5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie

WARNING: These are not for the faint of heart, and #1 will be just about the most disgusting thing you've ever heard.
5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie

It's obvious why we love horror movies: They distract us from the fact that real life can be much, much more terrifying. And we don't mean in the sense that cancer and heart disease are scarier than some flamboyant slasher movie villain. We mean that real-life murderers are in fact quite a bit more over-the-top than even the cheesiest B-movie bad guys, as the real monsters on this list prove.

WARNING: These are not for the faint of heart, and #1 will be just about the most disgusting thing you've ever heard.

The Snowtown Murders Create a Gruesome Tourist Mecca

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Sunday Telegraph

Back in the early 1990s, a trio of South Australian lowlifes from the impoverished suburb of Snowtown, near Adelaide, decided that a good ol' murder spree might help them feel better about their own craptastic lives. It began when the ringleader, John Bunting, decided that he'd had enough of pedophiles skulking around the community, and by damn, he was going to do something about it.

But before you assume that he was just The Punisher of sexual predators, it's worth mentioning that he conflated pedophiles with homosexuals as though they were the same thing, and most of the people he suspected of being "rock spiders," as he called them, were based on flimsy evidence and hearsay. It seemed as though he, well, just kinda wanted to kill a bunch of people.

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
Lisa Thurston

"Bunch of perverts watching our school kids. They even have a sign for their club."

After piecing together a wall chart of suspected deviants in his hometown, Bunting and his two accomplices went to work hacking up their neighbors.

The Snowtown killers took a macabre delight in their work, torturing and killing people to the soundtrack of Bunting's beloved 1994 Live album Throwing Copper. Bunting referred to the act of homicide as "smurfing," because in his words, "First you go blue, then you go poo." It wasn't long before they started dabbling in cannibalism, because shit, why not? Bunting and his cronies disposed of the bodies of the people they smurfed by stuffing them into barrels of hydrochloric acid and hiding them in an abandoned bank building. When authorities finally discovered the most horrifying safety deposit vault in history, they had to go to creative efforts to figure out just how many bodies there were, such as counting all the toes and dividing by 10.

Herald Sun

"We had to round up to include the toes they'd eaten."

Although the residents of Snowtown were horrified by the discovery, at least the (utterly unrepentant) perpetrators were now all behind bars and everyone could breathe a sigh of relief. But the lemons of brutal murder soon turned into the lemonade of tourism dollars -- the affair became such a huge national news story that people all over the country started pouring into the decrepit town to rubberneck at notorious landmarks, and local businesses started cashing in on the publicity. Don't worry though. They were extremely tasteful about it.

Snowtown SA ('ve Been to Snowtown! You'lll have a barrel of fun South Australia
Herald Sun

"Don't forget to stop at the diner and order some Vegemite sausage 'toes'!"

With postcards and fridge magnets emblazoned with pithy bon mots such as "Come to Snowtown, You'll Have a Barrel of Fun," and collectible ceramic figurines that featured lighthearted scenes of cadavers melting in acid vats, Snowtown made, well, a killing. As Rosemary Joseph, proprietor of Snowtown Craft and Curios explains it, they were simply filling a niche and catering to the sudden influx of tourists who were "wanting something more than fridge magnets and spoons."

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
Helen Davidson/Guardian

"Hell, for $20, I'll take a shit dressed as Papa Smurf."

Robert Ben Rhoades' Traveling Torture Chamber

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
Aneese/iStock/Getty Images

For all the hitchhikers in the 1980s who somehow didn't learn a damn thing from the gruesome lessons of the 1970s, Robert Ben Rhoades was the guy who reinforced what a bad decision it can be to thumb a ride in America. Rhoades was a long-haul trucker who regularly worked his way up and down the highways of the American South. When he wasn't pulling the air horn to the delight of children in the next car over, he was picking up strangers and murdering them in ways that would have given the Jigsaw killer ideas.

What nobody could have known from the road was that what looked like an ordinary truck on the outside was a horrifying mobile sex dungeon on the inside, like a much kinkier version of the TARDIS. His ability to lull victims into a false sense of security was helped greatly by the fact that he looked like your high school social studies teacher. That is, if your teacher happened to dress like this:

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
via GQ

Producers are already in talks with Bryan Cranston for the movie adaptation.

Unwilling to confine his howling deviancy to a soundproofed suburban basement, Rhoades took his show on the road by tricking out his rig with a hidden sleeper compartment outfitted with ceiling-mounted handcuffs, alligator clips, leashes, whips and dildos. While he was only convicted of three murders and has begrudgingly admitted to a few others, we'll probably never know how many he really killed. You can probably bet it's a pretty sobering number though, seeing as how he kept up the hobby for 15 years.

When the 1990s rolled around, Rhoades was at the top of his homicidal game and believed to be killing, on average, about three people per month. The reason he was able to get away with it for so long was simply that, because his acts were confined to one, constantly-moving crime scene, authorities just couldn't track him down.

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Just like with the mysterious mile-high slasher.

