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15 Of The World’s First Serial Killers

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15 Of The World’s First Serial Killers

Over the years, tales of serial murderers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Jack the Ripper have shocked and horrified the world.

Sometimes, serial killers keep their victims under wraps until they finally slip, leading police to uncover mass graves filled with the bodies of missing people. Other times as in the cases of BTK and Jack the Ripper, the public panics as victims get picked off one by one. People start to wonder if they’ll be next. They will start looking at their neighbors with a suspicious eye. Could he or she be the murderer?

Serial killers have been seemingly around since the dawn of humanity. What causes people to snap and kill another human being? How can someone have such utter disregard for  innocent life? It’s a question that has perplexed criminologists and police for centuries. It seems safe to say that regardless of what your faith is, or what you believe in, there is truly evil in the world. Evil walks among us and it’s not so easy to spot. You won’t see a person wearing a red cape, devil horns, and carrying a pitchfork. The scariest part that shakes most everyone to their core is that the murderers are often people that look just like us—human. You just never know what’s going on behind someone’s eyes—in their mind. Let’s take a chilling look at 15 of the World’s First Serial Killers:

15. Manuel Blanco Romasanta – “The Werewolf of Allariz”

Spain’s first serial killer was known as “The Werewolf of Allariz.” His real name was Manuel Romasanta. He was a man slight in stature but that didn’t stop him from killing men, women, and children. After his arrest, he confessed to over a dozen murders. He claimed that he was irresponsible for his actions because he would turn into a werewolf and had no control over his actions.

He would pretend to be a tourist guide and take people up into the mountains where he would murder them. He would chop them up and use their body fat to make soaps and candles. He would take their clothing and any other objects of value they had on them and pawn them off. After several disappearances, people became suspicious and he was arrested.

Manuel stood trial and was sentenced to death. However, Queen Isabella II commuted his sentence so that medical doctors and psychiatrists could study his condition. He died shortly after arriving at prison with some believing that a guard purposely shot him to see him transform into a wolf.

14. H.H. Holmes – “Torture Doctor Of Chicago”

H.H. Holmes was a bigamist, con artist, and serial killer. He was often referred to as “America’s first serial killer” or the “torture doctor of Chicago.” His story was so bizarre that from his execution in 1896 up until the 1940’s, his horrific crimes continued to be sensationalized in major international newspapers. His story spread far and wide, gaining embellishments along the way. With the passage of time, some fictional accounts have been confused as facts. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to ascertain what’s fact and what’s fiction surrounding the events in his life.

It is known through factual evidence (e.g. bodies or body parts) that he killed 9 people including three small children. It is widely thought that there could be as many as 200 victims. He killed for fun and for financial gain. “The Castle” was a three-story building he had constructed in Chicago around the time of the grand World’s Fair. He convinced investors that it was going to be a hotel for tourists that would bring in thousands of dollars in revenue.

Instead of using it as a hotel though, Holmes used it as place to commit atrocious murders. He turned the first floor into a drugstore and he had several female employees disappear over a short period of time. A young woman, whom he was seeing and her young daughter, disappeared on Christmas Day. Another young checkout girl disappeared shortly thereafter. A third girl had only been working there for five months when she vanished.

He murdered his friend and partner in crime for financial means. He convinced his friend that he was going to only pretend to kill him and then collect the insurance payout to split between the two of them. Sadly, he really did mean to kill him. He burned him alive, collecting the large insurance payout. He then kidnapped the man’s children and eventually killed them. He stuffed two in a trunk, drilling a hole in the trunk, and suffocating them with gas. The third child, he drugged and chopped up. The bodies of the three children were found, which thankfully led to his eventual arrest. In 1896, at the age of 34, he was hanged for his crimes. In a twist of fate, his neck didn’t snap when the trap door dropped. He suffered for 15-20 minutes until he finally suffocated to death. The hotel was burned down in the 1930’s destroying any remaining evidence. The U.S. post office is now located on the spot the hotel once stood.

