A Harvard psychologist once said that 1 in 25 Americans are sociopaths, whereas they have severe antisocial behavior and lack any conscience. Not all of them are dangerous, but some of them are also psychopaths. That’s where you get serial killers. A psychotic sociopath would kill you in a heartbeat and think no more about it; no remorse; no conscience; they’d sit down and have dinner afterwards. Luckily, people like this are in the minority. However, every now and then, you have a person, born with sociopathic tendencies, who also grows up suffering physical or mental abuse. They act out by torturing and killing small animals. Their inability to feel guilt coupled with their ever-increasing vicious need to lash out at others produces a deadly homicidal maniac. What’s worse is that on the outside, in public, they remain quiet, demure, looking like everyone’s average neighbor. Ever hear those interviews they conduct after a serial killer is caught: “…he was always quiet. I can’t believe he would ever do something like this!” That’s probably what their victims thought too.
Psychologists say that a serial killer never stops killing; there is no satiating their desire. The only way they stop is if they are incarcerated or die. That doesn’t mean that they can’t change their methods or areas of operation, leaving law enforcement believing the killing spree has ended. Fortunately, many serial killers have been caught. However, you might be surprised to learn that some of the most heinous and horrifying remain at-large. We might not know why they stopped, nor if they really did, but here’s a list of 15 of the world’s most terrifying serial killers who were never caught.
15. The Babysitter
Having a killer on the loose in your area is always frightening, but it is made all the worse when he is targeting children. For the residents of Oakland County, Michigan, that is exactly what occurred. For a period of thirteen months, spanning 1976 to 1977, a serial killer was targeting small children. Dubbed, “The Babysitter,” the killer was responsible for the brutal deaths of at least four children in the area. The victim’s bodies were found in different locations throughout the county. Parents were afraid to let their children out of their sight or, for that matter, go to school!
Law enforcement authorities had several theories and developed several suspects, including notorious child killer, John Wayne Gacy. Gacy lived in Michigan during the time of the murders and he did fit the description of a man witnesses claimed to have seen with one of the victims. However, nothing was every proven. No one was ever arrested and no charges ever filed. The case was reopened in 2012, and DNA tests were conducted the following year that excluded Gacy from being the killer. The case remains open to this very day.
14. Servant Girl Annihilator
Someone was killing young women who worked as domestic help in the homes of Austin, Texas. The killings began on December 30, 1884, with the bloody axe murder of Mollie Smith. The killings continued for over a year. Most of the victims were African American. Local writer, O. Henry called him the Servant Girl Annihilator, and the name stuck. This was actually a misnomer as the murderer had no qualms of killing anyone else who got in his way: one victim’s boyfriend; another victim’s child, who luckily survived; and a pair of women who happened to be in the vicinity of an intended victim. Six women and the one man were murdered by this maniac, and seven others severely wounded.
The murders were committed as the victims were asleep in their beds and all the bodies were mutilated and meticulously staged. The killer stalked the streets of Austin with impunity. Over 400 different suspects were arrested, of which only one was ever convicted, the final victim’s husband. He was convicted of only his wife’s murder; however, that conviction was later overturned. It was plainly a rush to judgment in hopes of allaying the community’s fears. Some believe the killer was also Jack the Ripper, whose bloody killing spree began in London just a few years later. For whatever reason, the killings appeared to have just stopped after Christmas 1885.
13. Jack the Stripper
Jack the Stripper was the clever little nickname attributed to a serial killer who tormented London in 1964. He was so named because his killings were so similar to those of the infamous Jack the Ripper. Like the Ripper, Jack the Stripper was killing prostitutes. He killed between six and eight of them, leaving their bodies in the River Thames.
His first known victim was poor Hannah Tailford. Authorities found her body in February, 1964. She had been strangled to death and some of her teeth were missing. Soon another body was found in the same location. A man named Kenneth Archibald confessed to the two murders. However, he was unable to corroborate certain details about the killings and he was released. More bodies kept turning up in the river. Authorities held a press conference and announced that they had a pool of 7,000 suspects that they had exhaustively worked through and narrowed down to just three. Suddenly, after the announcement, the murders ceased. No charges were ever filed and Jack the Stripper disappeared.