In fact, when he was finally caught, it had nothing to do with the hard work of seasoned, professional detectives. Instead, it all came down to one nosy Arizona highway cop. In April 1990, State Trooper Mike Miller noticed Rhoades's murder dungeon parked on the side of the road and, presumably to make sure it wasn't full of Mexicans, he walked over to investigate. That's where he found Rhoades with his pants down, literally, along with a naked woman chained up and gagged in the back of the cab.

Though Rhoades insisted that whatever he was doing was totally consensual, Miller decided that the severely beaten and terrified woman was probably worth a trip back to the station. That's when they found they were dealing with one of America's most prolific serial killers. Nowadays Rhoades is serving a life sentence in Illinois, doing his best to live up to his reputation by looking like this:

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
Illinois Department of Corrections

And yet the jury rejected his claims of split personality.

Nurse Charles Cullen Murdered His Patients ... for 16 Years

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie

For hospital management, we're assuming one of the first lessons they cover in training is, "don't hire a serial killer." We've mentioned before what happened when they committed this basic error in Britain, but there's one American case that puts this record to shame: New Jersey nurse Charles Cullen, who has admitted to 40 murders of people under his care, but is estimated to have been responsible for upwards of an absurd 400, which, if true, would make him the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history. If you live in New Jersey, you probably know someone who was killed by this guy.

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Either way, our condolences.

It should have been a clue to his unstable state of mind when Cullen was discharged from the navy in 1984 for pulling weird shit like wearing surgical scrubs at the missile controls of a nuclear submarine. Nevertheless, he was allowed to take a job as a nurse at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ, where he was able to indulge his true passion as a cackling maniac.

While working in the burn unit on the midnight shift, he began tampering with patients' intravenous fluid bags, causing them to overdose, while always making sure to use the type of drugs that would escape the notice of nosy administrators. Over the next decade Cullen was hired by nine more hospitals, each of which experienced a profound spike in their patient mortality rate for some reason.

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Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Only '90s corpses will understand this.

This being before a time when computers were used to keep track of the drug inventories, combined with the fact that hospitals weren't particularly diligent in reporting information about shoddy or potentially murderous employees, meant that Cullen was able to keep this up for years with everyone assuming his hospitals were just going through a bad luck streak. Though some of the hospitals did find it troubling that the morgue tended to fill up like a One Direction concert in a mall food court whenever Cullen happened to be on shift, they were so afraid of being sued that they kept incriminating information under wraps.

Eventually, advancements in technology revealed that Cullen was regularly pilfering dangerous drugs and accessing patients' records that were none of his business, and the mysterious overdoses suddenly started to make sense. His fellow nurses had long been voicing their fears about his general creepiness, but now that creepiness suddenly got horrifyingly real. The suspicions were finally confirmed when a fellow nurse, wired for sound by police detectives, got him to confess over drinks at a bar.

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie

"I killed 400 patients; how about you let me murder that ass" didn't work on her, strangely.

After he was taken into custody, he soon admitted to what he'd done, but during his subsequent court appearances, he shouted over the judge and witnesses to an extent that the judge had him bound and gagged with netting and duct tape like a half-assed Hannibal Lecter just so that due process could continue long enough to slap him with 17 life sentences, which is 16 more than most people really need.

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
Donna Fisher/Morning Call

Yet, still seems lenient.

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie

The Axeman of New Orleans Killed Everyone but Jazz Lovers

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
lightphoto/iStock/Getty Images

Between 1918 to 1919, New Orleans was a city gripped by fear from a bloodthirsty, jazz-loving maniac known by the press as the "Axeman." He wasn't the most sophisticated of killers; his modus operandi was to simply enter a home by chopping the back door into smithereens with an axe, and then do the same thing to whomever was inside.

9-10 DEA
alking35/iStock/Getty Image

One more reason that we should all live in cloud castles.

Robbery was quickly ruled out as a motive, since no items were ever taken from the homes. As the majority of his early victims were Italian immigrants, the initial suspicion was that the Axeman was part of some mafia-related criminal conspiracy. Or since the first two attacks were committed on grocers, maybe he was irate over the skyrocketing cost of rutabagas. But as bodies piled up, with the killer widening his scope to include a more diverse array of victims, police were clueless until local newspapers published a letter, reportedly written by the fiend himself:

Esteemed Mortal:

They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a fell demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman.

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
FelixRenaud/iStock/Getty Images

We're starting to think that this wasn't your typical, sane axe murderer.

Then, later in the message he revealed the true motive behind his crimes, which was apparently that his victims didn't fully appreciate the art form that was jazz music:

Now, to be exact, at 12:15 (earthly time) on next Tuesday night, I am going to visit New Orleans again. In my infinite mercy, I am going to make a little proposition to you people. Here it is:

I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have mentioned. If everyone has a jazz band going, well, then, so much the better for you people. One thing is certain and that is that some of those people who do not jazz it on Tuesday night (if there be any) will get the axe.

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
DutchScenery/iStock/Getty Images

"If you don't currently have any, you can find great deals at A.M. Records.
A fantastic store of which I am certainly not the owner of."

