World history is splattered with historic tales of gruesome murderers and grisly bloodthirsty serial killers. From London’s very own Jack the ripper, terrorizing the Victorian streets of London, to New York’s Ted Bundy, charming his victims into his own car, you will find a long list of macabre manly maniac murderers. Yet, what about their female counterparts? Why is it that they are so often swept away under the rug, a shadow compared to their opposing sex?
When we hear the word serial killer we tend to automatically think of a man as the one wielding that blood stained knife, and when picturing psychotic killers lurking in the shadows, it’s usually a man we envisage in our horrifying imaginations. But why? Is it really that much of a struggle to imagine a woman doing the things that you would only ever really expect a man to carry out? With the idea of a female serial killer sometimes too shocking due to the way women are often perceived. The notion that such a caring, nurturing, giver of life could do such a horrific and harrowing thing, could often be much more terrifying to imagine. And yes, male serial killers heavily outnumber their female counterparts, but it’s not to say that they don’t exist, because they most certainly do. Known to conform to a more delicate practice of killing, such as poisoning, smothering or a good old fashioned strangulation, lady killers often go unnoticed much longer than male murderers. So, to give you and insight into the world of women maniacs, here are 15 of the creepiest female serial killers throughout history.
15. Jane Toppan
Jane Toppan, otherwise, known as Jolly Jane, was an American serial killer during the late 1800s. Confessing to 31 murders in 1901, the ever remorseful Toppan was eerily quoted as saying that her original goal was ‘to have killed more people’. Growing up in a broken home, with rumors of her father’s own supposed insanity, Toppan’s future didn’t look too bright, a fact that was later confirmed when she was signed into a female asylum after her Father had abandoned her. However, it was nursing that really got Toppan started, using her patients as human guinea pigs for all her sadistic needs. Pumping patients with morphine to mess with their nervous systems, Toppan even began to create fake charts to fiddle with their doses. Feeling unsatisfied, Toppan started entering the beds of her helpless patients, later telling police that she would receive a sexual thrill watching them die and come back to life, all under her god like powers. Avoiding suspicion, Toppan moved on much closer to home, poisoning her landlords and eventually killing her foster sister with a heavy dose of strychnine, a rodent and bird killer. Now a full on serial killer, Toppan began caring for an older gentleman after the death of his wife (who she had also killed). Believing herself to be unstoppable, Toppan killed the elderly man and both of his two daughters, even poisoning herself to evade suspicion. However, the cocky Toppan had gone too far and was finally caught and arrested for murder. Found not guilty on reason of insanity, Toppan was sent back to the asylum, where she died at the ripe old age of 81.
14. Elizabeth Báthory
Even the nobles have a dark streak, with the Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Báthory no exception. Coming from the high born Báthory family, Elizabeth has often been labelled the most famous female serial killer in the world, even inspiring the prolific and ultimately terrifying ‘Count Dracula’. Accused of a whopping 600 murders, the actual figures will most likely never be truly verified, however what is certain is that she was indeed an absolute mental case. Peaking early at the age of 15, the newly married Elizabeth demanded that her new husband build her a torture chamber, suitable for her needs. Obviously missing the roaring red flag that was waving in front of him, the chamber was built, becoming an integral part of the Countesses murderous killing spree over the next few years. With a penchant for young women and peasant girls, Elizabeth would often enlist the help of her nurses to abduct them. Subjecting them to a number of cruelties in her torture chamber, it was even reported that she would make them eat their own flesh. Due to her nobility, Elizabeth’s actions were often swept under the rug, however she was finally arrested after years of horrific and unspeakable deeds, yet still managed to evade execution, living out her days in a darkened room, her acts concealed from the world that continued without her. Oh to be a noble!
13. Marie Delphine LaLaurie
Recently portrayed by the ever menacing Kathy Bates in the equally terrifying American Horror Story, the shocking story of socialite Madame Delphine LaLaurie has haunted the Southern hot spot New Orleans for centuries. With stories of abuse, torture and a number of unspeakable actions associated with the mansion and home of the wealthy socialite, the acts of this raving lunatic certainly put her among the worst of the worst with regards to female serial killers. Going unnoticed and seemingly getting away with it, it was only when a fire broke out did the citizens of the sleepy French quarter of New Orleans really see for themselves what was happening inside. As LaLaurie was busy trying to save her expensive furniture, rescuers claimed they found an elderly black woman chained up in the kitchen, as well as a number of other black slaves tied up with spiked iron collars in the attic. With torture chambers (a running theme here) found in various parts of the mansion and evidence of mutilation among the slaves themselves, LaLaurie was consequently ran out of town, disappearing to Europe, and escaping her crimes. Now owned by actor Nicolas Cage, for reasons unknown, the house still stands haunting the streets of New Orleans with its haunting and grisly past.