12. The Frankford Slasher
The Frankford Slasher terrorized the Philadelphia neighborhood of Frankford from 1985 to 1990. Nine murders were attributed to this brutal serial killer during that period. All of the victims were sexually assaulted and then viciously stabbed to death. Witnesses reported that several of the victims were seen with a middle-aged white male shortly before their murders. Oddly enough, this didn’t stop the police from arresting Leonard Christopher, an African America male, who worked at a fish market near the location of the murder of the eighth victim, Carol Dowd. He didn’t fit any of the witness descriptions and the evidence against him was completely circumstantial; however Christopher was nevertheless convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Many claim that Christopher was an innocent man and those claims appeared to have been validated when, on September 6, 1990, a little over four months after Christopher’s arrest, a woman named Michelle Dehner was murdered. Her death was exactly like all the other murders attributed to the Slasher. Since Christopher was in custody at the time, it looks like a sadistic serial killer escaped justice and is still out there, somewhere, waiting to strike again.
11. The Black Doodler
The Doodler, or Black Doodler, was responsible for fourteen murders and three assaults between January 1974 and September 1975. He stalked San Francisco’s gay community, frequenting after-hours gay clubs and restaurants. He would meet an unsuspecting male victim, have sex with them, and then stab them to death and mutilate their bodies. Before doing so, he would always sketch them, hence the name “The Doodler.” Some believe the killer struggled with his own homosexuality and that was why he lashed out at other homosexuals.
In 1976, the police zeroed in on a suspect and brought him in for questioning on multiple occasions. Actually, two survivors identified the man as being their assailant; however the suspect was never arrested as the survivors refused to testify in open court. Remember, this was the 1970s, one of the survivors was a well-known entertainer, the other being a diplomat, and both were living secretly as homosexuals and didn’t want this to become public knowledge. The suspect, whose name was never released, spoke openly to the police, but never confessed. Since there was no physical evidence to link him to the murders they were never able to prosecute him. A description of the killer was eventually released to the press: Black male, between 19 and 22 years old, 5’10” to 6’ tall, slim build, and frequently wore a “Navy-type” watch cap. The police never released any of the Doodler’s sketches.
10. The Bone Collector
Also known as the West Mesa Bone Collector, this killer buried the remains of eleven women in an area of desert near Albuquerque, New Mexico, known as the West Mesa. The skeletal remains were discovered in February 2009. It took the police weeks to uncover all the bodies which were buried in shallow graves over a 92-acre piece of land earmarked for a home development. The police soon learned that all the victims were prostitutes and ranged in age from fifteen to thirty-two years old. They all went missing between 2003 and 2005. There was virtually no forensic evidence found at the scene and the police had little to go on. No suspect was ever officially named despite several men with violent pasts being connected to the area where the bodies were found. With no witnesses or corroborating evidence to link any of the men to the crimes, the deaths remain unsolved.
What was once a 40-man task force has been reduced to just one detective who is currently working the case, hopeful that the serial killer will eventually be brought to justice. Serial killers sometimes keep moving, going from place to place. That could be why he was never caught in Albuquerque. If he did remain and wasn’t imprisoned for some unrelated offense, then there could be other bodies buried somewhere in the vast expanse of desert around New Mexico’s largest city.
The most infamous killer in India’s history must be Stoneman. This horrific murderer is suspected of murdering thirteen homeless people in Calcutta over a period of six months in 1989. The killer is also believed to have committed twelve more murders a few years prior in Bombay. He is called the Stoneman due to his method of murder. He would locate beggars asleep in a secluded area and proceed to crush their skulls with a stone. The police still remain unsure if the Stoneman is one person, a group of individuals, or if the murders are possibly being committed by a copycat imitating the original murder.
In an effort to quickly catch the brutal murderer, police rounded up dozens of potential suspects consisting of anyone that could have possibly been responsible. They were all exhaustively questioned and released. No one was ever arrested or charged. Then the murders just stopped. Police believe that maybe one of their suspects was indeed the killer. Once he saw how intensive the investigation was proceeding over the deaths of a group of homeless men, he abruptly stopped his deadly activities. But serial killers don’t stop. The Stoneman is still out there and has apparently, for the time being, escaped being caught.
