Pretty much the worst thing an individual can do is to take the life of another human being. There are times when we might consider this act to be justified; in self-defense, in defense of others, during war, or perhaps even mercy killings and euthanasia. But to do it for personal gain or pleasure is murder. Murder is abhorrent and ghastly, so much so that in some places it can be punishable by death itself. But perhaps the most terrifying aspect of murder is how murderers themselves are often, well, bland. They are unremarkable people who found themselves in circumstances where they either saw a personal benefit in murder or just completely lost control of their emotions and killed another human. It makes you think that anybody is capable of murder in the right (or, I suppose, wrong) circumstance. Even you.
Then there are the other types of murderers. The serial killers, the perverted savages, the genocidal psychopaths. These people are different. They are, what we most often call, monsters. And yet, mundane nobodies and callous monsters all had lives before they became murderers. They had friends, families, lovers. They were children. It’s chilling to think about and even more chilling to be confronted with visual evidence of it. In this list we will see 15 photos of murderers hanging around with people who had no idea who they truly were.
Note: Because this list deals with murderers, some of the information here may disturb some readers. (Though the photos are not disturbing in and of themselves.)
15. Jodi Arias
While not quite at the level of the Simpson trial, the trial of Jodi Arias did receive a lot of media attention in 2013. Arias was charged with and eventually convicted of the murder of Travis Alexander, her boyfriend at the time. Alexander died from 27-29 stab wounds and a gunshot to the head. Arias testified that she killed Alexander in self-defense, but the jury ultimately found this argument to be unconvincing. Arias killed Alexander in 2008, less than two years after they had met. They had an on-again-off-again relationship and Arias appeared to be obsessed with him. This photo is of them in happier times, but more chilling are the photos Arias took of Alexander in the shower, moments before she killed him.
14. Charles Manson
Most of Manson’s followers were troubled mentally and or emotionally. Manson won people over with his charisma and philosophies. While Manson is not believed to have successfully murdered anybody himself (though he did shoot one man before the Tate-LaBianca murders), he was in charge of ‘the Family’ and directed them to carry out murders. Quite why he did this is not exactly clear. Manson seemed to be trying to somehow usher in an apocalyptic race war he called “Helter Skelter”, as he believed it was foretold in the Beatles song of the same name. Before he formed the Family, Manson had spent half of his 32 years in prisons or institutions for crimes such as theft, pimping, and forgery. He had a bad childhood and was not well-educated. His insane and malevolent philosophies and the devotion and brutality of his followers have made many fascinated with Manson. In this photo we see a young Manson with his girlfriend; possibly his future first wife Rosalie. Was he an insane criminal at this point? Or just a petty auto thief? And when did he become the vicious pseudo-intellectual/spiritualist that he became?
13. Ian Brady
Ian Brady has been in the news recently because he finally died. He died in a high security psychiatric hospital on May 15, of this year. Brady, along with Myra Hindley, was responsible for the Moors Murders, a series of five murders between July 1963 and October 1965. The victims were Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey, and Edward Evans. All were children between the ages of 10 and 17 and at least four of them were sexually assaulted. They were called ‘the Moors Murders’ because they occurred on the Moors around Manchester, specifically Saddleworth Moor. The murders shocked, disgusted, and terrified Britain. The judge who oversaw their case described Brady and Hindley in his closing remarks as “two sadistic killers of the utmost depravity”. In this photo, a teenaged Brady is holding the child of a family friend of his foster parents in Glasgow. Can you imagine how the parents of that child felt when they found out about the Moors Murders years later?
12. OJ Simpson
Well, if you don’t know who OJ Simpson is by now, I really don’t know where you’ve been. Orenthal James Simpson was the accused in the “Trial of the Century” when he was charged with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman. The trial had everything from celebrity hysteria, to a (low-speed) car chase, to providing a window into complicated race relations in America. Simpson was acquitted of the murders, so perhaps you could argue that he does not belong here. But you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t believe Simpson is guilty and that he was acquitted largely because a mostly black jury saw it as a way of getting revenge on a judicial system that unfairly imprisons African-Americans at disproportionately high rates. In any event, Simpson was found guilty of the murders in a civil case and is currently serving time for armed robbery and kidnapping. Simpson was famous as an actor, appearing in such films as The Towering Inferno and the Naked Gun series. But before any of that, he was a successful running back in the NFL. Here we see him hanging out with his Buffalo Bills teammates.
