We’re not going to get into the specifics of what exactly signifies a serial killer, nor will we bother explaining the difference between this type of a criminal and those who participate in mass murders and killing sprees.
Instead, we will celebrate together in their inveterate grossness. When looking at what motivates these special kinds of fiends, of which can include psychological gratification (in more ways than one) as well as anger, financial gain, and both thrill and attention seeking, many criminal analysts, law enforcement officials, and most especially psychologists and psychiatrists find themselves asking something along the lines of “What in God’s name happened to this freak as a kid?” when working with such a creature.
In this story, we’ll lightly delve into that question by juxtaposing rather eerie-looking photos or portraits of famous serial killers when they were kids with the monsters they became.
And, since we’re on the subject of freaky kids, we thought we’d share some extra-special criminals who committed their murders…when they were children. But since kids are much too young and don’t have the means to become a serial killer, the children on this list are “just” young murderers, not young serial killers.
15. David Berkowitz
The look on this kid’s face makes it seem as though he’s overtly happy to see you…and not in a good way. Maybe that’s because questionable acts are in his nature…even then. Journalist John Vincent Sanders has written on the boy’s childhood as being “somewhat troubled” during which he adopted an infatuation with petty larceny and pryomania while other people, including neighbors and relatives, recall him bullying others.
That pyromaniac bully would later grow up to become known as Son of Sam and the .44 Caliber Killer, the latter of which was bestowed upon him due to his affinity for perpetrating crimes with a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver.
Born as Richard David Falco and later named David Richard Berkowitz, this man gained worldwide notoriety in 1976–1977 (even some sort of twisted celebrity status) for his crimes in New York City, a popularity that was exacerbated by him leaving mocking letters to the police wherein he would also promise further acts of lawbreaking. When he was caught, he had killed six people and had wounded eight.
14. Dennis Rader
Similar to another freaky serial killer on this list, the kid giving this unsettlingly dead-set stare, a look that reminds us of a predator who has eyed its prey and is about to pounce, was also said to have tortured animals during his early years, a pastime which he later confessed to later in life.
Later known as the BTK Killer or the BTK Strangler (the letters of which signify the signature things in which he would do to his victims—Bind, Torture, Kill), this child was originally given a very normal name—Dennis Lynn Rader.
Nothing much is known of BT…uh…we mean Dennis’ early life, but what we do know is that during his career, Dennis would send letters to the police and local news outlets describing his murders in disturbing detail. He also had an affinity for…uh…women’s underwear. Dennis not only stole them but also wore them himself. During his active days, the BTK Killer was able to murder 10 people. Luckily, he is currently serving 10 consecutive life sentences.
13. Andrei Chikatilo
Even at such a young age, you can’t help but wonder what in the name of frick was going on beyond those chilling dark eyes and that vacant expression in the above photo.
It’s undeniable that one of the main catalysts to what would later make this particular child a Soviet serial killer (Andrei Chikatilo) and his preference in victims, of which included the assault, murder, and mutilation of 52 known women and possibly over 56 others from 1978 to 1990, was the woman sitting right behind him—his mother. As a child, Andrei and his sister are known for having been berated by their mother mercilessly.
It didn’t help that Andrei was perpetually subjected to bullying at school whereby his peers would poke fun at his physical stature and timidity. A possible theme may have been that Andrei was known to faint at school due to hunger.
It would all begin on that fateful day when Andrei lured a 9-year-old girl to an old house he’d secretly purchased to have his way with her—a crime that soon escalated to him stabbing her mercilessly and even choking her to death.
12. Richard Ramirez
Can we blame the incredibly horrible things Richard Ramirez has done on the fact that he sustained two serious head injuries as a kid? Sure, we can. But they’re not an excuse.
One of these incidents ended in him getting 30 stitches to close a forehead laceration, the culprit being a dresser that fell on top of him when he was two years old. Richard also experienced a good amount of epileptic seizures from the young age of five all the way up to his early teens, all because he was knocked unconscious by a park swing.
Behind that terrifying toothy grin and those devilish eyes was a killer waiting to burst out. After being viciously attacked by the merciless dresser and swing, Ramirez grew up to be a serial killer, known for having terrorized the people of LA and San Francisco (especially his 14 victims) from 1984 to 1985, wielding various tools, including handguns, knives, a machete, tire iron, and hammer. The fact that he did his work at night earned Richard the name “Night Stalker.”
11. Anders Behring Breivik
Sure, this kid may seem pretty scrawny and kinda geeky, but the way in which his head is lowered, employing a position that embellishes the almost menacing stare he’s got going on, makes it feel as though maybe he could mess you up…or at least, that he wants to.
Anders Behring Breivik is essentially a Viking terrorist. A Norwegian by birth, Breivik’s “claim to fame” is the 2011 Norway attacks, during which, after detonating a van bomb in Oslo, he was able to blow up eight people before continuing his killing spree by shooting (and successfully killing) 69 participants of a Workers’ Youth League summer camp.
