There aren’t many people more terrifying out there than serial killers. It’s plain and simple. They end life often in particularly twisted and sinister ways, largely for their own satisfaction. Many of them also live among us and they can be very hard to spot. These repugnant mistakes of our species occupy a terrifying niche involving both disgust and fascination. We are horrified of them. We hate them. We hate the very idea of them, but their miserable and disgusting nature is the kind of thing from which we can’t look away.
In spite of the revulsion many people feel for serial killers, they are often given nicknames for their personalities or for certain consistencies regarding how they kill their victims. Lonnie David Franklin is known as the Grim Sleeper, David Berkowitz is Son of Sam, Dennis Rader is known as BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) and of course, the man who dressed up like a clown to entertain neighborhood children, John Wayne Gacy, is the Killer Clown. These are just a few of the serial killers whose identities are known, however.
Many serial killers are good at hiding what they do and plenty of them are highly intelligent. Other are just lucky. Whatever it may be, whether intelligence, luck, or just a brilliant ability to fit in and not be seen, a disturbing number of these cretins are never punished for their crimes or even identified. Often, they are known to the media and the public that they terrorized, only by their nicknames. Here are fifteen of those who have not been caught, and the names by which they are known.
15. Jack The Stripper
While we won’t dedicate a full entry on this list to the namesake for this killer, Jack the Ripper, because he’s too well-known and we’re trying to offer up some lesser known nicknames, we’ll briefly mention his case. Jack the Ripper killed at least five women in the Whitechapel area of London in the late 1880’s and possibly the early 1890’s. He was never found but there are numerous theories about his identity.
Fast forward to the mid 1960’s in London and we find “Jack the Stripper.” In 1964 and 1965, several prostitutes (eight for sure but he may have committed other murders) were murdered. All were killed by either strangulation or drowning, and all were stripped naked (hence the name of the perpetrator) and thrown into the Thames. Despite bringing in numerous suspects, police never did determine who committed these killings. One man, Kenneth Archibald, admitted to killing one of them, but later retracted his confession and was found not guilty at trial because there was no evidence to suggest that he had anything to do with the event. Others have been linked to the crimes, but none have been conclusively proven to have killed these ladies.
14. The Lisbon Ripper
While this person is primarily known for murders in the area of Lisbon, Portugal, police across Europe and in the United States have documented very similar crimes. The Lisbon Ripper’s crimes were quite gruesome and each one involved killing a prostitute and removing their vital organs. The three who were found in Lisbon were all named Maria, and were found between 1992 and 1993. In 2011, a young man who wanted to be on a reality TV show, said that a secret that he had was that he was the Lisbon Ripper’s son. The man’s father, Jose Pedro Guedes (pictured), was investigated by police, but they found that he actually didn’t have any intimate knowledge of the murders, and that he likely had no connection to any of them.
Other similar killings have been reported in Germany and the Netherlands, along with Massachusetts, and this killer was known as the New Bedford Highway Killer. While the methods and victims were the same, nobody has been accused of any of these crimes.
13. Monster of Udine
While not nearly the tourist center as Venice, Rome and other Italian areas, Udine, in the northeast of the country, shares the beautiful architecture and overall scenery for which Italy is known. Unfortunately, this wonderful area was terrorized by a serial killer between the early 1970’s and 1991. Italian authorities believed that this killer may have been a doctor, given that each of his victims had massive cuts in their abdomen, which police thought was produced with a scalpel, used by someone who had experience with that tool.
The victim count is somewhere between four and sixteen, and most of them were killed in the aforementioned method. This case went cold very quickly as police were never able to connect anyone with any of the murders.
12. The Original Night Stalker
There are a few names for this person, including the “East Area R*pist” and “Golden Gate Killer.” His crimes took place throughout California and date back to the 1970’s. However, the FBI reopened the case in 2016, having realized that there was a DNA connection between several s*xual assaults and murders, having originally thought that the East Area R*pist and Night Stalker were two different people. This person has s*xually assaulted over fifty women and was confirmed to have murdered twelve between 1976 and 1978. He’s been described as around 5’10”, 170 lbs, and in decent shape. Police have released sketches of him, as described by victims, and while a few men have been arrested, each have either had an alibi or been released due to lack of DNA evidence. The Original Night Stalker called several of his victims after having attacked them and also sent poems and letters to publications in California along with the office of the Sacramento mayor.
11. The Doodler
In the mid-1970’s in San Francisco, there was a serial killer who would meet men in gay clubs and later murder them. He was nicknamed “The Doodler” which comes from his habit of making sketches of his victims before his attack. Most of his victims were stabbed numerous times in the chest and neck. Three of his would-be victims actually managed to escape his attack but they were uncooperative with investigating police personnel. Many gay community leaders including Harvey Milk, defended these men because they likely feared that their involvement with such an investigation would have been detrimental to their familial and professional lives, as they were still in the closet.
10. The Atlanta Ripper
It remains unclear whether the Atlanta Ripper was one person or several, but the crimes were similar enough that police said that a single perpetrator was the likely culprit. The killings started in 1911 and the number of victims stands somewhere between fifteen and twenty-one. All of the victims were African-American women in their twenties. While many were killed, a few women who were attacked managed to get away and they almost all identified their attacker as tall and black. A man named Charlie Owens was convicted for one of the crimes despite there being very minimal evidence. But when similar murders continued, it became unlikely that he was the only killer, if he was guilty at all.