12. Nannie Doss
Otherwise known as the chilling ‘Giggling Nanny’, due to her ever present and unnerving smile under questioning, Nancy Doss was only ever interested in her own flesh and blood. Growing up in Alabama with one brother and three sisters, Doss suffered from an unhappy childhood and an overbearing father. Injuring her head when she was 7 years old on a metal bar aboard a train, Doss suffered the effects for years after the accident, later stating that it was the initial bang on her head that contributed to her mental instability and killing instincts. Never short of husbands, Doss was married 5 times, confessing to and killing four of them. With her mother, mother in law, sister and grandson added to her list of confessions, it was also thought she had killed many more, although she never admitted to anymore murders. With arsenic poisoning her weapon of choice, Doss later stated that money was never in the intention, despite the numerous insurance payouts, hmmm.
11. Amelia Dyer
Surprisingly, Amelia Dyer seems to have sunken into obscurity, despite being one of the worst ever serial killers to have ever set foot on British shores. Known as the ‘baby farmer’ (yes that was an actual job) you can only imagine her specialized victims, however it was the nature in how she worked that really fascinated criminal experts and police forces around the world. Born in 1837, Dyer was the youngest of five children, however she was often left to take care of her mother, who suffered from violent rages and fits. Training as a nurse, Dyer often used her home to provide lodgings for young women who had gotten pregnant without marrying. Charging a one-off fee, Dyer then farmed off the children for adoption, or in most cases allowed them to die due to neglect or malnutrition, which was often unknown to the unsuspecting mothers who had just given their children up. Keen to make as much money as possible and save just as much, Dyer began murdering the children, burying the bodies herself and moving towns to avoid suspicion. Finally caught by the police, Dyer was only charged with 4 murders despite the actual number being much larger. Sentenced to death by hanging in 1896, Dyer even inspired her own grisly poem, sang late at night on the spooky streets of Victorian London, before fading into oblivion.
10. Miyuki Ishikawa
Taking the top spot for the worst serial killer of all time in Japan, Miyuki Ishikawa was a Japanese midwife who was believed to have murdered around 170 new born babies. Working as a midwife at a maternity hospital in Tokyo, Ishikawa found that a number of the babies were unwanted due to the practice of abortion being illegal in Japan at the time. With overcrowding becoming an issue and no outside help, the financial aspects of looking after these unwanted babies began to take its toll on the hospital. Deciding it would be more economical and beneficial, Ishikawa and a number of accomplices began killing the defenseless children in order to save money and keep the hospital open. With the government aware of what was going on, things weren’t done to stop it, resulting in a number of other disgusted and horrified midwives to quit and leave the hospital. Ishikawa and her husband and a number of other accomplices began asking the parents for money, claiming that it would be cheaper to pay them instead of raising the children themselves. In similarity to Amelia Dyer, Ishikawa led the parents to believe they were doing the right thing, with their children going to good homes and better lives. However, the babies were often left to die, or killed as a direct result of abuse. It was only after the police had accidentally stumbled on the remains of five bodies, that lead them straight to Ishikawa, sparking an investigation that led to the arrest of her, her husband and a doctor who had previously drawn up false death certificates to avoid suspicion. Shockingly sentenced to only eight years in prison, due to a Japanese law that gives infants virtually no rights at all, Ishikawa was disgustingly released in just 4 years, able to walk the streets as a free woman for the rest of her life.
9. Aileen Wuornos
Probably the most famous female serial killers of all time, Aileen Wuornos even had an award winning movie made about her, with Charlize Theron taking home an oscar for her portrayal. Born in 1956, Wuornos had a troubled childhood, ending in the incarceration of her pedophile Father and the abandonment of her mother. Legally adopted by her grandparents, things seemed to only get worse with Wuornos prostituting herself for drugs and food at the age of only 11. With allegations that her Grandfather would rape her regularly and also allow his friends to abuse her, Wuornos became pregnant, later giving the baby up for adoption and living in the woods. In and out of prison, Wuornos went on to meet future girlfriend Tyra Moore, and began supporting them through prostitution. It later revealed that from 1989 to 1990 Wuornos had began shooting her clients, robbing them of their belongings and ditching the bodies. After six men had been found dead, police began to track Wuornos down, arresting her through a telephoned confession with her girlfriend. Claiming self defense, the jury ignored her pleas and sentenced her to death in 2002.