In total, Breivik has killed 77 people and injured 319.
The crazy thing is, however, that he’s only been sentenced to 21 years of prison, one that requires a minimum of 10 years incarceration. That’s it?! Well, there is the possibility of him getting one (maybe even more) extensions if he’s a danger to society. And guess what? That’s the maximum penalty in Norway.
10. Ted Bundy
This death-like stare makes it easier to believe that the child in this photo would one day grow up to murder over 30 young women. But just saying that he murdered them is a gross understatement. After assaulting and then killing them, Ted would sometimes return to their secondary crime scenes (where he would stay for quite sometime) to perform unmentionable acts and even ones we can’t mention, but that are incredibly off-putting due to them being inherently loving (i.e. he would groom them), before it was impossible to continue, due to bodily decomposition or after wild animals had mutilated the corpse so much that it became impossible. Ted also kept some severed heads as mementos.
Unsurprisingly, Ted’s childhood wasn’t perfect. In fact, it was far from it. While Ted has spoken warmly about his grandparents, he’s also said that his grandfather was not just a tyrannical bully but a bigot. He also ostensibly beat his wife, the family dog, and swung neighbors’ cats by the tails. Yes, swung…by the tails.
Another story told by his aunt, Julia, shows Ted exhibiting rather disturbing behavior at an alarmingly young age. Three years, to be exact. To this day, Julia still remembers waking up in the middle of the afternoon to find that she was surrounded by knives. But she wasn’t alone. Ted was standing by her bed, smiling. Maybe it’s the same smile as the one in the picture.
9. James Holmes
Remember this crazy jerk? He’s the guy who thought that he was “the Joker.” Well, maybe that’s not true. According to two federal officials, that was what he called himself after his crime. However, authorities later declined to confirm this.
That being said, it would make sense. See, James Holmes is known for killing 12 people and injuring 70 others during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. This is important because it was the final installment in a Batman trilogy wherein the Joker made an appearance in the previous release. It’s also been confirmed that Holmes was a fan of superheroes, including Batman, a hero whose paraphernalia once filled his apartment. Heck, during his first court appearance, James’ hair was dyed reddish-orange, a hair color that is sometimes associated with the fictitious villain.
In this particular “childhood photo,” he might not look like a Joker wannabe, but those glasses definitely put him in the “geek” category and geeks are known for their love of comics.
But those eyes! That smug look! It’s hella creepy. He doesn’t look insane, though, as he would later attribute as being the reason why he wasn’t guilty for his crimes. Luckily, he was not only first sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole but later given 12 life sentences.
8. Frederick Walter Stephen West
Wow! Everything about this photo yells “serial killer in the making!” We’re not going to waste your time to explain what you’re looking at, except by saying that those eyes are demonic as well.
That unholy persona would soon manifest itself completely within the child, enveloping him entirely. In a little over two decades, that boy named Frederick Walter Stephen West would commit at least 12 murders between 1967 and 1987 in Gloucestershire, England.
Probably the most disturbing aspect of his exploits was that he would perform a majority of them with his second wife, Rosemary West, during which both Fred and Rosemary would indulge their primal desires by doing a multitude of unnatural and horrific things to their victims. The place in which the dismembered bodies of their victims were stored would become known as “the House of Horrors.”
7. Adam Lanza
While Adam Lanza was only 20 years old when he fatally shot six adult staff members and 20 six and seven-year-old children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, he was still technically an adult.
This unsettling picture—by way of his overly ecstatic smile, which borderlines stalker crazy—of Adam Lanza was taken much earlier. After seeing it, you might not be surprised that Adam, at the start of elementary school, had been diagnosed with various disorders, including sensory-integration, Asperger Syndrome, and OCD. The irony is that his mother, Nancy Lanza, discontinued her son’s treatment. To compound the severity of his previous disorders (and in turn, augmenting the near-disturbing feel of the photo) in a 2013 interview, Adam’s father, Peter, has claimed that he suspected Adam might have suffered from schizophrenia as well.
6. Jeffrey Dahmer
There’s one thought that comes to mind whenever we look at this disturbing photo: Get your filthy hands off that adorable kitten, you monster!!
Firstly, those multiple explanation points (and our use of italics) are quite necessary in this particular instance. Secondly, our passionate reaction is based less on what Jeffrey Dahmer is known for and more so on what unsettling activities he performed as a kid, undoubtedly around the time this photo was taken. Jeffrey found pleasure in dismembering animal carcasses (his reason being he was curious as how each animal “fitted together”) which he executed either at home or in the forest behind his house, the latter of which is where he performed one of his most disturbing acts as a kid—impaling a dog’s head upon a stake. At one point, Jeffrey’s father, Lionel, remarked that Jeffrey was “oddly thrilled” by the sound the bones made.