While going in one’s sleep seems like a decent way to go, not like this…most definitely not like this. Stoneman was (is?) an Indian serial killer who targeted homeless people in Bombay and later, Calcutta, in the mid and late 1980’s. His method was roughly the same for each killing. He would find a homeless person sleeping alone in the street or in an alley, and then kill them by slamming a large rock down on their heads. Indian police have been unable to accurately determine whether the crimes in Bombay and Calcutta were committed by the same person or a copycat. None of the murders associated with Stoneman have ever been solved.
8. Phantom Slayer
The Phantom Slayer is the name given to the killer who committed the Texarkana moonlight murders back in 1946. Five people were killed and three were badly wounded in four attacks that took place within the span of three months. In the first incident, a young couple on a date were assaulted badly, but both made it out alive. Weeks later, again, a young couple were his victims, they were each shot once in the back of the head and died instantly. Two teenagers were killed a couple of weeks after that and in the final attack, a couple in their thirties were shot at their home. The husband was killed and the wife was shot twice in the face, but survived.
Police though they had found their man, Youell Swinney, but they were able to determine that his DNA was not found at any of the scenes, and that there was likely no way he was even present for any of them. Whoever this person was, they were the inspiration for the film The Town that Dreaded Sundown.
7. South Dade Killer
Between February and July of 1975, the South Dade Killer murdered at least five women in southern Florida. While there were these confirmed five in Florida, law enforcement throughout other southern states have claimed that this murderer may have struck in other jurisdictions as well, and his killings may total closer to thirty. His lure was deflating people’s tires in parking lots and then offering them assistance, and then killing them after he had earned their trust. His confirmed victims ranged in age from 14 to 27.
6. Servant Girl Annihilator
Also known as the Austin Axe Murderer, the Servant Girl Annihilator killed at least eight people in Austin, Texas between 1984 and 1985. Witness reports were all over the place, some saying they saw a black man committing these crimes while others saying he was white. There was also some disagreement over whether he was tall or short, and whether there were multiple attackers.
The killings themselves consisted of seven women and a man, and eight other victims were badly injured. He used an axe for some crimes and knives or blunt objects for others. He mutilated some of the bodies, some with knives jammed into their ears after their deaths, and each murder took place while the victim was in bed, asleep.
5. The Monster Of Florence
The Monster of Florence was an Italian serial killer who targeted couples in Florence between the 1960’s and 1985. He claimed the lives of between fourteen and sixteen victims over this period, killing young couples who were alone at night with a .22 caliber pistol. After killing his victims, this disgusting creature usually mutilated the bodies of the women, either stabbing them and/or removing body parts. There have been some suggested perpetrators, but police were never able to come up with enough evidence to make a conviction probable. One man did serve prison time for one of the killings, but was later freed after the killer struck again. The Monster of Florence was never found and for all we know, he’s still out there.
4. Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac Killer is one of the most renowned in the United States. He had terrorized California back in the late 1960’s. His number of victims is all over the place, with some arguing he’s at around five, and his own bragging placing the total closer to forty. The shootings and stabbings were usually carried out in remote areas, and while there were a few people who escaped their death at the hands of him, none were ever able to offer a positive description of his face, as he may have been wearing a mask or costume. He contacted several media outlets and essentially taunted them and the San Francisco Police Department based on the fact that they had no idea who he was. While he has been credited with five homicides in the late 1960’s, there have been similar murders since then in which police in other jurisdictions have suggested he may have been involved. Given that several departments have kept the books open on this case since the 1960’s, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever know who the Zodiac Killer really is.
3. Honolulu Strangler
The Honolulu strangler s*xually assaulted and murdered five women in the city between 1985 and 1986. The five women ranged in age between seventeen and thirty-six, and each of the killings were very similar. The victims were targeted while alone, either in parking lots late at night or in bus stops. When the victims were found, each of them had their hands bound behind their back, had no clothing on their lower bodies, and showed signs of s*xual trauma.
2. The Axeman Of New Orleans
As the name would imply, this murderer killed people in the New Orleans area. He did so primarily with axes or other sharp tools, including a straight razor. He killed six and injured seven in his seventeen-month crime spree that took place between 1918 and 1919. Most of his attacks were similar. He would break into the back door of a house and then go after the occupants. Investigators have suggested that the killer was motivated by ethnic hatred, often going after Italian-Americans, while others who have studied the case have stated he may have hated women, as there were some instances of men in homes being left alone while women were brutally murdered.
A letter written to Louisiana media outlets in March 1919 looked as though it may have been the ravings of a madman, as he claimed to be in Tartarus, the Greek underworld, and stated that he would return to murder more people, but might offer mercy if the houses he staked out were playing jazz music. Despite many police and investigators on the case, he was never found and his identity remains a mystery to this day.
1. The Babysitter
Otherwise known as OCCK, the Oakland County Child Killer, this Michigan-based murderer killed four (maybe even more) children between age 10 and 12 in 1976 and 1977. Each kid was alone when they were abducted and the method of killing was different for each one, with two young boys having been strangled (after having been s*xually violated with an object), one girl being smothered, and another shot in the head with a shotgun. Each of the young people were carefully laid in snowbanks after they were killed, as each of the killings took place in the winter months.
There were a few suspects over the years and even into 2012, but there has never been enough evidence to get a conviction. John Wayne Gacy was briefly suspected, but DNA evidence tested after his death proved that he was not the culprit.