List of serial killers before 1900
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Active before 1600
|Name||Country||Years active||Claimed victims||Notes|
|Ancient Rome Poison Ring||Roman Republic||331 BC||90+||Several Roman men died in what was believed to be a plague, until a servant woman revealed that they had been poisoned by a conspiracy of matrons. Two patrician women arrested admitted to preparing concoctions but claimed that they were medicinal; when they drank themselves to prove it, at their own suggestion, they died immediately. A total of 170 matrons were arrested. According to Livy, "their act was regarded as a prodigy, and suggested madness rather than felonious intent".|
|Liu Pengli||Western Han||144 to 116 BC||100+||Prince of Jidong during the reign of the Emperor Jing, his uncle. Helped by slaves, he attacked civilians in his lands during the night, killing over a hundred. Although the court advised the Emperor to execute him, the emperor only reduced him to a commoner and exiled him to Shangyong (modern Zhushan County, Hubei Province).|
|Anula of Anuradhapura||Anuradhapura Kingdom||50 to 47 BC||5||Poisoned her son and four husbands before holding the throne as queen regnant for five years, after which she was overthrown and burned alive.|
|Locusta of Gaul||Roman Empire||54 to 55 AD||5–7+||Poisoner in the service of Emperor Nero. Executed by Galba in 69 AD.|
|Zu Shenatir||Himyarite Kingdom||5th century AD||100+||Lured young boys into his home and sodomized them before throwing them out of a window. Stabbed by his last intended victim.|
|Alice Kyteler||Ireland||1302 to 1324||3–4||"The Witch of Kilkenny". Hiberno-Norman noblewoman prosecuted in the first modern witch trial in the British Isles, for the alleged poisoning of her four husbands, heresy and witchcraft. Fled to England, her ultimate fate unknown. Her servant was tortured and burned at the stake in her place.|
|Gilles de Rais||France||1432 to 1440||140+-600||French nobleman accused of torturing, raping and murdering over 140 children, up to 600. Rais and several accomplices in the murders were hanged on 26 October 1440.|
|Peter Stumpp||Holy Roman Empire||c. 1564 to 1589||16||"The Werewolf of Bedburg". Confessed under torture to murdering and cannibalizing 14 children, including his son, and two pregnant women. Broken at the wheel, beheaded and burned.|
|Peter Niers||Holy Roman Empire||c. 1566 to 1581||544||Bandit leader who confessed under torture to killing 544 people, including the murder of 24 women and the use of their unborn children in Black Magic. Broken at the wheel and quartered alive.|
|Gilles Garnier||France||1572||4||Hermit known as "The Werewolf of Dole". Confessed to strangling 4 children and eating their flesh. Garnier was caught attacking a young boy and burned at the stake in 1573.|
|Elizabeth Báthory||Hungary||1585 to 1610||80–650||Known as "The Blood Countess"; tortured servant girls to death. Accomplices were executed and she was imprisoned until her death in 1614.|
|Björn Pétursson||Dano-Norwegian Iceland||1570 to 1596||9–18||Called Axlar-Björn ("Shoulder-Bear"). Farmer that robbed and killed people who traversed his land. Beheaded.|
|Geordie Bourne||England||1597 and earlier||7||Scottish bandit active in the East English March. Confessed to have killed seven Englishmen with his own hands and "lain with above forty men's wives, what in England, what in Scotland". Executed by unknown means.|
1600 to 1800
|Name||Country||Years active||Claimed victims||Notes|
|Catalina de los Ríos y Lisperguer||Spanish Chile||c. 1630 to c. 1660||40||Aristocrat nicknamed La Quintrala, possibly after the local red-flowered mistletoe (quintral) and because of her long red hair. Investigated for the deaths of 40 servants and slaves in her property, but never tried or convicted. Died of natural causes in 1665.|
|Giulia Tofana|| Spanish Sicily
|1633 to 1651||100+||Leader of a group of female poisoners that moved from Palermo to Rome after a botched poisoning. Died in her bed, having never been arrested. Often confused with her pupil and successor, Girolama Spara.|
|Jasper Hanebuth||Holy Roman Empire||1652 and earlier||19||Former mercenary in the Swedish Army turned highwayman who was active in Eilenriede forest, then outside Hanover. Usually shot people from a distance, before knowing if they had any money. Confessed to the murder of 19 people including his "robber bride", and was broken at the wheel.|
