True evil walks among us, and it’s the people on this list who prove it. The “Gradations of Evil Scale” was developed by a forensic psychiatrist named Dr. Michael Stone. Stone has examined the crimes and personalities of some of history’s most well-known murderers and placed them on this scale of evil. You might recognize Stone’s name if you’ve ever watched the television show, Most Evil on Investigation Discovery.
The 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 the killers are not actually psychopathic. Levels 10-17 deal with murderers who have a degree of psychopathy like manipulativeness, deceitfulness and lack of empathy. Levels 18-22 deal with those who are truly psychopathic, committing sexual and/or serial homicide as well as torture.
This list is all about ranking some of the world’s most notorious killers to put into perspective how evil they really are. Crimes rank from remorseful self-defence murders, to stomach-churning cannibalism and all the way to sexually perverse torture killings. A few names you’ll probably recognize include, Aileen Wuornos, Albert Fish and John Wayne Gacy. Warning, prepare yourselves, there are disturbing details ahead.
22 Level 1: Faith Martin - Self Defence
26-year-old, Faith Martin was living in a nightmare with her boyfriend, Willie Arrington. According to Martin, Arrington had been abusive with her in the past and one night the violence took a horrific turn.
During an argument, Arrington began punching and choking Martin. She was sure she was going to be killed, and so she ran to the kitchen to grab a knife to defend herself. Arrington continued to chase her, slamming her into a wall and pushing her to the ground. In an attempt to protect herself, Martin inflicted a single stab wound to her boyfriend which pierced his aorta.
Martin was initially charged with first-degree murder, but was acquitted after over a year in prison. Many witnesses testified that Arrington was an abusive and violent man whose rage couldn’t be controlled.
Killing in self-defence like Martin had is ranked as a level 1 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
21 Level 2: Jean Harris - Jealous Lover
Don’t mess with a woman scorned! Jean Harris and well-known cardiologist Herman Tarnower were in a relationship for 14 years. Tarnower treated his lady like gold, showering her with gifts and exotic vacations. Unfortunately, none of this could make up for the fact that he was a serial cheater who had multiple affairs that Harris was aware of.
Over the years Harris became addicted to prescription medication. While she was popping pills, her lover met a woman 30 years his junior who he began yet another affair with. This affair was unlike the others, this one really got under Harris’ skin to the point that she drove to Tarnower’s house with a revolver. She claimed her original intent was to commit suicide, but when she arrived at his house and saw his mistress’ lingerie in the bedroom she snapped. An argument ensued which led to Harris shooting Tarnower four times.
Jealous lovers who commit impulsive murders are ranked as a level 2 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
20 Level 3: Susan Atkins - Killer’s Companion
Susan Atkins was a member of the Charles Manson “Family” – a band of young people who followed the notorious cult leader to help commit the murders of nine individuals over the period of five weeks in 1969. Followers like Atkins were said to be brainwashed by Manson while committing the murders.
Atkins was convicted for her participation in eight Manson murders. While in jail she bragged of each murder saying she even tasted one of her victims’ blood. Despite other followers claiming she was exaggerating her involvement in the murders, and forensic evidence suggesting the same, she stuck to her story. Years later, she eventually claimed she didn’t actually kill anyone. Too little, too late. Atkins was initially sentenced to death, but that sentence ended up being reduced to life in prison.
As a willing companion to murder, Atkins ranks as a level 3 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
19 Level 4: Jose Elizondo - Provoked Self-Defence
Jose Elizondo went out with his wife and brother to a nightclub. At some point during the night, the three of them got into an argument with the owner of the club and security personnel. The altercation got pretty heated and so Elizondo escaped outside to his truck. The owner of the nightclub followed him out armed with a gun. Elizondo also grabbed a handgun from his truck and made a life-changing decision to pull the trigger, killing the club owner. He claimed self-defence but was charged with murder and sentenced to 25 years. His wife and brother also ended up being charged.
In this case, yes, Elizondo may have been acting in self-defence. But, the altercation that ensued at the nightclub provoked the attack in the first place. Killers who provoke their own self-defence kill rank as a level 4 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
18 Level 5: Martha Ann Johnson - Traumatized Killer
Now this case is a doozy. Despite the unthinkable scale of this case, the killer is only ranked at a level 5, but for a very specific reason. Martha Ann Johnson was on her third marriage and the mother to four children. Her marriage was allegedly very volatile and full of problems. Mysteriously, starting in 1977, one by one her young children began dying. Two of the deaths were ruled as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and one of the deaths due to a seizure. Her final child’s death caught the attention of police because it was ruled as asphyxia.
