Each year, thousands of children are murdered. These deaths come as a result of abuse at home, random acts of violence, or because they were killed by friends or family members. There are stories, however, that are so chilling they become stranger than fiction, and they’re birthed from the sick minds of serial killers.
We’re well aware of serial killers such as Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper, Dennis Rader (BTK Killer), and the Zodiac Killer. They’ve made headlines and changed the way that police investigate violent crimes. Then there are the select few who have done things so terrible that their names have gone down in infamy because they specifically targeted children.
Criminals and psychopaths often find children to be the best targets because they’re trusting, vulnerable, and easily manipulated. Killers who go after children are seen as particularly disturbing because they’re snuffing out the light of lives that have barely begun burning. Don’t get us wrong; all murders at the hands of a demented serial killer should be seen as heinous, vicious crimes. However, there is something eerily wrong with a person who makes it his or her life to take the lives of little ones. Here are 15 serial killers from around the world who have gone down in history as some of the most twisted figures in history.
15. Marybeth Tinning
New York resident Marybeth Tinning was like any other wife and mother, except for the fact that she was suspected of killing nine of her children. She claimed to have been the victim of child abuse by her father, which gave investigators a glimpse into her mind. Her third child, Jennifer, died at eight-days-old from hemorrhagic meningitis, and just two weeks later, Marybeth rushed her two-year-old Joseph Jr. to the hospital. He died of cardiopulmonary arrest. Many weeks after that, the other daughter Barbara was taken to the hospital where she died of Reye syndrome.
Newborn Robert was born the following year and was said to have died as a result of sudden infant death syndrome. Two years later Nathan was born but died as a baby. More children followed — all lives ending in death. Family and friends became concerned after little Tami Lynne was smothered. Marybeth was convicted for the murder of one of her children and is currently serving a sentence of 20 to life.
14. Luis Garavito
If you were a boy living in a poor neighborhood and Colombian serial killer Luis Garavito managed to lure you away from your family, you were in a world of trouble. Garavito is thought to have murdered 189 children in the 1990s alone. He struggled with psychiatric illnesses and alcoholism, and confessed to sexually assaulting and murdering 140 boys. Most of his victims were the children of street vendors who were left alone while their families were working. He made the boys feel safe and got them to go away with him by promising them drinks or money. Many of the times, he used costumes to disguise himself as a priest or a monk. Under the jurisdiction of Colombian law, he was sentenced to 60 years, but he got 22 years off for helping police locate the bodies of his victims. He could be released from prison earlier for good behavior.
13. Andrei Chikatilo
This former school teacher is responsible for taking the lives of more than 50 children and young adults. Born in rural Ukraine, Andrei, as an infant, was said to have suffered from water in the brain that caused genital-urinary tract problems. He suffered from bed-wetting problems, and later on in his life struggled with keeping an erection. Andrei confessed to police that he killed 56 women and children between 1978 to 1990, including a 12-year-old boy he lured from a train station and a 16-year-old vocational student. He sexually assaulted and mutilated his victims before murdering them, and the media gave him a number of names including The Butcher of Rostov. Andrei was convicted for 52 of his murders and was executed by gunshot in 1994.
12. Ian Brady
Along with his girlfriend, Myra Hindley, Scottish serial killer Ian Brady was the face behind the infamous Moors murders. Between 1963 and 1965, Hindley and Brady murdered five kids aged 10 to 17. One of them was Pauline Reade, Hindley’s 16-year-old neighbor who disappeared on her way to a dance. Brady sexually assaulted her and then cut her throat, twice. Another was John Kilbride, a 12-year-old whom Hindley met at a market. She offered him a ride home by saying his parents would worry about him being out by himself. Brady then sexually assaulted him, tried slicing his throat, but instead strangled him with a piece of string. Yet another victim was Evans who met Brady at a train station and was invited to come back to his house to hang out. There, Brady beat the 17-year-old to death with an ax. For their crimes, the dynamic duo were sentenced to life in prison. Hindley died in 2002.