13. Peter Niers

Peter Niers was executed on September 16th in 1581 for the murder of over 500 people including pregnant women and children. He was involved in black magic and it was said that he confessed to ripping fetuses out of the mothers’ wombs and using them in potions and spells. Witnesses claimed to have seen him eating hearts (still beating) of babies in order to make himself invisible. He supposedly used the fat from babies and children to make candles that would allow him to rob houses without the inhabitants waking up. Peter was caught several times but still managed to escape. Stories and songs started circulating when he was on the run that he could shapeshift into inanimate objects and animals.

Finally, he was caught once and for all in September of 1581. He was tortured over a period of 3 days for his crimes. On the first day, he had pieces of flesh pulled off of him with pincers and then hot oil poured into the gaping wounds. The second day, he had oil poured onto his feet and then his feet were cooked over a fire. The third and final day, he was broken on a wheel and dismembered alive. A horrific death for someone accused of some pretty horrible things.

12. Harpe Brothers

Joshua “Big” Harpe and William “Little” Harpe were serial killers who operated in the 18th century. They were known as the “Harpe Brothers” but historians believe they were more likely cousins, not brothers.

Unlike many serial killers who killed for financial or s*xual gains, the Harpes killed for the sake of killing. They enjoyed the act of killing. Talk about blood lust.

In the 1790’s, they inflicted their carnage in Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, and Mississippi. They’ve killed approximately 50 people. Anyone that even looked at them cross-eyed was murdered. One time, they were caught and jailed but the pair broke out of jail. Then they went after the man who turned them into the authorities and mutilated and killed his young son.

Another man was killed for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They killed him for the sake of killing. They cut him open like a hog, filled his corpse with rocks, urinated on the body, and dumped it into a river. This became their ‘calling card’ of sorts. They did this same thing to dozens of others that crossed their paths.

“Big” Harpe killed his infant daughter by bashing her against a tree because she was crying. Another infant death occurred when the inn they were staying at also had a caretaker that was a new mother. The baby was crying and so the Harpes went and viciously murdered the baby and the new mother, along with another guest.

In 1799, the beginning of the end came from the evil Harpes when “Big” Harpe was killed during a fight. A few years later in 1804, his younger brother “Little” Harpe was apprehended and hanged for his brutal crimes.

11. “The Bloody Benders”

The Bloody Benders were a family of ruthless serial killers. Ma and Pa Bender and their children, including a self-professed psychic daughter, Kate Bender. They operated a small bed and breakfast in Kansas in the 1870’s.

They would murder unsuspecting travelers by having them sit down for a meal in front of a sheet and above a trap door. Behind the sheet would be one of the Benders with a hammer. When the opportunity was right, the killer would knock the victim over the head with the hammer and another Bender would rush the shocked victim with a knife to slit the throat. The trap door would then be opened and the dying victim would fall inside. A few days later, the body would be taken out and buried somewhere on the property.

This scenario happened more than 20 times. When the townspeople caught on to the disappearing travelers, the Benders fled. The families of missing people converged on the town to search for their missing family members. The Benders home and property were searched. There were dozens of victims found across the property with most of them having the same fatal injuries. One young child did not have any visible injuries and it was surmised that she was buried alive on top of her dying father in the apple orchard.

The Benders were never officially found. There are only theories as to what actually became of them.

10. Mark Jeffries

In the 1800’s, Mark Jeffries was a s*xual predator and serial killer in the Australian outback. He had zero regard for human life.

One of his first run-ins with the law was when he got into trouble for threatening a town constable in his native Scotland. The authorities imprisoned him aboard a ship and sent him to the Australian outback to serve a life sentence.

Several years later, he broke out of prison with several accomplices. Once he broke out, he went and broke into a nearby home killing a man, kidnapping a woman and her child, and injuring her husband. The baby was crying and the woman had slowed down to care for her child. Mark took the baby and smashed its head against a tree. He then s*xually assaulted the woman who then somehow managed to crawl home.

Mark was on the run in the outback without having preparations like food or water. He decided to kill one of his co-conspirators. He killed him and chopped his body up. He cooked him up into “steaks” and ate him.

In 1826, he was caught and hanged for his crimes of violent s*xual assaults, theft, and multiple murders. Due to his crimes having been committed in the Australian outback, it’s unknown how many people met their death at his hands.