Johnson was arrested and eventually confessed to killing all four of her children. Investigators discovered a pattern: seven to ten days after having altercations with her husband is when Johnson would commit the acts. She would kill her young children by rolling her 250-pound body on them as they slept. She claimed her motive was to punish her husband.
Johnson is rated a level 5 on the scale of evil because she is seen as a traumatized person which lead to her killing. She does not seem to exhibit classic psychopathic traits and showed remorse for her acts.
17 Level 6: Yolanda Pena - Hotheaded Murderer
Yolanda Pena should have never become a mother – she was a hothead. She had two daughters, a 12-year-old whom she had with a husband and a three-year-old who was the product of an extramarital affair. She’d always had a temper when it came to her toddler because it was the affair that produced her which ended her marriage. One day, Pena’s hotheaded anger lead her to torture and kill her younger daughter. According to her older daughter as a witness, Pena first poured boiling water onto the child, then proceeded to beat her in the head with a high-heeled shoe. She then stuffed stockings into her mouth, tied her up and left her to die in a plastic garbage bin.
It seems a simple tantrum could have triggered the hotheaded murderer in Yolanda Pena. This type of anger-driven and impulsive act is ranked as a level 6 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
16 Level 7: Armin Meiwes - Narcissistic Killer
Beware, a strong stomach is needed to continue reading this next entry…
Armin Meiws was a man with an odd, but not unheard of fetish — cannibalism. Meiws actually went so far as to post an ad on the internet for a willing volunteer to be slaughtered and consumed. And, believe it or not, he got a reply and found a ready male participant. Meiws reportedly never forced his victim to do anything he didn’t want to do. The two made a videotape showcasing Meiws amputating his willing victim’s genitals, cooking them and eating them. Once his victim was dead, Miews stored the body parts in a freezer and ate them over the next 10 months. On a less disgusting note, during his time in prison, Meiws has since become a vegetarian and expressed regret for his actions.
Since he killed in the name of his own fetish, Meiws is considered to be a narcissistic murderer. This type of killer ranks as a level 7 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
15 Level 8: Gang Lu - Ignited Rage Murderer
Gang Lu was an intelligent 28-year-old former graduate student at the University of Iowa. He came from China to study physics and astronomy and even received his doctoral degree. His one downfall? He was said to often have abusive tantrums. He had a rage inside of him, and one day that rage was ignited.
Lu became furious when an essay he wrote did not receive one of the university’s prestigious awards which included a $2,500 prize. He was relying on the money to continue supporting his life in the United States. Lu not winning the award resulted in the University of Iowa shooting in 1991. He took a revolver into the university and killed four faculty members as well as one student. He left another student seriously injured before he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.
Individuals with rage who kill when their temper is ignited are ranked as a level 8 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
14 Level 9: Paul Snider - Jealous Psychopathic Murderer
Level 9 is when Michael Stone’s scale starts to enter into psychopathic territory. Paul Snider “discovered” Dorthy Stratten when she was only 17. He romanced her and got her into the nude modelling industry. The two got married and Stratten became a Playboy Bunny. Their marriage began deteriorating and Stratten began an affair with another man. She and Snider separated. Angry and jealous, Snider hired a private investigator to see what his estranged wife was up to. One night, when Stratten went to see her former lover to talk about getting a divorce, Snider shot her dead. Police determined he even sexually abused her corpse before committing suicide.
Paul Snider was a jealous lover marked with psychopathic features. This type of killer ranks as a level 9 on Michael Stone’s Scale of evil.
13 Level 10: Dynel Lane - Egocentric Killer
Dynel Lane wanted a baby badly. She was also a pathological liar. In 2014, she told her husband she was pregnant with a baby boy. She went to great lengths faking a pregnancy in order to convince skeptical family members she had a son on the way. When a year went by and she hadn’t produced a baby, she turned to drastic measures. Lane posted a Craigslist ad for free maternity clothes hoping to lure in a pregnant woman. 27-year-old Michelle Wilkins answered that ad and had no idea what fate laid ahead of her.
Wilkins entered Lane’s home to look at the maternity clothes. That's when she was attacked, hit in the head and stabbed. Lane took a knife, cut the mother-to-be from hip to hip and removed her unborn fetus. Unfortunately, the baby did not survive. Lane took the lifeless infant to a nearby hospital claiming she had a miscarriage. Miraculously, Wilkins did survive the attack.
Lane was sentenced to 100 years in prison. She was an egocentric murderer who attempted to take the life of another in order to get what she wanted – a child. These type of killers rank as a level 10 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
12 Level 11: Denis Rivera - Psychopathic Egocentric Killer
17-year-old Brenda Paz was young, pregnant and looking for a way out of her life in the notorious gang, MS-13. She became an informant for police and was set to testify against her former boyfriend, Denis Rivera, at a murder trial. In return, she was given a place in the Witness Protection Program.
