim. In the letter, he described how he “cut [Grace] in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms, cook and eat it.” Proving that he really was a work of true evil.
Ottis Toole was convicted of killing six victims, although he confessed to murdering more. However, lack of evidence apparently prevented additional convictions.
Toole’s life had been doomed from the start as violence and abuse was all he knew from a very young age. He was born in Jacksonville, Florida, to a religious extremist mother who would beat him. His older sister molested him and dressed him as a girl, and his Satanist grandmother robbed graves for body parts that she could use in her rituals. His father also forced Ottis to perform sexual acts for the father’s male friends.
Toole turned to setting fires for his own pleasure. It’s believed that future serial killers have a penchant for fire as it stirs up a mixture of excitement, power, destruction, and revenge.
After Toole had an argument with his sexual partner, George Sonnenberg, in 1982, Toole barricaded Sonnenberg in a house and set it on fire. Toole was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder before it was discovered that his victim count was much higher.
Born in La Crosse County, Wisconsin, Ed Gein only left the family farm as a boy to attend school. Then he returned home to carry out his chores. Each day, his deeply religious mother would preach graphic verses from the Bible and warn her son that women were instruments of the devil who were all prostitutes.
A young Gein made no friends and would break out into random fits of laughter in the classroom. This caused him to become a target for bullies.
His reclusive nature continued into adulthood. Following the death of his mother, he began digging up graves and fashioned furniture and other items from the skin and bones of the corpses.
After the murder of a local woman, police arrived at his home to find a sickening horror show that included a lampshade made of human skin, a belt made of human nipples, and the head of the victim kept in a paper bag. In 1984, he died at age 77 from heart failure and was buried in an unmarked grave.
Between 1974 and 1991, Dennis Rader killed 10 people in Wichita, Kansas. Mostly, he used the sinister method of “Bind, Torture, Kill” that led to his nickname “The BTK Killer.” The former church congregation president and Boy Scout leader led a quiet family life but also had a secret urge for torture and murder. In 2005, he was sentenced to a minimum of 175 years in prison without a chance of parole.
On the documentary-style program Snapped: Notorious BTK Killer, Dr. Katherine Ramsland, a professor of forensic psychology, revealed, “When he was young, his mother’s ring got caught on a couch spring, and she couldn’t get her hand out. She apparently was terrified and told him to go get help. And he felt the first stirrings of arousal over this.”
Ramsland continued, “It was exciting to him to see a woman helpless, and it was the beginning of his ideas about women that what he wanted from them was to keep them trapped and helpless and looking to him in terror. That became imprinted in his mind and became the image he was always after.”
Carroll Cole strangled to death at least 15 women, including his own girlfriend, between 1971 and 1980. In 1985, he was executed by lethal injection for some of his crimes.
Although he targeted women in his adulthood, Cole’s first murder was that of a young boy when he was just a child himself. Cole’s mother was abusive, and she would threaten to beat him if he mentioned her extramarital affairs to his father.
His mother dressed Cole like a girl, which caused him to be bullied by his classmates. At age eight (some sources say age 10), Cole retaliated by drowning a male classmate in Richmond, California.
The death was believed to be an accidental drowning until Cole confessed in an autobiography that he wrote behind bars. He said, “I was primed, I had made the mental commitment I was going to get even with my mother, and things just built up and built up and became an obsession.”
Cheish Merryweather is a true crime writer and editor of Crime Viral. Can be found at parties telling everyone Charles Manson was only 157 centimeters (5’2″). Twitter: @TheCheish