8. Karla Homolka
Attracting universal media attention and shocking the whole world with her crimes, Canadian born Karla Homolka was accused of the rape and murders of two teenage girls and the rape and murder of her own sister. Acting with her husband and partner in crime, serial rapist Paul Bernardo, the pair began to act out a fantasy devised from Bernardo’s sick mind. With an unhealthy obsession with Homolka’s younger sister, Tammy, Homolka agreed to drugging Tammy at a family dinner, which then lead to Bernardo raping the young girl. When Tammy woke mid way through the rape, she began choking on her own vomit and died. Calling the police, the ‘Barbie and Ken’ killers (as they became known) managed to avoid suspicion, telling officials that they had found her like that. A short time later the pair had a thirst for more, and began hunting for their next victim. While out driving they spotted 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy, who was returning home after being late for her curfew. Blindfolding her and forcing her into their car, the teenager was then raped, videotaped and strangled to death. Dumping the body, the pair stumbled upon 15-year-old Kristen French, in which they carried out the same brutal torture as their previous victims. Finally caught by police, Bernardo was sentenced to life imprisonment, however Homolka had other ideas and made a quick plea bargain with police that resulted in a smaller sentence. Nicknamed the ‘deal with the devil’, Homolka was basically allowed to walk free, however as the videotapes began to surface after the plea was made, it revealed that Homolka had a much more active role in the murders than she had originally claimed. Avoiding any further jail time, Homolka was released and walked free.
7. Dorothea Puente
Dubbed the ‘death house landlady’, Dorothea Puente ran a boarding house in California, USA, in which she murdered her guests in cold blood. After being sent to prison for running a brothel in 1960, Puente continued her criminal career, serving up an extensive criminal record. Finding work as a nurse’s aide, in which she primarily cared for disabled and elderly men and women, Puente began managing a boarding house. With her motive being purely financial, Puente started drugging certain guests in order to steal from them, collecting pensions and social security checks. Not knowing what to do with the bodies, Puente would then hire convicts that she would later claim to have ‘adopted’ and have them unwillingly dig holes to bury the bodies. After garnering suspicion, Puente was eventually caught after police began inquiring of the disappearance of a certain tenant. Finding seven bodies in total, Puente was charged with a massive nine murders and sentenced to two life sentences. Spending the rest of her life in prison, Puente continued to fight for her innocence by claiming that all victims died of natural causes or old age.
6. Kristen Gilbert
American serial killer and former notorious nurse Kristen Gilbert, was convicted for the murders of several patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. During her time at the medical center, Gilbert would induce patients into cardiac arrest by injecting humongous doses of epinephrine. Due to the drug being an untraceable heart stimulant, Gilbert would then respond to the dying patient by resuscitating them back to life. Not too dissimilar to the earlier mentioned Jane Toppan, Gilbert would gain a thrill from the superior feeling of playing with one’s life. With five known victims under her belt, it is unknown the real number that fell to the hands of Kristen Gilbert, however as other nurses began noticing the high number of deaths on Gilbert’s watch they jokingly began to call her the ‘Angel of Death’. However, when staff finally began to notice a much more sinister problem, an investigation was made into Gilbert herself. Feeling the police on her heels, Gilbert phoned in a bomb threat in order to hinder the investigation, resulting in a huge backfire and her eventual capture. Convicted in 2001, Gilbert escaped capital punishment but was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
5. Beverley Allitt
Continuing the theme of killer nurse, Beverley Allitt was an English born serial killer, convicted of killing four children in 1993. While working as a nurse on the children’s ward in Lincolnshire, UK, Allitt also attempted to kill many more. With her modus operandi being that of poisoning, Allitt would inject large doses of insulin in order to cause an overdose. With victims from as young as seven weeks old, the young children would often be admitted with small curable illnesses such as a chest infection, then sadly taken away by the killer nurse. Nicknamed the ‘Angel of Death’ just as Kristen Gilbert had before her, Allitt had all in all attacked 13 children before she was caught by police, after the high number of cardiac arrests that had occurred on her watch caused suspicion. Sentenced to life imprisonment, Allitt was given one of the longest sentences a woman had ever been given in Britain, shocking the public with the grisly and distressing details of her actions. With Allitt never fully explaining why she did what she did, it has been suggested that she murdered the young children for attention, in which the attacker has most likely lived an ignored and rejected existence.
