I watch a lot of scary movies. Vampires, werewolves, zombies… they’ve got nothing on one other group when it comes to scaring me — serial killers. Even when they’re just fictional characters, I find serial killers to be terrifying not because I expect to come across one any more than a movie monster, but because they represent something real.
These awful excuses for human beings do exist, and they pose a real threat to society. They come in all shapes and sizes, colors, and races. Today we’ll take a quick look at 25 serial killers from around the world. There will be some of the more well-known U.S. and other serial killers, but we’ll also have some from places like Russia, Indonesia, Mexico, China, and more. They aren’t all the most famous serial killers. You’ve probably never heard of some of them. And some of your “favorites” won’t be included here. This list is a little different.
Rather than focusing solely on well-known serial killers (although some will be included), we’re looking at a more diverse group — both men and women, different races and nationalities, etc. Even more importantly, I wanted to take a look at some of the world’s recent and distant serial killers with some of the most disturbing motives or stories.
Keep in mind…. I’m not claiming these are THE most disturbing serial killers. There have been too many for me to ever know about them all, and that would be subjective. These are just some examples of particularly disturbing individuals that caught my attention or made me cringe. If other serial killers top your own personal list, feel free to leave a comment below to tell us about them.
25 Disturbing Serial Killers from Around the World
The serial killers profiled below are listed in alphabetical order (by first names) — not in any order based on how “disturbing” I might find them, by race, nationality, etc. Also, understand that the definition of “serial killer” is heavily debated. For example some definitions simply state there must be a break between killings to separate serial killers from mass-murderers. Other definitions give a specific length that break must be in order to qualify as a serial killer rather than a spree killer. We’re not going split hairs about that here.
Note: Where legal images were available for re-publication, I’ve included them below. You can run a Google image search to view other serial killers from the list if you’re interested — but having them appear in image search results doesn’t give us the right to publish them here for you directly. I did, however, try to link to one page with an image where possible when one wasn’t available for republication.
Now, let’s get to the list.
1. Ahmad Suradji
The idea of ritualistic serial killers on one hand baffles me and on the other hand fascinates me. They’re a reminder that the world is full of different cultures where different practices are considered acceptable than here in the West.
But Ahmad Suradji doesn’t seem to be following any kind of cultural norm. Instead he just sounds deranged. At the same time, I have to admit it’s one of the more “interesting” excuses or motives I’ve ever seen. Here’s more on Indonesian serial killer, Ahmad Suradji.
Victims: Suradji murdered 42 females between the ages of 11 and 30. The killings took place over 11 years.
Kill Zone: Medan, Indonesia
Methods: Suradji buried his victims up to their waists and strangled them with a cable.
Motives: Suradji conducted ritual killings. He claimed to be told by his father’s ghost in a dream that by killing these women and drinking their saliva, he would become a mystic healer.
Outcome: Ahmad Suradji was found guilty on April 27, 1998 of his crimes and was executed by firing squad on July 10, 2008.
Additional Information: One of Suradji’s three wives (Tumini) was tried as an accomplice. Often Suradji’s victims were women who came to him seeking his services as a healer.
2. Aileen Wuornos
On one hand, I can understand that traumatic experiences can lead to disturbing behavior. Still…. Call me crazy, but I just can’t see trauma caused by someone else as justification for murdering others. Then again, that’s probably because I’m not crazy. Aileen Wuornos is the first female serial killer on our list here, and she’s an example of someone who was (or who claimed to be) traumatized, leading to the murders of several men.
Victims: Wuornos killed 7 men between the ages of 40 and 65.
Kill Zone: Florida, United States
Methods: The murders were committed with multiple gun shots.
Motives: Wuornos claimed that the men she killed had raped her (or tried to) while she was working as a prostitute.
Outcome: Wuornos was executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002.
Additional Information: Aileen Wuornos’ story was the basis for the movie Monster. She had a child when she was a young teen, claiming she was raped by an unknown man. However, it’s suspected by some that her brother actually fathered the child.
3. Alexander Pichushkin
Alexander Pichushkin is a Russian serial killer known as “The Chessboard Killer.” Unlike some killers who have almost understandable motives (such as being abused or tortured themselves in some way — not that it excuses anything), Pichushkin is a whole different level of crazy. He killed for the competition of it.
Victims: Pichushkin has 48 verified victims. While not all, most of them were elderly homeless men.
