Homicide in itself is shocking enough; the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has estimated that over 400,000 people a year are murdered around the globe. Violent hotspots such as Honduras (which has the highest murder rate in the world at 90.4 per 100,000 inhabitants) and Brazil (estimated 50,108 murders in 2012) are renowned for their disturbing crime statistics and murder rates. But for some reason, regardless of such horrifying numbers, when Satanism is involved in a murder the case seems all the more disturbing.
For example, Finland has a murder rate of 1.6 per 100,000 people. But the case of Finnish Satanist Jarno Elg, who was given a life sentence for murdering and partially cannibalizing his victim in 1998, stands out significantly because of its gruesome and cultish aspects.
Ritual killings and the occult generally fascinate lay people. It is a snapshot of the darker side of humanity that interests us in a slightly voyeuristic manner, much in the same way that documentary channels are full of films about the Nazis and their atrocities, killer sharks, serial killers and other such disturbing material. There is a good reason why Hollywood and its peers churn out dozens of horror movies each year where the storyline has often gone AWOL but the body count is high and extremely bloody. We like to be shocked.
The following list is a selection of murderers that have been linked with Satan and Satanism...
15 Gerald Cruz: 4 victims
In 1990 Cruz and his group brutally slaughtered four people in Salida, California. Satanism and the occult have often been linked with the Cruz case as he was considered a leader with the ability to "brainwash" the members of his group. Cruz ended up on death row for his role in the vicious slayings.
14 Richard McCroskey: 4 victims
McCroskey was believed to be involved in a satanic cult, although it was anger that motivated his horrific acts, rather than any black magic ritual. In 2009 McCroskey carried out what have become to be known as the Farmville murders (the name of the town in Virginia, U.S.A. where the killings took place), killing his girlfriend, her parents and her friend in a frenzied hammer rampage. Unsurprisingly, he is now serving life in prison.
13 Ricky Kasso: 1 victim
Kasso became known as the "Acid King" due to the manner of his crime; in 1984, he repeatedly stabbed and beat Gary Lauwers to death whilst high on either PCP or LSD ("acid").
It has been reported that Kasso tried to make Lauwers say that he loved Satan whilst being assaulted by his former companion. After the event, Kasso told some people that Satan had appeared as a black crow and ordered him to kill Lauwers. The 17-year-old ended up hanging himself in his cell after being arrested.
12 Royce Casey, Jacob Delashmutt, Joseph Fiorella: 1 victim
Although other entrants to this list have murdered more, either for their own troubled minds or in the name of Satan, the murder of 15-year-old Elyse Pahler in 1995 is particularly foul.
All the perpetrators were teenage boys who knew the victim. They coaxed the young girl into a grove near her home in California, restrained her and took turns to stab her, as they needed a virgin for human sacrifice ("to the Devil"). An interest in Satanism was claimed to be a motivating factor, as was sexual desire. Long-term prison sentences were handed to the boys for their meaningless act.
11 Silvia Meraz: 3 victims
Meraz and her group of satanic cult members are a particularly shocking inclusion on this list. Their victims included two children, one of them Meraz's own grandchild. The victims were sacrifices for Santa Muerte ("Holy Death"), a popular folk saint with millions of followers. However, Meraz's intentions were evil, cutting throats and beheading her victims in a manner that is often linked to satanic practices. She was jailed in 2012.
10 Rod Ferrell: 2 victims
"The Vampire Killer" was believed to be part of a satanic cult in Florida - he believed he was an ancient vampire. In 1996, when Ferrell was just 16, he murdered Naomi Ruth Queen and Richard Wendorf, beating them to death with a crowbar.
Ferrell is serving a life sentence without parole. Disturbingly, the victims were the parents of one of Ferrell's friends, who he claimed to be saving from an abusive home life.
9 Varg Vikernes: 1 victim
Vikernes is a Norwegian musician who became part of the infamous early Norwegian black metal scene which espoused theistic Satanism (a belief that Satan is an actual entity). Vikernes has been accused of burning down churches, but he was also involved in a murder.
