6 Real Murderers Who Put Horror Movie Villains to Shame
We feel safe watching horror movies because we know that Jason Voorhees can't just leap out of the screen and knife us. But, just in case you were considering sleeping easy this Halloween, or ever again, we're pleased to let you know that there are plenty of killers out there who would be right at home in anything John Carpenter could pull out of his ass.
Robert Hansen Hunted Victims for Sport
When two men hunting in the Alaskan Knik River valley in 1982 came across a boot sticking out of the ground they may have been pleasantly surprised at their good fortune (free boot!), at least until they discovered there was a human foot still inside, belonging to a missing stripper.
Before long, more bodies started turning up in the area, all of them Anchorage women. The authorities didn't have much in the way of leads until one of the potential victims escaped and flagged down a passing truck, just like what happens at the end of 90 percent of all the slasher movies ever produced.
"9-1-1, what's your emergency? Uh huh. Ok, What you're describing is a cliche."
The terrified woman revealed that she was a prostitute who had been picked up by a red-haired man earlier in the evening, but her alarms started to go off when he drove her to an airport and told her he was going to fly her out to his cabin in the woods. She managed to escape while he was loading the plane, and later identified the plane to police, who found it was registered to one Robert Hansen, a local champion hunter. After they found a whole bunch of jewellery in his house that belonged to missing women, Hansen was forced to admit that he'd been hunting more than just elk.
"Can you believe none of those prostitutes were down for a horn-job?"
Hansen explained to investigators how he would abduct women at gunpoint, fly them out to his remote cabin in the woods, strip them and sometimes blindfold them before sending them off running into the woods. After giving them a head start, Hansen would then stalk and hunt them down like an animal in the kind of twisted human safari that you probably thought only existed in the dozen or so movies that have featured twisted human safaris.
"My real dream was to hunt Van Damme."
And yes, in case you were wondering, he had in fact been doing it a while. Authorities had expected to charge Hansen with four murders, so it came as a surprise to them when he admitted to around 21 (but really, you can't be totally sure of the number when you're keeping track of something as mundane as how many people you've hunted down and shot). His hobby got him sentenced to 461 years plus life in the big house. And in case you thought we were joking about all the movies that get made about this type of thing, the movie about this case comes out next month, in which Hansen gets thwarted by Nicolas Cage.
Murderous Doctor Kills Hundreds Before Anyone Notices
Let's say there was a psychotic doctor practicing out there somewhere -- friendly and reliable on the outside, a lust for murdering strangers on the inside. He sits you up on the exam table, tells you to relax and that you might feel a little pinch of the needle, and you never wake up again. One unsuspecting victim after another, for no reason at all other than that he just likes doing it. Now ask yourself: How many people do you think he could get away with killing before somebody caught on? A dozen? Fifty? A hundred?
Dr. Harold Shipman was that friendly neighborhood doctor, who always had a lot of trouble with patients dying under his care.
"The ones I'd let go probably wished they were dead after they saw my rates."
Nobody knows whether Shipman started murdering people in Yorkshire, but after he started work at Donneybrook Medical Center in Hyde, he was well on his way to becoming the most prolific serial killer in British history. Colleagues probably thought he was taking it awfully well when a disturbingly high number of patients kept suddenly and unexpectedly dropping off on his watch, but a lack of evidence or any perceived motive kept the authorities from linking him to his crimes and probably just thought he was just a really shitty doctor.
"I'm telling you people die from athlete's foot all the time."
The only reason he got caught is because he got greedy; when a wealthy former mayor wound up on Shipman's slab, he stupidly forged her will to make it look like she left her fortune to him. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't as good at forgery as he was at injecting old people with poison. When Grundy's relatives became suspicious about why she had inexplicably left everything to the family doctor, an investigation began to unravel Shipman's crimes. Upon exhuming his patients, they found that a terrifyingly large number of them had died of morphine overdose. How many? They were able to pin 15 deaths on him officially, but further investigations revealed he may have killed up to 250 fucking people.
After being given 15 life sentences, Shipman apparently went into murder withdrawal and managed to find one more victim: He killed himself in his cell.