9. Elizabeth Bathory – “The Blood Countess”

The Hungarian Countess of Blood was about as evil as they come. She was the product of her upbringing which included having to witness extreme torture inflicted by her noble relatives on village peasants.

She married at a very young age to someone who also enjoyed inflicting pain and torture. “The Blood Countess” and “The Black Knight of Hungary” were a perfect match. He wrote her letters from the battlefield describing the torture methods he was using on the prisoners. She would then use these same methods on poor village peasants. And then write back with her thoughts on how the methods worked.

After “The Black Knight of Hungary” died, she became even more blood-thirsty. She would drain virgin peasant girls of their blood to bathe in it. She believed it was the answer for attaining eternal youth. As the bodies piled up, so did her confidence in being able to do whatever she pleased. She made the grave mistake of kidnapping young noble subjects and torturing and murdering them. This grew the attention of the Prime Minister of Hungary who immediately dispatched an army of priests to apprehend her. Elizabeth was sentenced to a life in solitary confinement where she died by starving herself. Elizabeth’s staff were tortured and buried alive for being her accomplices.

8. Crown Prince Sado

Crown Prince Sado’s early life was very dark and sad. He was the second son of his father, King Yeongjo of Joseon. He was treated very poorly, ridiculed, and mocked by his father. Even when his older brother died and he became the apparent heir to his father’s throne, his father’s attitude towards him remained unchanged.

It was after Prince Sado’s mother and first wife died that he started displaying a horrifying behavior. He would beat his servants to death. One time, he even cut off a servant’s head for putting out the wrong outfit. He was obsessed with his clothes. If he didn’t like an outfit, he would light it on fire.

Prince Sado’s wife, Lady Hyegyeong, wrote a book before her death documenting her time with Prince Sado. She believed him to have a severe mental illness. He took out his anger and frustration on anyone nearby. Eventually, he started beating family members. He beat one of his wives so severely that she died where she fell on the cold, hard floor. He didn’t express any remorse for his actions. Lady Hyegyeong couldn’t attend any public outings due to her bruises. Finally, after Prince Sado’s father’s wife begged her husband to do something about his son, King Yeong stepped in. The King ordered his son to be locked in a rice chest. He couldn’t execute him outright because it was against the law to harm the body of a royal and if he was executed in accordance with the law, he would also have to kill Prince Sado’s wife and children which he didn’t want to do. The Prince died of starvation after several days of being locked in the chest.

The number of people Prince Sado killed will never be known due to their social status. Servants were regarded as being no better than animals.

7. Lewis Hutchinson – “The Mad Doctor Of Edinburgh Castle”

Lewis Hutchinson studied medicine in Scotland before traveling to Jamaica to be an overseer of a large estate known as Edinburgh Castle. It was here that his antics and debauchery became something of a horrific legend.

Lewis enjoyed hunting. He especially enjoyed hunting people. His estate was vast and he would shoot anyone that wandered across his property for sport. Unsuspecting travelers would be caught in a game of cat and mouse. There was nowhere for them to run or hide. Lewis was assisted by his many slaves that were forced into helping him play his twisted game.

He would shoot and kill his victims right on the spot or he would drag them into his castle to torture them before killing them. He had his slaves take his victims and throw them into a giant sinkhole or toss them in the woods for animals to devour. In 1773, after making a grave error by killing an English soldier, he was apprehended by the Royal Navy and hanged. It is unknown how many people he killed but the stories told by eye witnesses, including his slaves, were horrific and the number of victims could be over 50. The giant sinkhole became known as Hutchinson’s Hole. It’s still there today.

6. Madame LaLaurie – The Socialite Killer

Madame LaLaurie was a Southern socialite. She was married three times and had a very prominent position in high society; that was until her very public downfall. One of her slaves, a cook, purposely started a fire at the house to kill herself because she didn’t want to be tortured by Madame LaLaurie. The fire department showed up and found the old terrified cook chained to the stove. Upstairs, they found a torture room with mutilated dying slaves. When word reached the streets about the horrific scene in the LaLaurie household, a mob formed and stormed the house. The mob broke everything they could find. The slaves were rescued However, several died after their dramatic rescue. The police department put the slaves on display to show the public what they had endured. The public was outraged. The grounds of the LaLaurie house were dug up and bodies were found around the yard.