In 1993, he stabbed to death a satanic singer and guitarist Øystein Aarseth, otherwise known as Euronymous. Vikernes claimed self defence. It has been said that Euronymous' purported belief in Satanism was an act, although he did once state that he believed in a horned Devil.
8 Mark Valera: 2 victims
Australian murderer Mark Valera's case is particularly nasty. In 1998 he murdered David O'Hearn, decapitated the victim, and left the head in a kitchen sink and the bowels on a silver platter. He also cut off O'Hearn's hand and used it to daub satanic symbols on the walls. His second victim was beaten and throttled and had lapel pins stuck into his eyeballs. Valera is serving life without parole.
7 Adolfo Constanzo: more than 25 victims
This disturbing individual had the nickname "The Witch Doctor," as he was known for trying to cast spells on members of drug cartels. Unfortunately, Constanzo required human body parts for his potions and was not content on just digging up corpses from graves.
His "black magic" is associated with elements of Satanism; it is believed Constanzo and his gang were responsible for over 25 homicides before he committed suicide in 1989.
6 Ottis Toole: at least 6 victims
A companion of fellow serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, Toole was an evil man who claimed that his grandmother was a Satanist, thus leading him onto the path of ritual slaughter. He was captured in 1983 and originally sentenced to death, a sentence later changed to life in prison. He died in 1996 of cirrhosis.
5 Gilles de Rais: 80-200 victims
Slaughter in the name of Satan is unsurprisingly not a recent criminal phenomenon. A particularly well-known murderous beast was Gilles de Montmorency-Laval, a French nobleman born in around 1405. He actually fought alongside Joan of Arc during the Hundred Years' War, but after she was burned at the stake by the English in 1431, de Rais took a disturbing interest in the occult.
He started dabbling in alchemy and Satanism, leading the once Marshal of France to embark on the systematic murder of dozens (if not hundreds) of children. According to records, de Rais took sadistic sexual pleasure in his horrific activities. He was executed in 1440.
4 Henry Lee Lucas: convicted of murdering 11 people
Henry Lee Lucas was an American serial killer who killed from 1960 until he was arrested in 1983. His murder tally has always been shrouded with uncertainty, Lucas himself claimed to have killed 60 people (he even suggested as many as 3,000 victims).
He had been linked with satanic cults, but he died of a heart attack whilst in prison in 2001, taking the truth about his murders and occult activities to the grave.
3 David Berkowitz: 6 victims
The infamous "Son of Sam" terrified inhabitants of New York City in 1976 and 1977 as he stabbed and shot random innocent people. Berkowitz has long been linked with Satanist cult activity and police found what was classed as satanic graffiti on the murderer's bedroom walls.
Berkowitz was captured in 1977 and ironically became a born again Christian whilst in prison.
2 Richard Ramirez: 14 victims
Another serial killer linked to Satanism was Richard Ramirez, also known as "The Night Stalker." Between 1984 and 1985 Ramirez stabbed, shot, hacked, bludgeoned, beat, raped and mutilated various Californian residents seemingly for nothing more than to sate his own twisted desires.
He would make his victims swear on Satan that they were not hiding valuables or would not scream as he went about his horrific activities. Ramirez even exclaimed "Hail, Satan" whilst in court and had a pentagram drawn on the palm of his left hand. He died in 2013 from B-cell lymphoma.
1 Charles Manson/Manson Family: at least 10 victims
One of the most infamous murder cases in recent criminal history was carried out by the so-called Manson Family in 1969 when Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian slaughtered Sharon Tate (who was over 8 months pregnant), Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger in a bloody massacre at 10050 Cielo Drive, Beverly Hills.
Manson was jailed and was given the death penalty, but he was lucky enough to have his sentence changed to life imprisonment in 1972 when California briefly suspended capital punishment. During the court proceedings, Manson exclaimed: "I am the Devil, and the Devil always has a bald head."