15 Scariest Serial Killers You’ve Never Heard Of
The Jeffrey Dahmers and Ted Bundys of the world have been booked and movied into the realm of near fiction, safely distanced from real life enough that it’s hard to imagine such monsters actually existing. It’s the ones you’ve never heard of that you have to watch out for -- some of whom are, in fact, out right now.
Ahmad Suradji claimed that in 1986, his dead father came to him in a dream and told him that if he killed 70 women and drank their saliva, he would become an unstoppable sorcerer. We would simply dismiss our dream father’s exhortations of murder power, but Suradji took it seriously, killing 42 women and girls in Indonesia between 1986 and 1997 by ritually burying them up to their waists and strangling them. It’s not clear how that part played into the whole sorcery thing, but he was caught and executed after, you know, several dozen bodies were found in his backyard.
It seems like there was plenty to journalism about in the mid 2000s, but Macedonian reporter Vlado Taneski was apparently hard up for a story. Knowing a vicious serial killer would sufficiently entrance readers, he raped, beat, and strangled at least three and possibly four elderly women and then wrote about it as if he hadn’t. Sure enough, his coverage of the murders riveted the public, but he was a little too good, including details that couldn’t possibly be known to anyone but the killer and leading police right to him.
Karl Denke was like a 1920s German Mrs. Lovett, killing vagrants who he met at church and offered a few days’ lodging and then turning their bodies into leather goods and jars of “pickled pork” that he sold in his shop during an economic depression that left his profit margins very thin indeed. He killed as many as 40 men, and he was only caught after one of them escaped his home, bleeding profusely and screaming that kind old Herr Denke had attacked him with an ax.
Marcel Petoit was a former mayor and respected doctor when he began his killing spree, first of people who just became inconvenient to him but then in an organized scheme to defraud Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied France. He offered them safe passage out of the country in exchange for about half a million of today’s dollars, which was bad enough, but then he convinced them they needed “inoculations” for where they were going, which was the Seine River after he actually injected them with cyanide and then robbed them again. Once that whole World War thing was over and Petoit’s trial took priority, he was gullitoned for killing 26 people (and likely dozens more) and sent to the truly special hell for people who take advantage of Holocaust victims.
David Parker Ray
David Parker Ray, known as the Toy Box Killer, was like the Jigsaw killer but without any pretension of helping anyone. When his victims came to in his torture trailer, they heard a recording that just let them know exactly what was about to happen to them. After his last victim escaped in 1999, he was only convicted of raping and tortuing two women because no bodies were ever found, but he admitted to abducting 40 women, so he was given a sentence of 223 years.
Luis Garavito confessed to raping, torturing, and killing about 190 children in Colombia between 1980 and 1999, luring them with promises of soda and money, sometimes dressed as a religious man. You’d think that would be a one-way pass to Forever Jail, but Colombian law limits prison sentences to 40 years, and Garavito got that shaved down to 22 because he was just so helpful to the police. He could be out as soon as next year. Sleep tight!
In the early 2000s, Alexander Pichushkin spent his evenings roaming a Moscow public park, asking people to drink with him at his dead dog’s grave. FYI, never accept that invitation. Even if it doesn’t end with a hammer to your head, it’s never gonna be a good time. After he was arrested, police found a chessboard with dates written on all but two of its 64 squares corresponding with the murders of his victims, earning him the nickname “the Chessboard Killer,” and the country was so scandalized by the spree that it considered bringing back the death penalty.
Dorothea Puente, also known as the Boardinghouse Killer, was a sweet-looking little old lady who took in elderly and disabled boarders and then killed them and continued cashing in their Social Security checks in the ‘80s. She also killed a friend and a boyfriend for good measure, though she swore until her death that the seven victims found buried on her property had died of natural causes, and she apparently neglected to report their deaths or stop cashing their checks out of … the goodness of her heart?
In her youth, Leonarda Cianciulli visited a fortune teller who told her she would have many children and they all would die (yes, just like Game of Thrones), and she had every reason to believe her, going on to have a total of 14 children, 10 of whom died at a young age. When her favorite son was drafted into World War II, she got it into her head that only human sacrifice would keep him safe, so she butchered three lonely women who came to her for help escaping their boring Italian village and used their bodies to make soap and cake that she handed out to friends. Moral of the story: Never trust a bitch that’s too crafty.
Helen Patricia Moore
In 1979, 16-year-old Helen Patricia Moore was devastated by the loss of her baby brother to SIDS, so babysitting was probably not the career for her, but that might have been why she chose it. Over the course of the next year, she murdered three children in her care and tried to kill two others, leaving one severely disabled, because she thought it was unfair that they got to live while her brother didn’t, though you’d think people would stop hiring her after, like, two. She was sentenced to life in prison but released in 1993 and now lives “somewhere in Australia,” among people who probably have no idea about her past.
Vickie Dawn Jackson, who had worked as a nurse since 1989, apparently snapped after she was hired by Nocona General Hospital in Texas, killing 10 patients with lethal medication overdoses for being excessively demanding and basically annoying her. She got away with it for a while because her victims were mostly elderly, but she got too bold when she tried it with a teenage girl and a middle-aged woman. Just something to keep in mind during your next hospitalization.
Gilbert Paul Jordan
Gilbert Paul Jordan, also known as the Boozing Barber, committed the perfect murder over and over: picking up women in bars and encouraging (sometimes paying) them to drink until they passed out, then pouring more alcohol down their throats. He got away with it for more than 20 years because it just looked like a bunch of drunks drinking too much, and he never actually served much time for the one manslaughter charge they got him on, but fortunately, he died in 2006, so it’s now safe to drink as much as some guy at the bar will pay you to. Wait, no. Still the opposite of that.
Michael Bear and Suzan Carson
Michael Bear Carson and his wife, Suzan, appeared to be a couple of harmless hippies, but in the ‘80s, they became known as the San Francisco Witch Killers, sadly not because they had an awesome band by that name. In the name of a holy war against vague malevolent entities, they killed a coworker on the marijuana farm where they worked who they said was a “demon,” a driver who had the misfortune of picking them up hitchhiking who they said was a “black witch,” and a roommate who Suzan accused of stealing her “health, power, and beauty.” In other words, being hotter than her.
Robert Hansen was known as the Butcher Baker because his mild-mannered facade and penchant for confections allowed him to kill 17 women in the ‘70s and ‘80s and assault many more. What’s unique about Hansen is his modus operandi: He flew his victims in his helicopter to the nearby Alaskan wilderness, where he hunted them for sport. He later confessed that he killed women because felt rejected by them, making him the O.G. incel killer. Really, when you can’t attract women despite being a professional maker of brownies, it’s you.
The FBI considers Samuel Little the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history, having confessed to killing 93 women between 1970 and 2005. Despite his incredible victim count and lengthy career, though, no one connected him to the crimes until 2012, when he was arrested on drug charges and his DNA tied him to three of the murders, and the full scope of his career wasn’t known until 2018, when he confessed to the rest of the murders in a bid to get moved to a different prison. For someone, no one has brought Samuel Little’s crimes to the big screen, possibly because they’re still scared of him.
Top image: Daniel Mrakic/Wikimedia Commons