Monday, September 14, 2009
Top 10: Unknown Serial Killers
Unfortunately, these nicknames describe truly horrible human beings. Often, nicknames aren’t necessary when the crimes are so gruesome and the killer’s given name becomes synonymous with ultimate horror. Dahmer and Bundy come to mind, but few know that serial killers have been a scourge on humanity for centuries and their numbers are in the hundreds.
And so, here are the Top 10 Unknown Serial Killers. This is not a chronicle of praise or endorsement. At the very least, it is a grisly read through the human bizarre and at most a cautionary tale refuting the cheery notion that we’re all decent people at heart. In fact, it seems some of us are inhuman abominations.
If a killer has made this list, he (or she) satisfied the following criteria.
As of 2007 he is good and dead.
He faced some form of earthly justice, whether through arrest, conviction, execution or mob rule.
His acts of violence were so totally incompatible with civilized human society that he was entirely unfit for life within it.
Gilles de Rais
The Sadistic Aristocrat
Despite a staggering 80 to 600 body count, the man regarded by many as the prototype of today’s serial killer barely cracks the top ten. This is because historical records are unreliable and Gilles de Rais’ murderous statistics cannot be proven.
De Rais was a wealthy and powerful 15th century French nobleman who once fought side by side with Joan of Arc. De Rais had a sick obsession with young boys and preferred victims who resembled himself as a child. The Sadistic Aristocrat, as he came to be known, lured blond-haired, blue-eyed peasant boys to his stately home where he and a few assumed accomplices raped, tortured and mutilated them.
In 1440 the ecclesiastical court in Nantes hanged the monster before torching his body -- just to be on the safe side
Seriously psychotic: De Rais would sit on the stomach of his dying victim and pleasure himself.
Many serial killers often rely on charm to seduce their victims into their clutches, but very few had Panzram’s qualities: a sense of humor and a sense -- albeit sparse -- of some regret.
Panzram’s commitment to mayhem was as disturbing as it was frank and unapologetic. After being sentenced to death for killing a man in prison, he threatened to kill anyone who tried to have his verdict overturned. In his autobiography, Panzram: A Journal of Murder, he employed a matter-of-fact tone in confessing to 21 murders and the rape of 1,000 boys, adding, “for all these things I am not the least bit sorry.” However, Panzram did express regret for one thing: being born. Since childhood, he considered himself so incessantly angry that he called himself Rage Personified.
Seriously psychotic: After raping and killing a boy Panzram claimed, "His brains were coming out of his ears when I left him. I am not sorry. My conscience doesn’t bother me. I sleep sound and have sweet dreams.”
The Bloody Benders
Be it ever so humble, the Kansas shack that the Benders called home in 1872 was still a busy, inviting place open to the public as an Inn for weary travelers. Wealthy-looking guests were always seated at the head of their modest dinner table, conveniently placed in front of a hanging canvas. John Bender’s beautiful and charming daughter Kate was effective bait and often told the guests their fortunes as her father, sneaking behind the large curtain, prepared to slam a hammer into their heads. Later, The Bloody Benders would strip the body of all valuables and bury the remains in their orchard.
This family affair functioned with great efficiency for approximately one year before people caught on. However, it is said that the Bender clan got away and never actually faced justice. In fact, the family became almost mythical, and stories of various members popping up all over the US persisted for many years.
Seriously psychotic: As if a hammer in the skull weren’t enough, John Bender slit his victim’s throats for good measure.
The Pious Poisoner
Jegado, a domestic servant in 19th century France, must have been an impatient woman: If someone irked her, she didn’t give them many opportunities to apologize.
From 1833 to 1841, at least 36 people -- the vast majority of them employers or boarders who had the poor judgment to reprimand her -- wound up dead from arsenic poisoning. Because of her devout and sincere nature, authorities routinely ruled The Pious Poisoner out as a suspect. In 1851, when she hastily declared her innocence without actually being accused, The Pious Poisoner was arrested and convicted of at least three murders. A year later Jegado’s neck met the guillotine.
Seriously psychotic: Jegado’s first victims included a priest and her own sister.
The Rostov Ripper
Poor little Andrei Chikatilo; his mother beat him every time he wet the bed, but it’s hard to blame her when you consider that she had to share the bed with him.
The Rostov Ripper’s killing spree began in 1978 with the murder of a 9-year-old girl and continued unabated through 52 more victims across 12 brutal years. The Soviet government did their part by covering up the crimes they considered embarrassing and preventing parents from taking protective measures for their children. When word finally did get out, locals feared a werewolf was on the loose.
Finally caught in 1990, Chikatilo spent the duration of his trial locked in a cage for his own safety. After receiving 52 death sentences he addressed the court, placing much of the blame for his crimes on the shoulders of the Soviet Regime.
On February 15, 1994, The Rostov Ripper’s death penalty was fulfilled with a bullet behind his right ear.
Seriously psychotic: Chikatilo ejaculated while stabbing his first victim, making him realize just how aroused he was by the prospect of murder -- hence the 12-year killing spree.
Gerard John Schaefer
The Florida Sex Beast
By definition, serial killers are loathsome folks, but Gerard John Schaefer was just downright despicable.