By stories such as these, it should come as no surprise that he would one day grow into one of the most terrifying serial killers known to man, infamous for not just murder and r*pe, but for the dismemberment of 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991…and don’t forget his explorations in necrophilia and cannibalism.
5. James Fairweather
In this photo, James Fairweather’s deadened eyes make him look eerily like a blank slate. But from the atrocities he’s committed, there’s nothing about his character that suggests he’s anything like Locke’s philosophical blank slate (which states that people are born without built-in mental content, such as those that coax villainous behavior, of which can only be obtained from experience or from what one perceives).
Building off that philosophical analogy, most of James’ experiences had in fact been negative. He was autistic, was said to be bullied for his prominent ears, and was in the lowest sets of each class in school.
His classmates have also recalled a chilling incident where, when students were asked to explain their desired career, James said he wanted to become a murderer. He also threatened a Columbine-style massacre in a final assembly. All of those experiences soon culminated to James stabbing to death 33-year-old James Attfield (who had a chronic brain injury) and, three months later, 31-year-old Nahid Almanea.
4. Nehemiah Griego
This intense-looking, seemingly emotionally void kid is connected to the brutal murders of his entire nuclear family when he was only 15 years old. Named Nehemiah Griego, this psycho began by killing his mother with a .22 rifle at midnight, whose bloodied face he immediately showed to his brother Zephaniah. Seeing his mother’s corpse understandably upset Zephaniah, so much so in fact that Nehemiah had no other choice but to shoot him.
After that, the little killer went into the room of his two younger sisters. They were crying so it was obvious that he had to shoot them both…in the head.
Having already killed everyone in his family dead except his father, he might as well just finish the job, right? But his father needed to come home first. So Nehemiah waited. At about 5 am, his father finally walked through the door. But rather than brandishing a .22 rifle, Nehemiah now had a freakin’ AR-15-type semiautomatic with a flippin’ scope! Nehemiah’s father died from multiple gun shots. The crazy thing is that despite the atrocity this little demon committed on February 12, 2016, Nehemiah was said to be “amendable to treatment” and was therefore sentenced as a juvenile. He will likely be released when he turns 21. Fun.
3. Eric Smith
Maybe it’s the stern look in this kid’s face. Or maybe it’s those abnormally large (and freaky) glasses that give him the air of some monstrous bug. Regardless, that child doesn’t look nice at all.
And he isn’t. When he was 13, Eric Smith, while riding his bike on the way to summer day camp, spotted a 4-year-old boy named Derrick Robie walking to the very same place…by himself. Eric, for reasons he would reveal during his 2014 parole hearing, lured the young kid to the woods where he not only strangled him, but dropped a freakin’ large rock on his head. Eric continued to perform other acts as well; one which involved a tree limb.
Eric said during the revealing hearing years later that he was taking out his range on Robie because he had been bullied by older children as well as his father and older sister. When that rage drove him to murder, Eric was afraid Robie would say something so he had no other choice but to end his life. The disturbing thing that he did with a stick was done to ensure that Robie was dead.
2. Graham Frederick Young
We think it’s safe to say that the creepiest of the above picture is the one on the left. That smile! Boy, does he have plans for you. Or, at least he did.
It wouldn’t take that much longer until that creepy-smiling boy would start poisoning his family (yes, his family) when he was 14 years old. It’s even quite possible that during the time in which that photo was taken, he had already become infatuated with poisons and their effects.
In 1961, Graham started making his family the subject of his experiments. It began with his stepmother, Molly, who suffered vomiting, diarrhea, and excruciating stomach pain soon followed by Graham’s father, Fred, and sister. The strange thing is that Graham, too, became violently sick. Molly later died of poisoning. After being sent to Broadmoor Hospital in 1962, Graham was released in ’71 and poisoned 70 more people (two of them dying), garnering the name Teacup Poisoner.
1. Mary Flora Bell
Maybe it’s the vacant expression in the right picture or maybe it’s the creepy smile in the left one. Or possibly it’s because they’re both black and white. Regardless, this 11-year-old girl named Mary Flora Bell was a monster. Before she even reached her teenage years, Mary Flora Bell somehow mustered the will to strangle not only one, but two younger boys, 4-year-old Martin Brown and 3-year-old Brian Howe, in 1968.
While she was convicted of manslaughter, she was later released from prison in 1980, whereby she continues to live under a series of pseudonyms to protect her identity and the identity of her daughter.
It wouldn’t be until 1998 when the world would learn why this little girl had been mentally capable to murder two little boys at such a young age. In collaboration with Gritty Sereny, Mary detailed how she not only suffered at the hands of her prostitute mother, but at the hands of her clients as well.
Maybe that explains those pictures…