10. Dennis Rader (BTK Killer)
While I have no personal experience with serial killing, I imagine that it’s a pretty time-consuming activity. Between planning, implementation, and covering your tracks, how is there room left in the day to do anything else? For this reason, most people wouldn’t suspect that a person with a rich professional and personal life could be a murderous monster.
Unfortunately, that was exactly the case with Dennis Rader—dubbed the BTK killer. During his lifetime, Rader served in the Air Force, graduated college, had a steady job, and was elected president of the Christ Lutheran Church council. Despite all this, Rader still tortured and killed 10 victims over the course of about 20 years. He was finally apprehended in 2005, 14 years after his last murder.
9. Elizabeth Bathory
Aristocrats aren’t the most moral people on the planet, but most of the time their sins lie within the realm of greed and indifference, as opposed to bloodlust. Elizabeth Bathory bucked that trend.
This 16th century countess was accused of truly heinous things—most famously murdering virgins and bathing in their blood. While these stories didn’t surface until after her death and are probably quite exaggerated, Bathory became a legend and is still regarded as one of the most famous serial killers of all time.
8. Dorothea Puente
Normally, gender stereotypes hurt women and hinder their success. However, if you’re a serial killing granny, the opposite is largely true. While it’s preposterous to think that a frail, elderly woman could be capable of killing, Puente was charged with nine murders and convicted of three.
Her M.O. involved renting rooms in her home to the elderly and mentally ill, drugging them, suffocating them, and finally burying them in holes in her yard. Authorities believe that her motives were largely financial—Puente frequently cashed Social Security checks from her tenants.
7. Russell Williams
Society holds members of the military in high regard, but in the case of Col. Russell Williams, that regard was severely misplaced. Despite a prestigious career in the Canadian Forces, Williams is currently serving two life sentences for the 2009 and 2010 murders of Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd.
However, his killings are arguably the least disturbing aspect of his criminal history. During the trial for his murders, it came to light that Williams had been robbing and raping women for years—often stealing their undergarments and photographing himself wearing them.
6. Nannie Doss
You would think that a jovial-looking woman named Nannie wouldn’t hurt a fly, but that wasn’t the case with Nancy “Nannie” Hazle. When all was said and done, this frightening figure had confessed to the murder of 11 relatives—including her own mother, grandson, mother-in-law, sisters, children, and multiple husbands. Many of her victims were poinsoned, but she was also accused of killing her newborn grandson by inserting a hatpin into his head.
5. Dana Sue Gray
“Loves to shop” is not typically a defining characteristic of a serial killer, but for Dana Sue Gray, it was her motive for murder. In 1994, she was convicted of the murder of two elderly women and the assault of a third. It’s widely believed that she was responsible for the murder of a fourth as well, but police did not have enough evidence to convict her.
After murdering each of her victims, Gray stole credit cards that she used for lavish shopping sprees. She was finally apprehended thanks to descriptions from her surviving victim and the clerks in the stores she visited. Although she eventually pleaded guilty, she never seemed to show remorse for her actions.
4. John George Haigh
John George Haigh was raised by parents who were members of the Plymouth Brethren—a fundamentalist Christian organization in Ireland and England. Despite his religious upbringing, all that “love thy neighbor” stuff didn’t seem to stick, because Haigh was convicted of murdering six people.
It’s believed that he actually had nine victims altogether, but the final three couldn’t be proven—Haigh dissolved all their bodies in sulphuric acid. This earned him the nickname “the Acid Bath Murderer.”
3. Gary Ridgeway
Gary Ridgway looks like a creep, but not to serial killer proportions. When you combine that with his military service and religious inclinations, he really seems like a weird but forgettable guy. Unfortunately, he’s believed to be the most prolific serial killer in American History.
Rigway, dubbed the “Green River Killer,” was convicted of the murders of 49 women, with his crimes spanning the 1980s and 90s. While there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him, he actually confessed to the murders of 71 women in total. Authorities believe the actual number of his victims is closer to 90.
2. Dennis Nilsen
Dennis Nilsen was a confirmed loner, but by all accounts he was a polite and “hospitable” man. His M.O. involved inviting male victims into his home for dinner and drinks. Once the men had fallen asleep, he would strangle them, sometimes drowning them as well.
However, the truly disturbing aspect of his crimes occurred after he killed—Nilsen would bathe his dead victims and leave their bodies in his home for weeks at a time. He would eventually dismember them and dispose of the parts. Unfortunately for Nilsen, this led to his downfall. Suspicions about his activities began to arise when a plumber found bones and “flesh-like” material in the drains near his home.
1. Jane Toppan
When you’re in the hospital, you assume that your caretakers have your best interests at heart. Unfortunately for Jane Toppan’s victims, this wasn’t the case. Toppan was a nurse near the turn of the 20th century and performed fatal “experiments” involving morphine and atropine on as many as 31 people.
Toppan confessed to all of her crimes but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. She spent the rest of her life in the Taunton Insane Hospital.