As a boy, Schaefer’s hobbies included killing animals, wearing panties and peeping through windows. Despite his strange childhood activities, he eventually became a Florida cop. While on patrol, The Florida Sex Beast used his badge to abduct two teenage girls, but they escaped before he could rape and murder them. Claiming he was trying to teach the girls not to hitchhike he called his sergeant to say he’d done “something foolish.” Schaefer was fired and arrested, but while out on bail he raped and killed two other teenage girls. Police put the two incidents together and Schaefer was given two life sentences.
A search of Schaefer’s home -- which he shared with his mom -- found evidence linking him to the disappearance of at least eight other girls. Ultimately, authorities believed they could tie him to as much as 30 murders, but Schaefer maintained his innocence. In prison, he kept busy filing frivolous lawsuits; he even tried to sue a writer for suggesting he was fat.
As a former cop, a sex offender and a jailhouse snitch, it should come as no surprise that The Florida Sex Beast was stabbed to death in prison.
Seriously psychotic: Committing the “ultimate betrayal” by using the Badge is about as low as you can go.
The Bloody Lady of Cachtice
The Bloody Lady of Cachtice, a sadistic 16th century countess, is still the most infamous serial killer in the history of Hungary and Slovakia.
Inside her own Hungarian castle, Elizabeth Báthory functioned with virtual impunity. She lured peasant girls to work as maids and enticed the daughters of lower nobility with lessons on etiquette, snaring her victims under false pretenses. With the help of a handful of accomplices, Báthory enjoyed starving, freezing, and torturing her victims. The Bloody Lady racked up a significant body count -- estimated to be from 36 to as many as 200.
The majority of her accomplices were put to death, but Báthory’s wealth and influence earned her the 16th century’s version of aristocratic house arrest: imprisonment in her own castle.
Seriously psychotic: Elizabeth Báthory’s favorite pastime included burning, biting and mutilating the genitalia of her victims.
Freidrich (Fritz) Haarmann
The Butcher from Hanover
Fritz Haarmann, an unassuming and sympathetic-looking man, used his friendly manner to serve him well as both a police informant and a sexual sadist. Over six years he murdered at least 24 vagrants and male prostitutes -- killings he considered an act of love. Haarman only wanted to bring peace to his victims. It all came to an end when the discarded skulls of his victims began washing up on the shore of the river Leine.
The Butcher from Hanover had a strict preference for boys he found handsome. In fact in 1925, while in prison awaiting his execution (by beheading), he was shown a photo of a missing boy whom the police believed Haarmann had killed. After one look at the ugly boy’s picture he scoffed at the idea of killing such an ungainly kid.
Seriously psychotic: Haarmann insisted he was “driven by beauty and sensuality.” Instead of letting a young boy’s allure bring him to tears, he would bite his victim’s Adam’s apple and chew through his throat.
The Ziębice Cannibal
Everyone knew and seemed to like Karl Denke. He was a good Christian who played the organ at church. Denke supported himself with a small business selling a variety of goods door to door, from leather belts and shoelaces to boneless pork. He was held in such high regard that he was known affectionately as Papa Denke. But this was all before he jumped off the deep end.
In December of 1924, a man stumbled into police headquarters claiming Denke had attacked him with an axe. Although police initially found this impossible to believe, Denke was arrested and put in jail. As authorities went to search his home, he committed suicide. This should have been their first clue to Ziebice Cannibal’s murderous history.
The body count, composed mostly of beggars and journeyman extended the courtesy of a place to stay, reached anywhere from 20 to 40.
Seriously psychotic: Inside Danke’s home authorities found belts and snaps made of human skin, shoelaces made from human hair, and jars of pickled human flesh -- his famous “boneless pork.”
The Boy Hunter
Hailing from Punjab, Pakistan, Javed Iqbal could well be one of the most detested men in history.
Iqbal went to great lengths to surround himself with young boys. He opened video arcades, schools, aquariums, and gyms. He also married the older sister of one boy to keep him close by, and he married off his own sister to another boy to keep him close by. Iqbal was arrested a number of times on charges of sodomy, but his father’s money always got him off.
In his eventual confession, The Boy Hunter claimed to have killed 100 boys in only five months, preferring to drug, rape, strangle, then chop them into pieces. Iqbal would then either store the bodies in a vat of acid near his house or dump them into the sewer.
When the judge sentenced Iqbal to death in 2000, it was suggested that he be strangled in front of the victims’ families, his body chopped to bits and finally, stored in a vat of acid just as he’d done to his victims. Officially, he committed suicide while in prison, but an autopsy suggested he may have been murdered. It was irrelevant to his family who refused to collect his remains, claiming that he had died to them the day he confessed.
Seriously psychotic: The Boy Hunter was said to have declared in his confession, “I am not ashamed of my actions… I have no regrets. I killed 100 children… It cost me 120 rupees ($2 USD) to erase each victim.”
What’s in a name?
It is easy to see why some people are obsessed with serial killers; their behavior, their actions and their thought processes are so beyond the norm that they inspire great morbid fascination as well as some catchy nicknames. Sadly, history reveals that the serial killer is much like the Lernaean Hydra; cutting off one of their heads is not a cause for celebration, but an unequivocal implication that another is on the way.