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15 Notorious Serial Killers: Where Did They Grow Up?

Vermont: Ted Bundy

The infamous Ted Bundy. He was known to be a serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, burglar, and necrophilia, who decapitated at least 12 of his victims. Bundy confessed to committing at least 30 homicides in seven states, but the true victim count is assumed to be higher.

While was born in Vermont, he grew up in Philadelphia and Washington state. Bundy never knew his father, grew up with his mother, and “chose to be alone” most of his life due to being unable to understand interpersonal relationships. During high school, he was arrested at least twice on burglary and auto theft, but those incidents were expunged when he turned 18.

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Illinois: John Wayne Gacy

John Wayne Gacy was an American serial killer and rapist, who sexually assaulted, tortured, and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men during the 70s. His victims were killed in his Norwood Park home, and most were stored in the crawl space of his home. He spent 14 years on death row before he was executed by lethal injection in 1994.

Gacy was born in Illinois as the second of three children. As a child, he was physically and emotionally abused by his father. Most of his life was spent in a hospital bed due to a series of medical issues, but later in life, he became known for working children’s birthday parties as “Pogo” or “Patches” the Clown.

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New Hampshire: H.H. Holmes

H.H. Holmes is widely regarded as America’s first serial killer. He confessed to 27 murders. Holmes owned what’s now known as a “Murder Castle” in Chicago. This home had several secret rooms, stairways that lead nowhere, and winding passages. Holmes was the only one that knew how it worked, and he used this to his advantage when inviting women back. 

Not much is known about Holmes's childhood. As an adult, he studied human dissection, which he later used to commit insurance fraud with human cadavers. He loved to move around, which kept his crimes from being prosecuted, but he was soon captured after the murder of his friend.

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New Jersey: Charles Edmund Cullen

Charles Edmund Cullen is a nurse that killed up to 40 patients during his 16-year career, although later interviews suggest that he could have murdered up to 400 people. Cullen was overdosing patients on various drugs including insulin and the heart medication, digoxin to "spare them from being coded.”

Cullen was born in New Jersey as the youngest of eight children. Both of his parents died before Cullen turned 18. At the age of nine, Cullen made the first suicide attempt of many. He enlisted in the Navy, but upon showing signs of instability (seven attempts of suicide), he was discharged. From there, he began his nursing career.

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Kansas: Dennis Raider

Dennis Raider is more infamously known as the “B.T.K. Strangler” – Bind, Torture, Kill. He murdered 10 people between 1974 and 1991. Raider also sent taunting letters to the police and newspaper, which described the details of his crimes. The victims were both male and female, with the most common cause of death being suffocation or strangulation.

According to many reports, Raider tortured animals as a child and had a fetish for women’s underwear. During his life, he worked many jobs including a dog catcher. While working this job, a neighbor complained that he euthanized her dog for no reason. 

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California: Patrick Wayne Kearney

Patrick Wayne Kearney, also known as “The Freeway Killer” had as many as 43 confirmed victims. Murders occurred on a near-monthly basis and terrified the community for over a decade. Kearney sexually assaulted his victims after dismembering and mutilating them.

Kearney was a sickly child that was often a target for bullies, which caused him to become a withdrawn teenager who fanaticized about killing people. As an adult, Kearney was known for taking long, solitary drives in his Beetle, where he would pick up and kill young male hitchhikers.

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Wisconsin: Jeffery Dahmer

Jeffery Dahmer was a serial killer and sex offender, who was known for the rape, murder, and dismemberment of 17 men and boys. Dahmer’s later murders included necrophilia, cannibalism, and permanent preservation of body parts. Despite being born in Wisconsin, he was convicted in Ohio.

The early years of Dahmer's life were extremely tense as his parents fought on a regular basis. As a child, Dahmer collected animal carcasses from the roadside and would dismember animals at home to keep them in jars. By adolescence, he became involved in alcohol and was regarded as an outcast with very few friends, possibly due to his fascination with dissection. 

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Wisconsin: Ed Gein

Ed Gain, aka “The Butcher of Plainfield,” gained notoriety after authorities discovered Gein exhumed corpses and fashioned trophies/keepsakes out bones and skin. Gein was convicted of murdering two women and was declared legally insane. Later, he was remanded to a psychiatric institution where he died of cancer.

