Serial killers are capable of disguising themselves as normal citizens in society. Their chameleonlike demeanors help them to hold down jobs, play at having happy families, and manage their social lives—all without allowing their masks to slip. At least for a while.
For the majority of them, it’s only a matter of time before they make a mistake and are caught. At that point, the families of these serial killers are informed and they find out exactly with whom they have been sharing their lives all this time.
The Moors murderers were British serial killing duo Ian Brady and Myra Hindley who killed five children between 1963 and 1965. Three of the bodies were buried in graves dug on Saddleworth Moor near Manchester. Pictured above with the twisted couple is Hindley’s younger sister, Maureen, who was unaware of the couple’s hidden evil.
When Maureen was a teenager, she fell in love with and married neighbor David Smith. In 1965, 17-year-old Smith witnessed the murder of Brady and Myra Hindley’s final victim, 17-year-old Edward Evans. Smith recalled, “I go into this room and [Brady was] hitting him and hitting him with an axe.”
Fearing Brady would turn on him, Smith helped with wrapping the body and cleaning the crime scene. When Smith returned home, he vomited at the thought of what he had just witnessed and confessed to 19-year-old Maureen. The young couple went to the police, and the Moors Murderers’ reign of terror finally came to an end.
Richard Kuklinski was a family man—husband to Barbara and father to two daughters and one son. He enjoyed summer barbecues by the pool and volunteered as an usher at mass every Sunday.
Then, a week before Christmas 1986, he was arrested as he pulled into the driveway of his home. It wasn’t long before Barbara discovered that her husband wasn’t a “salesman.” In fact, he was a killer for the Mafia with a reputation that landed him the name, “The Iceman.”
Speaking of her husband’s Mafia connections, Barbara explained, “I’ll be the first one to say, maybe I was naive, because I never saw anything like that.” She added, “Believe me, there were no guns in my house.”
Kuklinski was convicted of killing six people, but the lead investigator on the case believes that the real victim count was around 300. In 2006, Kuklinski died behind bars at age 70 in a secure wing at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey.
This photo of Rodney “The Dating Game Killer” Alcala with a young girl sitting on his knee is even more chilling when you realize that her identity is still unknown. Alcala’s killing spree in California and New York (and possibly elsewhere) between 1971 and 1979 claimed the lives of at least eight known victims. Sadly, the real victim count could be higher as photos taken by Alcala of more than 100 women and children were later discovered.
He photographed Liane Leedom in 1979 when she was 17 years old. Leedom recalled, “He invited me into his mother’s home, and so I went in and we talked. He was very preoccupied with the idea that he was a member of Mensa.”
She escaped with her life that day. A friend who knew of Alcala’s reputation saw her get out of the killer’s car and warned Leedom’s father, “You better tell your daughter to stay away from him.”
Others were not so lucky.
Andrei Chikatilo became known as “The Butcher of Rostov” based on his killing spree that claimed the lives of 52 known victims between 1978 and 1990. Chikatilo targeted women and children in the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, and the Uzbek SSR.
He approached his victims mainly at train stations, promising money or alcohol to the women and candy to the children. Then they were lured to a nearby forest where they were tied up and stabbed to death. Chikatilo said, “I am a mistake of nature, a mad beast.”
Despite suffering from chronic impotence, Chikatilo married his wife, Feodosia, and they had two children—a daughter, Lyudmila, and a son, Yuri—conceived very likely though manual methods. Chikatilo is pictured in the middle of the above photo holding his son.
Yuri had no clue about his father’s sinister crimes but nearly followed in his footsteps. In 2009, Yuri Chikatilo was arrested for attempted murder and thrown behind bars, too.
The “BTK Killer” terrified those who lived in Kansas as he was responsible for murdering 10 people there between 1974 and 1991. Nobody knew the murderer’s real identity, although his signature was “Bind, Torture, Kill.”
Paula Rader, one of those who feared the BTK Killer, was completely unaware that she had shared a marital bed with him for the past 34 years. When the BTK Killer was arrested in 2005, Paula and her two children discovered the sadistic details of exactly who the doting family man really was.
When Rader couldn’t understand why his family would not visit him in prison, daughter Kerri wrote to him, “You have had these secrets, this ‘double life’ for 30 years; we have only had knowledge of it for three months. We are trying to cope and survive. You lied to us, deceived us.”
Sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 175 years, Rader stated, “The final victim is my wife. That and my family.”