Kill Zone: Moscow, Russia
Methods: Most of Alexander Pichushkin’s victims were killed with hammer blows to the head. He preferred to strike them from behind supposedly to avoid spilling blood on himself. He then threw some of his victims into the sewers.
Motives: It is believed Pichushkin considered himself to be in competition with another serial killer — Andrei Chikatilo. At one point he mentioned that his “goal” was to kill 64 victims — enough to fill the squares on a chessboard, hence his nickname.
Outcome: Pichushkin was convicted on October 24, 2007 to life in prison, including 15 years of solitary confinement.
Additional Information: Pichushkin has been quoted as saying “For me, life without killing is like life without food for you…. I felt like the father of all these people, since it was I who opened the door for them to another world.” He was kept in a glass cage during his trial.
4. Andrei Chikatilo
You’ve already seen the name Andrei Chikatilo mentioned, because he was at least partially the inspiration for another Russian serial killer — Alexander Pichushkin. Chikatilo was known by two nicknames — “The Red Ripper” and “The Rostov Ripper.”
Victims: Chikatilo killed 53 women and children (of both genders).
Kill Zone: Rostov Oblast, Russia
Methods: Chikatilo didn’t kill all of his victims in the same way. Most were stabbed, but a few were strangled or battered to death. All were mutilated.
Motives: Chikatilo killed for sexual satisfaction — he could only become aroused by committing violent acts against women.
Outcome: Andrei Chikatilo was shot and executed on February 14, 1994.
Additional Information: Chikatilo was impotent due to a childhood illness, yet had two children of his own. His son Yuri was charged with the attempted murder of a man.
5. Carl Eugene Watts
One thing I find particularly disturbing is when killers start young and no one “notices” or stops them before they can escalate. According to Watts, he was one of those kinds of killers.
Victims: Watts killed females between the ages of 14 and 44. Twelve victims are confirmed, but it’s expected that there were more — possibly dozens.
Kill Zone: Texas and Michigan, United States
Methods: Watts wasn’t faithful to any particular method of killing his victims. He use strangulation, stabbing, drowning, and beatings.
Motives: While his motives aren’t believed to be sexual in nature (as with many serial killers), they aren’t known.
Outcome: Watts died of cancer on September 21, 2007 shortly after being sentenced to life in prison. Prior to this, he had been serving time in Texas.
Additional Information: Watts is believed to have had an IQ of just 68, and he may have killed his first victim at the young age of 15.
6. Carlton Gary
I won’t say that I do or don’t believe Carlton Gary is guilty of being “The Stocking Strangler.” But for all that we know, that’s who he is. Others disagree, and believe it’s a case of poor evidence. What do you think?
Victims: Carlton Gary is believed to have killed 7 elderly women.
Kill Zone: Georgia, United States
Methods: Victims were beaten, raped, and then strangled to death.
Outcome: Gary was convicted of murder on August 26, 1986 and then sentenced to death. He is still on death row. He was supposed to be executed on December 16, 2009 but the Georgia Supreme Court stopped his execution the day it was supposed to happen to allow for a hearing on the DNA evidence.
7. Dana Sue Gray
Have you ever seen an “outfit to die for?” Apparently serial killer / shopaholic Dana Sue Gray has. This has got to be one of the most screwed up motives for murder I’ve seen. But really, greed is one of the oldest I guess.
Victims: Gray killed 3 elderly women age 57 – 87, and a fourth victim survived.
Kill Zone: California, United States
Methods: Two of the victims were strangled with telephone cords (the survivor was one of them), one was beaten, and one was stabbed.
Motives: Gray’s motives were financial. She said she killed her victims to support her overwhelming need to shop. She stole cash and credit cards from her victims to help support her lifestyle.
Outcome: Gray was convicted and sentenced to life without parole on October 16, 1998.
8. Dean Arnold Corll
Child molester / serial killer, Dean Arnold Corll — known as “The Candy Man” — received a fate rather deserved (at least in this writer’s eyes). I won’t even share what I think should be done to people who abuse and kill children. This is the kind of killer nightmares are made of.
Victims: He killed 27 or 28 young boys.
Kill Zone: Texas, United States
Methods: Victims were raped / sexually assaulted, tortured, and then strangled or shot.
Outcome: He was killed by one of his accomplices.
Additional Information: He had two accomplices who found his victims for him — for $200 each. Apparently that’s the price of a little boy’s life.
9. Elizabeth Báthory
Now let’s take a look at one of the worst female serial killers known, even if a few centuries too late — the “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Báthory.