Despite her choice to become an informant, Paz was incredibly close to certain members in the gang. They were friends who had become like family to her, especially Rivera. She decided to leave the Witness Protection Program and re-join the gang. She and some friends from the gang went on a fishing trip. That’s when she was stabbed 16 times and left for dead on a river bank. Her “friends” had known about her becoming an informant and made her pay. Rivera was identified as the mastermind behind the murder, he needed to get rid of Paz because she was in the way of his freedom.
Rivera is a man marked with psychopathic traits who needed to get rid of someone close to him who got in his way. These types of murderers are ranked as a level 11 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
11 Level 12: Jim Jones - Power-Hungry Psychopathic Killer
Jim Jones was an American cult leader who led the radical Peoples Temple. He was charismatic but also paranoid and psychopathic. He gathered a large group of followers who moved with him to Jamestown, Guyana. Reports eventually hit the media about human rights abuses in the temple. An examination into the commune ensued which resulted in the investigators being assassinated by the order of Jones. That was only the beginning of his evil ways.
Jones began to feel cornered. His group was being investigated and torn apart in the media for its cult-like qualities. He convinced almost all of his followers to commit suicide by drinking cyanide via a flavour aid mix. 914 people died and 276 of them were children all because their cult leader told them to kill themselves. Ever heard the expression “drinking the Kool-Aid”? This is the historical episode that gave it uprise.
Power-hungry psychopaths who kill when they are cornered are ranked as a level 12 on Michael Stone’s Scale of Evil.
10 Level 13: Ed Gein - Rageful Psychopathic Killer
Ed Gein grew up with an overly controlling mother. She was a religious woman who preached to her kids the immorality of the world and the belief that all women are instruments of the devil. She’d read graphic verses of the bible concerning death and murder. As awful and controlling as she was, she was Gein’s only friend. When his mother died, the evil she had bestowed upon him came to light.
Gein was charged with the murder of two women in his small town. When police searched his home, what they what they found was shocking. Inside was a collection of human body parts, furniture covered in human skin, clothes made out of skin, bowls made out of skulls and other body parts kept in shoe boxes. Gein admitted to only two murders. The other body parts from other victims came from the over 40 graves he admitted to exhuming. He said that after his mother died, he set out to find bodies who resembled her to make a “woman suit” out of dead body parts.
The two women we know Gein killed he did as a rageful act. His mother taught him women are trash and come from the devil. Therefore, when he had the opportunity to kill them and dismember their bodies, he did.
Psychopathic murderers ignited by rage are ranked as a level 13 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
9 Level 14: Sante Kimes - Self-Centred Psychopathic Killer
Sante Kimes was a self-trained con artist who brought her son along for the ride. Together, the two of them committed thefts, robberies and forgeries. Their most evil scheme of all was to commit the murder of two individuals for their own benefit.
First they killed a man who caught onto them forging his signature for a loan. Kimes wanted him gone and ordered her son to shoot and kill him. Their second murder was of a wealthy 82-year-old woman named Irene Silverman. They conned their way into Silverman’s good graces and tricked her into signing them over her property and then killed her. They disposed of her body in a dumpster. Though Kimes was convicted of only two murders, she’s suspected to be responsible for many others.
Murdering someone for self-benefit is ranked as a level 14 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
8 Level 15: Charles Starkweather - Cold-Blooded Spree Killer
Charles Starkweather is a man who is ranked on the same level of evil as Charles Manson. He committed the murders of 11 people over a two-month period when he was only a teenager. He committed the murders with his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Fugate, by his side.
The first murder was committed in rage. After that, he got a taste for blood. It started with his young girlfriend's family who told him to stay away from their daughter. He shot her mother, stepfather and two-year-old sister. Following those murders the two killed an elderly man and his dog, two local teenagers, a married couple, and the list goes on. Finally, after 11 deaths the two were arrested. The spree killing inspired several films including 1994’s Natural Born Killers. Fugate claimed Starkweather forced her to commit the murders, however he claimed she was a willing participant.
Cold-blooded spree killers like Starkweather are ranked as a level 14 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
7 Level 16: Heriberto Seda - Repetitively Violent Psychopathic Murderer
Heriberto Seda was a man addicted to violence and murder. His evil ways struck New York City from 1990 to 1993. He was said to be inspired by the San Francisco Zodiac Killer who got away with his crimes. Seda wanted to emulate them.