11. Robert Black
Pedophile, rapist, and serial killer Robert Black was a sicko who kidnapped and/or sexually assaulted five young girls between the ages of five to 11. In 1963, Black was hanging out in a park when he spied a seven-year-old girl. He lured her away, choked her until she passed out, and then masturbated over her body. She survived her attack, but the others to follow didn’t live to see another day. One of them was nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy whom Black kidnapped and murdered as she was riding her bicycle home. There was also Sarah Harper, the 10-year-old who disappeared on her way to the store to buy a loaf of bread. She was drowned after being beaten about the face and sexually assaulted. Black was convicted for various crimes against four of his victims and was sentenced to life in prison. He died of a heart attack in jail in 2016.
10. Harry Powers
Netherlands native Harry Powers was known by quite a few names. Some met him as Cornelius O. Pierson or A. R. Weaver, but the world would eventually known him as “The Lonely Hearts Killer.” Powers got this name because he would find his victims by taking out Lonely Hearts ads where he would present himself as a lovelorn man looking for a partner. The truth was that Powers was looking for an easy payday, hoping to find himself a woman with a fat bank account and whom he could kill for her money. He murdered Asta Eicher and her three children: Greta, 14, Harry, 12, and nine-year-old Annabel. He also corresponded with and killed a woman named Dorothy Lemke. All of the females were strangled to death. He was sentenced to death and hanged in 1932.
9. Abdel Rehim Mansour
Police say that in the span of seven years, Abdel Rehim Mansour raped and murdered dozens of children all over Egypt. The gang leader took to the streets at an early age, and as he grew older, used rape as a method of getting back at people who did him wrong. One victim was Ahmed Nagui, a 12-year-old boy who was in Mansour’s gang. After Mansour had tried to molest him, Nagui went to the police. That didn’t sit well with Mansour, so he raped and murdered Nagui. Mansour’s other victims were children who lived on the street, were abandoned by their families, or were orphans. He disposed of their bodies by either dumping them into the Nile River or burying them alive after torturing and sexually assaulting them. He was sentenced to death and executed in 2010.
8. Albert Fish
Known as “The Gray Man,” Albert Fish is no different from a character straight out of the pages of a child’s nightmare story. While he bragged about having “a child in every state” and claimed to have raped or cannibalized 100 kids around the country, police only suspected him in five deaths. In 1928, he answered an ad from a young man looking for work. He visited the family, met the teen, and later returned with a plan to kill him. However, on the second visit, he met the boy’s 10-year-old sister, Grace, whom he lured away. Eight years later, he anonymously sent a letter to Grace’s mother detailing how he had dismembered, cooked, and eaten the little girl’s body. The note was traced back to Fish, and other crimes were then attributed to him. Nine-year-old Francis McDonnell and four-year-old Billy Gaffney were among Fish’s victims. Fish died at 65-years-old after being put to death by the electric chair.
7. Westley Allan Dodd
You know your crimes have been horrific if you’ve been dubbed one of the most evil killers in history. Such was the case with child molester and murderer Westley Allan Dodd. For all accounts, he had a normal childhood, and by his own recollection, he said that he wasn’t abused as a child. Nevertheless, by the age of 13, he was exposing his genitals to other children in his neighborhood. He then began molesting his neighbors and young cousins when he was in high school. And then, he got the horrifying idea to begin assaulting children he didn’t know personally. In 1989, he tied two brothers, 11-year-old Cole Neers and 10-year-old William Neer, to a tree and sexually assaulted them. He then stabbed them to death. Next was four-year-old Lee whom he met a park. He molested the boy overnight, took pictures, and then strangled and hanged his body in a closet. The 31-year-old was executed by hanging in 1993. The method of death was his choice.
6. Javed Iqbal
Pakistani torturer and serial killer Javed Iqbal was a brutal individual who murdered more than 100 boys. In 1999, he surrendered himself to local authorities and told them that in six months, he’d committed 100 murders. Iqbal told investigators that he targeted children living and begging on the street. He made up stories to get them back to his home where he would molest or rape them before strangling them to death. He would then dismember their bodies and place the pieces in a vat of acid. Iqbal said that he committed the crimes as acts of revenge against the police, and while he would later go on to say he wasn’t guilty of the murders, he was convicted and given 100 death sentences. The same chain he used to strangle his victims would ultimately be what the court decided was to be used in his execution. They also planned on cutting up his body and dissolving it in acid, but before that could happen, Iqbal was found dead in his cell from a suicide.
