Top Five Creepiest Serial Killers
I’m not a serial killer groupie, but I definitely enjoy a good, twisted story of evil. I often say that if I’d known myself better in college (read: hadn’t been a dumb kid with zero confidence), I would have gone into criminal psychology. Now I create bad guys worthy of lethal injection, so I guess that’s a decent compromise.
My villains are often inspired in some part by real life serial killers. The FBI estimates there are 25-30 active serial killers at any given time in the United States, and they probably run the gamut for offenses. But there are a few who take the red ribbon for the worst in history.
5) Jeffrey Dahmer
He ate people. Lured young men from bars, tortured them, did horrific things with their corpses, and then ate them. Except for some of the heads, which he preserved in his freezer. But here’s the thing about Dahmer: I have some empathy for him. It’s not even about his life story and his self-loathing about his personality. It’s his interviews. They aren’t chilling in the way Bundy’s are (more on him later), but in that he seems very rational, very soft-spoken, and at least somewhat remorseful. Something about Dahmer makes me feel almost sorry for him. And that creeps me out.
4) Richard Ramirez
Mostly because something about his face—or maybe his wild-eyed expression—scares the hell out of me. He looks stone-cold evil, and I have no problem imagining him worshiping Satan. Dubbed the “Night Stalker,” Ramirez burglarized, raped, and killed at least thirteen people between June 1984 and August 1985, when he was captured. That’s basically one a month, and those are just the murders he received death sentences for. Here’s the creepiest part about Ramirez: by the time of his trial, he had fans visiting and writing him letters. One of them eventually married him, but they were separated by the time Ramirez died in prison from B-cell lymphoma in 2013.
3) John Wayne Gacy
He dressed as a clown. He also murdered at least thirty-three men and boys. Twenty-nine of them were found buried in the crawl space of his home. He’s smiling in one of his mug shots, which really disgusts me. But the creepiest thing about Gacy is that he’s local for me. Waterloo, Iowa, is just an hour north of where I live, and that’s where Gacy got his sick start. He married, had a couple of kids, and became a Jaycee. But he also engaged in wife swapping and enjoyed prostitutes. He committed his first known sexual assault on a teenage boy in Waterloo and was eventually sentenced to 10 years at Anamosa State Penitentiary (also not far from my town). He only spent 18 months inside and quickly went back to his old ways. He committed his first known murder less than two years after his release.
2) Leonard Lake and Charles Ng.
Videotapes discovered at Lake’s house provided the grisly details of their exploits, and Lake and Ng are believed to have killed between eleven and twenty-five people. Lake killed his own brother for money, and he custom-built a dungeon near the remote cabin where he and Ng carried out their sick fantasies. They killed at least two infants, which makes them the ultimate sort of trash in my book. Their library of videos showed them raping and torturing the female victims. I’ve seen some of the videos (although I admit, I skipped through much of the worst, because even I have a limit), and Lake’s chilling greeting from his recliner, which he sits on like a throne, is unnerving. He’s soft-spoken, calm, and very detailed in his wishes. There’s no soul inside him, and it’s terrifying.
1) Ted Bundy
I saved the best for last. This guy is the quintessential psychopath. He’s been connected to 36 murders, but the true body count may be closer to 100. He’s inspired numerous fictional characters, and his killing spree sparked a terror unlike anything else. Bundy’s manipulation skills came as easily as breathing. He knew how to observe people and figure out their vulnerabilities, and he knew how to blend in. Part of Bundy’s enigma is that he was so handsome, so articulate, so kind. He was the true guy next door, and very few who knew him (including crime writer Ann Rule) suspected his entire public life to be a complete façade.
More than any other serial killer, in my humble opinion, Bundy represented the dual personae of Jekyll and Hyde, and the shadow side of Jung’s archetypes. He was literally the monster in sheep’s clothing.
His interviews tell the real story. I’ve spent a lot of time watching them (and reading FBI legend Bob Keppel’s accounts of dealing with Bundy), and as chilling as the videos are, they’re a vital look into the mind of psychopathic serial killer. We can see for ourselves how intelligent he was, and how he works to manipulate the interviewer. Most of the tapes involve Keppel, who was wise to Bundy’s act, but it’s fascinating to watch Bundy keep trying. Keppel is conflicted as well because he just can’t quite admit that Ted did all those horrible things. It’s some other version of him, not the nice guy sitting in the chair and talking into the camera. Watching the tapes, you start to wonder if Bundy actually didn’t have a true grip on what he did, if he had some other sort of mental illness.
Then you realize that’s exactly what he wanted you to think, and you’re grateful you never crossed paths with Ted Bundy.
~Stacy Green, Author of Killing Jane and the Lucy Kendall Series