Seda committed violent acts against eight victims, killing three of them. His weapons of choice were an improvised firearm and a knife. He shot all of his victims and stabbed one of them over 100 times. He sent taunting messages to the police and media after each crime. Seda eventually slipped up when he shot his half-sister during an argument and was captured.
Psychopaths who commit multiple vicious acts rank as a level 16 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
6 Level 17 - Aileen Wuornos - Sexually Perverse Serial Murderer
Aileen Wuornos is the woman who inspired the 2003 movie Monster. She had an extremely troubled childhood of abuse in all forms which led to her evil ways as an adult. Wuornos was convicted of six counts of first degree murder in Florida during the 90s.
She was working as a prostitute and claimed that all of her victims had sexually assaulted her which led to her shooting them at point-blank range. She would then rob them of whatever they had and steal their car. Investigators believed she was a psychopath and didn’t buy her claims of sexual assault and so Wuornos received six death sentences. Her last words before receiving her lethal injection were “I’ll be back, I’ll be back.”
The sexual acts motiving each of her murders rank Wuornos as a level 17 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
5 Level 18 - Gary Ridgway: Torture Murderer
Gary Ridgway AKA the Green River Killer is known as one of the most prolific American serial killers in history. Investigators believe he may have killed up to 90 women from 1982 to 2001 in Washington State.
Ridgway would often choose prostitutes as his victims or other venerable people like young runaways. He’d lure the women in, pretending he needed help finding his lost son. He would then sexually assault them, subject some to bondage, strangle them to death with a ligature and then sickly abuse their dead bodies. He is now serving 48 life sentences plus 480 years. It’s safe to say the Green River Killer will never strike again.
Ridgway’s method of murder was not quick and painless, it was torturous, which is why he’s ranked as a level 18 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
4 Level 19 - Gary Krist - Terror-Driven Psychopath
Gary Krist didn’t kill anyone, but he did have a love for terrorizing people, which has him ranked high on the scale. He was a career criminal convicted of robbery and fraud. At the age of 23, he planned the ransom kidnapping of heiress Barbara Mackle.
Krist entered Mackle’s home, chloroformed, bound and gagged her mother. He then forced Mackle into the back of a car by gun point. He buried her alive underground allowing her to breath out of tube to stay alive. He was requesting $500K from her father. After 83 hours buried underground, Mackle was finally rescued. Krist was captured and sentenced to life in prison.
Psychopaths who instil terror in their victims but do not have murder as a primary motive rank as a level 19 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
3 Level 20 - Albert Fish: Psychoses-Linked Torture Murderer
Albert Fish was known as “The Boogeyman” due to his sick fascination of terrorizing and torturing young and handicapped children. He began his killing career around 1910. He was known to keep his victims captive for weeks to abuse them with meat cleavers, mutilate their genitals and even consume their flesh before eventually killing them.
There is no doubt Fish suffered from some sort of psychoses. He even went as far as to torture himself, stabbing his abdomen and genitals with needles. When he was captured, he claimed it was God who told him to torture and murder children in these awful ways. He was executed in 1936.
Psychotic killers who see torture as a primary motive rank as a level 20 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
2 Level 21 - Ariel Castro: Extreme Torturer
The horrifying kidnappings committed by Ariel Castro hit the media in 2013. He had been holding three young women captive in his home from 2002 to 2013. Though he never killed any of his victims, he did subject them to extreme torture in every way possible.
Not only did he mentally, physically and sexually abuse his kidnapped victims for years on end, he also impregnated them. Victim, Michelle Knight, had gotten pregnant at least five different times due to Castro’s sexual abuse. Castro took it upon himself to terminate the pregnancies by beating Knight in the stomach with dumbbells and slamming her into walls. Another victim, Amanda Berry, actually gave birth to one of his daughters. Castro described himself as a “cold-blooded sex addict”. He was finally caught and sentenced to life plus 1,000 years in prison. He committed suicide after only one month in custody.
Psychopaths who subject their victims to extreme torture and violence rank as a level 21 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.
1 Level 22: John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy is the evilest of the evil. He’s known as the “Killer Clown” due to his participation at charitable services where he would dress up as “Pogo the Clown”. Kids loved him, and he loved kids too – in all the wrong ways,
Gacy sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered at least 33 teen boys and young men between 1972 and 1978. He would use deception to lure his victims into his house where he would sexually assault them and then strangle them. He ended up burying 26 of his victims' bodies inside the crawl space of his home. He was eventually caught and sentenced to death by lethal injection.
Murderers who torture and kill with a sexually motivating factor rank the highest as level 22 on Michael Stone’s scale of evil.