Victims: Although she was never personally tried, hundreds of female accomplices were convicted for 80 murders.
Kill Zone: Kingdom of Hungary
Methods: Victims were treated to torture, mutilation, and beatings.
Outcome: The accomplices of Elizabeth Báthory were executed. She, on the other hand, was bricked into rooms of her castle for house arrest. She was found dead on August 21, 1614.
Additional Information: Legend has it that she killed and then bathed in the blood of virgins to try to maintain her youth.
10. Gary Leon Ridgway
Gary Leon Ridgway — “The Green River Killer” — makes my list of one of the most disturbing serial killers for the sheer volume of victims he had. It’s a reminder that sometimes awful people really can evade the law for quite some time. And that is something I find terrifying.
Victims: Ridgway was convicted of 48 murders, although he confessed to killing 71 women. He generally killed prostitutes that he would pick up and have sex with before committing the murders.
Kill Zone: Washington, United States
Outcome: Ridgway pled guilty to 48 counts of murder on November 5, 2003. He was then sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Additional Information: Ridgway is said to have an IQ of 82.
11. Gregorio Cárdenas Hernández
When I think of violence in Mexico, I tend to think about drug-related instances and deaths — not serial killers. But I guess we all have our “outstanding citizens” don’t we? Gregorio Cárdenas Hernández — also known as the “Strangler of Tacuba” — didn’t have a lot of victims. But what he did with them is disturbingly strange.
Victims: Cárdenas Hernández killed 3 teenage girls — two 16-year-old prostitutes and one 19-year-old student.
Kill Zone: Mexico City, Mexico
Methods: After having sex with his victims, he strangled them and buried their bodies in his garden.
Outcome: He was arrested and given a life sentence in 1942, but escaped from prison in 1947. After being re-arrested he stayed in prison until 1976 when he was pardoned, cited as a great example of rehabilitation. He died in 1999, of natural causes.
Additional Information: He studied law and psychiatry while in prison, and practiced law after his release. He also wrote three books.
12. Huang Yong
Apparently “because I wanted to” is a good enough motive to become a serial killer for some. I don’t know about you, but in my mind that’s even worse than killing people for their money because you like to spend too much.
Victims: Yong killed at least 17 teenage boys (but based on a survivor’s account, it was 25).
Kill Zone: Henan province, China
Methods: He drugged, rapes, and then suffocated his victims.
Motives: Huang Yong was quoted as saying “I’ve always wanted to be an assassin since I was a kid, but I never had the chance.”
Outcome: He was both sentenced to death and then executed by firing squad December 2003 — apparently the Chinese don’t wait around. And in this case and the admission, really, I can’t say I blame them.
Additional Information: Yong was a migrant laborer, and he kept his victim’s belts as souvenirs. He claimed that killing females wouldn’t make him as much of a “hero” as killing males.
13. Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper might be famous, but he’s still relatively unknown. His identity has never been discovered. In fact, the murders attributed to him might not have even been committed by the same person. But Jack the Ripper makes my list of some of the most disturbing serial killers in the world because, real or not, the lore surrounding those Whitechapel killings went a long way towards solidifying the image of the sinister serial killer in many of our minds — an image that might even be dangerous, given the socially charming nature of others.
Victims: Jack the Ripper was believed to have killed at least 5 prostitutes from 1888-1891.
Kill Zone: London, England (Whitechapel District)
Methods: Victims’ throats were slit and their abdomens were mutilated.
Additional Information: A letter supposedly sent to the media from the killer ignited a media frenzy around the image of Jack the Ripper.
14. Jeffrey Dahmer
Yes, Jeffrey Dahmer is another one of the more famous serial killers, but I didn’t promise to leave them all off. Let’s just say there was precious little Dahmer did that didn’t make him disturbing enough for this list. Eating your victims is more than enough for me.
Victims: Dahmer killed 17 young men and boys. His victims were of Asian or African descent.
Kill Zone: Wisconsin, United States
Methods: Dahmer was guilty of rape, torture, necrophilia, and cannibalism.
Outcome: Jeffrey Dahmer was sentenced to 15 terms of life in prison in 1992, and he was killed by a fellow inmate on November 28, 1994.
Additional Information: Apparently on May 27, 1991, a 14 year old victim got away. But when he went to police and Dahmer claimed he was his 19 year old boyfriend, police returned the boy to the killer. The boy was murdered that night.
