We’ve all encountered creepy kids before, whether you know a child who seems to have a constant menacing grin or just have happened to notice a child with an eerie stare from across the street. There’s something about ominous-looking children that adds an extra layer of dread to an otherwise plain creepy situation. We really shouldn’t be afraid of them. After all, they’re just small people, certainly not stronger than us, but witness a child with a dead stare with eyes that never move off of you or hear a chilling phrase from a tiny tot and you’ll feel a shudder of sheer terror like no other.
Maybe it’s because they are supposed to so innocent and carefree that when we see a child acting like a professional creep, it messes with our sensibilities. Horror movies bank on this fear of creepy kids. But for people who have actually met children who turned out to be serial killers, they understand this terrifying fright on a whole new level. They understood that something was wrong with the child and weren’t surprised to find out they had committed multiple acts of murder later on in life. Sometimes they were surprised because, though they knew something was off, they couldn’t quite put their finger on the problem.
Any way you look at it, having interacted with serial killers even as (and especially, in some of these cases) children is a nerve-wracking situation to have been in. Here are fifteen people who have been in that exact situation and their thoughts on some of the most prolific serial killers of our time.
15. Sandy Hook Shooter Adam Lanza’s Teachers Called Him Intelligent But Nervous And Fidgety
At just thirteen years of age, Adam was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, Asperger’s syndrome as well as a sensory processing disorder, making public activities difficult to handle. Adam was sensitive to being around groups of people talking and laughing, lights and other noises and didn’t handle himself well in social settings. Nonetheless and perhaps with lots of parental nudging, Adam joined Little League as a child. Other parents noted that Adam would rest the bat on his shoulders and not even swing when the ball came his way. Instead, he would often run towards the dugout whenever he was spoken to. Rather than Little League, Adam found interest in role playing video games with violence aspects, and the gun range that his mother took him to.
Marvin, a family friend, says that his mother, Nancy got her young son started with shooting guns as young as four years old. Per Nancy, he hated going to school and they fought often over his attendance. This antisocial kid much preferred a dark room to act out violent scenarios online rather than being around his peers. A relative says that Adam preferred the Call of Duty franchise.
14. Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo Was Into Grand Theft Auto At Just 15
The DeSalvo household was one of constant chaos and turmoil. Albert’s father who was known to be an abusive alcoholic with a deep history of violence, put the entire family through trauma as they watched him beat his wife constantly, per DeSalvo relatives. Albert’s response to this was to torture and kill animals as a child and to start a life of a crime. At the tender age of twelve, he was actually arrested for assault and theft. This incredible (what should have been life-changing event) had no real negative effect on him. He was not scared straight because at fifteen, he upped his game (in the eyes of the law) to grand theft auto. As if taking the lives of animals wasn’t enough, Albert went off to jail again for a second term due to car theft — all before he was legally old enough to apply for a driver’s license. Many believe that his father’s actions pushed an already troubled child down a spiralling dark road.
13. As A Teenager, The Night Stalker Richard Ramirez Saw His Cousin Shoot His Wife In The Face
As the youngest child of five, Richard Ramirez grew up experiencing the demons of domestic violence at the hands of his father who had been, ironically, a policeman in Mexico. As a small boy, Ramirez suffered two head traumas, the latter resulting in ongoing seizures that lasted until his teenage years. Family members shared the strange and sad detail that Richard often snuck into a cemetery to sleep in order to avoid his father’s physical abuse. Sadly, he was not the worst influence in Richard’s life. His older cousin, Mike, was all too happy to share his fascination with killing, raping and all things violent. He had raped women during his tour in the Vietnam War and happily shared photos of his actual victims. He showed him how to kill and together, they relished every grisly detail of murder. Things came to a head when Richard witnessed Mike shoot his girlfriend in the face. Unfortunately, Mike was released just four years later and continued to hold a heavy influence on the future killer. Just a handful of years later, Richard would shoot two of his young female victims in the face.
12. “Killer Clown” John Wayne Gacy Was Abused And Bullied As A Child
The man responsible for many people’s fear of clowns had a rough childhood at the hands of his abusive father, much like Night Stalker Richard Ramirez. As young as four, John received regular beatings from his father for the smallest accident. The beatings were severe and once John was even rendered unconscious. When his mother tried to protect him from the beatings, the senior Gacy would remark that little John would probably “grow up queer.” He couldn’t catch a break from his father even when he suffered from diagnosed medical conditions. His father would accuse him of faking it all for attention while he lay in pain on his hospital bed. When John and another boy were accused of inappropriately touching a girl, he suffered another severe beating and soon after, was regularly molested by a family friend. John’s father continued the beatings for years and didn’t care if anyone saw. Once, a friend watched John getting beaten for what he says was “no reason.” He claimed that John never made a move to defend himself or stop his father.
