Sexual desire can make people do some pretty crazy things. Take the average romantic comedy, for example, where hapless lovers inevitably face their fears and travel across the country all on the whim of a random stranger who gave them an inviting glance. Of course, in these movies, typically, the characters meet up and live happily ever after, which is far less common in the real world. The sort of desires chased in reality is generally far less pure, with men and women alike acting wantonly for want of simple earthly pleasures that last only a few seconds.
But hey, nobody gets hurt, right? So who are we to judge? Well, that may be true with regard to what most people do to get their rocks off, but unfortunately, and in terrifying fashion, not all sexual desires were created equally. Some unlucky souls are unable to achieve gratification through normal means and need to unleash pure chaos on innocent victims to achieve the slightest excitement. Or at least that was Andrei Chikatilo’s excuse when asked how and why he killed some 55 people throughout Russia during the 1980s.
Nicknamed “The Butcher of Rostov” after the severity of his crimes and geographic region where they took place, Chikatilo murdered, mutilated, and desecrated the bodies of countless victims, solely because it was the only sexual thrill he found appealing. In the end, Chikatilo became quite possibly the most prolific serial killer in Russian history, with more proven deaths to his name than any other individual. For all the revolting details, keep reading our list of 15 terrifying facts about “The Butcher of Rostov,” Andrei Chikatilo.
15 He Was Raised In Severe Poverty
Born in Ukraine during the 1930s, Andrei Chikatilo was similar to most citizens under the Soviet regime in that he and his family were incredibly poor throughout most of his life. So terribly impoverished was the Chikatilo family that Andrei claimed his older brother was sold to neighbors to be killed and eaten, though it isn’t clear if this story was true or a mere fabrication. Either way, the young Chikatilo seemed to believe it, as his own family was so poor, eating a loved one to prevent starvation was a frighteningly real possibility. Repeatedly hearing this story at a young age could definitely warp a child’s mind and might explain some of his later actions. Compounding the family troubles was the fact Ukraine was going through a terrible famine at the time, meaning Chikatilo and his family may have gone hungry, regardless of how big their bank accounts were.
14 He Was Fired From Teaching Jobs For Abusing Children
Despite the many hardships Andrei Chikatilo faced in his youth, the young man showed a great aptitude for the little schooling he could afford. Perhaps as part of his legal defense, Chikatilo later claimed to have great difficulty with his memory, yet he nonetheless was the only student from his hometown to actually complete grade school, and he did so with reportedly “excellent” grades. Using that knowledge, Chikatilo decided to become a teacher, although he wasn’t a particularly good one.
Intelligent or not, Chikatilo’s meek nature meant he couldn’t control rambunctious youth, meaning his classes rarely featured any actual teaching. They did, however, give the vicious killer access to his first victims, as he soon began serially abusing both male and female students in the classroom or wherever he could get them alone on campus. Amazingly, it took a half dozen complaints before the school seemed to care, but once the numbers were too high to ignore, he was forced to either resign or get fired. More shockingly, this same general pattern happened at two separate schools.
13 He Lured Victims Into The Woods Near His Home And Killed Them
His teaching career over after repeat claims of abuse across several school districts rightfully got him blackballed from the industry, Andrei Chikatilo needed to find his victims outside of the workplace. He found these innocent souls not far from his own home, waiting for a bus that, for them, never came. Instead, these misguided individuals believed Chikatilo when he offered them rides, shortcuts, or various other products and services that made them follow him into the woods rather than simply stay put and wait for the bus. When alone and surrounded by nothing but trees, Chikatilo would make his attack, violently pouncing into action and choking the life out of them. In most cases, he also repeatedly stabbed his victims and cut out their eyeballs and other limbs to prevent identification and because it gave him a sick sexual thrill. Because of where the majority of his crimes took place, Chikatilo was also known as “The Forest Strip Killer.”
12 He Preyed On The Homeless And Mentally Challenged
While there are many differences between Russia (or the Soviet Union as it was known when Andrei Chikatilo terrorized the country) and the Western world, some basic rules of life are pretty much universal. For one, it’s almost never a good idea to follow a complete stranger into the woods, and people knew this well before vile men like Chikatilo gave the world harrowing reminders. However, there are certain types of people who would ignore this seemingly obvious warning, like homeless people looking for shelter or the mentally challenged, who simply don’t know any better. Chikatilo knew these people made for easier victims and also may have had some deep-seeded hatred for the homeless, later calling them “low-class elements” and claiming he wondered whether they had "the right to exist.” Apparently, in his own mind, the answer was that they didn't.
