Serial killers are terrifying. And fascinating. For some reason we all have a morbid obsession with the twisted minds and actions of serial killers. It is almost as if we crave the inevitable nightmares after a long evening of digging through a dozen different Wikipedia pages on the most sickening examples of humankind. It must be the same kind of desire for fear and anxiety that forces us to sit through two hours of yet another Paranormal Activity movie. Seriously, if you don’t feel at least a little bit uneasy after reading about Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson, then there is probably something deeply, deeply wrong with you.
But even more terrifying than your standard hack ‘n’ slash serial killer, is the arrogant psychotic who taunts the public while on the loose. The kind of sick lunatic that gets off on harassing the police who are trying to hunt him down. Oftentimes, these taunts lead to the murderer’s arrest. Thank god. But sometimes they are just too clever and too deranged, and despite their mockery, they still roam free. We’ve compiled a list of the most horrifying ways that killers have taunted the police. And just in case you were worried about sleeping tonight — some of these bloodthirsty maniacs are still out there.
15. Murderer Of Dorothy Jane Scott – Called His Victim’s Family Every Single Week
On May 28, 1980, in Anaheim, California, Dorothy Jane Scott was abducted after driving her co-worker, who had been bitten by a spider, to the emergency room. For the next four years, Dorothy’s mother, Vera, received phone calls every single Wednesday from a man who claimed to have kidnapped or killed Dorothy. While police installed a recorder at Vera’s residence, they were never able to trace the call because the man did not stay on the line long enough.
It seems likely that the murderer was the same unidentified man who stalked Dorothy prior to her abduction, and even called her at work, expressing his love for her. He would also, occasionally, threaten to kill her. After Dorothy’s body was found in August of 1984, the killer resumed his phone calls to her family, but was never identified or caught, leaving the police and her family both haunted and baffled by the disturbing crime.
14. The Beast Of Birkenshaw – Gave An Officer A Lift In Dead Family’s Car
Peter Manuel was a serial killer who murdered at least eight people in the late 1950s in southern Scotland. Prior to his arrest, the media nicknamed him the Beast of Birkenshaw. On New Year’s Day of 1958, Manuel entered the home of Peter, Doris, and Michael Smart, and shot all three family members dead. He then lived in their house for almost a week. During that time, he used their car to give a police officer a lift. That police officer was investigating the disappearance of a woman named Isabelle Cooke, who just so happened to be Manuel’s previous victim! No joke! He even went so far as to tell the cop that he believed the police were looking in the wrong place for Cooke. Imagine how that officer must have felt when he realized he spent time in the car of a dead family with that dead family’s murderer while investigating that same murderer. Crazy.
13. Jack The Ripper – The “From Hell” Letter
Jack the Ripper is probably the most famous serial killer in history. The Ripper was never caught and is thought to have murdered at least five prostitutes, if not more, in London in the late 1880s.
On October 16, 1888, a letter was received by George Lusk, the chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee – a group of volunteers who patrolled the streets in the Whitechapel area, hoping to catch Jack the Ripper. The letter read:
I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer
Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk”
12. Washington Snipers – The Tarot Card Of Death
Do you remember this case? It was insane and terrifying and all over the news. For three weeks in 2002, a sniper targeted random victims in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Ten people died and three were seriously injured. It was a media circus that only ended when the two men responsible were arrested on October 24 to the relief of everyone.
And as if randomly shooting people at gas stations wasn’t scary enough, the sniper pair left menacing messages at some of the crime scenes. One included the death tarot card and a note that instructed the police to “call me God” and demanded a ransom of ten million dollars. One of the letters concluded with an ominous warning: “PS – Your children are not safe,” which was not an idle threat. A few days earlier a thirteen year old boy was shot in the stomach, although he was one of the few survivors of the snipers.
11. Hillside Stranglers – Applied For Jobs With The Police While Committing The Murders
Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono Jr. were serial killing cousins who strangled and raped twelve women in Los Angeles between 1977 and 1979. While they were actively killing, the pair, and especially Bianchi, taunted the police with their crimes. Not only did the cousins specifically leave many of the bodies near police stations, but Bianchi applied for multiple law enforcement jobs while actively committing murder. Along the way, the strangler managed to befriend numerous members of the LAPD and even rode along with them while they were out looking for the killer – unaware of the fact that he was sitting right beside them!
