In our everyday lives, who do we consider to be evil? Maybe it’s your friend who backstabbed you. Or your teacher who assigned a 30-page essay over spring break. But have we ever experienced someone who is truly evil down to their very core? Someone who eats, sleeps and breathes evil and who will do incomprehensible things just because that’s what their soul craves? Many of us haven’t, and if we’re lucky we never will.
True evil resides in the souls of people like Leslie Van Houten, Charles Manson, Karla Homolka, Ted Bundy, Cameron Hooker and Jeffery Dahmer. Forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Stone, developed a system to scale how evil these people actually are. By examining their personalities and their crimes, Stone developed the “Gradations of Evil Scale”.
This scale has 22 levels, one being the least evil and 22 being the most. Levels 1-9 deal with justifiable homicide or impulse murders where they killers are not actually psychopathic. Levels 10-17 deal with murderers who have a degree of psychopathic qualities like manipulativeness, deceitfulness and lack of empathy. Levels 18-22 deal with those who are truly psychopathic, involving themselves in sexual and serial homicide as well as torture.
You may recognize Stone’s name if you ever watched the television show Most Evil on Investigation Discovery where he ranks some of the media's favourite evil souls. This article outlines Stone’s scale and gives specific examples of killers who fit each level. True crime lovers, this one’s for you. Warning, disturbing details ahead…
22 Level 1: Donald West Wilder - Self-Defence
After a drunken night out with friends, 16-year-old Caleb Gordley mistakenly stumbled into one of his neighbours houses thinking at the time it was his own. The home owner, Donald West Wilder who was startled by the alarm system jumped out of bed and grabbed his gun. Wilder confronted Gordley and shot him in the back killing him. Although the parents of the teen wanted to further the investigation and press charges, the killing was viewed as self defence and no charges were filed. Killing in self-defence is ranked as a level 1 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
21 Level 2: Samuel Collins - Jealous Lover
When Samuel Collins learned about his wife’s affair he went into a jealous rage. “I can’t live without her. She can’t live without me,” he is heard saying on a cryptic voicemail when first learning about his wife’s infidelity. Collins stabbed his wife multiple times in their bathroom before trying to then stab himself to death. He tried to play off the murder as self-defence but was unsuccessful. Samuel Collins was charged with the brutal murder of his wife of 12 years. Jealous lovers who commit impulsive murders are ranked as a level 2 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
20 Level 3: Leslie Van Houten - Killer’s Companion
Leslie Van Houten was a former member of Charles Manson’s “family” — a band of followers who were lead by the murder-conspirator. Van Houten is currently serving life in prison for multiple murders orchestrated by Manson. Defence lawyers trying to take on her case blamed Manson’s brainwashing for her behaviour, however she dismissed them all. She even confessed to a murder she did not commit in order to clear Manson’s name.
The mental control Charles Manson had over Van Houten and other members of the “family” lead to the murders of seven people. As a willing companion to murder, Van Houten ranks as a level 3 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
19 Level 4: Susan Cummings - Provoked Self-Defence
After Susan Cummings shot her boyfriend to death, she placed a phone call to 911 reporting the murder and claiming she did it out of self-defence. The couple seemed deeply in love until the two year mark when they began to fight. Cummings would constantly refuse sex which made her boyfriend angry and verbally abusive.
According to her, her boyfriend had been abusing her and on the day of the murder threatened to kill her with a knife. When police arrived on the scene they found a knife across her boyfriends arm and cut wounds on Cummings which they suspected were self-inflicted. Cummings killed in self-defence although she may have been acting extremely provocative toward her victim. This type of murder ranks as a level 4 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
18 Level 5: Susan Wright - Traumatized Killer
After a night of partying and cocaine bingeing, Jeff Wright came home to his wife and two children. In his hyped up state, he allegedly beat his son and his wife, Susan. After what Susan claimed was a marriage full of abuse she finally snapped. She seductively lured her husband into bed and tied him up. What Jeff thought was a kinky night, ended in his murder.
