Our homes say a lot about us as human beings. Some are cozy, some are cluttered, some are meticulously clean while still others can be a bit messy. Most homes are filled with reminders of the lives lived there; photographs, knick-knacks, favorite T-shirts stuffed into drawers. In our homes, we share meals, we rest, we relax, we love.
The mind of a serial killer is a phenomenon that, for all the studying experts do after the fact, remains totally misunderstood by the general public. How can someone turn into such a monster? What drives an otherwise normal human being to become a killer? For all the science dedicated to understanding what makes these monsters tick, one important aspect of their life is oft-forgotten: their home.
Of course when you consider serial killers like cannibal killer Jeffrey Dahmer who committed most of his horrific acts in his Milwaukee apartment, the killer’s domicile might be the first thing you think of. But for other career killers, we often forget about the places in which they spent so much time of their twisted lives. Still, after their crimes are uncovered neighbors will often come out of the woodwork, as it were, to say they always got a bad feeling about their murdering neighbor. Understandable when you just found out the guy down the street hacked up a bunch of people and hid the bodies in his yard. Suddenly your neighbor with his constant partying doesn’t sound bad at all eh!
16. The Kitchen Drain Down Which Dennis Nilsen Flushed His Victims
When we think of serial killers, we generally think of the most famous American ones such as Jeffrey Dahmer and the Green River Killer. But these kinds of crimes aren’t limited to within the borders of the United States.
English killer Dennis Nilsen was a seriously sick freak. From 1978-1983, Nilsen claimed the lives of at least 12 men, and attempted unsuccessfully to kill at least seven others. He would lure them to his house, sometimes suggesting they get drunk with him, and then strangle them. If the victim was still alive but unconscious after being strangled, he’d drown the poor guy in a bathtub and proceed to get freaky with the body.
For his early murders, he’d have a bonfire to get rid of the body, but he later started flushing small pieces of flesh and bone down the toilet. He actually is partially to blame for his own arrest, as he complained to his landlord about plumbing problems. When a plumber investigated why the pipes were in such bad shape, he discovered a blockage of flesh and small bones. When this blockage was brought to Nilsen’s attention, he told the plumber “It looks to me like someone has been flushing down their Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
15. Salvatore Perrone’s Monstrosity
Talk about creepy. Former door-to-door salesman and Staten Island clothing merchant Salvatore Perrone had just $2 in his bank account when he was arrested for the murder of three men; 65-year-old Mohamed Gebeli, 59-year-old Isaac Kadare, and 78-year-old Rahmatollah Vahidipour were successful businessmen and it is believed Perrone may have killed them out of jealousy.
Neighbors described Perrone as “overly combative and oddly exuberant” and said that his house was a reflection of his crumbling financial situation. “It’s looked haunted and unlivable for about 20 years,” said Sharon Sullivan, a former neighbor. “The place had no windows where windows should be. Entrances that didn’t seem visible.” Foreclosure proceedings against the home had begun prior to his arrest, and the home had been hit with numerous building violations beginning in 1998. Neighbors thought the home was an eyesore, and did not hold the home’s owner in high regard. “I never thought when I talked to him that I was talking to a normal human being,” said one neighbor.
14. Andrei “The Butcher” Chikatilo’s Secret House
Ukrainian killer Andrei Chikatilo was convicted of 52 murders in late 1992, and executed by a single bullet to the back of his head 16 months later. He murdered his first victim in 1978, a 9-year-old girl named Yelena Zakotnova.
Unknown to Chikatilo’s wife leading up to his first murder, he’d purchased a “secret home,” rather a dilapidated shack to which he lured his first victim after he encountered her at a bus stop on her way home from school. After making contact with her, the future cannibal killer promised her bubblegum if he followed her to his shack, which was nearby. When they arrived, he attempted to have sex with her, failed, stabbed her to death, and then threw her body into a nearby river. Her body was discovered two days later and investigators even found spots of blood outside of the shack in the course of their investigation, however Chikatilo was obviously never charged with the crime. He would go on to lure even more victims into this same spot.
13. Karl Denke’s Boarding House of Horrors
Although very little is known about serial killer and cannibal Karl Denke, we do know that he kept a ledger of victims, recording that he murdered and cannibalized at least 42 people from 1914-1918. He was born in what was then Germany in 1870, though that area is now part of modern-day Poland. He was arrested in late 1924 after attacking a man with an axe at his home, it was at this point police discovered jars of human flesh curing in jars within the home, as well as various pieces of “meat” and bone. “The meat is brownish red and does not feel as if the body would have lost much blood,” the police wrote. “On the back some soft-bluish discoloration is visible as well as livor mortis, which leads to the conclusion that the disassembly of the body took place several hours after death.”