Russian serial killer Mikhail “The Werewolf” Popkov terrorized Siberia between 1992 and 2010. A court heard testimony about the brutality of his murder spree and how he attacked the victims with axes and knives. He also beheaded one victim. Popkov wished to “cleanse” the streets of prostitutes, although many of his victims were not sex workers.
The two people who stood by him throughout the trial were his wife, Elena, and daughter, Ekaterina. In an interview following his sentencing, Elena said:
We have been married for 28 years. If I suspected something wrong, of course, I would divorce with him. I support him, I believe him. If he were to be released right now, I would not say a word and we would continue to live together. I love him, I support him. He did not cause me any harm for all these years. I felt safe with him.
Ekaterina added that she still feels like her “Daddy’s girl.” Both women dismissed the allegations against Mikhail Popkov as mere “fairy tales.” Convicted of 22 murders, Popkov later confessed to 59 additional homicides three years later.
Mary Elizabeth Harriman was married to her husband, Russell Williams, for 19 years. He was a well-respected colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces who had flown aircraft for Queen Elizabeth II and the prime minister of Canada.
Mary could not have been prouder, but she had no idea that her husband hid a secret—he was a cross-dressing rapist and serial killer. Russell Williams had invaded homes at night and collected trophies such as lingerie from his victims. Later, he would photograph himself wearing those items. He also kept newspaper clippings of photographs of his victims.
In 2010, he pleaded guilty to 88 charges, including burglary, rape, and the murders of two female victims. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Then in 2011, sexual assault victim Laurie Massicotte filed a nearly $7 million lawsuit against Williams and his wife.
Massicotte’s statement alleged that Mary was “aware” of her husband’s sadistic ways and failed to “report that [illicit] conduct to the police.” The case was settled out of court, and the details were not disclosed.
John Wayne Gacy is famously quoted as saying: “A clown can get away with murder.” As pictured above, this handshake with then–First Lady Rosalynn Carter certainly proved that nobody knew of his evil side.
The twisted killer, who had an alter ego as “Pogo the Clown,” was six years into his killing spree when this photo was taken in May 1978. On his jacket, he wears a pin indicating special Secret Service clearance.
In the book Buried Dreams: Inside the Mind of John Wayne Gacy, the author recounts the experience of one of Gacy’s first victims, a teenage boy whom Gacy had employed at his construction company. During a business trip to Florida, Gacy sexually attacked the teen in their hotel room.
After they returned to Chicago, the youth entered Gacy’s yard to give him a beating. The attack was stopped by Gacy’s mother-in-law, who believed that it was a dispute over money.
Gacy then started killing his sexual assault victims, likely not eager to repeat the same incident. He claimed the lives of 33 known victims. In 1994, he was executed by lethal injection.
Ted Bundy’s blonde friend would likely have been safe as she wasn’t his “type of victim.” In 1968, Bundy dropped out of the University of Washington and worked minimum wage jobs. His girlfriend at the time ended their relationship as she was frustrated by his lack of ambition.
Psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis later described this as “probably the pivotal time in his development.” The girl who broke his heart had brown hair, parted in the middle. The majority of his victims between 1974 and 1978 in seven states all had this hairstyle.
Bundy would use his own natural charisma to lure victims into his Volkswagen Beetle. Often, he pretended to have car trouble while wearing a fake cast. Once the woman was in the car, he would strike her over the head and hide the body low on the floor where the passenger seat had been removed. The depraved killer hid the body and returned later to abuse the corpse.
In 1974, Peter Sutcliffe married Sonia Szurma, and they lived in Bradford, West Yorkshire, until his arrest in 1981. A few years before they married, Sutcliffe had assaulted a prostitute with a stone in a sock.
When he was arrested, he told the police, “I got out of the car, went across the road and hit her. The force of the impact tore the toe off the sock and whatever was in it came out. I went back to the car and got in it.” Despite this serious act of violence, Sutcliffe was not charged as the woman didn’t want to take it any further.
Sutcliffe’s killing spree began in 1975, a year after he was married. He murdered 13 women and attempted to murder seven others over the space of five years. The killings terrified those who lived in the area, and women were warned to be on guard at night as “The Yorkshire Ripper” was on the loose. Not even his wife knew what a monster he really turned into at night.
Cheish Merryweather is a true crime fan and an oddities fanatic. Can either be found at house parties telling everyone Charles Manson was only 157 centimeters tall (5’2″) or at home reading true crime magazines. Twitter: @thecheish