Susan stabbed her husband with a knife 193 times and buried his body in their backyard."I couldn't stop stabbing him; I couldn't stop. I knew as soon as I stopped, he was going to get the knife back and he was going to kill me. I didn't want to die,” She testified in court. Despite her claims, Susan was found guilty of murder. Traumatized persons who kill their abusers are ranked as a level 5 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
17 Level 6: Coy Wayne Wesbrook - Hotheaded Murderer
Coy Wayne Wesbrook went to visit his ex-wife one night in hopes of rebuilding their marriage. When he arrived at her home he walked into a party she was throwing with three other men in attendance. A while into the party Wesbrook noticed his wife and two of the men had disappeared. He entered the bedroom looking for them and found them having a threesome. Westbrook went into a murderous rage. He went to his truck, pulled out his hunting rifle and fatally shot his ex-wife, her roommate and all three of the other men. This type of impulsive, hotheaded murder ranks as a level 6 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
16 Level 7: Mark David Chapman - Narcissistic Killer
Mark David Chapman is famously known for assassinating John Lennon. He was a huge Beatles fan and idolized Lennon specifically. However, he became angered at Lennon when he went on record saying things like the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.”
Chapman claimed he would listen to Lennon’s music and continually get angry with him for saying he didn’t believe in God. Chapman was planning the murder three months prior, and on December 8th, 1980 he shot John Lennon four times in the back as the musician was walking toward his apartment.
When a parole board asked Chapman why he did it he replied “attention, bottom line.” This type of narcissistic motive behind a murder ranks as a level 7 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
15 Level 8: George Hennard - Ignited Rage Murderer
Before the horrific Orlando nightclub shooting, the Luby’s massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in the US by a single shooter. The massacre was orchestrated by a man named George Hennard. He was said to be a hater of women, blacks, hispanics and gays. On October 16, 1991 Hennard crashed his truck into the window of a Luby’s Cafeteria in Kileen, Texas. He began to open fire on patrons and staff killing 23 people and injuring 27 before killing himself.
During the shooting Hennard was reportedly yelling about all woman being vipers and how this was his payback. He allegedly called two women “bitch” before shooting them. Hennard was known to have a history of rage and when that rage was ignited it had deadly consequences. Murderers who kill in this manor are ranked as a level 8 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
14 Level 9: Betty Broderick - Jealous Psychopathic Murderer
Betty Broderick was a suburban housewife with a perfect husband and four perfect children. However, overtime that perfect life started to become unhinged when Broderick found out her husband, Dan had been having an affair. The two got divorced and custody of the four children was granted to Dan. Betty went crazy on her ex, leaving obscene voicemails, ignoring restraining orders, vandalizing his property and even driving her car though the front door of his house where her own children were.
Betty was apparently thrown over the edge when Dan decided to get remarried to a much younger beautiful woman. She snuck into the couples home and shot them both dead. During the court case, a doctor for the persecution believed Betty had a personality disorder causing her psychopathic behaviour. Jealous lovers with psychopathic features are ranked as a level 9 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
13 Level 10: Susan Smith - Egocentric Killer
Eyes were glued to the news back in 1994 when mother of two Susan Smith made dramatic pleas to news cameras. She claimed her car had been hijacked with her three-year-old and one-year-old sons still inside of it.
Following a thorough investigation into the crime, Smith eventually admitted to letting her car roll into a nearby lake with the boys inside. A man turned out to be her motivation according to reports. She had fallen in love with a wealthy man who did not want kids and so she decided to get rid of her own to be with him.
Susan Smith murdered her sons because they were in the way of her happily ever after. Egocentric murderers rank as a level 10 on Michael Stone’s Scale of Evil.
12 Level 11: Jeffrey MacDonald - Psychopathic Egocentric Killer
Jeffrey MacDonald had a beautiful family and everything going for him. His wife Colette was pregnant with their third child. In 1970, that beautiful family was found brutally murdered in a home invasion.
MacDonald was found in the attack as well, he was wounded but still alive. Autopsy reports showed his pregnant wife was clubbed repeatedly, stabbed 16 times with a knife and 21 times with an ice pick. His five-year-old daughter was clubbed in the head and stabbed in the neck with a knife at least 8 times. His two-year-old daughter was stabbed 33 times with a knife and 15 times with an ice pick.