8. The Rainbow Maniac
São Paulo, Brazil: a city known to be home to one of South America’s most lively gay communities. The largest gay pride march on the planet occurs in São Paulo every year. It remains one of the most tolerant cities in South America. However, in February 2007, a brutal wave of homophobic murders began occurring that gripped the gay community in terror for over a year. Police were hunting for a serial killer dubbed by the media as the Rainbow Maniac.
This vicious killer is believed to be responsible for as many as sixteen murders. Most of the killings occurred in the western outskirts of São Paulo, in Carapicuíba, more specifically in an area known for being a gay meeting place called Paturis Park. Three of the murders occurred in the nearby suburb of Osasco. All of the victims were found half-naked, dumped in the brush with their trousers pulled down around their knees. Most were killed by a .38 bullet to the back of the head. One poor man was beaten to death, while another was riddled with twelve bullets. The murders seemed to stop in August 2008. Witnesses were able to identify a man who was seen with two of the victims before their murders. That man was 46-year old retired police sergeant Jairo Francisco Franco. Franco was arrested and tried in 2011 for one of the murders but was found not guilty and released. The gruesome hate crimes remain unsolved.
7. The Monster of Florence
“Il Mostro di Firenze,” otherwise known as the Monster of Florence is a notorious serial killer who preyed on couples who were caught in secluded areas around the Italian city of Florence. Between 1968 and 1985, he is believed to have killed sixteen people, all shot at close range with a .22 caliber pistol. The first murder was committed on August 21, 1968, and immediately police began questioning suspects with very little to go on. Over the years, the killer kept committing more murders. Numerous suspects have been arrested by the police who desperately wanted to solve the murders. Four men have been charged and convicted of the killings at different times during the period; only to have their convictions questioned whenever another murder would occur using the same weapon and method.
Eventually, a convicted murderer, Pietro Pacciani was accused of the crimes. In a highly publicized trial in 1994, Pacciani was convicted of the murders, only to have his conviction overturned due to lack of evidence. The police then began to believe that the murders were being committed by a satanic cult being led by Pacciani. Pacciani died of a heart attack while awaiting retrial. Two men believed to have been his accomplices were arrested and convicted in 1997. Many believe their convictions were a rush to judgment and, in fact, two prosecutors working on the case were later charged and convicted of abuse of power. Ultimately, to this day, Italian authorities are slow to admit it, but it appears the real murderer has escaped justice.
6. Atlanta Ripper
Beginning in 1911, and continuing for the next four years, a vicious killer stalked the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. The first victim, Rosa Trice, was found in January 1911, with her skull bashed in and her throat cut ear to ear. No apparent motive was found. The killer was called the Atlanta Ripper, a nod to the famous London killer from some years prior. Soon the bodies of other victims began to turn up, with between 15 and 21 murders believed to have been committed by this vicious slasher. One victim, Belle Walker, was just fifteen yards from her home when the Ripper got her.
It is believed that one woman actually came face-to-face with the Ripper and survived, Emma Lou Sharpe. Emma Lou grew worried when her mother took too long to return from the store, so went to check on her. While walking, she came upon a tall black man, with broad shoulders, wearing a wide-brimmed black hat. The man greeted Emma Lou but as she tried to continue walking, the man blocked her way. Emma Lou grew scared and tried to leave but the man pulled a knife and stabbed her in the back. She screamed and was able to break away and make it to safety. Neighbors heard her screams and came running; however, the tall man had vanished. Unfortunately, Emma Lou’s mother was found nearby. She had been murdered by the Ripper. Though many suspects were questioned for the Ripper’s crimes, no arrests were ever made. For an unknown reason, the murders stopped in 1914.
5. The Cleveland Torso Murderer
Beginning in late 1934, in Cleveland, Ohio, a serial killer was beheading and dismembering his victims, and sometimes even emasculating them. Forensics indicated that some of the victims were beheaded while still alive! Also known as the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run, this monstrous killer has an official body count of twelve; however investigators believe he is responsible for many more. Heading up the investigation was the most famous law enforcement officer in the country, Eliot Ness. However, even he was unable to crack the case.