11. Son Of Sam Killer David Berkowitz Was Adopted And Noted As An Intelligent Child But A Troubled Bully
David Richard Berkowitz had many names. At birth, his biological mother named him Richard David Falco. But his most terrifying names were ‘Son of Sam’ and ‘the .44 Caliber Killer’. His adoptive parents thought that they were giving them the best advantages in life and indeed, neighbors said that David was spoiled growing up. But it seems that not all the love and material items in world would satisfy young David, who people saw bully other children. His childhood makes a good case for the nature side of the nature/nurture argument. People close to him growing up witnessed acts of theft and pyromania at a young age. His adoptive parents were incredibly disturbed and besides themselves as to what to do. He eventually saw a psychotherapist for his alarming behavior. But after the killings and his capture, psychologists agree that meeting his birth mother as a young adult and finding out that he was conceived illegitimately is what pushed him over the edge.
10. Jeffrey Dahmer’s Teachers Were Worried About Him And Thought He Was Being Neglected
Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer’s neighbors said that the young boy suffered from lack of attention from a mother who spent most of her days in bed with multiple illnesses when she wasn’t busy arguing with people and a father who was busy earning a chemistry degree away from the home. When the parents were together, people noticed that Jeffrey seemed to feel the effects of his parents’ tension. His elementary school classmates regarded him as “timid and quiet.” In high school, he was a loner who developed an addiction to alcohol and loved to pull pranks in school where he would imitate having a seizure and knock down items in front of his peers. He openly drank alcohol in high school and when another high schooler would catch him drinking, he would simply state, “It’s my medicine.” His grades and social interactions with his classmates only continued to suffer until he was of legal age.
9. As A Teen, Green River Killer Gary Ridgway Stabbed A Child
Gary Ridgway was a troubled kid, a middle child with an IQ of just 82 and had a pair of parents who violently argued in front of their children without a second thought. Onlookers commented that Mrs. Ridgway was domineering and controlling, a hard person to get along with. Disturbingly enough, Gary told someone that he wet the bed until he was 14, in part so that his mother would bathe him in the morning and he enjoyed feeling aroused when she did so — foul x 100. Mr. Ridgway possibly had a part in his son’s murderous rampage, though by accident. He was a bus driver who was known to complain about the prostitutes that frequented Salt Lake City, Utah. When Gary was just sixteen, he managed to lure a small six-year-old local boy into the remote woods where he stabbed him through his ribs. People say that he showed no remorse when questioned about the horrific incident. Thankfully, the boy lived but unfortunately, Gary was not punished as he should have been for his crime. In his later teen years, he developed an addiction to having unprotected sex with prostitutes which led to his contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.
8. Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh Was Shy And Bullied As A Child
American terrorist Timothy McVeigh was widely described as shy and withdrawn in his childhood and young adult years by his childhood and teenage peers. He was known to only have one girlfriend in his life and no idea on how to really talk to or impress girls. Timothy was the middle child of a couple that divorced when he was in elementary school. He lived with his father and became a favorite for many bullies at school to pick on. He retreated within and became obsessed with the idea of getting revenge on the bullies that tormented him. He was talented in computer science and even hacked a government system through his computer at home but the rest of his grades in all other subjects suffered as he seemed interested in little else. He went on to serve in the Gulf War and had issues with racism… he once got into trouble with his superiors for walking around wearing a “White Pride” t-shirt. People that knew him say that towards the Oklahoma City bombing attack, he began to see the government as a giant composite of all of his bullies.
7. Charles Manson Was Abandoned And Rejected As A Child
Charles Manson suffered a tragically unhappy childhood in which he clung to the hope of his mother’s acceptance. He came into the world as an illegitimate child, first named “No Name Maddox” (Maddox is his mother’s last name) and never knew the true identity of his biological father as it is reported. He took the last name Manson from his stepfather but the marriage didn’t last. His mother was known to be an alcoholic and per his uncle, she once sold him to a waitress who was desperate for a baby. The cost for little Charles? A pitcher of beer. His uncle is the one who went to claim him. He was shipped off to a school for boys and later it was discovered that his mother was sent to jail for robbery. Upon her release, she hugged Charles and he told others that in that moment, he felt his one and only happy childhood memory. She later attempted to send him to a foster home and rejected him when he escaped to search for her.
6. Serial Killer Ted Bundy Once Terrified His Aunt At Just Three Years Old
Ted Bundy’s confusing, chaotic childhood was horribly colored by the cruelty of his grandfather, the worst possible role model. First off, young Ted grew up believing that his grandparents were his parents since his mother was so young when she had him. He believed his biological mother was actually his sister for years. Some speculate that his grandfather was his biological father as well so you can do the incestuous math there. His grandfather/possible father was abusive to his wife and people say that Ted witnessed her receiving beatings. He was also known to abuse the family dog on a regular basis and would be seen swinging cats by their tails for all to see. The grandfather, Simon, once threw Ted’s young aunt Julia down a flight of stairs for oversleeping. This same aunt once woke from a nap to find her three-year-old nephew standing over her with a huge smile. She looked around to see that the toddler had surrounded her with kitchen knives as she slept.