15. Luis Garavito
“La Bestia,” Luis Garavito, is one of the most prolific serial killers on our list. He’s another one who preyed on young boys, making him doubly disgusting — both for his choice in victims and the number of people he killed.
Victims: There are at least 138 confirmed victims of Luis Garavito — young boys.
Kill Zone: He committed his murders across 59 counties in Colombia.
Methods: Victims were raped, had their throats slit, and were then dismembered.
Outcome: Garavito was convicted on April 22, 1999, and is serving the maximum sentence available in Colombia. Although that sentence is only 30 years, he could still possibly be tried for other crimes he wasn’t yet convicted for, keeping him in longer. That said, there’s also the possibility he could be released early.
16. Mary Ann Cotton
Mary Ann Cotton is a prime example of the “black widow” type of female serial killer. She tended to kill husbands, lovers, or those in her way. Well, you know what they say about a “woman scorned” — or in this case just a woman who wants something from you.
Victims: Cotton had 21 victims including husbands, lovers, and “competitors” (other women who were involved with her male victims).
Kill Zone: Durham, England
Methods: Cotton poisoned her victims.
Motives: She killed her victims for two reasons: financial security (collecting on life insurance policies) and jealousy.
Outcome: Cotton was hanged in March 1873.
Additional Information: At the time it was assumed many of her victims died of “gastric fever” rather than poison.
17. Moses Sithole
Moses Sithole is a South African serial killer. What makes him most disturbing isn’t even how he killed his victims, but rather the fact that he would call and taunt his victims’ families.
Victims: Sithole killed 30 or more women before he was tried.
Kill Zone: Johannesburg, South Africa
Methods: Victims were raped and strangled.
Outcome: He was convicted on December 5, 1997 and sentenced to 2410 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole after 930 years — 2927. That’s an oddly comforting, if not almost amusing, thought.
Additional Information: Sithole is believed to have posed as a businessman offering jobs in order to gain the trust of the women he murdered.
18. Peter Kürten
When you think of vampires, what era do you think of? I certainly don’t think of the 1900s… unless we’re talking about movies. But around 1930 the world met serial killer Peter Kürten, labeled the “Vampire of Düsseldorf.”
Victims: While he was only charged with 9 murders and 7 attempted murders, Kürten actually confessed to 79 killings.
Kill Zone: Düsseldorf, Germany
Methods: He intentionally chose to use a variety of killing methods to keep police in the dark about the connection between the murders.
Motives: His motive was of the good old “can’t get it up” variety. He killed for sexual stimulation, needing to see blood to become aroused.
Outcome: I’m sure he would have been pleased by the blood on display July 2, 1931 when he was executed by guillotine.
Additional Information: Kürten claimed that he committed his first murders when he was just 5 years old, drowning two friends.
19. Robert Hansen
Robert Hansen took advantage of the Alaskan wilderness when he killed his victims. All in all he isn’t much different than other serial killers. What caught my attention about Hansen was his seeming addiction to “the hunt” — and I don’t just mean finding new victims.
Victims: Hansen is believed to have killed somewhere between 17 and 21 young women, with a particular emphasis on prostitutes.
Kill Zone: Alaska, United States
Methods: Hansen’s victims were kidnapped, raped, then released. Hansen would then hunt his victims around his cabins like hunting game, and they were ultimately killed with a hunting knife or a rifle.
Outcome: Hansen pled guilty to 4 of the murders, and has served in various federal prisons since June 13, 1983.
Additional Information: Hansen took jewelry from his victims.
20. Robert Maudsley
Robert Maudsley — “Hannibal the Cannibal” — makes the list not only for the belief that he ate part of the brain of one of his victims, but because of the types of people he killed.
Victims: Maudsley had 4 victims, but 3 of them were murdered while they were in prison.
Kill Zone: Berkshire, England
Methods: One victim was killed by strangulation, another by torture, and two others by stabbings.
Outcome: Maudsley initially went to prison in 1974. But after killing 3 fellow prisoners he was placed in solitary confinement in 1983.
Additional Information: Three of Maudsley’s 4 victims were actually child molesters or sex offenders. Honestly that makes me dislike him just a wee bit less.
21. Robert Pickton
Here’s another killer who didn’t make this list because of how he killed his victims, but rather for something he did with their bodies after the fact. Robert Pickton fed the bodies of his victims to pigs. Yeah.
Victims: Pickton was convicted of killing 6 people, but charged with the murders of 20 others. He murdered prostitutes.
