Serial killers are some of the scariest real-life villains out there. Most of them will give you more chills than any horror movie – and it doesn’t hurt that half of them are based on the real-life exploits of serial killers who terrified the world. The awful truth is that no one is ever really safe from a murderer, and though they represent a small percentage of the population, there could be one in your town as we speak.
Because of the fear that they command, serial killers also command a certain level of interest. The more we learn about them, the more we can do to prevent more cases in the future – and to protect ourselves. That’s one of the reasons why people absorb all of the information about them that they can. First-hand information is always the best of sources, and what could be more first-hand than a letter written by the serial killer themselves?
Some serial killers write letters to taunt the police and the press about their identity. Some of them write once they have been caught because they want to gain more notoriety. Others will continue to correspond with journalists and writers for many years into their prison sentences, revealing more about their crimes little by little.
We have gathered 15 of the most chilling letters written by serial killers, so you can see for yourself what they write about and how they brag about their gruesome crimes. Don’t read this late at night on your own!
15. The Zodiac – Wanted To Take Out A School Bus
The identity of the Zodiac killer is still a mystery many years on. Though he wrote letters to the press, stalked and killed police officers as well as normal people, and targeted a specific area for his murders, we still have no idea who he is. Though there are many prevailing theories, none of them can be proven satisfactorily. The letters written by the Zodiac demanded that the press publish his words, or he would unleash his killing spree once more. He also included a mysterious cypher which has not been fully solved to this day. One of the parts which have been decrypted states, “I like killing people because it is so much fun. It is more fun than killing wild game in the forests because man is the most dangerous animal of all.” Supposedly the cypher would reveal his identity, but no one has ever managed to crack it enough to come up with the answer.
14. Jack The Ripper And His “From Hell” Letter
Jack the Ripper is one of the most infamous serial killers of all time, not least because his identity was never revealed. One of the big problems with Jack’s letters is that hundreds of fakes were sent once people realized that he may have left messages behind. One of the letters which is thought to be real is now known as the ‘From Hell’ letter, which was sent with a piece of human kidney wrapped alongside it. He wrote, “I send you half the kidney I took from one woman presarved it for you tother pirce I fried and ate it was nice. I may send you the bloody knife that took it out if you only wait a while longer”. Another letter, which might have been from an imposter, talks about saving blood in a jar to use for letter-writing: “but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha.”
13. Donald Harvey Was Known As The Angel Of Death
Donald Harvey was a hospital orderly during the 1970s in Ohio and Kentucky. He was not a very nice man, as can be seen by the fact that he poisoned at least 30 of his patients to death. He had been known as the ‘Angel of Death’ by his co-workers, because of how he mysteriously always seemed to be near the patients when they passed away. It was not a mere coincidence, and eventually, he was caught and jailed. He wrote letters from prison and would often write many pages in his scrawling handwriting, as well as including printed pages. One of his creepiest inclusions was this printed message: “Lord, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those people I had to kill because they pissed me off.” The dark joke isn’t so funny when you know a real killer sent it.
12. Dennis Nilsen
Six weeks after he was arrested for the murder of 2 men – which later ballooned into 15 charges of murder – Dennis Nilsen wrote a letter from prison in which he coolly discussed his crimes. He has often written from prison since and holds himself as a highly intellectual and cultured person, despite the fact that his unwanted homosexuality was the prompt behind his string of murders. He claims to have written a huge tome of his own autobiography, though the prison service will not allow it to be published until after he is dead. The self-appraisal letter, titled “Mental Condition Notes”, includes chilling statements such as “I have felt that since my teenage days that I am a creative psychopath. Since I have committed 15 killings and 8 attempted killings I feel able to go further on this self assessment… The greater the beauty (in my estimation) of the man, the greater was the sense of loss and grief. Their dead naked bodies fascinated me but I would have done anything to have them back alive.”