Finally, in 1979, Bianchi and Buono were arrested after failing to lure their next potential victim to an abandoned house. It must have been a bit of a surprise for the officers who showed up to the scene, only to find their ride along buddy in handcuffs, guilty of at least a dozen murders.
10. Zodiac Killer – Sent Unsolvable Codes To The Police
The Zodiac Killer is probably second only to Jack the Ripper as far as famous serial killers go. He was active in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and claimed to have killed 37 people, although only five have been confirmed with an another two wounded. Over the course of his murderous career, the Zodiac Killer sent numerous letters and cards to the media and to the police, many of which openly mocked law enforcement for their inability to catch him. One letter even claimed that two policemen talked to him three minutes after one of his murders, but failed to identify him as the culprit.
Notably, four letters included codes, which the author claimed would help lead police to him. One stated, “My name is…” and was followed by 13 symbols. Others were much longer. However, only one of these ciphers has been definitively solved to this day. The other three have yet to be cracked and the Zodiac Killer has never been caught.
9. Son Of Sam – Left A Letter By His Victims
David Berkowitz, who was also known as the .44 Caliber Killer and, most famously, the Son of Sam, terrorized New York City from 1976 to 1977 with a spree of shootings that left six people dead and seven more injured.
At one of the crime scenes, near the bodies of two of his victims, Berkowitz left a letter addressed to NYPD Captain Joseph Borrelli. In it, Berkowitz claimed to love hunting people, which he did in order to feed someone he called Sam. He also taunted to the police, telling them that he would be back to kill more. The letter also instructed them to “shoot to kill or else.”
When the Son of Sam was arrested in August of 1977, he told police he murdered at the behest of a demon which lived in his neighbor’s dog. Years later, he changed his confession, claiming he was part of a Satanic cult that organized the killings as part of a sick ritual. These claims have never been proven.
8. Rory Enrique Conde – Left A Message On A Victim
Rory Enrique Conde is currently sitting on death row for murdering six prostitutes in Florida between September of 1994 and January of 1995. His first victim was Lazaro Comesana, a cross dressing male prostitute. After his arrest, Conde stated that he killed Comesana after finding out he was a man while they were getting intimate.
One of the most disturbing details of Conde’s crimes was the message he left written on the back and buttocks of Charity Nava, his third victim. The message read: “THIRD! I will call Dwight Chan 10. See if you can catch me.” Not only did the message taunt police and appear to reference a local news anchor, but Conde added smiley faces and replaced the word “see” with an illustration of a pair of eyes. Something about the childish nature of the message makes it even more disturbing.
7. The Lipstick Killer – Pleaded To Be Stopped
On December 10, 1945, the bloodied body of Frances Brown was found in her apartment. She had been both shot and stabbed. While the scene was horrific in its own right, a message scrawled in lipstick on the wall of the crime scene haunted police. It read:
Sake catch me
before I kill more
I cannot control myself”
This message led the police to nickname the murderer “the Lipstick Killer.”
In 1946, a teenager named William Heirens was arrested for Brown’s murder, as well as two others. However, his confession came after six days of interrogation, beatings, and torment at the hands of the police. Eventually Heirens was tried and convicted of the trio of killings, but many strongly doubt he is the real perpetrator and that the true killer is still out there. Heirens passed away in 2012, having spent 65 years in prison, likely for crimes that someone else committed.
6. Axeman Of New Orleans – Demanded Jazz
If it weren’t for the whole “axe murderer slaughtering entire households” aspect of this case, it would almost be comical. For two years between 1918 and 1919 in New Orleans, someone broke into houses in the middle of the night and killed people with their own axes. Strangely enough, the killer seemed to prefer the wives of Italian grocers, but men and non-Italians were also among his list of victims.
On March 13, 1919, a New Orleans newspaper received a letter from someone claiming to be the axe murderer. The author mocked the police, calling the way they handled the investigation “utterly stupid.” He also issued an ultimatum to the people of New Orleans, claiming that he would be visiting the city at 12:15 on Tuesday, but “that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing.”
