The names of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Aileen Wuornos, The Zodiac, and Richard Ramirez will always come to mind whenever the subject of serial killers is mentioned. Despite their sinister and twisted crimes, they have become household names and continue to instill fear in people’s minds even today.
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Yet, there are serial killers whose crimes are equally as chilling but these stories are rarely told. These terrifying serial killers you might not have heard of—but you will never forget.
Born in 1870, Karl Denke was a Prussian serial killer who murdered 31 victims and profited well from his crimes. In the old German town of Münsterberg, Denke was a local hero in the community who sold delicious meats at his market stall. Nobody questioned where he sourced his meat from as many items were still hard to come by following the devastation left behind following the First World War.
In 1924, a beggar claimed that Denke had swung at his head with an axe. Due to Denke’s seemingly good nature, the police at first did not believe the beggar’s story but decided to make an arrest. He was told in a cell at the police station that his home would be searched and after hearing this, he hung himself in the night. Now the police were very concerned with exactly what they would find.
It was a gruesome crime scene. They discovered pots filled with human flesh, human bones laid across the table, belts made from human skin and jars filled with body fat labeled as cooking oil. This led to the chilling realization that the meat he sold at his popular market stall was most likely made from human remains.
Maryland serial killer Charles Davis was an ambulance driver who murdered five women in the 1970s. Davis stalked his victims until they parked in a quiet area outside of a shop or restaurant. His father was a police lieutenant and he would use this contact to run the license plate and obtain the name of his intended victim. Davis would then page the victim and say her car lights were left on. When they returned to the vehicle, he abducted them and strangled them.
The bodies were then left in open areas along busy roads within his ambulance’s route. A passer-by would alert the emergency services of the body but nobody suspected the ambulance driver who arrived on the scene was actually the killer. Davis was eventually caught after using a stolen credit card belonging to one of his victims. He told a police officer “about every six months—he did something big and he gets into trouble.” He confessed to the murders and was sentenced to life in prison.
John Norman Collins, known also as ‘The Original Co-Ed Killer’ was suspected of murdering eight victims. In 1967, the lifeless body of a co-ed was found on campus and she had suffered 20 stab wounds. One year later, another co-ed’s body was found and she had suffered 47 wounds. It was discovered the student was last seen with fellow student John Norman Collins but with insufficient evidence against him, he was let go.
Over the next two years, the bodies of six more co-eds were found. Like history repeating itself, when police investigated the murder of the most recent victim, they were told she had also last been seen alive whilst walking with Collins. He was once again released for lack of evidence. Then there was a breakthrough, as bloodstains that matched with a victim were found in the basement of a house where Collins had been lodging. It was enough evidence to charge him murder.
Collins appeared on the surface as a clean-cut all-American boy yet he was a sinister killer who was obsessed with violent sex and bondage. In 1970, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
Brtish serial killer Patrick Mackay is also known as ‘The Psychopath‘ for reasons that require no obvious explanation. Age 13, he was institutionalized for trying to set fire to a church and sent to a secure institution for mentally ill young offenders. Despite Mackay’s violent outbursts, he was eventually discharged as his superficial charm allowed him to work the system in his favor. It was this system that failed to protect society as he began to develop as a serial killer.
It is believed he killed 11 victims between February 1974 to March 1975. Mackay himself recalled how he hacked at the skull of a priest at his home and watch him bleed to death. On another occasion, he stabbed an elderly woman to death during a robbery and drowned a helpless tramp in the River Thames.
Two psychiatrists confirmed that Mackay was suffering from a severe personality disorder and that he was effectively a psychopath. His trial only lasted 20 minutes as he pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and received three consecutive life sentences.
Robert Hansen was a cruel monster who hunted his female victims for sport in the Alaskan wilderness. Between 1971 and 1983, he started targeting sex workers for his own twisted pleasure. His victims were abducted, taken to his remote cabin and tortured. They were then set loose so he could hunt them down like wild animals with a Ruger Mini-14 and a hunting knife.
He was finally caught when 17-year-old Cindy Paulson managed to flee whilst still wearing handcuffs and recounted her terrifying ordeal to the police. Hansen denied these claims and told the police he was being extorted for money—they let him go.