5. John Wayne Gacy
Growing up, serial killer John Wayne Gacy found himself struggling with his sexuality. His father was an alcoholic who regularly abused Gacy, his siblings, and their mother. Eventually, Gacy learned early to withstand the beatings without crying. In 1968, Gacy was sentenced to 10 years in prison for molesting two boys. Two years later he was paroled, but in just a few years there were more accusations of rape and molestation from teenage boys.
Teens and young men associated with or known to Gacy began disappearing. Many of them would visit Gacy’s house with the promise of being hired to do construction work, but were never seen from again. Investigators determined that Gacy, who would sometimes dress up as a clown while killing, murdered about 33 young men and boys. Some of his victims were buried under the floorboards of his home. He was sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection in 1994.
4. Miyuki Ishikawa
The exact number of Miyuki Ishikawa’s infant victims is unknown, but reports state the number is anywhere between 85 and 169. The midwife worked at a hospital that was being overrun with the births of babies. There wasn’t enough room or resources to tend to all of the children, many of whom were being born to poor families who couldn’t afford to feed another child. Ishikawa decided to ignore those babies, and they would die from the neglect. Other midwives were so outraged they quit their jobs.
The doctor, as well as Ishikawa’s husband, acted as her accomplices, helping to falsify records or solicit money from the grieving families. When she was arrested, Ishikawa claimed that the children were abandoned by their parents, so she wasn’t responsible for their deaths. Tiny skeleton remains were found in a number of places, including a temple, so the exact count of victims was difficult to determine. She was sentenced to eight years in prison, but it was later reduced to just four.
3. Dagmar Overbye
Danish serial killer Dagmar Overbye’s reign of terror lasted for seven years between 1913 to 1920. She worked as a caretaker of children, but ultimately used her position to take the lives of innocent kids. Police guessed that Overbye murdered at most 35 children; however, she was only convicted for the deaths of nine because proof of other crimes couldn’t be found. The children were drowned, strangled, or burned to death in her masonry heater. The bodies were either buried, burned, or hidden around her home. Her lawyer tried to convince a judge that Overbye’s actions were the result of her being abused as a child, but the defense strategy didn’t work, and she was sentenced to death. However, a court would later change the sentence to life in prison. She died behind bars while serving out this sentence. She was 42 years old.
2. Fritz Haarmann
The “Vampire of Hanover” Fritz Haarmann was a German serial killer who terrorized the city of Hanover for six years. From 1918 to 1924, Haarmann sexually assaulted, killed, mutilated, and then dismembered at least two dozen boys and young men. He first began his offenses when he was just 16 years old. He would lure young boys to a cellar and sexually assault them. He was placed in a mental institution and declared to be deranged. Haarmann would tell his murder victims, who were between the ages of 10 and 22, that he would hire them for work. He would then give them a place to stay, would help them out financially, or would tell them that they were under arrest. Haarmann would feed them once they were at his home, then he would horrifyingly bite through their Adam’s apple and trachea as he strangled them to death. In 1925, Haarmann lost his life, as he was sentenced to death and decapitated by guillotine.
1. Dean Corll
Known as “The Candy Man” or “The Pied Piper,” Dean Corll was an American serial killer who took the lives of at least 28 boys in the early 1970s. The crimes would go down in history as The Houston Mass Murders, the killings taking place in Texas. Corll coaxed his victims back to his home by telling them he was having a party or offering them a ride home, but once they would arrive at Corll’s place, he would tie them up. He got his creepy nickname because his family owned a candy factory, and he was known to give free sweets to children.
Most of his victims were in their mid-teens, but their ages spanned from 13 to 20 years. He had two teen accomplices, young workers at his family’s factory, and they helped him find victims. In 1970, James Glass and Danny Yates were at a religious event near Corll’s home. They were lured back to the killer’s apartment where they were tied to his board of torture, raped, and murdered. Corll would later get into a fight with one of his accomplices who then shot and killed him, a fitting death for a man with such a twisted mind.