The World's Most Famous Serial Killers And Murderers (2023)

Many serial killers have come and gone over the years, but some have forged a much deeper legacy than others. Some have been remembered because of their extreme body count, others for their strange perversions, and some just have that indescribable quality that justmakesa famous serial killer.

In this list, we’re going to look at the following famous serial killers:

  • Ted Bundy
  • Jack the Ripper
  • Ed Gein
  • John Wayne Gacy
  • Carl Panzram
  • Jeffrey Dahmer
  • Aileen Wuornos
  • Harold Shipman
  • Dennis Rader
  • The Zodiac
  • H.H Holmes
  • Edmund Kemper
  • Albert Fish
  • Gary Ridgway

Ready? Let’s dive into some of the world’s most horrific history.

1. Ted Bundy

We can’t talk make a serial killer list without mentioning Theodore "Ted" Bundy AKA 'The Lady Killer'. This charming, handsome young deviant was a real lady killer in more ways than one.

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Good looking, ruthless and cunning, Bundy has become the gold standard of evil the world over, as is evident by thesheer amountof books, movies, TV shows, podcasts and even Ted Bundy shirts that have chronicled his story.

Although he spent most of his childhood in Philadelphia, Bundy’s thirst for blood took him across the country throughout the 1970s. Ted Bundy murdered at least 30 people, and took victims in Ohio, Colorado, Idaho, Washington, Utah, Oregon, Florida and possibly California.

Ted had a thing for young, brunette coeds, and would often pretend to be injured in order to lure these unlucky women into his now-infamous VW Beetle. Once inside, Bundy would attack them with a crowbar, rape them, then strangle them to death in the woods.

As he progressed, Bundy began to take more risks, even going as far as to invade a sorority house and attack four women within a span of 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, his desires were unquenchable, and like most serial killers, he took too many risks. Bundy was caught in 1975 and sentenced to death by electric chair. He was executed in 1989 and remains (probably) the most famous serial killer of all time.

2. Jack the Ripper

Stalking the shadows of Victorian London, the legend of Jack the Ripper is the seductive tale of England’s most famous serial killer that still captures the imagination even 130 years on.

There’s a lot of mystery around the Ripper murders, and since he was never caught, nothing has ever been confirmed. But what we do know is that he killed at least five women by gutting, disemboweling and leaving them for dead on the midnight streets of London, England in 1888.

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Not content with just spilling the blood of innocent women, the elusive Jack taunted London police with letters and postcards, one of which was sent alongside the extracted kidney of one of his victims.

Although Jack’s first four victims were stabbed and mutilated within a matter of minutes, Jack’s fifth and final victim, Mary Jane Kelly, was a different story. Jack obliterated her to the point that she was unrecognizable, and to this day, the crime scene photos of the aftermath remain a disturbing image.

The Ripper’s legacy remains unmatched in the annals of true crime, withhistorians and researchersstill trying to make sense of the mess he made over a century ago.

3. Ed Gein

No serial killer list is complete without mention of the grave-robbing ghoul whose grim antics spawnedone of the best horror characters of all time - Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Ed Gein was the ultimate mommy’s boy. He lived with his mother in their farmhouse in Plainfield, Wisconsin until she died in 1949, at which time Gein was 40 years old. Soon after, Gein began paying visits to local cemeteries, where he would unearth the bodies of recently-deceased women, steal them and fashion them into various household items.

But eventually, grave robbing wasn’t enough for Ed, so he turned his hand to murder. He shot and killed two local women with a rifle, loaded their corpses into his truck and took them home to his decaying house. Gein soon became a suspect in the disappearance of local shop owner Bernice Worden, and when police inspected Gein’s house, they found some of the most hideous creations known to man.

Human bones, bowls made of skulls, mutilated vaginas, alampshademade fromhuman skin, clothes made from flayed skin – and much more. Gein later confessed that his dream was to create a ‘woman-suit’ so that he could ‘become his mother.’

Because of his affinity for making furniture out of human skin, the character Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs was based on Ed Gein's creations.