Some victims were not found for months and most could never be identified – including some because no heads were ever found to match with bodies. The last victim officially attributed to the Mad Butcher was found in August 1938. Some believe the killer might have moved out west and was responsible for the Black Dahlia murder, explaining why the Ohio murders stopped. Regardless, these unsolved murders left a black mark on the career of Ness, who never recovered. Rumors persist that Ness knew who the killer was but was unable to compile enough evidence to charge him. This suspect reportedly taunted Ness for years after the murders stopped, challenging Ness to catch him. The case remains unsolved. Photos and death masks of some of the victims are housed in an exposition open to the public at the Cleveland Police Museum.
4. The Axeman
Between May 1918 and October 1919, a brutal killer was terrorizing the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. He had attacked at least fifteen unsuspecting victims in their homes. He violently swung his axe at their heads, killing most of his victims. The Axeman, as he was called, began taunting police with letters claiming he was a demon from Hell. Many of the victims were Italian-American and appeared to have been chosen at random.
The bloody Axeman killed viciously and his victims included a young girl being carried in her mother’s arms. He would violently break his way into a home through a back door and proceed to slaughter whoever he would find in the house. One of his letters to the media explained that he would commit another murder on March 19; however, he would not kill anyone who playing jazz music. That night the sound of jazz music flowed through the city and dance halls were filled to capacity. True to his word, no murders were committed that night. Despite the killer almost always leaving the murder weapon, a bloody axe, behind at the scene, his identity was never discovered. After a murder that occurred in October 1919, the killings just stopped.
3. The Phantom Killer
In the Spring of 1946, someone shot eight people in the Texarkana, Texas area, of which five were killed. Many of the victims were young couples in cars looking for a secluded area to be alone. Dubbed the “Phantom Killer,” he was attacking only on the weekend, late at night, which also inspired another nickname for the killings, the Moonlight Murders. Local residents were terrified and many nailed their windows shut and purchased firearms. Every weekend, the city would basically shut down at dusk.
Many suspects were rounded up, some confessed, but no evidence was ever found to corroborate any of their statements. It is widely believed that the Phantom Killer is the inspiration for the urban legend about the killer with a hook hand preying on teens making out in parked cars. The real killer didn’t have a hook for a hand but he was just as scary. Two survivors described the killer as a tall man with a white sack over his head, with holes cut out for his eyes. This maniac’s killing spree lasted ten weeks causing widespread panic, and then the murders just stopped. Texarkana later became known as The Town That Dreaded Sundown, after the 1976 horror movie inspired by the savage killings. The case remains unsolved.
2. The Zodiac killer
He’s one of the most infamous serial killers of all-time. He taunted police with enigmatic letters mailed to local newspapers. He claimed to have killed a total of 37 people, and he was never caught. He’s the Zodiac Killer. His reign of terror was in the late 1960s, when seven people in secluded “lover’s lane” areas were gunned down in Northern California, five of whom died. His first two victims were two high school kids, Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday, who were out on their first date. The unsuspecting teens made the mistake of stopping off at a local “lover’s lane” where the Zodiac came upon them and killed them both.
The letters he mailed to the media contained four mysterious cryptograms that the killer wrote would reveal his identity when they were all solved. He signed the letters, Zodiac. To date, only one of the four cryptograms has been deciphered. The murders, and the mysterious letters, stopped in 1974. Despite evidence including physical descriptions, fingerprints, and the letters, Zodiac was never caught. Though there have been numerous suspects over the years, and even a few confessions, nothing was ever proven. The case remains unsolved and Zodiac goes down in history as the most notorious murderer in the United States who was never caught.
1. Jack the Ripper
He’s arguable the most notorious serial killer ever so the number one spot had to belong to the infamous Jack the Ripper. The identity of this serial killer has eluded us for over a hundred years after his grisly killing spree terrorized London’s East End in 1888. He is believed to have killed five women in London’s Whitechapel district, though there could be as many as eleven victims. His moniker comes from a letter that was written by a hoaxer claiming to be the killer. The letter was proven phony, but the name he signed it with stuck.
Jack would encounter the women – all prostitutes – in the middle of the night, slashing their throats and proceeding to savagely mutilate their bodies, even sometimes removing their organs to keep as trophies. His precision in doing so led some to believe he had medical training. All the murders took place between August 31 and November 9, 1888. During that time, Jack mailed several letters taunting the police, one of which even included a small piece of a human kidney. Over the years there have been several suspect theories, with some claiming he was royalty, others that he was prominent surgeon, yet the Ripper’s identity remains unknown.