Unfortunately, it is not known what fate befell Madame LaLaurie. She escaped the furious mob and it is believed she fled to France and nobody knew what happened to her since then.

5. Mary Ann Cotton

Mary Ann Cotton is often referred to as Great Britain’s first serial killer. She was accused of killing at least 21 people. She killed her own mother, her children, at least three husbands, and close friends. Her preferred method of killing? Arsenic poisoning. She enjoyed watching the slow and painful deaths of her victims. She had no remorse for killing at least 4 of her own children. As the bodies piled up, suspicions started to grow. Finally, the police were forced to act after the death of her 7-year-old stepson. New forensic advancements allowed police to test for arsenic in the body. Arsenic was found in the 7-year-old. Mary Ann Cotton was hanged for her crimes right after giving birth to a baby girl in prison. Thankfully, the baby girl was swiftly taken away from her evil mother’s clutches.

4. Amelia Dyer – “Victorian Angel Maker”

Amelia Dyer was one of the most prolific murderers in history. She is also known as the “Ogress of Reading” and the “Victorian Angel Maker.” Amelia was a baby farmer. In the 19th century, adoption laws were pretty much non-existent and the stigma of having a baby out of wedlock was great. Having a child out of wedlock generally meant you would become a social outcast and your job prospects would be extremely limited.

Amelia Dyer took full advantage of poor women in desperate situations and women that needed to keep their ‘secrets’ hidden from society. She would pretend to be someone interested in adopting a child. She would demand payment upfront for the child’s ‘care’. Mothers would hand their babies over to Amelia under the pretense that she was going to lovingly care for them and that when their prospects and situations improved, they could return for their babies. This practice was referred to as ‘baby farming’. However, most cases of baby farming didn’t end with the death of the infant nor the death of so many infants.

Tragically within days of taking the babies, Amelia would murder them. In most cases, she would wrap a measuring tape around their necks and enjoy watching them suffocate to death. The number of babies she murdered is unknown but estimates put it anywhere between 200-400+. When Amelia was finally apprehended, unanswered letters from mothers inquiring on the well-being of their babies were found in stacks around her home as well as boxes of infant clothes. Amelia was hanged on June 10th in 1896 at the age of 58.

After Amelia’s case became international news, stricter adoption laws were put in place.

3. Lizzie Halliday

Lizzie Halliday was originally from Ireland. She was a horrific, genuinely insane woman. She has killed several husbands. The exact number is unknown but it could be as many as six. She would buy houses and businesses with life insurance money she would get from those she killed. Then, she would burn the places down to receive even more insurance money. She was finally caught after her husband’s mutilated corpse was found under the floor in her house along with two family friends shot to death in her barn.

Lizzie was going to be the first woman sentenced to death by electric chair but her sentence was commuted to life in an insane asylum. While at the insane asylum, she killed a nurse by stabbing her 200 times with a pair of scissors. In 1918, she finally died in solitary confinement.

2. John “Mountain Man” Johnston

John Johnston lived in the 1800’s, when the wild west was truly the wild west. John’s pregnant wife was a member of the Flathead Indian Tribe. She was murdered and scalped by an Indian from a rival tribe, the Crow Indians. Supposedly, this horrific event sent John on a murderous rampage. He was determined to seek revenge on his wife’s brutal death by killing as many Crow Indians as he could.

He would not only kill a Crow Indian but he would cut out his liver and eat it. In Crow Indian culture, a person’s liver was the only way that person could make it into the afterlife. It is thought that John killed more than 200 Crow Indians. John died in a nursing home at the turn-of-the-century in 1900.

1. The Werewolf of Dole

Gilles Garnier was a French serial killer born in the 1500’s. He would kill children between the ages of 6 and 12. He would attack children in broad daylight and drag them away before anyone had a chance to react. He took several girls into vineyards, stripped them naked, strangled them, and then ate the flesh right off of their bodies. He would even take pieces home with him to feed himself and his wife later on.

Several eye witnesses came forward claiming that they saw Garnier in wolf form snatching and eating children. Garnier was caught in the act several times before he was finally caught. In January of 1573, Garnier “The Werewolf of Dole” was burned alive for the murder of dozens of children.

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