11. Ted Bundy
Hollywood loves to portray suave, sophisticated, charismatic, and handsome serial killers. In actuality, most serial killers are shy, unkempt, socially awkward weirdos. Ted Bundy, however, is perhaps the archetype for The American Psycho style killer. Bundy was considered handsome and charming by many. He was also, as described by Polly Nelson, “the very definition of heartless evil”. And she should know; Nelson was Bundy’s own defense attorney! Bundy wasn’t an idiot either. He was unusually calculating and organized in his murders and his evasion of law enforcement. He once had a promising law career and/or career in the Republican Party. We know that Bundy murdered at least 30 women and girls in the 1970’s in seven different states. Apart from sexually assaulting nearly all his victims, Bundy was also a kidnapper, burglar, and necrophiliac. Bundy even escaped from prison twice, with the sole purpose of murdering some more. Bundy eventually got married –while on death row– to Carole Anne Boone and possibly fathered her daughter. Bundy was on death row for years because of his numerous appeals, but Boone eventually divorced him, presumably after he confessed to 30 murders. Bundy was executed in 1989.
10. Osama bin Laden
It is not known for certain if Osama bin Laden ever himself directly killed another human being. But as the founder and leader of Al-Qaeda, bin Laden is ultimately responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks as well as numerous other terrorist attacks. When we think of bin Laden, we often think of a tall, spindly, disheveled man holed up in a bunker in Pakistan or a cave in Afghanistan. But this was not always so. Bin Laden’s father was a billionaire and bin Laden led a rather charmed life into his early adulthood. He traveled, attended university, and, as we can see here, practiced judo. But he was always a devout Sunni Muslim and his religious devotion clearly took an unhealthy turn. He joined the Mujaheddin resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It was there that he began to rise to prominence and develop a more radical and violent worldview.
9. Adnan Syed
For many of you, I’m sure it seems a travesty that Adnan Syed is included in a list alongside Joseph Stalin and Jeffrey Dahmer. But despite the conclusions of legions of Serial listeners, Adnan Syed is still in prison. Syed was convicted of the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Here we see them together at prom. The Lee murder case didn’t get much attention outside of Baltimore until 2014, when it became the subject of the Serial Podcast. The podcast brought up and discussed the many details of the case that seem incongruent or off in some way. In 2016, Syed was granted a retrial on the basis that his initial attorney “rendered ineffective assistance”. For all the approval this ruling was met with, let’s not forget the Lee family who are still grieving and will always grieve. They hated the attention Serial brought to the case and are firm in their beliefs that Syed murdered their daughter.
8. Chris Benoit
Chris Benoit was an inspiration for many wrestlers and fans alike. Undersized for his profession and not being blessed with a lot of charisma or public speaking ability, Benoit rose through the ranks of professional wrestling via his hard work and amazing in-ring ability. He participated in countless top class matches, overcame multiple injuries including a serious neck injury and a slew of concussions, and his crowning achievement was winning the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XX in 2004. Just over three years later, however, it all ended. On June 24, 2007, Benoit hanged himself with his home weight machine. Two days earlier he had murdered his wife and son. He strangled them both to death. Benoit was well-liked and considered a soft-spoken ‘good guy’ in the locker room. That he murdered his own family was as shocking as it was tragic. Benoit’s brain was shown to be extremely damaged and many believe this caused a type of paranoid insanity that spurred his heinous actions. In this photo, Benoit is with fellow pro wrestlers Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, and Dean Malenko.
7. Aileen Wuornos
Female serial killers are incredibly rare, but Aileen Wuornos is one such specimen. Wuornos is also believed by many to have been a psychopath. She never met her father who was convicted of sex crimes against children and hanged himself. Her mother abandoned her and she was raised by her grandparents. Her grandfather beat her and she became pregnant at 14, apparently by a friend of her grandfather’s. After all this, Wuornos dropped out of school, began working as a sex worker, committed thefts, and had problems with alcohol abuse. She killed seven men from 1989-90. She claimed they were all in self-defense and the men tried to r*pe her because she was a sex worker. Many of the men’s bodies were found in various states of undress. A jury ultimately found seven deaths to be too coincidental and she was convicted. She was executed in 2002. Before any of this, she was briefly married to Lewis Fell in 1976. Fell was 49 years older than Wuornos and their marriage was not good. It ended when Fell filed a restraining order after Wuornos hit him with a cane.
6. The Manson Family
In this photo we see the following people: from left to right front row: Danny DeCarlo, Jennifer Gentry, and Lynne Fromme; right back row: Catherine Share, Chuck Lovett, Mary Theresa Brunner, Cathy Gillies, Sandra Good, and Ruth Ann Morehouse. They are seen here at Spahn Ranch, the home of the Manson Family at the time of the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders. The Manson Family was a quasi-commune run by Charles Manson, a seemingly mad cult leader. In total, the Manson Family is responsible for eight murders. Nine if you count Sharon Tate’s unborn son. Tate was an accomplished actress, well known for her performance in The Valley of the Dolls. She was married to film director Roman Polanski. Lynette Fromme, while not tried for the initial murders, was imprisoned for 34 years for attempting to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford in 1975.