|Catherine Monvoisin||France||1660s to 1679||1000–2500||Known as "La Voisin". Alleged sorceress, fortune-teller, cult leader and poisoner for hire who confessed under torture to the ritual murder of over a thousand infants in black masses. Also tried to poison Louis XIV. She was convicted along with 35 others as part of the Affair of the Poisons, and burned at the stake in 1680.|
|Marie-Madeleine-Marguerite d'Aubrey, Madame de Brinvilliers and Godin de Sainte-Croix||France||1666 to 1670||3–50+||Lovers, they poisoned d'Aubrey's father and two brothers to inherit their estates, and an undetermined number of poor people in hospitals. Sainte-Croix died of natural causes in 1672, but d'Aubrey was tried, beheaded and burned at the stake in 1676. Her sensational trial led to the Affair of the Poisons.|
|1730s to 1783||86+||Seminole chief, called "Cowkeeper" by the British, who led continuous raids against Spanish garrisons and their allied tribes in Florida. Although his killings were done during war parties, he was partially motivated by a dream in which he was revealed that he would not find peace after death unless he killed 100 Spaniards. Died of natural causes, telling his sons in his deathbed that he had only killed 86 Spaniards and that they should kill another 14 in his name.|
|Lewis Hutchinson||British Jamaica||1760s to 1773||43+||Scottish doctor and rancher known as "The Mad Master" and "The Mad Doctor of Edinburgh Castle". Shot and robbed passers-by of all types in his property, sometimes with the help of accomplices, after which his slaves threw the bodies in Hutchinson's Hole where they were devoured by animals. Hanged.|
|Dorcas Kelly||Ireland||1761 and earlier||1–5||Also known as "Darkey Kelly". Dublin brothel owner hanged and burned at the stake for the murder of a client. Four skeletons were found in her establishment after her execution.|
|Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova||Russia||1755 to 1762||38–147||Aristocrat who beat and tortured female serfs to death. Sentenced to life in prison in 1768, where she died of natural causes in 1801.|
|Crown Prince Sado||Joseon||1757 to 1762||100+||Serial rapist and killer who was also heir to King Yeongjo of Joseon. Sealed in a rice chest until he died eight days later.|
|Luísa de Jesus||Portugal||1772 and earlier||28–33||Luísa de Jesus (1750 – Coimbra, 1 July 1772), was accused of having murdered 33 abandoned children, taken from the "foundling wheel" in the town of Coimbra, Portugal. She only confessed to 28 of the homicides. She was mortified and insulted by crowds as she was led to the gallows, had her hands cut off, was then hanged, beaten with a club, and burned until she was reduced to ashes in a public execution. She was the last woman executed in Portugal.[circular reference]|
|Klaas Annink, Anne Spanjers and Jannes Annink||Netherlands||1774 and earlier||400+||Family of robber-murderers active around Twente. Klaas (nicknamed "Huttenkloas") and his wife, Anne, were tried and executed in 1775.|
|Thug Behram|| Mughal Empire
|1790 to 1840||125–931||Leader of the Thuggee cult of murder-robbers in central India, also known as Buhram Jemedar and the "King of the Thugs". Behram is often cited as one of the most prolific serial killers in History (if not the most) with up to 931 victims, although he only admitted to have been present for that many murders, committing 125 himself and witnessing 150 or more. Thuggee victims were travellers that the Thuggees latched to and befriended before strangling them with a ceremonial handkerchief (rumal) and stealing their belongings. Hanged by officers of the East India Company as part of the British colonial Thuggee and Dacoity Suppression Acts, 1836–1848|
|Micajah and Wiley Harpe||United States||1797 to 1803||40||Highwaymen and river pirates known as "Big" and "Little" Harpe, or the Harpe Brothers, who often killed people of all types for the thrill or minor slights without actual monetary gain, even babies. "Big" Harpe bashed his own infant daughter's head against a tree because her crying annoyed him; this was the only murder he claimed to feel sorry about. "Big" Harpe was shot and beheaded in 1799 by people who sought vengeance for the murder of a woman, while "Little" Harpe was arrested when he took fellow outlaw Samuel Mason's head to the authorities and tried to collect a bounty put on him in 1803, but was recognized, tried and hanged in 1804.|
|Samuel Mason|| United States