Well, as I am cold and crave the warmth of my native Tartarus, and it is about time that I leave your earthly home, I will cease my discourse. Hoping that thou wilt publish this, and that it may go well with thee, I have been, am and will be the worst spirit that ever existed either in fact or realm of fantasy.

The Axeman

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
LUNAMARINA/iStock/Getty Images

"Saxman or Axeman. The choice is yours."

That next Tuesday, every home and business in the city blared both live and recorded jazz music, and the killer, true to his word, stayed his axe. Then all of a sudden the killings just stopped.

Whether the Axeman died, went to prison as a result of some unrelated crime, or was just calmed into submission by the soothing melodies of that era's Kenny G is open to conjecture. We'll never know, because, as the Axeman himself predicted, he was never caught.

The Internet Cannibals

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
ilkefoto/iStock/Getty Images

The Internet has made the world a much smaller place, and in a lot of ways that might be a great thing, but in other ways, bringing people closer together also means that you may be closer to someone who, for example, might want to eat you. And we don't mean that in any good way. Take for example Slovakian computer programmer Matej Curko, who put up an ad on Craigslist saying that he was looking to meet someone who would be interested in being killed, dismembered, and eaten, all in the name of good fun. Assuring prospective victims that he was neither gay, nor a rapist, he insisted that he would make the process as painless as possible and was just looking for someone who would indulge his admittedly extreme and specific kink.


Aww. Don't you just want to give him a hug ... and your flesh?

Incredibly, one troubled man from Switzerland took him up on the offer, but after engaging in an email exchange with Curko about how he was totally keen to stab him in the heart and consume his whole body over a period of several weeks, decided that might not be his ultimate fantasy after all, and so he notified the authorities.

When police moved in to apprehend him, Curko showed just what a humane sort of guy he was by opening up with a multitude of concealed firearms. After shooting Curko in the face, they went on to learn just how serious he was about his culinary fetish. They found the bodies of two dismembered women in the nearby woods, a "fridge of horrors" packed with body parts in his home, and evidence that indicated he may have slaughtered and devoured about 30 people.

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty 

This is seriously one of the ten worst Craigslist deals ever.

But Curko isn't the only cannibal who ordered his meals online. In 2001, Armin Meiwes lived in the small town of Rotenburg, in the huge mansion left to him by his devoted, domineering mother. Like Curko, he was well-liked by his neighbors and considered a normal, if somewhat quiet and reclusive, guy. He'd always found it hard to form lasting relationships, and so decided to try his luck online in his search for "someone to be part of me."

Unfortunately he meant that literally, and went looking for friends on a website called The Cannibal Cafe. Advertising his desire to hook up with a "young well-built man, who wanted to be eaten," Meiwes eventually made a love connection with 43-year-old engineer from Berlin, Bernd Brandes.

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie

Berlin builder, Bernd Brandes, before becoming blind beau butcher's baked brisket.

Meiwes had apparently found a twisted soulmate in Brandes, who readily accepted the dinner invitation and made the trip out to Meiwes's mansion. After the awkward, foot-shuffling introductions were made, Brandes popped 20 sleeping pills and washed them down with some schnapps while Miewes prepared the "meal," which in this case was his victim's penis, which Miewes haphazardly chopped off with a butcher's knife.

It only gets worse from there: After Brandes attempted to take the first bite (of his own goddamn dick), he found it "too tough and chewy," so Miewes sauteed it up a bit with a little wine and garlic. He apparently wasn't much of a dick chef, however, and burned it to the point it was inedible, or at least less appetizing than one would normally consider freshly severed human cockmeat. Not one to be wasteful, the ever-considerate Miewes then cut up Brandes's penis into chunks and fed it to his dog.

5 Real Killers More Terrifying Than Any Horror Movie
via Daily Caller

"He ate the kibbles and bits."

After a few hours, Brandes was still barely clinging to life from blood loss, so Miewes gave him a kiss and stabbed him in the neck. Once Brandes was finally dead, Miewes hung him on a meathook in a specially designed "slaughter room" and carved him into Fogo de Chao-sized serving portions for later consumption, which he stored in a freezer. He later described it as tasting like pork.

Eventually, Miewes began running out of meat and went back online to find another willing victim, at which point someone turned him into the authorities and he was arrested. Denying that he was a murderer, he instead professed his unorthodox love for Brandes with statements such as: "I killed a man, slaughtered him and ate him. Since then, he is always with me," and that "he died a beautiful death." As a bonus, Brandes spoke good English, and since eating him Miewes claims his English has improved.

E. Reid Ross is a columnist at Man Cave Daily. If you want more slices of his delicious man meat, you can also follow him on Twitter here.

Cracked is coming to Comikaze this weekend! Join us the 31st through November 2nd for a live After Hours panel, live podcast broadcast, and opportunities for signings and raffles that'll satiate that need for sweet, sweet funny.

For more terrifying real murderers, check out 5 People on Etsy Who Are Clearly Serial Killers and 5 Terrifying Serial Killers Who Happened to Be Animals.

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