Gein died in a mental hospital in 1984, but his presence still haunts the backwoods of Plainfield. He’s one of the United States most prolific serial killers for good reason.

4. John Wayne Gacy

The Killer Clown of Chicago, John Wayne Gacy was the classic two-faced psychopath. By day, he was a successful businessman, community worker and children’s entertainer. But by night, he was a sadistic, murdering rapist who ran an unlicensed cemetery beneath his house. If we’re talking serial killers with high victim counts, Gacy is definitely near the top of the list.

Gacy’s murder spree began in 1972 when he bought 16-year-old Timothy McCoy back to his home and stabbed him multiple times in the chest. As Gacy murdered the young boy, he claimed toexperience an orgasm, and from that point on, chased that same feeling with 32 more victims.

He procured boys by cruising around Chicago at night and picking them up off the streets, or sometimes he’d bring back boys who he’d hired to work for his construction company.

Gacy would surprise attack them once they were in his home, then strangle them with either his hands or a makeshift tourniquet he dubbed his “rope trick.” Who says clowns don’t have a sense of humor?

5. Carl Panzram

When you think of history’s most infamous serial killers, Carl Panzram might not be the first name that comes to mind, but he’s definitely worthy of a spot on the list.

You see, every other serial killer on this list had a preferred victim type. Bundy liked young women, Gacy liked teen boys, Gein liked dead women. But Panzram was a different type of beast. He didn’t give a shit who you were - Panzram would kill you.

In his own words, he was "So full of hate that he had no room for any other emotions."

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Born in Minnesota in 1889, Panzram lived a reckless life from a young age. He started train-hopping as a young man to get around the country, attacking and burgling random people along the way to sustain himself. After some prison stints where he was raped and tortured by guards, Panzram’s desire for vengeance became unstoppable.

He lured American soldiers away from bars and shot and killed them. He targeted boys as young as 11, whom he’d sodomize then strangle. While only convicted of 3 murders, he actually confessed to killing over twenty people.

Panzram despised humanity and fantasized about killing on a mass scale. Behind bars, he allegedly told a prison guard: “I wish the whole world had one neck and I had my hands around it.”

6. Jeffrey Dahmer

Between the years of 1978 and 1991, the Milwaukee Cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer raped, killed and violated the remains of 17 young men. Not only is Dahmer included on this serial killer list due to his high body count and his bizarre perversions, but he’s also one of the few killers to cross racial lines with his victims.

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Dahmer mostly killed young black men because that was the demographiche was sexually attracted to. He lured them back to his apartment with promises of sex, booze or drugs, then blitz-attacked them and strangled them to death.

After they were dead, he’d have sex with them then mutilate their bodies, keeping several body parts as trophies.

Read next: 21 serial killer quotes and the chilling stories behind them

As Dahmer became more confident, he began to drug his victims so he could toy with them while they were still alive. In some cases, he drilled into their heads and injected them with chemicals in a strange attempt to create human zombies.

Dahmer was caught when one of his victims escaped and told the police of the horrors inside his apartment. Sure enough, police foundhuman body parts, castrated penises in jars and hundreds of Polaroids of decapitated bodies.

7. Aileen Wuornos

Murder isn’t just a man’s game. There are a handful of famous killers of the feminine persuasion out there too.

During 1989 and 1990, Florida prostitute Aileen Wuornos went on a brutal killing spree that cemented her status as America’s most heinous female serial killer. Wuornos was an abused child who went on to become a sex worker who suddenly upped her gamewhen she started murdering her clients.

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All of Wuornos’ victims were men who she shot multiple times, with Wuornos claiming that each murder was committed in self-defense. Allegedly, all of these men had hired her for her sexual services but had become violent, so Wuornos naturally retaliated by executing them.

Much like her victims, Wuornos’ story is full of holes, but whatever you believe, she remains one of the most polarizing figures in criminal history. Her tragic story was adapted into the film'Monster'in 2003, which won actress Charlize Theron an academy award in 2004.

History’s notorious serial killers are disproportionately men, but Aileen Wuornos manages to hold her own in terms of brutality and remorselessness.