Following an increasingly high number of women reported missing in the area; Hansen had become a person of interest. The police discovered items belonging to the victims at his cabin and eventually pieced together his sinister crimes. The victim count is believed to be as high as 21. Hansen was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and died behind bars in 2014.
In 1980, Helen Patricia Moore was charged with the murder of three children and the attempted murder of two others whilst she was babysitting. The Sydney born serial killer said that she first murdered at the age of 16 following the death of her 14-month-old brother who she lost to SIDS.
Her first victim was her 16-month old baby cousin who she suffocated as she laid sleeping in her cot. She later revealed it was jealousy that motivated her because her baby cousin was alive and her brother was not. The following year, she attempted to suffocate a 12-month-old boy she was babysitting but he survived. Months later, she also attempted to suffocate another 2-year-old boy who was left blinded and permanently brain-damaged.
Within weeks of each other, she killed another baby girl and a 2-year-old boy—again suffocating the innocent children. Following the death of the toddler, Suzanne was arrested and she finally confessed to the string of horrific child murders. Her crimes are still heart-breaking to read about today.
Former FBI Agent John Douglas (aka Mindhunter) revealed Gary Heidnik is one of the most frightening serial killers he had ever interviewed. Heidnik suffered from schizoid personality disorder and had spent the majority of his life in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Between November 1986 and March 1987, he abducted six women and killed two in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Douglas revealed, “(Heidnik) was even worse than the guy Buffalo Bill in the movie ‘Silence of the Lambs’. (He) would fill the pit up with water and not drown (his victims) but have them stand in water up to their necks and then get electric wire and torture them while they were in the water. What made it even worse was after he killed them he then would put the victims in a meat grinder and fed (them to the other) victims.”
Heidnik was finally caught when one of his victims managed to luckily escape with her life. He was executed by lethal injection in 1999.
Although she is considered one of the most prolific murderers in British history, Victorian serial killer Amelia Dyer (AKA the Ogress of Reading) appears to have been forgotten over time. She was a sinister ‘baby farmer’ responsible for the deaths of hundreds of infants. Dyer promised to help young women pregnant out of wedlock by finding them adoptive homes for their babies. After she charged them a fee, the new-borns would then either be starved or suffocated to death.
In 1896, a lifeless baby was discovered wrapped in parcel paper with her address. When police raided her house, they were overwhelmed by the stench of rotting flesh and the bodies of more than 50 infants were uncovered. It’s likely she killed between 200-400 children.
Dyer tried to plead not guilty by reason of insanity but in less than five minutes a jury reached the guilty verdict. Aged 60-years-old, she was hanged at Newgate Prison in London.
In 1987, Harrison Graham’s apartment in Philadelphia was raided by police and they found the remains of seven women. Graham told the police the bodies had been there when he first moved in then later confessed to “accidentally” strangling them all during sex whilst he was under the influence of drugs.
Graham had a Cookie Monster toy that he would sleep with and his defense claimed he had three personalities; ‘Frank’ a drug addict and murderer; ‘Junior’ a 2-year-old who could not be without the Cookie Monster, and ”Marty’ a likable handyman who was compliant with the police.
His defense that he suffered from multiple personality disorder was rejected by a judge and he was convicted of all seven murders and seven charges of desecrating a corpse. Due to his low IQ and mental illness suffered during his early years, he managed to skip the death penalty and behind bars, he became an ordained minister.
Colombian serial killer Luis Garavito, known also as ”The Monster of the Andes’, claimed the lives of at least 138 victims although the real victim count is believed to be as high as 300. He targeted impoverished and vulnerable male victims aged between six and sixteen-years-old with the promise of money or small gifts. When the boys were lured into his trap, they were tortured, killed and mutilated.
In 1997, a mass gravesite uncovered the bodies of the missing boys and the police knew they had a serial killer on their hands. Police found a pair of glasses belonging to an adult had been dropped at the gravesite and when they checked the prescription this fitted with Garavito’s rare eye condition.
He was sentenced to 1,853 years in prison. He is kept separate from all other prisoners as it’s believed he would be killed immediately.
About The Author: Cheish Merryweather is a true crime fan and an oddities fanatic. Can either be found at house parties telling everyone Charles Manson was only 5ft 2″ or at home reading true crime magazines. Twitter: @thecheish