That’s right. A serial axe murderer told an entire city to play jazz music or he would kill them. And he was true to his word. New Orleans was reportedly full of jazz that evening and no one was killed!
5. The Original Night Stalker – Poetry And Phone Calls
The Original Night Stalker is, without a doubt, one of the scariest serial killers in American history. He is also known as the East Area Rapist, the Diamond Knot Killer, and the Golden State Killer, which should give you a pretty good idea about what kind of horrors this sub-human was prone to. Most terrifying of all is the fact that he was never caught, despite DNA evidence which has linked this one individual to fifty rapes and twelve murders in California in the 1970s and 1980s.
On top of harassing several of his previous victims with phone calls, the East Area Rapist also called police on December 10, 1977, to inform them that he would be making an attack on Watt Avenue in Sacramento that night. At 2:30 am, police pursued a masked man on a bicycle, but he eluded them. The next day, the editor of the Sacramento Bee was sent a poem entitled “Excitement’s Crave” by someone claiming to be the rapist.
4. The Town Of Skidmore, Missouri – Strength In Numbers
On July 10, 1981 a resident of Skidmore, Missouri named Ken McElroy was shot to death while sitting in his pickup truck. Of the 46 potential witnesses, only his wife, Trena, claimed to be able to identify the shooter. In the end no charges were ever laid, despite an extensive investigation by the FBI.
During his tumultuous lifetime, McElroy was accused of dozens of crimes, ranging from burglary to child molestation to arson. He was widely known as the town bully and was even on trial for attempted murder at the time of his death for shooting an elderly storeowner in the neck. He was viewed as such a threat by the community that the townspeople held multiple meetings to decide the best way to protect themselves from McElroy.
3. BTK Killer – Sent Letters Detailing His Crimes
Dennis Rader, a.k.a. the BTK Killer, murdered at least ten people between 1974 and 1991. His signature modus operandi was to bind, torture, and kill his victims, leading to the BTK moniker. For years, Rader sent many letters to police and to the media, taunting them with intimate details of his crimes – details that only the killer could know. Additionally, his communications often discussed murders committed by others which he commended for their crimes.
In 2004, after a decade of silence, Rader resumed his letter-writing campaign, claiming responsibility for the murder of Vicki Wergerle in 1986. Previously, Wergerle’s murder had not been definitively linked to the BTK Killer, but Rader included a photo of the crime scene as well as a photocopy of his victim’s driver’s license, which he had stolen, proving that he was her killer. Unfortunately for Rader, and fortunately for everyone else, these new letters ultimately led to his arrest in 2005.
2. Israel Keyes – Taunts Police From Beyond The Grave
Israel Keyes is probably not a name you are familiar with, but he was one of the most methodical and intelligent serial killers to have been ever been caught. Keyes went to great lengths to avoid detection, often by flying to one state, renting a car to drive to another state, picking a stranger at random to murder, and using supplies he had stashed years previous to commit the deed. Sometimes he would even bury the body in an entirely different state!
Keyes was arrested in 2012, confessed to a number of murders, but only in vague details, then committed suicide in prison before the police could extract anymore information from him. While police believe he killed upwards of eleven people, only three have been identified. Some of his confessions include details such as unnamed couple, whom he killed in Washington after abducting them from a nearby state. Afterwards he buried them near a valley. That’s it. That’s all he gave. And now, with Keyes dead, police are struggling to identify and solve almost a dozen murders!
1. The Unabomber – Published His Manifesto In The New York Times
You’ve probably heard of the Unabomber, whose real name is Ted Kaczynski. He was a domestic terrorist who mailed or hand-delivered bombs for almost twenty years as a way to raise awareness against the dangers of modern technology and industrialization. Between 1978 and 1995, Kaczynski killed three people and hurt 23 others by detonating fourteen bombs across America. Two others were defused before they injured or killed anyone.
In 1995, the Unabomber contacted the New York Times, promising to stop his bombing campaign if they published his manifesto which he titled Industrial Society and Its Future. Fortunately, this was his downfall, for once it was published, Kaczynski’s brother and sister-in-law recognized his writing and tipped off the FBI.
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