8. Harold Shipman

Back over the pond we go to Manchester, England, where the man dubbed Doctor Death killed a record-breaking number of victims over a 28 year reign of terror. In the UK, Shipman is undoubtedly one of the most famous serial killers of modern times.

On the surface, he looks like your average doctor, but Harold Shipman concealed a horrific secret. He was themost prolific serial killer in known history. Shipman would visit his elderly patients in their homes and administer excessive amounts of morphine into their system; an act which mirrored how his own mother died.

Authorities became concerned when they noticed how many patients were dying under Shipman’s care. The final straw came when the daughter of Shipman’s final victim found that her mother had left a large sum of money to Doctor Shipman in her will. It was later found that Shipman had been falsifying the documents of his dead patients to hide his activities.

In total, it’s believed that Shipman killed at least 215 people, with a possible total of 260+. He denied all allegations, and unfortunately, he committed suicide in his prison cell in 2004, taking all of his secrets to the grave.The list of serial killers that are still alive gets shorter and shorter by the year.

9. Dennis Rader

Bind, Torture, Kill – that was how Dennis Rader operated.

This pillar of the Wichita community lived a double life. He was a loving husband, father and company man, but he moonlighted as the elusive BTK killer, killing entire families and taunting police withmutilated Barbie dolls.

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He began in 1974, where he invaded a family home and strangled both parents and two kids. Similar murders followed, and Rader began taunting police with confession letters. He targeted older women in their homes because he could easily overpower them.

Unlike other famous serial killers, Rader was able to subdue his BTK alter ego for years at a time. He went from 1977 to 1985 without murdering anyone, and again from 1987 to 1991. By this point, he’d killed 10 people, and he never killed again.

But amazingly, BTK wasn’t caught for another 14 years. His ego forced him to continue his cat-and-mouse games with the police,which led to his capture. He most likely would have gotten away with his crimes if he could have justled a quiet life and kept to himself.

10. The Zodiac Killer

Throughout the sixties and seventies, the Zodiac Killer terrorized the city of New York. He stabbed and shot couples in dark lovers' lanes, he taunted police, and he threatened to detonate a school bus full of children.

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But despite an extensive search for the elusive Zodiac Killer, the person responsible for these crimes remains uncaptured. Over the years, suspects have come and gone, and many advances have been made in the case, but no arrests have ever been made.

Most recently, one of the Zodiac's ciphershas been solvedby amateur code crackers - an incredible 51 years after it was originally sent to police. You can check out our Zodiac Killer cipher shirt here.

11. H. H. Holmes

Widely considered to be America's first serial killer, H. H. Holmes was a businessman and con artist in addition to being a murderous fiend. In the late 1800s, Holmes built a hotel (commonly referred to as 'the Murder Castle') to appease his twisted desires.

Holmes's establishment was less of a hotel and more like Satan's den. Inside he built soundproof and airtight rooms, mazes of hallways seemingly leading nowhere, chutes which dropped into acid vats, torture rooms and even a crematorium.

Read next: 9 currently active unsolved serial killer cases

His plan was to kill, dismember and then sell the body parts and organs to medical schools. Holmes was caught after a failed insurance scam and was sentenced to death. He was hanged in 1896.

12. Edmund 'Ed' Kemper

Standing at a gigantic 6’9ft tall along with a natural, dominant demeanor, it's not difficult to believe that Edmund Kemper might be the most physically imposing serial murderer of the modern age.

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Kemper, known as the Co-ed Killer, terrorized California throughout the 1960s and 70s, abducting and killing college girls and hitchhikers.

Once secluded, Kemper would strangle his victims in his car, take them home and dismember their corpses. To conclude his reign of terror, Kemperkilled his own motherand buried her head in his back garden.

Bizarrely, Kemper handed himself in to authorities. when asked what would be a fitting punishment for his crimes, Kemper calmly told the judge that “death by torture” would be the only suitable conclusion to his story.