11 He Referred To Himself As A “Poisoned Wolf”
It’s almost impossible for most people to look past a serial killer's crimes and treat him or her like a human being, and rightfully so. The only way this sort of forgiveness can be attained is if they show genuine remorse for their crimes, something Andrei Chikatilo never quite did in a satisfactory manner. While he did often seem regretful and remorseful over his actions, 100% of the pity he felt was directed at himself. To Chikatilo, he had no choice but to sexually assault, murder, and mutilate dozens of people, describing himself as “a poisoned wolf” that had no control over his actions. Though he admitted he “must be destroyed” and “was a mistake of nature,” Chikatilo never expressed any sort of sorrow over his victims, essentially treating them all as symptoms of his own sorrow. With statements like this, it’s no wonder the families were vehement in demanding he face the death penalty, knowing he could never be reformed.
10 His Mother Was Verbally Abusive
It’s bad enough growing up extremely poor and hungry, but these weren’t the only issues facing Andrei Chikatilo and his family throughout his childhood. On top of that, they had to deal with the fact the family patriarch was drafted by the Soviet Army then captured and taken as a prisoner-of-war, leaving Chikatilo’s mother Anna a single parent. There’s no denying the situation must've been hard for Anna, yet this hardly justifies how abusive it made her, with both Andrei and his sister claiming she was harsh and unforgiving to them, beatings and verbal abuse constants in their household. Creating a vicious cycle, the family was also too poor to afford individual beds, forcing Andrei to sleep next to the same mother that terrified him in his waking hours. This likely contributed to his habit of chronic bedwetting, which Anna, in turn, beat and berated him for further.
9 Russian Police Captured Him Twice—And Let Him Go
When a killer like Andrei Chikatilo is on the loose for as long as he was, the citizens he was terrorizing naturally turned to the police force and demanded that they solve the horrible string of crimes he was committing. Indeed, Russian authorities were adamant about finding Chikatilo and trying him for what he had done, even managing to capture him for questioning at least twice during his spree. Unfortunately, things went wrong every time, and Chikatilo always walked a free man. The first time was shortly after his initial murder in 1978, yet there was no evidence to concretely connect him with the victim. Six years later, in 1984, Chikatilo was seen wandering around his latest crime scene trying to pick up underage women, and when arrested, police found weapons and rope in his briefcase. However, due to Chikatilo’s rare blood type, his DNA clearly didn’t match samples found on the scene, and he was again set free.
8 A (Partially) Innocent Man Was Executed For His Crimes
On paper, the case of Andrei Chikatilo probably looks pretty open and shut for any proponent of the death penalty. If any criminal deserves to be executed for his crimes, it’s a vicious killer who murdered senselessly and with reckless abandon, and that goes double should the victims be children, which many of Chikatilo’s were. That said, part of Chikatilo’s story could also be used as a pretty strong argument against capital punishment, in general, as early into his crime spree, an innocent man was executed for a murder the Butcher of Rostov had committed.
Aleksandr Kravchenko was a 25-year-old former felon, who had sexually assaulted and murdered a woman during his teens, a terrible crime in and of itself, yet one he had served his time for in Russian jail years before Chikatilo killed a child named "Yelena Zakotnova." Because Kravchenko had a record and was nearby, police coerced a confession out of him and decided he deserved to be executed because he was a repeat offender. Years later, however, Chikatilo would come clean about having committed that murder, meaning Russia most likely executed a man for a crime he didn’t commit.
7 Police Solved Thousands Of Unrelated Cases While Trying To Track Him Down
When a serial killer is on the loose and police efforts to stop them aren’t panning out, the public at large, generally and rightfully, becomes absolutely furious. In the case of Andrei Chikatilo, the Russian authorities were right there with the populace, working harder than ever to finally put this monster behind bars. While it ultimately took them 12 years after Chikatilo’s first murder to catch the guy, during that span, Russian police were bringing in record numbers of murders, sexual assaulters, and criminals of all kinds. Reportedly, more than 1,000 crimes were solved by officers attempting to track down the Butcher of Rostov, though all of them ultimately proved unrelated to Chikatilo. Even so, this meant other crimes were getting solved with such a frequency that Russia was somewhat becoming a safer place to live -- or at least it was on its way to doing so once the cops finally caught their worst adversary.