It is believed that during his killing spree, he even sold human flesh at the local market as regular meat. Numerous travellers stayed at Danke’s home over the years, which he rented out as a boarding house.
12. The Bloody Benders’ Homestead
‘The Bloody Benders’ are believed to be America’s first serial killers. John Bender, his wife (or sister, according to legend) Elvira Bender, son John Jr. and daughter Kate owned and operated an inn and general store in southeastern Kansas from 1871 to 1873. No one is really sure from where the Benders originated or if they were even related at all, though it is said that the senior John and Elvira spoke very little English.
Folklore says that guests at the Benders’ bed and breakfast who would be murdered were invited to dinner, and would be seated at the head of the table as guests of honor. It is said that this seat was placed over a trap door, into which led the unlucky guest straight into the Benders’ cellar after either the elder or younger John Bender clobbered the guest upside the head with a hammer. No one is sure just how many travellers the Benders killed during their short time as the worst innkeepers of Kansas, though at least two dozen bodies were found in their orchard after they were caught out as killers and skipped town.
11. Ted Bundy’s Utah Cellar
Infamous killer and rapist Ted Bundy had already gotten started on his reign of terror back home in Washington state when he moved to Utah in 1974 to attend the University of Utah school of law. After he was caught, he admitted to murdering seven Utah women.
The home has been demolished, but there still sits on the same property at 115 Burr’s Lane (Emigration Canyon Road) outside of Salt Lake City a small, vandalized cellar. It’s a popular destination for folks who enjoy getting their pants scared off by visiting a dead serial killer’s storm cellar.
10. Dennis Rader’s Treehouse
The absolute creepiest thing about serial killer Dennis Lynn Rader — better known as the BTK Killer for “bind, torture, kill” — is that while he was committing murders and egging on cops and the newspapers by leaving clues to his crimes, he was otherwise a completely normal husband and father. Well, as normal as a guy who gets off on strangling people to death can be, anyway.
He married in 1971 and had two children while working as a home security consultant. He took a short break from murdering people after his daughter was born in 1978 but resumed in 1985 when he killed his neighbor Marine Hedge. That’s what makes this photo of Rader working on his kids’ treehouse so creepy: his kids had no idea their dad was a maniac serial killer. Well, not at that time, anyway.
9. Darren Deon Vann’s Abandoned Hovel
Accused Indiana serial killer Darren Deon Vann is still going through trial as of early 2017, but has confessed to the murder of six women in addition to 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy, a prostitute he killed at a Motel 6 in 2014. After confessing to these murders, he showed police where they could find the bodies, dumped in and around abandoned homes in the Gary area.
The city of Gary, Indiana was hit hard by the financial crisis, and its neighborhoods are littered with abandoned homes. Once a city with a population of 178,000, that number has fallen to 78,000 and many properties are forgotten. After his arrest for Afrikka Hardy’s murder, Vann led police to an abandoned home at 413 E. 43rd Ave., where they found the bodies of three women. Three more bodies were found at other abandoned homes throughout the city.
8. Jeffrey Dahmer’s Childhood Home Circa 1950
In an edition of the Akron Beacon Journal‘s Sunday magazine in 1953, the beautiful 2,170-square-feet, three-bedroom, three-bathroom home at 4480 W Bath Rd in Bath Township, Ohio is featured in grainy but striking photos. Built in 1950, the home is best known as the childhood home of Jeffrey Dahmer. “Floor-to-ceiling windows let in sunlight, bring wooded valley into the living room” reads one caption below a photo of a man and little boy looking out the windows.
It was at this home Dahmer would claim his first victim in 1978. The yard is undoubtedly littered with the bones of small animals Dahmer would collect and dismantle, and it is also here that Dahmer mounted the head of a dead dog on a stake in the yard. When the house was up for sale in 2012, its current owner said that “the expansive outdoor deck is perfect for watching forest animals, like deer and wild turkey.” And perhaps ghosts of dismembered chipmunks.
7. James Holmes’ Booby-Trapped Apartment
In the early hours of July 20, 2012, mass murderer James Holmes entered a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado strapped up with weapons, eventually killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. He was arrested without incident in the parking lot of the theater. It was then he confessed to police that he booby-trapped his apartment with various explosive devices prior to leaving for the movie theater shooting.
