are individuals who have a history of multiple slayings
of individuals usually unknown to them beforehand. A phenomenon which seemed to gain some prominence in the second half of the twentieth century
, record of the practice can be found at least as far back as London
's Jack the Ripper
) or Hanover
's Fritz Haarmann
Although the terms "serial killer" and "mass murderer" are often used synonymously, criminologists distinguish the two. The following distinctions are commonly made:
- A serial killer is one who commits a number of murders over a long period of time, with the killings separated by often long periods of apparent normalcy.
- A mass murderer, on the other hand, is an individual who kills several people in a single event.
- A spree killer kills in a series of closely connected events.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics
defines a serial killing as: "[involving] the killing of several victims in three or more separate events." This definition is especially close to that of a spree killer, and perhaps the primary difference between the two is that a serial killer tends to "lure" victims to their death; whereas, a spree killer tends to go "hunting
Serial killers are often acting on extreme sadistic urges and are often classified as sociopathic, lacking any ability to empathize with the suffering of others. In many cases, a serial killer will plead not guilty by reason of insanity. This defense is almost universally unsuccessful.
The public's fascination with serial killers led to some successful crime novels and films about fictional serial killers, including Helen Zahavi's novel Dirty Weekend, Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, and the Academy Award-winning movie Silence of the Lambs.
List of Serial Killers
- Erzsébet Báthory - (d. 1614) with 600 victims, the recognized female record holder.
- Thug Behram - 931 victims in Uttar Pradesh between 1790 and 1830, generally by strangulation - recognized as the world's record holder
- David Berkowitz, known as the "Son of Sam"
- Paul Bernardo, Canada's most famous serial killer, who killed two teenage school girls, with his wife Karla Homolka, and was also known as the Scarborough Rapist
- The Boston Strangler (allegedly Albert DeSalvo)
- Ted Bundy
- Andrei Chikatilo
- Jeffrey Dahmer
- Gilles de Rais - (d. 1440), French demonolator and child-killer.
- John Wayne Gacy
- Ed Gein, also a cannibal who inspired the killers in The Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- Albert Fish
- Fritz Haarmann
- Hillside Strangler - actually two men, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, Jr
- Javed Iqbal, killed 100 boys in Pakistan
- Bela Kiss
- Peter Kürten
- Derrick Todd Lee, aka the Baton Rouge Serial Killer
- Eddie Leonski, the Brownout Strangler
- Pedro Lopez - Colombia, with 300 victims
- Henry Lee Lucas
- Henri Désiré Landru
- Herman Webster Mudgett, aka Dr. H. H. Holmes, "the serial killer of Murder Castle", active 1890-1894, during Chicago's 1893 World Columbian Exposition.
- Earle Leonard Nelson
- Earle Nelson- Necrophiliac serial killer dubbed "Gorilla Man"
- Jesse Pomeroy
- Richard Ramirez
- Vera Renczi - The 35 bodies in her cellar may have influenced the writing of Joseph Kesselring's Arsenic and Old Lace
- Angel Maturino Resendiz - Killed 9 people in Texas, Kentucky, and Illinois
- Dorothea Puente
- Gary Ridgway - arrested in November, 2001 for The Green River Killer murders
- John Edward Robinson -United States
- Danny Rolling
- Abdul Latif Sharif - Egyptian alleged to be responsible for dozens of murders in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
- Harold Frederick Shipman - British doctor convicted of 15 murders. A later inquiry stated he had killed at least 215 and possibly upto 457 people over a 25 year period.
- Charles Starkweather
- Peter Sutcliffe, aka the "Yorkshire Ripper"
- Sweeney Todd
- Otis Toole
- Jane Toppan
- Fred and Rose West
- Wayne Williams - convicted of the Atlanta Child Murders
- Aileen Carol Wuornos - Florida
- Anatoly Onoprienko - Ukrainian serial killer known as "the Terminator." Murdered 52 people from 1989 until his capture in 1996.
- Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, the Moors Murderers.
Currently On Trial
- Robert Pickton on trial in British Columbia accused in the deaths of 15 women and suspected in up to 54.
Unidentified serial killers
For the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, see List of terrorist incidents.
- John Douglas and Mark Olshaker; Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit; Pocket Books; ISBN 0671013750; 1997
- John Douglas and Mark Olshaker; Journey into Darkness, Pocket Books; ISBN 0671003941; 1997
- Robert K. Ressler and Thomas Schachtman; Whoever Fights Monsters; St Martins Mass Market Paper; ISBN 0312950446; 1994
- Harold Schechter: Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America's First Serial Killer