13. Albert Fish

To say Albert Fish was a disturbed individual would be an understatement. Fish was perhaps one of the most perverted individuals to have ever lived, committing acts which, even by today’s standards, are considered deeply unsettling.

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Known as the Werewolf of Wysteria, Fish was a serial murderer, child killer and cannibal who claimed to have eaten “children in every state.” Between 1924 and 1932, Fish abducted, killed and ate at least three children, although he claimed to have killed many more.

Fish also had a penchant for extreme sado-masochism. After being apprehended, Fish was declared a “psychiatric phenomenon” by experts, claiming that no other living person harbored as manysexual abnormalitiesas he did.

In the hours before his execution, Fish penned his final statement, resulting in several pages of handwritten notes. Fish’s lawyer said he would never reveal Fish’s last words to the public because of their extreme content.

14. Gary Ridgway

More famously known as the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway amassed one of the highest serial killer body counts in U.S. history, having murdered at least 49 women over the span of almost 20 years.

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Ridgway focussed on sex workers and runaways, luring them into his car under the pretense of sleeping with them and then strangling them. He then disposed of their bodies in and around the Green River in Washington.

Over the years, police discovered body parts and skeletal remains in the Green River, prompting the theory that a serial killer may have been using the area as a dumping ground. DNA evidence later linked Ridgway to several of the killings.

It's widely believed that, in addition to the murders he was convicted for, Ridgway could have killedmany more. He also made our list of Washington State serial killers.


We hope you enjoyed this list of the top serial killers! Who are we missing from the list? Let us know in the comments!

Are you a true crime junkie? Check out our collection oflimited edition true crime clothing, and then read about the most famous female serial killers of all time!

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Who is the number 1 serial killer in the world? ›

1: Pedro Alonso Lopez. In 2002, Pedro Alonso Lopez received 14 years in prison in Ecuador for killing mostly young girls. He claimed to have killed over 300 people. The "Monster of the Andes" just might be the world's most prolific serial killer.

Who is the number 1 serial killer in US history? ›

Samuel Little (born Samuel McDowell; June 7, 1940 – December 30, 2020) was an American serial killer who confessed to murdering 93 women between 1970 and 2005.

Who is the most notorious serial killer never to be caught? ›

The Zodiac Killer

blockbuster "Zodiac" the Zodiac Killer is perhaps the most infamous unsolved serial killer case in the United States.

Who is the greatest killer in history? ›

But both Hitler and Stalin were outdone by Mao Zedong. From 1958 to 1962, his Great Leap Forward policy led to the deaths of up to 45 million people—easily making it the biggest episode of mass murder ever recorded.

Who is the scariest serial killer? ›

  • Ted Bundy (1946-1989) ...
  • Harold Shipman (1946-2004) ...
  • Andrei Chikatilo (1936- 1994) ...
  • Jeffrey Dahmer (1960- 1994) ...
  • Albert Fish (1870-1936) ...
  • John Wayne Gacy (1942-1994) ...
  • Jack the Ripper (Unidentified Serial Killer ∼1888) ...
  • Joachim Kroll (1933-1991)

What killer was never caught? ›

Jack the Ripper: Arguably the most famous serial killer, Jack the Ripper haunted the slums of Victorian London's East End. He was named for the rage with which he killed his victims, and despite his relatively low body count at an estimated five women, he remains one of the most studied on our list.

Who is the fastest serial killer? ›

Benjamin Atkins was a serial killer and rapist who operated in the Detroit area in 1991 and 1992. He is considered by the FBI to be America's fastest serial killer because he murdered 11 women in such a short span of time.

Who is the most handsome serial killer? ›

Ted Bundy. Perhaps more than any other serial killer in recent memory, Ted Bundy has a reputation for being charming, handsome, and disarming. His charm and good looks allowed him to get the attention of women on college campuses, and he would often use props as well.

Who is the oldest killer in the world? ›

Sister Agatha: The World's Oldest Serial Killer by Domhnall O'Donoghue - Book Tour. Sister Agatha is 118 years of age, whose vim and vigour would put the most robust athletes to shame.


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