5. “Monster” Aileen Wuornos Was Assaulted As A Child Resulting In A Pregnancy Some Saying The Father Was Her Brother
Aileen’s mother was just 14 when she married her father and asked for a divorce two months before Aileen was born. She and her brother who was one year older than her were eventually adopted by their mother’s parents. But this proved to be a dangerous mistake. Their grandfather was an abusive alcoholic who allegedly sexually assaulted her and beat her regularly. Aileen started acting out in school, offering sex to her male classmates for food and drugs. She became pregnant at 14 just like her mother and though the biological father of the baby wasn’t named when she placed him for adoption, some say that it might have been her grandfather’s friend while others say that it might have been her brother, whether by force or consensual as there was talk of the siblings being intimate before. She dropped out of school after she had the baby and the grandfather kicked her out of his house so Aileen turned to the only means of survival that she knew: prostitution. A childhood friend named Dawn Botkins said that Aileen had anger towards society and the media about how her trial was handled and how she was portrayed before she was killed by lethal injection.
4. English Killer Fred West’s Parents Assaulted Him At Age Twelve
Great parents, these were not. Fred West was born to a poor hard-working family who had only a fireplace to provide heat and light to their small English cottage. Young Fred started stealing from a very young age. He was not necessarily encouraged by his father but he wasn’t disciplined either as his father is known to have said, “Do what you want, just don’t get caught doing it.” He was a mama’s boy and the favorite of all his siblings. Disgustingly enough, his first sexual encounter was with his mother.
Later on, his father introduced him to the act of sex with animals. *break for shuddering* Fred claimed that his father had sex with (raped) his sisters but his brother claims that was only Fred’s imagination. His young teen sister confided to their mother that Fred had actually been the one raping her for years and she was now pregnant. The police came for him and he was all too happy to talk about it. He admitted to fondling and molesting lots of local girls besides having sex with his sister(s), thinking it was completely normal. Later in life, Fred went on to continue a series of brutal murders and his second wife, Rosemary helped out with many of them.
3. Nightmare Nurse Charles Cullen Was Neglected And Abused And Tried To Kill Himself At 10 Years Old
Charles Cullen was a nurse who led a trail of dying patients just about every time he started a shift. Though he admitted to killing about forty, experts estimate that his kill count could be as high as four hundred. As a child, he was raised by his mother who had thought her child-bearing days were over, already having many older children. His father died before he was one year old and he was emotionally neglected by his mother and often abused by his older sisters’ boyfriends. He was so miserable that he tried to kill himself before he turned ten by drinking the contents of a donated chemistry set that he received as a charity gift. He tried to kill himself many times throughout his life and was practically known to paramedics who were called to save him time and time again. He seemed to have found his calling and thrived as a nurse… until officials started to notice a particular pattern of death every time “Nurse Charlie” was on the schedule. His one friend, Amy, noticed that he marched to the beat of his own drum. He was an odd but overall nice guy that she felt compelled to help until his horrible secret was discovered.
2. BTK Strangler Dennis Rader Tortured Cats As A Kid
The oldest of four sons, Dennis Rader, was raised by both parents in Wichita, Kansas where he regularly stole the underwear of female neighbors to keep and wear himself. Like many serial killers, he also was known to torture animals, especially cats. This carried on to his early adult years where he was unfortunately employed as a dogcatcher. People noticed that he was overly eager to capture dogs in the neighborhood and one local woman said that Dennis captured her dog and euthanized him for no reason at all. He was also known to exhibit strange disturbing behavior in the meat department where he worked before he got the dogcatcher job. For another job, he was working for the home security company, ADT, where he helped install systems for families who were, ironically, worried about the BTK murders. A chilling fact about the BTK killer is his long span of killings, from the 70’s to the 90’s and his resolve to keep killing: he had already picked out a victim when he was caught.
1. Canadian Forces Colonel Killer Russell Williams Seemed Completely Normal
Russell Williams was born in England and moved to Canada where his father received a job at a nuclear research laboratory. After the big move, his parents were happy to meet some of the locals and found what turned to be good friends in the Sovka family. Unbeknownst to Mr. Williams and Mrs. Sovka, Mrs. Williams and Dr. Sovka were growing especially close. When Russell turned six, his parents divorced and his mother and Dr. Sovka married each other. By all accounts, Russell seemed to take this drastic change well (even taking on his stepfather’s last name for a while) and performed well in school. He was popular with his fellow students at boarding school. One said that a prank was pulled on him one day and he was locked in his room. Russell was resourceful, escaping by tying bedsheets together and repelling out of the window. Later, he announced that he was going into the Air Force after a painful heartbreak when a girlfriend dumped him. Many of his friends assumed he was going into the Air Force to impress her and try to win her back. Russell was known as a friendly overachiever and didn’t appear to seem threatening in any way.