11. Dennis Rader (BTK) Stalked One Of His Victims For 2 Months
Named BTK because he would Bind, Torture, and then Kill his victims, Dennis Rader rampaged uncaught between 1974 and 1991. He committed 10 home invasion murders during this time, and then went quiet for 13 years during which he did not murder anyone. Apparently, this was too much for him to take. He started to send letters to the police in 2004. After that, it was only a matter of time before they discovered his real identity and arrested him. One of his creepiest writings was a poem he sent to Anna Williams, a victim he had stalked for two months before breaking into her home to wait for her. Luckily, she went out dancing with friends and he had to give up. He wrote, “Oh, Anna, Why Didn’t You Appear / Drop of fear fresh Spring rain would roll down from your nakedness to scent to lofty fever that burns within…”
10. Ted Kaczynski (The Unabomber) Wanted To Have His Work Published
Ted Kaczynski was known as the Unabomber after he sent home-made bombs to several people in order for them to explode in their faces. His campaign of bombing went on for a startling 17 years until he was finally arrested in 1995. He sent copies of his manifesto to newspapers before being caught, and demanded that they publish it, with promises of more bombings if they refused. Part of it read, “We think that the decisive role played by feelings of inferiority, low self esteem, powerlessness, identification with victims by people who are not themselves victims, is a peculiarity of modern leftism. Identification with victims by people not themselves victims can be seen to some extent in 19th century leftism”. He was highly educated and highly political. His own siblings were the ones to turn him in after recognizing his words in the manifesto. There is one theory that actually puts him as being the Zodiac as well as the Unabomber.
9. Son Of Sam – The Devil Told Him To
David Berkowitz became known as the ‘Son of Sam’ during his terror-filled murder spree in New York. He killed six people before being caught, and set fire to buildings as often as he could. However, he signed off his letters with a different name: Mr Monster. He did call himself the Son of Sam, but also frequently ‘the monster’ or ‘Mr Monster’. One of his messages left at a crime scene read, “Police: let me haunt you with these words: I’ll be back! I’ll be back! To be interrpreted [sic] as – BANG BANG BANG, BANK, BANG – ugh!! Yours in murder, Mr Monster”. He claimed after his arrest that a demon had possessed his neighbour’s dog and then given him orders, and that a Satanic cult helped him to find his victims. He revelled in the attention that he gained from the press with every message that he left behind.
8. Albert Fish Sent A Chilling Letter To Girl’s Parents Describing His Crime
He looked like a sweet old grandfather, and people thought nothing of allowing him to babysit their children. The truth was that Albert Fish was a serial killer who would kidnap and eat his victims. He confessed to three murders in the 1920s, but later in life claimed to have taken the lives of over 100 children. After killing 10-year-old Grace Budd in 1928 and eating her remains, he sent a letter anonymously to her family in 1934. It described in detail how he killed and ate her, the kind of details that her loving family would never have wanted to know. One line reads: “I choked her to death, then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms.” It sends a shiver down the spine to think how he could send them this chilling letter – six years after the murder took place – and prolong their suffering.
7. Dariusz Kotwica Would Leave Messages On His Victims
He is known as the first serial killer in Europe, mostly because he did not limit himself to just one country for his killing spree. He actually killed each of his six victims in six different countries. He also had a habit of carving messages into the skin of his victims for the police to read. The messages described how much he loved torturing his victims before killing them. He also wrote about how he was forced to murder them by the voices inside his head which were from an evil demon commanding him to do evil things. Yet more of the messages were just random words which no one was able to make sense of. Though they may have been lacking in content, he easily wins for the creepiest letter-writing materials around. Who would have imagined that someone would casually use their victims’ skin as a message board?
6. The Original Night Stalker
The OG Night Stalker was a serial killer and rapist who terrorized California in the 1970s, and is not to be confused by a later serial killer who was known by the same name in the press. This one has not yet been identified, and might never be. He would leave messages on the answering phones of his victims, taunting them about their deaths. He also wrote to local newspapers during 1977 with poems about his exploits (though not particularly good ones). One of his poems reads as follows: “To make a movie of my life / That will pay for my planned exile / Just now I’d like to add the wife / Of a mafia lord to my file / Your East Area rapist / And deserving pest / See you in the press or on tv”. Whoever he was, it’s safe to say that he probably never made a splash in the real world of professional literature.
