There is a great variety of hobbies in the world. Some go for the classics, collecting stamps, and some go for bizarre, carving soap into vegetable shapes. But most likely, both ends will enjoy a good crime documentary. What is it about serial killers documentaries that grasp our attention? How come so many of us are fascinated by this gory subject? We can tell you one thing for sure- we're not all mad in here.
We as humans are naturally very interested in each other's lives. That's also the reason reality shows are always such a success; they let us play peeping Tom without ever being exposed ourselves. It's a safe environment for us to explore dark, twisted, dangerous worlds.
In addition to that, there's also the human instinct of curiosity. Serial killer documentaries give us a glimpse into a mind we will never fully understand. Since they operate so differently from us, the curiosity about what makes them act is quite fathomable.
Now that we got guilt out of the way, let us satisfy your morbid curiosity with our list of history's 7 most flagrant, blatant, serial killers.
John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy (1942-1994) was an American serial killer. He served time in a correctional facility before he started murdering innocent lives, for the sexual assault of a teenage boy. This put no stop in his tracks. When he got out of prison, while still on parole, he was again arrested for the very same crime, but the charges were dropped shortly after and he was released. He seemed to have changed his ways for the better, became a construction worker, and moved to suburban Chicago, where he was known in the local community as a social person. He took part in local politics and even performed as a clown at local birthdays.
But 10 years after his first conviction, another boy went missing. It just so happened, that this boy was last seen with Gacy. Gacy became an immediate suspect, and after obtaining a search warrant, police were able to find the bodies of no less than 29 boys and young men, decaying in Gacy's crawlspace. 4 more bodies were found in a nearby river. Gacy's ex-wife and several visitors had complained about the smell of decay, but Gacy always attributed the smell to mildew. He was sentenced and executed by lethal injection in 1994.
Harold Frederick Shipman (1946-2004) was a British serial killer, working as a physician. Shipman was considered a bright young child, developing his interest in medicine at a fairly young age. After having prescribed himself an opiate several times, he was thankfully forced into rehabilitation. He returned to practice medicine two years later, in 1977.
But in 1998, one of his seemingly healthy patients had died a sudden death, just hours after Shipman had paid her a home visit, leaving behind an altered will. In her will, she left all her possessions to Shipman. Two years later he was convicted of 15 murders and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He committed suicide in his cell 4 years after. A year after his death, an official report found that 250 patients were killed under his hands. He mostly used to inject a lethal dosage of painkillers. To this day his motives remain unknown.
Belle Gunness (1859-1908) was a Norweigian serial killer who immigrated to the US in search of wealth. Not long after she married her first husband, their candy shop perished in a fire. The couple claimed insurance money and moved on. Shortly after, her husband had died precisely on the day his two life insurances overlapped. This time on her own, Gunness collected the insurance money and moved on. She bought a farm and moved from Chicago to Indiana.
She remarried, only to be widowed again after 8 months, earning her another insurance check. She proceeded to post an advertisement on the local paper, searching for a third husband. All potential suitors had to visit her on her farm, but somehow, none ever returned. Just one made it out alive, saying that when he woke up, he saw Gunness standing over him. No record remains to tell how many victims Gunness killed. The circumstances of her own death are also very mysterious: a fire devoured the farm, and with it, her children. A decapitated female body was also found on-site, but the head was retrieved. When searching for it, police had found almost a dozen bodies - all of Gunness' prospective suitors.
Jeffrey Dahmer (1960-1994) was an American serial killer. He killed 17 innocent victims, mostly young men of color. He met his own demise in the hands of a fellow inmate. It was his killing spree that led to a rise in the public's interest in true crime; his arrest provoked much criticism of the police. How come they didn't catch him earlier?
Although he didn't murder by the hundreds, as Harold Shipman did, the nature of his heinous acts was truly perverse and included necrophilia and cannibalism. Dahmer's ongoing killing spree lasted between 1978 and 1991, the year of his arrest. He was finally arrested thanks to his last victim who managed to escape. He led police back to Dahmer's apartment, where they found various photos of butcher bodies and an acid tank, used to dispose of his victims.
Three years before his 1991 final arrest, Dahmer had served a year for the drugging and molestation of a minor. After his 1991 trial, he was sentenced to no less than 957 years in prison, only to be killed 2 years into his punishment.
Theodore Robert Bundy (1946-1989) was an American serial killer. Most of his victims were young women, usually college students. His first murder happened in 1966, shortly after he graduated from university.
He roamed the Pacific Northwest for 4 years, between 1974 and 1978, killing mercilessly. It is estimated he took the lives of hundreds of victims, but he only confessed to murdering 28 young women. His final victim was a 12-year-old girl, whom he had raped before he had murdered. He was sentenced to death and was finally executed by electric chair in 1989.
But before he drew his dying breath, Bundy made a name for himself as his trial was the first-ever fully televised trial. He shook the media world when he decided to act as one of his own defense attorneys. His charismatic demeanor captured the entire world's attention, and he didn't shy away from it. He even welcomed journalists into his prison cell.
Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper is the only unidentified serial killer on this list. We can't pinpoint when he died, but he is long gone, having been active in the 19th century. To this day, the exact number of his victims, as well as his true identity, remains unknown.
He was active in London during 1888, leaving a trace of mutilated bodies, all of women. Over a dozen murder victims are attributed to him, though police forces have only been able to officially link 5 of the victims to one person.
Jack's moniker wasn't attributed to him by the media: he had a sick sense of playfulness to his heinous acts, sending police clues about his doings under his name. He sent half a human kidney and several notes. The case was officially closed in 1892, after over 100 possible suspects were proposed, but none were arrested for lack of evidence.
H. H. Holmes was an American serial killer who lead a life full of scams and everything macabre. He started out making his money by conducting a series of insurance frauds, collecting check after check without raising suspicion.
He moved away and built a 3-story inn he amiably called his castle. In all respects, this was a torture house: there were hidden peepholes to many rooms, trap doors, a greased chute that led to a medieval-style torture chamber, and gas lines meant to knock his victims unconscious. They all woke up on his surgical table in the basement, to be victims of his twisted experiments. He then either burned the bodies or skinned them and sold the skeletons to medical schools.
He was finally stopped only thanks to his co-conspirator in the insurance frauds. Holmes was late to pay his shares, and so his co-conspirator anonymously tipped the police. Holmes was convicted of 4 murders. However, he confessed to 27 more.