5. Joseph Stalin
As Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin was responsible for the deaths of millions. Apart from purging political enemies by sending them off to Gulags without due process –where many died– he also outright had people murdered. Stalin also caused massive famines (especially in Ukraine) with his policies. To Stalin, human life seemed utterly expendable and unimportant against his ostensible political ideology and personal ambitions. One wonders how such a man would treat his own family. Here we see him with his youngest daughter, Svetlana. He and Svetlana did not seem to have a great relationship. He sentenced her first serious boyfriend to ten years exile in the Arctic Circle and seemed to ferret her around various arranged marriages with the sons of other Communist Party bigwigs. Svetlana even defected to the U.S. in 1967. This photo is from 1935, so Stalin was already a murderer, but he would go on to kill many more. There aren’t any verifiable photos of Stalin as a young man with others, but there is this one in which he, and I’m just going to go ahead and say it, is disconcertingly handsome.
4. Idi Amin
During his time as President of Uganda, Idi Amin was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings. Idi Amin was the archetypal ridiculously self-aggrandizing African dictator. He gave himself the official title of “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular”…Yeah. Ethnic genocide committed by his troops (mostly against the Acholi and Lango ethnic groups) and allowing a hijacked airliner full of Israeli hostages asylum, turned the West against Amin. He was ousted from power in 1979 and lived the rest of his life in exile, dying in Saudi Arabia in 2003. Amin was rumored to have mutilated his wives and even to have eaten his political enemies, but this has never been proven. Here we see British sports journalist Ian Wooldridge play-boxing against Amin. Wooldridge, a respected journalist, probably regretted this photo from 1976.
3. Jeffrey Dahmer
Let’s put the cannibal guys back-to-back, why not? Unlike Amin, Jeffrey Dahmer was a confirmed cannibal. Dahmer killed 17 men and boys from 1978-1991, mostly in Wisconsin. He also sexually assaulted, r*ped, and dismembered his victims and in some of his later murders, Dahmer also engaged in necrophilia, cannibalism, and the preservation of body parts. So, yeah, the guy was a disgusting monster. It’s revolting to even think about him as being human. Dahmer had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, and a psychotic disorder, but crucially found to be legally sane at his trial. He was sentenced to life in prison, where he was murdered by a fellow inmate in 1994. What makes a man into a sexually perverted, murderous, cannibal? Who knows? Dahmer did describe his parents as having a tense marriage, but nothing particularly traumatic happened to him in his childhood. Here we see Dahmer with his childhood friend, Lee. Imagine finding out that your childhood friend grew up to become a cannibal?
2. Andrei Chikatilo
A few of Andrei Chikatilo’s nicknames are “The Butcher of Rostov”, “The Rostov Ripper”, and “The Red Ripper”. So, yeah, not a good guy. Chikatilo was a serial killer. And a horrifyingly prolific one at that. He sexually assaulted, murdered, and mutilated at least 52 women and children, mostly in and around the then-Soviet city of Rostov, though some were in modern day Ukraine and Uzbekistan, as well. Chikatilo confessed to 56 murders, was tried for 53, and convicted of 52. He was a teacher but had to resign after repeatedly sexually assaulting students. He then moved on to a terrifying string of assaults and murders from 1978 to 1990. He was tried in 1992 and executed in 1994. Despite all this, he had a wife and two children.
1. Adolf Hitler
Godwin’s Law states that if an internet discussion goes long enough, somebody will make a comparison to or otherwise mention Adolf Hitler. So it’s only fitting that we end this list with a man who many consider to be the very personification of evil. Apart from systematically murdering at least 5.5 million Jews and other victims as part of the Holocaust, Hitler’s Nazi Germany also killed an estimated 19.3 million civilians and prisoners of war, and over 29 million soldiers and civilians died in WWII, the deadliest conflict in human history, which Hitler initiated by invading Poland. Entire tomes have been written about what made Hitler Hitler and we will never know exactly how it happened. We do know that Hitler served with distinction in the German military in WWI, where we see him posing here (far right) with fellow soldiers. WWI saw the first widespread use of chemical warfare, which Hitler found abhorrent. As Fuhrer, he vowed to never use it…in combat. Of course, he had no reservations about using poison gas to murder millions of Jews and others in the death camps he created.
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