|1797 to 1803||20+||Highwayman and river pirate sometimes associated with the Harpe Brothers and other outlaws. After being arrested in Louisiana and turned over to American authorities, Mason overpowered his guards and escaped, but was shot in the process. His head was later given to the authorities by his accomplice Wiley Harpe who wished to collect the bounty on the fugitive Mason. It is unknown if Mason died of his injuries or Harpe killed him.|
|Sophie Charlotte Elisabeth Ursinus||Holy Roman Empire||1800 to 1803||3||Prussian aristocrat who poisoned her lover, husband, and aunt, and tried to poison an unhappy servant, always with arsenic. Sentenced to life in prison but pardoned in 1833. Died of natural causes three years later.|
1801 to 1830
|Name||Country||Years active||Claimed victims||Notes|
|Patty Cannon's gang||United States||1802–1829||4–400+||Kidnapped slaves and free blacks in the Delmarva Peninsula and sold them to slavers down south. Cannon, reportedly aroused by the sight of black males being beaten into submission, was arrested when four skeletons (three children, one male adult) were found buried in her property, though most of the gang's victims were probably rival white slavers. Cannon died in prison while awaiting trial, under unclear circumstances.|
|Mary Bateman||United Kingdom||1803–1808||1–4||"The Yorkshire Witch". Leeds career con woman and thief, hanged in 1809 for the arsenic poisoning of a married couple she had been scamming (the husband survived). Suspect in three more deaths.|
|"Red Inn" murderers|| French Empire
Kingdom of France
|1805–1830||1?–50+?||The owners, Pierre and Marie Martin, and a valet, Jean Rochette, were believed at the time to have murdered up to 50 or more travellers that stayed in their inn of Lanarce, Ardèche to rob them, but were tried for only one murder that has been questioned since by historians. All three were guillotined in front of the inn in 1833.|
|Anna Maria Zwanziger||Germany||1808–1809||3||Housekeeper who poisoned her employers with arsenic and nursed them back to health to gain their favor; three died. Sentenced to beheading in 1811, which she welcomed as the only way to keep herself from poisoning people.|
|John Williams||United Kingdom||1811||7||Irish sailor who murdered two families and their servants in London's East End by bashing their heads with a hammer and cutting their throats. Hanged himself in prison while awaiting trial.|
|Gesche Gottfried|| Bremen
|1813–1827||15||Believed today to have suffered of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, as she poisoned several of her relatives and friends with arsenic for no apparent reason. Last person publicly executed in Bremen, where she was beheaded in 1831.|
|Samuel Green and William Ash|| United States
British North America
|1817–1821||30||Itinerant burglars, robbers and counterfeiters, sometimes acting in solitary and others in association. Green, considered "America's first Public enemy number one", was also a rapist and the more violent and prolific killer of the two, while Ash helped him escape from prison multiple times. While serving a sentence for burglary, Green beat a fellow prisoner to death with an iron rod for informing the guards of an upcoming escape plan, and was hanged as a result in 1822.|
|Thomas Jeffries (or Jeffrey)|| United Kingdom
New South Wales
Van Diemen's Land
|1820–1826||1–8||Called "The Monster" and "Captain Jeffries" (a name he gave himself). Navy deserter, robber and conman deported to Australia in 1820. Escaped with other convicts and joined a bushranger gang, partaking in survival cannibalism twice before he was apprehended again and sent to Tasmania, in 1822. After rising to flogger and jailer, in 1825 Jeffries was accused of raping free and imprisoned women alike and fled to the bush with three prisoners. In their month-long rampage they robbed several farms, killed an infant and four men (one of them a fellow fugitive, who was cannibalized), wounded two more and raped a woman. Hanged.|
|Edme Castaing||France||1822||1–2||Physician believed to have poisoned two lawyer brothers with morphine in the span of three months, although he was only convicted of murdering the second victim and destroying the will of the first one. Guillotined in 1823.|