4. Juana Barraza
Dubbed ‘La Mataviejitas’ or the ‘Old Lady Killer’, Juana Barraza was a Mexican professional wrestler and part time Mexican serial killer. Growing up in rural Mexico, Barraza had a tough upbringing that included two miscarriages and prostitution all before the age of 16. Moving to Mexico City, Barraza began working a number of jobs, one of which included professional wrestling, going by the pseudonym ‘the lady of silence’. Beginning her murder spree not long after entertaining hundreds in the ring, Barraza was originally thought to have been a crazed madman, killing elderly women on the streets of Mexico. Targeting women over the age of sixty, Barrazza would befriend her victims first, therefore evading any sign of a forced entry. Killing them by strangulation or bludgeoning them to death, Barraza would then flee into the night, never to be seen again. With estimations of around 50 deaths to her name, the police were baffled, however in 2006, a few years after it had all started, Barraza was seen running away from a victim’s house, and was finally arrested. Denying all other murders apart from the last one that she was seen fleeing from, Barraza was sentenced to a whopping 759 years in prison.
3. Joanna Dennehy
When a series of murders rocked the sleepy middle class city of Peterborough in 2013, the residents were even more shocked to find that the culprit of such grisly and gruesome acts was in fact a woman. Dubbed the ‘Peterborough ditch murders’, due to the way in which the victims were buried, was a series of murders in which 3 men were stabbed to death. Not only were the murders shocking in that it was a woman who had committed the crimes in such cold blood, but it was her overall reaction after she was caught that really rubbed people up the wrong way. After the murders had taken place and Dennehy had been caught, she later told a psychiatrist that she had found the concept of killing people to be ‘moreish’ and that she had developed ‘a taste for it’. Specifically targeting men during her murder spree, Joanna Dennehy originally claimed that she had intended to kill nine men, but was caught before she could complete her plan. Making history, Dennehy became only the third woman to be sentenced to life in prison, meaning she was directly ordered to die behind bars. Shocked and disgusted the judge stated that she was ‘a cruel, calculating, selfish and manipulative serial killer’, with an evil and calculated Dennehy smiling and laughing as the judge read out her sentence.
2. Rosemary West
Synonymous with her husband Fred, Fred and Rose West shocked the world when it was revealed that Rose and her evil husband had killed and buried a number of dead girls in their own back yard. Enduring an unhappy childhood as a youngster, Rosemary was often the subject of sexual abuse by her father. When meeting Fred, Rose slipped away from the grasp of her schizophrenic father, moving in with Fred within weeks. As time went on, Rose began to care for Fred’s two children (from his previous marriage) as well her own when she fell pregnant not long into their relationship. With a mutual taste for the same dark sexual fantasies, the pair were arrested for sexual assault after kidnapping and attacking a young girl. Following this pattern, the pair began luring young girls to their home, imprisoning them and later killing them. Around the same time, Rose also began working as a prostitute in which her father and husband would regularly watch and join in. With an overall 12 victims to the couple’s names, Rose was eventually convicted of 10, with Fred’s stepdaughter, and one of the couple’s own daughter, as victims. As police began to step in due to the disappearance of their daughter, they stumbled on a complete house of horrors in which body parts and gruesome material were found at their home. Sentenced to life imprisonment, it was later announced that she would receive a whole life tariff resulting in her spending the rest of her living life behind bars, with only 3 women ever receiving such a sentence in The UK.
1. Myra Hindley
Probably one of the most infamous child murderers in the history of the universe, Myra Hindley not only shocked the world with her hideous crimes but changed the way parents would later handle their own children. Named the ‘Moors Murderer’ due to the location of where they would dump their bodies, Myra Hindley and boyfriend Ian Brady committed one of the most atrocious acts ever seen in The UK, even lasting until this day. Active during the early sixties, both Brady and Hindley sexually abused and murdered five children, before burying them on the moors, a grassy moorland in northern England. Dubbed ‘the most evil woman in Britain’, Hindley was the first woman to be sentenced to life imprisonment, in which she would never be released under any circumstances. Despite a number of appeals, Hindley died in prison, leaving behind a legacy that completely changed the way in which children were looked after, long was the bogie man just a tactic to get children to behave, the bogie man was well and truly alive, even living in your neighborhood.