The Texas Eyeball Killer
Charles Albright was a pretty swell guy. He knew several languages and was a former science teacher. He was well spoken, charming and lived happily in a committed relationship. He was a football coach, helped with Cub Scouts and was always willing to lend a helping hand to a friend in need. He was kind to children. Oh, and he also killed prostitutes and cut out their eyeballs.
"Please, like you people don't have any quirks."
As he's never admitted guilt, we may never know for sure exactly why Albright had this particular compulsion, but looking at his past we can make a few guesses. As a kid Charles was adopted into a stable (if not overly affectionate) home, where he took up an interest in hunting. He would skin and stuff the animal carcasses he brought home, but his parents were too stingy to allow him to spend their hard earned money on something as frivolous as realistic glass eyeballs, and so he had to make do with buttons. Well ... that's a little weird, but not serial killer-weird, right?
"This is more 'kidnapper-weird'; come back to me when he starts fucking around with zippers."
But then when he was in college, Charles had a friend who had recently broken up with his girlfriend and had thrown all the photographs he had of her in the trash. Charles retrieved the photos, cut out all the eyes, then pasted them all over his friend's room. At this point, shrewd detectives might come to suspect that he had a thing for eyeballs.
Fast forward to 1990, when a prostitute was found dead in Dallas. When the coroner lifted back the deceased woman's eyelids to check the eye color, they discovered that that there were no longer any eyeballs to check, which surely had to make a normally disconcerting workday even worse.
"Man, fuck Mondays."
Two more victims soon turned up eyeless, earning the killer the unimaginative press nickname "The Dallas Ripper." But, after rushing his third murder and leaving behind some damning forensic evidence, police soon arrested and charged Charles Albright. Since then, he's spent his days in prison, using his time productively. Just kidding, of course he's drawing eyeballs.
The Bloody Benders
Life in America could be pretty precarious in the years immediately following the Civil War. Intrepid frontiersmen journeying west through former Kansas Indian territory were always on the lookout for a port in the storm, safe from blizzards and bandits. The Bender homestead, located in western Labette County, probably seemed like such a refuge. But the Bender family's price for lodging could be pretty steep, considering that many of their guests wound up with their heads smashed in.
"They shouldn't have tried to steal our towels."
The Benders -- John, his wife and their children John, Jr. and Kate, are believed to have been immigrants from Germany, but nobody was ever too sure, knowing only that they spoke with funny accents. In addition, Kate billed herself in the area as a psychic and a healer. So men attracted by Kate's "supernatural powers" (boobs) were also frequently showing up at their front door. But then it's pretty easy to be a psychic when all of your clients have around 5 minutes to live.
Guests were given a seat at the head of the table, expecting a warm meal, and once they got settled in, either Pa or John, Jr. would appear from behind a curtain and brain them with a hammer. We have no way of knowing whether the murders were committed immediately after the guest was asked whether he wanted "one lump or two," so we merely have to assume that's what happened. Once dispatched, the unfortunate patron was stripped of any valuables and delivered to the cellar via a trap door to await a more permanent disposal somewhere on the prairie.
This is what happens when you trust someone that looks like the dude from Aqualung.
The Benders kept up this macabre business venture for 18 months, until they made the mistake of doing the old "stop, hammertime" on one Dr. William York, a brother of an army colonel who later formed a vigilante group to track down the missing man. Their search led them to the Bender homestead, but when the Benders realized they were about to get sprung (and this was one problem they wouldn't be able to solve with hammers) the family fled in the middle of the night. Authorities discovered the burial fields, but they never found the family. What became of them after that? Nobody knows. Take a few minutes to try to imagine an ending to the story that isn't terrifying.
Human Sacrifice Cults Were Very Real
Remember the evil, human-sacrificing cult from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Those guys really existed. The Thuggee Cult (where the word "thug" actually comes from) gained notoriety in the 18th and 19th centuries, during the British occupation, for murdering countless unsuspecting travelers. They had been around for a long time, though, with the first record of their existence appearing in 1356. Over that time, the Thuggee were responsible for tens of thousands of human sacrifices in the name of Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction, who is usually depicted laughing and waving a bunch of knives and severed body parts around.