Kill Zone: Vancouver, Canada
Methods: Pickton killed his victims by strangling and mutilation. Details are largely unknown about victims he wasn’t convicted on, but there were also possibly gunshot victims.
Outcome: His conviction on 6 counts of second degree murder happened on December 9, 2007. He’s serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
Additional Information: Robert Pickton’s story was loosely used in an episode of TV’s CSI and also served as the basis for an episode of Criminal Minds.
22. Saeed Hanaei
I don’t know which is worse… killing people because you are morally depraved, or killing people because you think you’re cleansing that depravity or corruption. Apparently Iranian serial killer Saeed Hanaei — the “Spider Killer” — had no problem with the latter.
Victims: Hanaei killed 16 prostitutes, with an emphasis on prostitutes who were drug addicts.
Kill Zone: Mashad, Iran
Methods: Hanaei strangled his victims.
Motives: He killed his victims because he believed he was eliminating their moral corruption.
Outcome: Saeed Hanaei was hanged on April 8, 2002.
Additional Information: Hanaei was called the “spider killer” because he lured women to his home before having sex with and murdering them, similar to the way a spider lures prey into its web. Hanaei was a high profile and controversial figure in Iran. Some fundamentalists even praised his actions (although I can’t quite see how sleeping with prostitutes before killing them is any kind of moral high ground — but hey, that’s just me). Hanaei’s murders were the inspiration behind Alice Cooper’s 2008 “Along Came a Spider.”
23. Ted Bundy
Okay. So Ted Bundy is another pretty well-known serial killer. But cutting off and keeping the heads of victims definitely puts him in my list of seriously disturbing serial killers.
Victims: Bundy confessed to over 30 murders of white middle-class females between the ages of 15 and 25.
Kill Zone: Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and Florida, United States
Methods: Bundy’s victims were beaten then strangled. He was also guilty of rape and necrophilia.
Outcome: Bundy faced execution by the electric chair in Florida on January 24, 1989.
Additional Information: Bundy tended to kill women that resembled his fiancé and had similar hair styles. But because they were physically different in other ways, Bundy denied a resentment towards here was part of his motive.
24. Tsutomu Miyazaki
Well, when someone’s known by names like the “Little Girl Murderer” and “Dracula,” it just can’t be good. I’m guessing the “Dracula” title would be a hint that Tsutomu Miyazaki drank blood from his victims. But here’s the even more disturbing part. (And yes… it gets more disturbing than drinking the blood of little girls.) He was also known to have eaten hands of a victim. Oh, and just for good measure, he went out of his way to torment his victims’ families. I literally can’t read about this man without feeling physically ill.
Victims: Miyazaki killed 4 little girls between 4 and 7 years old.
Kill Zone: Tokyo, Japan
Methods: Bodies were mutilated and corpses were molested.
Outcome: Miyazaki was sentenced to death April 14, 1997 and hanged June 17, 2008.
Additional Information: Miyazaki was born with deformed hands fused directly to his wrists, and contacted family members of victims with cryptic, taunting messages (and even the cremated remains of one victim). At one point, anime and horror films were cited as the reason for his crimes.
25. Zodiac Killer
What can I say? I find unknown serial killers to be rather disturbing. Are they still out there? I don’t know. But that’s why the well-known Zodiac Killer makes my list. The thought that these monsters could evade arrest gives me the willies.
Victims: The Zodiac Killer has 7 confirmed victims (5 dead and 2 survivors). However some believe the killer has as many as 37 victims.
Kill Zone: California, United States
Methods: Victims were killed via stabbings and shootings. Various cases were linked because of the Zodiac letters sent to newspapers. The letters included strange symbols and ciphers, some of which are still unsolved. They also included lines such as “Me=37, SFPD=0,” announcing 37 victims for the killer and no points for the police. The letters date from August 1969 to 1974 (last confirmed).
Motives: One deciphered code claimed the thrill of killing was a motive, as well as talking about the victims serving as his slaves in the afterlife.
Additional Information: Dirty Harry is loosely based on these crimes, among other films like 2007′s Zodiac.
Given that this is a blog post and not a book, it would be absolutely impossible to share details about all of the world’s serial killers. These are some of the ones who jumped out at me and disgusted, intrigued, or disturbed me in some way — at least a bit moreso than the others. What about you? Is there a local or historical serial killer you’re aware of that has a disturbing story, methods, or motives? Feel free to share that information with the rest of us by leaving a comment.