6 He Confessed To 55 Murders Over A 12-Year Span
A half dozen years after Andrei Chikatilo’s second arrest, police again observed him in the same general area his crimes were committed, looking disoriented and listless to a strongly suspicious degree. This time around, he was also covered in grass stains and what appeared to be blood, causing a police officer to ask for his ID. Though Chikatilo was literally caught red-handed, the police officer couldn’t arrest him until a body was found, which happened no less than a week later. Knowing Chikatilo’s address, police began tracking him and soon arrested him outside of a coffee shop near his home. Initially, Chikatilo denied any involvement with the murders, but he eventually confessed to it all in a meeting with a police psychiatrist. By Chikatilo’s count, he murdered 55 people, almost all of which he was soon convicted of committing.
5 He Claimed Impotence Drove Him To Murder
Looking at the crimes of Andrei Chikatilo, there's absolutely no excuse or justification for what the man had done. Senselessly murdering 50+ people is the sort of monstrous villainy most of humanity will simply never understand, and any attempts by Chikatilo at defending himself only serve to confuse us further. Confronted with what he had done, all Chikatilo could say was that he was driven to murder by his lifelong struggle with impotence. Apparently, Chikatilo could only achieve sexual satisfaction through violent acts, a fact he first learned at 17 years old when wrestling a friend’s younger sister to the ground. The sexual thrill grew stronger the more pain he inflicted, with violent murders giving him the greatest release. On top of being the only way he could experience sexual pleasure, Chikatilo also could've been motivated to kill when former girlfriends mocked his impotence, as murder gave back the feelings of power and masculinity the mockery had taken away.
4 He Desecrated His Victims' Bodies
Criminals on the run from the law have a dark and terrible tendency to escalate their crimes, and this trend is especially common with serial killers seeking a sexual thrill. Like a drug addict constantly taking larger doses of their poison, sadists like Andrei Chikatilo need to cause greater chaos with each kill in order to achieve satisfaction. Initially, Chikatilo didn’t even kill his victims, simply getting off on pinning them down and threatening them with strangulation. Soon, that became actual murder, and he discovered the joy experienced by repeatedly stabbing his deceased victim was greater than the murder itself. As time went on, those stabbings turned into desiccation, as Chikatilo found sexual pleasure in removing his victims' eyes, uteruses, and various other body parts. He also enjoyed biting and eating their bodies, truly making him a human butcher.
3 His Wife Never Suspected A Thing (And He Was Kinda Afraid Of Her)
Despite the sheer atrocity of his actions, Andrei Chikatilo somehow lived a relatively normal home life throughout his long and horrible crime spree. In 1963, he married a woman named "Feodosia," and despite his impotence, the couple managed to have two children through home-brewed in vitro fertilization. By the time of Chikatilo’s murders, the two had been together nearly two decades, their children having reached the early teenage years. However, despite how close they must've been, Feodosia later claimed complete shock when Chikatilo was arrested, saying she never once suspected a thing. According to police who interviewed the couple, Chikatilo almost seemed a little bit afraid of his wife, appearing guilty and pathetic as she yelled at him after discovering what he had done. Though authorities initially believed this story wasn’t believable, it later became clear the couple didn’t even sleep in the same bed and were far less close than they appeared. Unsurprisingly, Feodosia and the kids completely disappeared from Chikatilo’s life upon his incarceration.
2 His Bizarre Behavior In Court Failed To Win An Insanity Defense
Having confessed to 55 murders, most of which the police were easily able to confirm, Andrei Chikatilo’s fate was quite clear from the moment he was captured. It was unlikely a judge would take pity and spare him the death penalty unless he happened to somehow win an insanity plea. This was heavily unlikely once a court-appointed psychiatrist deemed him competent, so Chikatilo took matters into his own hands in getting his judge to declare him insane. In the beginning, this simply meant swearing at court clerks and screaming his lungs out, followed by bizarre claims that he was pregnant and making demands related to prenatal care. When that didn’t work, Chikatilo took all his clothes off and began yelling about how he had “battled the Assyrian mafia.” By then, authorities decided it was obvious he was simply faking to save himself from the death penalty, yet this tactic ultimately proved unsuccessful.
1 He Was Executed For His Crimes
After all that he had done, the trial of Andrei Chikatilo was essentially a formality. It was a virtual inevitability from the moment he confessed to 55 murders that the Butcher of Rostov would meet execution for what he had done, and indeed, this is the fate he met on Valentine’s Day in 1994. At the time, the only method of execution in Russia was the firing squad, meaning Chikatilo met his fate via a bullet to the head. Considering what he did to his victims, some argued this was almost Chikatilo getting off easy. A relative of one of the people he killed allegedly wished courts let the families of his victims take care of things, suggesting they would “tear him apart” in the same way he had done to their innocent loved ones. Of course, being normal humans of sane mind, Chikatilo’s victims' families would've never been able to truly match his menace.
Sources: LA Times, New York Times, New York Daily News, The Guardian