"Mess with me, Jesus, and I'll make that stigmata look like a scraped knee."
In the early 1800s, the leader of the cult was a man known as Thug Behram, who personally admitted to killing 125 men, though he claimed to have been present for 931 ritual murders. They didn't really pull people's hearts out with magic, but they did sneak up behind their victims with a ceremonial strangle-cloth called a rumal. Behram was apparently so good at it that he could catch a man's Adam's apple with the rumal's sewn-in medallion in one swing, for the most efficient strangulation.
"I also perfected the whole 'evil moustache twirling' thing."
British Colonial authorities eventually caught up with Behram, whereupon he immediately violated the "thug life" credo by snitching out his partners in crime. With his help the Thuggee Cult was effectively stamped out and the reign of terror brought to an end. It was not so easy, however, to get rid of the Anioto cult in Nigerial.
That one was discovered in the early part of the 20th Century, when British colonial administrators found people were being slaughtered and children going missing by the dozen in what was described by witnesses as attacks by "man-leopards." The rumors turned out to be true -- at least, in the sense that they were a bunch of dudes dressed up like leopards.
"Man, I really hope it's not breezy tonight."
They were members of the Anioto, a cult of leopard-worshippers. They had apparently been around for centuries and are believed to have started off as devotees of the Egyptian god Osiris. The men believed themselves to be were-leopards, though in reality they just wore cloaks made from leopard skins, and strapped claws and knives to their hands. Apparently, whenever they faced some local problem like illness or failing crops, the Anioto knew exactly what needed to be done: dress up and find a human sacrifice.
Forty-eight killings were committed in 1946 alone. In 1947 there were another 43 and most troubling to the white colonists was the realization that the violence now seemed to be directed at them. Cultists were rounded up and executed in an attempt to prove to local chiefs that they weren't immortal supernatural leopard people. Not much has been heard from the Cult of the Leopard since the brutal crackdown in the late 1940s, but- Oh, wait, no, a kid was killed by a cult priest in 2011.
Elizabeth Bathory was a Hungarian countess from back in the 1500s who has the distinction of being widely regarded the most prolific serial killer in human history. Nobody even knows how many people met their end in Bathory's castle of horrors, but estimates usually get up to around 650 before they lose count and round it up to the nearest thousand or so.
A lot of what we know about Bathory is probably trumped up, because back then, history tended to get mixed up with folklore, especially when you're talking about someone who might have leaped out of a Bram Stoker novel. And since one witness reported seeing Bathory having sex with Satan one day, we can deduce that some of these reports were unreliable.
"Don't be absurd -- it was just a handjob."
By all accounts, she was a vain and beauty-obsessed aristocrat who would have been at home in any one of Grimm's fairy tales. The popular account of Bathory's life is that the aging countess became obsessed with trying to reclaim her youth, and settled upon bathing in the blood of her young female servants, which probably made a lot more sense in the 16th century. But researchers who try to stick to the facts as much as possible admit a more down to earth scenario might be that she was just a terrifyingly brutal bitch going through the worst mid-life crisis in history.
Either way, the one thing scholars agree on is that Bathory seemed to really get off on torturing young women to death, and witnesses reported that her interests were as diverse as severe beatings, burning, freezing and biting her victims' faces. It says a lot for the quality of investigative journalism that girls continued to seek employment in Bathory's torture castle despite the suspiciously high turnover rate.
"I offer health and dental."
Eventually the King decided that he should put a stop to this before she reduced Hungary to the biggest sausage party in Europe, but nobody wanted to put her on trial because it might embarrass some rich people to try one of their own. So Bathory was put on house arrest for the rest of her life, which due to 16th-century life expectancy, thankfully wasn't long.
E. Reid Ross murders comics with his pals at RealToyGun.
For more reasons to fear reality over fiction, check out 5 Horrific Serial Killers (Who Are Free Right Now) and The 5 Creepiest Serial Killers (Who Were Animals).