5. H. H. Holmes Was Known For His “Murder Castle”
H. H. Holmes is best known for his so-called Murder Castle, a hotel which was built during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with hidden passages and special trap-doors which allowed him to murder his unsuspecting guests. There were all manner of torturous designs hidden throughout the hotel, and he was careful in choosing people who could easily disappear without suspicion. He could not escape forever, thought, and he eventually confessed to killing 27 people – though the true figure could be as many as 200. He arranged for his confession letters to be published in the Philadelphia Inquirer so that his notoriety would continue. One choice excerpt reads, “I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing.” Given how inventive he was with his methods of murder, you can’t help but feel a shiver down your spine that his words may be true.
4. The Beltway Snipers – “Call Me God”
John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were the Beltway Snipers who attacked the Washington D.C. area in October 2002. They killed 10 people between them, over a three-week reign of terror on busy roadways. They also wrote a four-page extortion letter which they hid in the woods after one of their shootings. They talked about how they had previously tried to contact the authorities with no success, and how they wanted to be paid $10 million to stop killing people. It is thought that Mohammed was the hand behind the pen, though they likely worked on the wording together. The most chilling line reads, “P.S. your children are not safe anywhere at any time.” They made their intentions clear. They even listed out the names of the police officers they had tried to warn about the shootings. The letter which was released to the public had these parts redacted to protect the identity of those officers, who apparently took the contact for a hoax.
3. The Axman Of New Orleans Demanded People Play Jazz Music
The Axeman of New Orleans was very careful not to let his identity slip. He even used axes which belonged to his murder victims rather than bringing his own. He took down at least 8 people between 1918 and 1919, usually Italian-Americans. Whether it was racially motivated is not clear because we still don’t know who he was. He sent letters to several New Orleans newspapers which were then published, warning that he would kill again on March 19th at 15 minutes past midnight. He claimed he would spare anyone who was playing jazz music in their home. Lots of people listened that night, and no further murders occurred. Part of his letter read, “At will I could slay thousands of your best citizens, for I am in close relationship with the Angel of Death.” This murderer has become a pop culture favourite, with American Horror Story most recently providing a potential explanation for his identity and his sudden stop.
2. Belle Gunness Would Place Ads For Men To Come Visit Her
Belle Gunness was a woman from Indiana who used the personal ads to find her victims. She would place lonely hearts in the late 1800s and get into correspondence with bachelors and widowers who were in need of companionship. Once they came to visit her on her farm, preferably bringing their whole life savings along with them, she would simply kill them off and keep the money. It’s thought that she murdered at least 40 men, and her own children to boot. One chilling letter which she wrote to a man named Andrew Helgelein reads, “But, my dear, do not say anything about coming here…”. This instruction would make it easier for her to kill him and get away with it, since no one would be looking for him after he had disappeared. She even stated in her ads that her suitors would have to pay a personal visit to her if they wanted to, as she put it, “join fortunes”.
1. Gary Ridgeway (The Green River Killer)
One of the most prolific serial killers ever to haunt the US, Gary Ridgeway was known as the Green River Killer after his first five victims were found in that location. He actually ended up murdering more than 70 women in California and Washington during the 1980s and 1990s. That’s a huge total. After he was arrested in 2001, Ridgeway started to write letters to his wife almost every day. He wrote a letter telling her the truth about what he had done after he confessed to police. In it, he said: “I made a prayer to God I will stop killing if I don’t get caught, I had to live with all that in me all those years. I couldn’t tell you. I was like a alcoholic dry for a time. Then fell off the wagon. I miss you so much.” It’s horrific to think of a serial killer stopping himself from murdering to take up a normal life, then let it all out again.
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