MacDonald blamed the murders on Charles Manson-type followers. However, the investigation pointed straight to him. His motive prosecutors argued was an extra-marital affair. These savage murders to remove his own family from his life show signs of psychopathy. Psychopathic murderers who kill loved ones in the way rank as a level 11 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
11 Level 12: Ervil LeBaron - Power-hungry Psychopathic Killer
Ervil LeBaron was the leader of a polygamous Mormon fundamentalist group in the '70s. He ordered the killings of over 25 of his opponents in which he justified using the religious doctrine of "blood atonement.” This is a Mormon teaching that says some crimes are so awful that they cannot be forgiven and so the perpetrator should be killed and their blood should shed as a sacrificial offering.
LeBaron wanted anyone who didn’t support his leadership dead, including rival polygamous leaders and even family members. He was linked to the murders of his brothers and his own pregnant daughter when she wanted to leave the group. This type of power-hungry murderer ranks as a level 12 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
10 Level 13: Maksim Gelman - Rageful Psychopathic Killer
Maksim Gelman went on a stabbing spree in New York City back in 2011 that went on for 28 hours. He murdered four people and injured five all because his rage was ignited by a woman he wanted who didn’t want him back. His list of victims include that woman, Yelena Bulchenko, her mother, a pedestrian he ran over with a vehicle as well as his own stepfather.
During his trial Gelman was reportedly laughing and yelling at the judge as well as family members of the victims. The judge sentenced him to 200 years in prison calling him a “violent sociopath” as he sat in the courtroom showing no remorse. Psychopathic murderers ignited by rage are ranked as a level 13 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
9 Level 14: John List - Self-Centred Psychopathic Killer
John List lived as a fugitive for almost 18 years. He was married and living in Colorado when he was apprehended by the police after they received a tip. It turns out, a neighbour was watching America’s Most Wanted when the show profiled an unthinkable crime and the man who did it — John List.
In 1971 List methodically murdered his mother, wife and three teenage children by shooting them. He cited financial problems as the reasoning behind the murders. He said he was to either accept welfare or kill his family. This type of murder for self-benefit is ranked as a level 14 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
8 Level 15: Charles Manson - Cold-Blooded Spree Killer
Charles Manson is one of the most well-known crazies of all time. Over a period of five weeks, he and a band of followers he had recruited committed seven violent murders in California. Manson believed in what he called “Helter Skelter” — an impending apocalyptic race war. He thought killing rich, white residents in Hollywood would point fingers at African Americans and ignite a war between black and white. This war he imagined would then let he and his followers rise to take over the world. He brainwashed and manipulated his followers into having the same crazy thoughts as he and therefore having a violent band of killers to commit the crimes. This cold-blooded way of thinking and taking lives ranks as a level 15 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
7 Level 16: Karla Homolka - Repetitively Violent Psychopathic Murderer
Another well-known serial killer is Karla Homolka, who committed her crimes with husband, Paul Bernardo. Together the two raped and murdered at least three women, one being Homolka’s own 15-year-old sister.
When they were caught, Holmolka stated she had been abused by Bernardo and forced into committing the crimes. In exchange for information, she struck a plea deal with prosecutors only landing her 12 years in prison. However, when the trials and sentencing were finished videos of the crimes were found that revealed Homolka was a more willing participant than she let on.
In videos that were never released to the public, Homolka is allegedly seen sexually assaulting female victims as well as drugging victims. Since the plea deal had already been struck, the damning new evidence meant nothing. Homolka is now out of prison and living in Quebec with her new husband and three children. Psychopaths who commit multiple vicious acts rank as a level 16 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
6 Level 17: Ted Bundy - Sexually Perverse Serial Murderer
Ted Bundy referred to himself as “the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet,” and that he was. Between the years of 1974 and 1978 Bundy raped and murdered at least 30 young women and girls in the US. He was not only known for these crimes but for also being a necrophile. He would revisit his crime scenes and perform sexual acts on his deceased victims until their bodies rotted away.
Bundy decapitated at least 12 of his victims and even kept some of the heads in his apartment as mementos. He was executed by electrical chair in 1989. Even a member of his defence team called him “the very definition of heartless evil.” Sexually perverse serial killers rank as a level 17 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
5 Level 18: Royce Ziegler & Kimberly Trenor- Torture Murderers
Riley Ann Sawyer was a beautiful 2-year-old girl with a disastrous home life. Her teenage mother, Kimberly Trenor split with her father and later married Royce Ziegler. Ziegler believed corporal punishment was the only way to teach the toddler manners. One day the punishments took a deadly turn, in a videotaped confession Trenor admitted Ziegler had picked her daughter up by the hair and threw her across the room into a wall.