With the assistance of robotics, it took police two days to safely disarm the complicated trap. An explosives officer with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms named Gary Smith dismantled several bombs by hand. “This apartment was designed to kill,” said Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates at the time. Police say that the maze of explosives could have leveled the entire apartment building and engulfed it in flames had it gone off.
6. Cleveland Killer Anthony Sowell’s House of Horrors
Ohio killer Anthony Sowell was sentenced to death on August 12, 2011 for the murder of 11 women whose bodies he disposed of throughout his Cleveland home. He first killed in May 2007. He was arrested in October 2009 when police came to his home to serve a warrant in relation to an alleged rape he committed the month before; he was not at home. Once there, police discovered two bodies right on his living room floor. They found him and arrested him two days later.
Four more bodies were found in the house, stashed in shallow graves in his basement and in crawl spaces. Neighbors had long complained about the smell coming from Sowell’s home, but never believed it would actually be the decomposing bodies of women he’d murdered.
The home was demolished in 2011, while an assembled crowd chanted “no justice, no peace!” The sister of one of his victims was there for the destruction of the home in which her sister died, and told reporters “I think about where the women were in the house. I think about sadness, loneliness and the demise of them. All the horrible things they had to go through.”
5. 25 Cromwell Street Cellar
In 1995, a prosecutor stood in a British courtroom and told all gathered there: “In June 1987, when she was 16 years old, she disappeared. Her parents did not report her missing. The reason is simple. They knew that she was dead because both had been involved in killing her. Rosemary West, this defendant, was interviewed by the police. She said that she had heard from Heather on the telephone. The authorities continued looking and on 24 February 1994, armed with a search warrant, they returned to 25, Cromwell Street.”
Police found the body of Heather West in the garden at 25 Cromwell Street, but that wasn’t all they discovered. All in all, they unearthed eight more bodies around the West home. Fred and Rose kidnapped, tortured, and assaulted the young women, sometimes dismembering them in their cellar.
4. Robert “The Kansas City Butcher” Berdella’s Childhood Home
For three years in the mid- to late 1980s, Robert Berdella killed six men, some of them sex workers, drugging, torturing, and then getting around to killing them. The torture would sometimes go on for weeks.
He grew up in Akron, Ohio and said that the movie The Collector left a lasting effect on him. In case you aren’t aware, the movie is about kidnapping and I guess it gave him some ideas. He lived a fairly normal life until, of course, he started killing young men.
After he was arrested, his neighbors in Kansas City spoke out about how upset they were about living next to such a sick maniac. “We’re all feeling a lot of pain that he did this to us. We never picked up on anything. We really feel used, as though we were part of Bob’s cover.”
3. Dorthea Puente’s Charming Boarding House
No matter how bad you think your landlord is, chances are your landlord will never be as bad as Dorothea Puente during her time as “Death House Landlady” in Sacramento, CA throughout the 80s.
It’s believed that Puente, who died in prison in 2011, murdered up to 15 people. In 1982, she did three years in prison after a tenant accused her of theft, but was paroled and went back to running the worst boarding house ever. Investigators later said that her motives for murder were strictly financial; she collected thousands a month in Social Security checks for tenants both alive and dead. For the ones who were still living at least, she would take their mail, give them a little bit to live on, and pocket the rest.
2. The Acid Bath Murderer’s Workshop
John George Haigh was a creepy English serial killer who favored dissolving the remains of his victims in acid and then forging paperwork so he could profit from whatever possessions the victims left behind. He partook in criminal activity from an early age, stealing from an employer and later pretending to be a lawyer for which he earned a prison stint for fraud.
His first victim was a former employer who he bumped into at the bar one night; he then convinced the guy to join him in his cellar, whacked him over the head, and put his body into a drum full of acid. Two days later the body was mostly liquefied, at which point Haigh poured the mess down the drain.
1. Where John Christie Hid the Bodies
John Christie was a charming gent who started killing in 1943; he choked his victims and then stashed their bodies all over his London flat. When he moved out, I guess he forgot to take the bodies with him, so it was later discovered that he stashed three people in an alcove above the kitchen, two in the garden, and his own wife was under the floorboards in the living room. Two of his victims actually rented flats in his building, a woman and her baby daughter, along with the woman’s husband and father of the baby. When the bodies of the woman and her infant were discovered while Christie still lived there, the husband was tried and convicted for their murder, and later hanged for it. It is now believed that Christie for sure definitely killed them.
He was only tried for the murder of his wife, for which he was hanged.