Gein's father was an alcoholic was unable to keep a job, and his mother refused to allow anyone around her sons that could have an “outside influence.” His mother was also fervently religious and preached to her children about the immorality of the world and drinking. It was her belief that all women were naturally prostitutes and instruments of the devil.

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Georgia: Samuel Little

Samuel Little was convicted of killing three women, but it’s said he could have killed as many as 90 people. He strangled women for sexual gratification across nine states starting in 1982. Recently, he’s confessed to the murders of several other women, and even included a map to the location of the bodies in exchange for a transfer out of the Los Angeles Country prison.

Samuel Little’s mother spent a lot of time in prison, and he claims his mother was a “Lady of the night.” Despite being born in Georgia, he grew up in Ohio with his grandmother, where he had issues with discipline. While in high school, he was arrested for breaking and entering in Nebraska.

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Utah: Gary Ridgway

Gary Ridgway is better known as the "Green River Killer." He was convicted of 49 murders. It’s thought he killed up to 90 people. Ridgway targeted teenage girls and women, many of whom were alleged to be sex workers and runaways. The victims were strangled and dumped in a forested area, where often returned to have intercourse with the bodies.

Ridgway had a bed-wetting problem until he was 13, and his mother would often wash his genitals after every episode. Later, he told psychologists he had conflicting feelings about his mother—both anger and sexual attraction. Ridgway showed violent tendencies including putting one ex-wife in a chokehold and stabbing a six-year-old boy when he was 16.

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Ohio: Charles Manson

Manson wasn’t technically a serial killer, but he did encourage his followers to commit a series of nine murders. Mason’s most notorious act was the murder of Sharon Tate and four others in 1969. The “Manson Family” were also responsible for other assaults, thefts, crimes, and the attempted assassination of United States President Gerald Ford. 

Charles Manson’s mother was a drunk and criminal, who spent much of his childhood in and out of prison. Throughout his life, he spent time in and out of delinquent boarding schools and jail, mostly for stealing cars, prostitution of young girls, and attempting to cash forged checks. By the age of 32, he’d spent half his life in prisons and other institutions.

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New York: Joseph James DeAngelo

Joseph James DeAngelo is the man that was convicted as the Golden State Killer. DeAngelo is a former police officer that was charged with 12 counts of first-degree murder and 13 related kidnapping and abduction charges. Due to California’s statute of limitations on pre-2017 rape cases, DeAngelo couldn’t be charged with rapes that occurred in the late-1970s.

The only criminal record he had, prior to being convicted as The Golden State Killer, was shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent. Neighbors reported he was had frequent outbursts, and one claimed he threatened to “deliver a load of death” because of their barking dog.

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Florida: Paul John Knowles

Paul John Knowles was more commonly known as “The Casanova Killer.” He was tied to the deaths of 20 people, although he claimed to have taken as many as 35 lives. All of his murders occurred in 1974 over a few months. Knowles would commonly strangle his victim and steal something from the home.

Knowles was given up to foster care by his father at a young age after he was convicted of a petty crime. Following this, he was arrested at 19 and spent much of his life in prison. Before being released, he was set to marry Alice Covic, but she broke off the relationship. After the breakup, Knowles stabbed a bartender and was detained. He picked the lock, escaped, and began committing his atrocities. 

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Ohio: Donald Harvey

Donald Harvey was known as the self-dubbed “Angel of Death.” He was an orderly that murdered between 37 and 57 people, but he claims to have murdered 87. He claimed he wanted to “ease the pain” of the patients. Harvey used arsenic, cyanide, insulin, morphine, suffocation, and several other methods to kill patients.

Harvey was charged with theft a few times when he was younger, and the judge recommended psychiatric treatment. Despite being committed to a mental institution, Harvey managed to conceal his record and began working as a part-time nurse’s aide.

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Texas: Richard Ramirez

Richard Ramirez is better known as “The Night Stalker.” Ramirez raped, beat, and occasionally decapitated his victims, usually during a burglary. Ramirez was captured when a few women recognized him. Residents then pursued and subdued him by beating him with a pipe until the police arrived.

Ramirez's father was prone to fits of anger, which often resulted in physical abuse. Ramirez was strongly influenced by his cousin, who was a Vietnam War veteran. He showed Ramirez photos of Vietnamese women he’d raped, abused, and killed. Later in his life, he became interested in drugs, Satanism, and eventually began melding his fantasies with violence.

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