Following that, the two tortured her by beating her with belts and then held her underwater until she was dead. “A case of discipline that went too far,” is what Trenor called it. Murderers who torture their victims before killing them rank as a level 18 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
4 Level 19: Original Night Stalker - Terror-Driven Psychopathic Killers
The most unsettling part about this level 19 killer? He has never been caught, despite having committed 50 rapes and 12 murders in California from 1978-1986. All of his crimes have been linked by DNA evidence. Several suspects have been cleared through alibis and DNA. Not only is rape one of his motivations, terror seems to be what he thrives on.
Following attacks, he was known to phone some of his victims saying things like, “Merry Christmas, it’s me again!” or “I am going to hit tonight,” or “gonna kill you.” This killers way of instilling terror into his victims ranks him as a level 19 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
3 Level 20: Joseph Kallinger - Schizophrenic Torture-Murderer
Joseph Kallinger was a man known for a history of domestic violence against two different wives and five children. At one point, three of his children went to police with their claims of abuse and Kallinger was arrested. While in prison he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Following his release from jail he and his 15-year-old son went on a crime spree robbing, assaulting and sexually abusing four families as well as murdering three people. Their final attack was on a family in New Jersey. They entered their home with a gun and a knife and tied up three of the home’s residents. As more of the residents arrived home, Kallinger and his son overtook them as well, forcing them to strip naked and then binding them with appliance cords.
When one of the victims scolded him for his actions, Kallinger slit her throat and made the others watch. Joseph Kallinger was a schizophrenic who used torture as a primary motive for his crimes. This type of killer ranks as a level 20 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
2 Level 21: Cameron Hooker - Extreme Torturist
Cameron Hooker and his wife kidnapped and held 24-year-old Colleen Stan as a slave for over seven years. They abducted her when she got into their van hitchhiking. Hooker put a knife to her throat drove her to their home. When they arrived Stan was strung by the hands and feet, beaten and then left blindfolded and suspended while Hooker and his wife had sex beneath her.
Stan was kept in a wooden box that prevented light, sound and fresh air for 23 hours a day until Hooker gave her a contract to sign. The contract stated Stan would be their slave for life. Hooker brainwashed her into thinking she was being watched by an organization called “The Company” and they would harm her and her family if she ever tried to escape.
Stan was to call Hooker “master” and only talk when she had permission. He orally raped her, sodomized her and she slaved daily to take care of the home and the Hooker’s children. At one point, he had felt he was giving his slave too much freedom forced her back into the wooden box for 23 hours a day for three long years.
Hooker’s wife eventually hit a breaking point when he wanted Stan to become his second wife. She went to police and Stan was finally free after seven years of extreme torture. Psychopaths who do not kill their victims, but subject them to extreme violence rank as a level 21 on Micael Stone’s scale of evil.
1 Level 22: Jeffrey Dahmer - Sexually Motivated Torture- Murderer
According to Michael Stone’s scale of evil, Jeffrey Dahmer is as evil as they get. He raped, murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys from 1978-1991. Many of his murders also included necrophilia and cannibalism. As an adolescent Dahmer discovered he was gay however never told any of his family members. He admitted to having fantasies of sexual dominance which gradually became combined with fantasies of dissection.
Dahmer would scope out most of his victims at gay bars, bringing them home, having sex with them, drugging them and then strangling them. He would sometimes keep his victims dead bodies for up to a week before dismembering them and keeping some body parts for sexual stimulation. Some of the body parts he would throw away, some he would keep preserved and some he would even eat.
Eventually, Dahmer picked the wrong victim and a man who he was attempting to murder escaped and went to the police. When his apartment was searched the medical examiner described it as more of a personal museum than a crime scene. Investigators found four severed heads, seven skulls, two hearts, a torso, a bag of human organs, two entire skeletons, a set of hands, two penises and 74 Polaroid photos detailing the dismemberment of Dahmer’s victims. Murderers who torture and kill with a sexually motivating factor rank as the highest level 22 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.