|Alexander Pearce||Van Diemen's Land||1822–1823||2–5||Irishman deported in 1819 to Tasmania for thieving six pairs of shoes, from whence he escaped with seven other convicts in 1824. The group resorted to cannibalism after running out of food; except for 2 that deserted early, all other members were murdered with an axe and eaten one by one until only Pearce was left to reach the eastern settlements. Pearce was recaptured and sent back to Macquaire Harbor, as his claims of murder and cannibalism weren't believed, and escaped soon after with another convict. This time Pearce killed and ate his companion in less than ten days, when he surrendered voluntarily to the authorities. Hanged in 1824.|
|William Burke and William Hare||United Kingdom||1828||16||Lured, intoxicated and murdered people to sell their bodies to Dr. Robert Knox who used them in his anatomy classes at Edinburgh Medical School. Their usual method was compressing the chest of the victims in a process henceforth known as "burking". Hare was given immunity in exchange for testifying against Burke, who was hanged in 1829, while Knox was never prosecuted. Burke's fiancée was also tried but her implication was found not proven.|
|Thomas Griffiths Wainewright||United Kingdom||1830||1–4||Writer and painter believed to have poisoned his sister-in-law to collect a life insurance he recently purchased, and possibly also his uncle, mother-in-law and a friend. Having fled to France, he was arrested upon his return to Britain in 1837, but could not be prosecuted for lack of evidence. Instead he was tried for, and found guilty of, an unrelated case of forgery, for which he was exiled to Tasmania, where he died of natural causes in 1847.|
|John Bishop and Thomas Williams||United Kingdom||1830–1831||5||Called the "London Burkers". Copycats of Burke and Hare that were active in London. Hanged.|
1831 to 1850
|Name||Country||Years active||Claimed victims||Notes|
|Delphine LaLaurie||United States||1831–1834||2–4||New Orleans socialite that tortured and maimed slaves. Seven chained and mutilated slaves were rescued after a fire broke out in LaLaurie's mansion, of which two died of their injuries shortly after, and three buried skeletons were later discovered in her property (according to witnesses, one had died in an accident). The case caused outrage in Louisiana but LaLaurie fled to France and was never prosecuted. Died of natural causes between 1842 and 1849.|
|Elizabeth Van Valkenburgh||United States||1833–1845||2||Poisoned two alcoholic husbands with arsenic. Hanged in 1846.|
|Hélène Jégado||France||1833–1851||23–36||Kleptomaniac domestic servant who robbed and poisoned her employers and relatives with arsenic and antimony. She poisoned during two different periods separated by ten years, 1833 to 1841 and her final spree in 1851. Because the statute of limitations for the first spree had already run out, she was only tried for three murders and three attempts and guillotined in 1852.|
|Pierre François Lacenaire||France||1834–1835||2||Poet, army defector and thief. Helped by two accomplices, Lacenaire stabbed a former prison cellmate and his mother in Paris, and later attacked a bank employee that survived. They intended to rob the victims but none of the hits produced any money. While in prison for an unrelated offense, one of the accomplices, Victor Avril, blamed Lacenaire for the murders, and Lacenaire reacted by making a detailed confession that ensured both Lacenaire and Avril would be found guilty and executed. Lacenaire's response and his willingness to answer letters and receive visitors in prison, along with the publication of his memoirs, made him a celebrity. The two men were guillotined in 1836.|
|Hannah Hanson Kinney||United States||1835–1840||0–3||Believed at the time to have poisoned two husbands and a father in law; although arsenic was found in two bodies, she was found not guilty because of lack of further evidence.|
|John Lynch||New South Wales||1835–1841||9–10||"The Berrima Axe Murderer". Irish convict turned bushranger who killed his victims with a single hatchet blow to the back of the head. His acquittal at a murder trial in 1835, while his two accomplices were hanged, had convinced him that God approved of his crimes. Hanged in 1842.|
|Sarah Dazley||United Kingdom||1840–1843||1–3||Hanged for the murder of her second husband, who was poisoned with arsenic. Believed to have poisoned her first husband and child as well.|
|John Johnston (or Johnson)||United States||1843–?||300+||Mountain man called "Liver-eating Johnson" and Dapiek Absaroka ("Crow Killer" in Apsáalooke). Moved to the Rocky Mountains with frontiersman John Hatcher in 1843; the two killed four Arapaho and Hatcher taught Johnson to scalp them. In 1847, his pregnant wife, a member of the Flathead Nation, was killed and scalped by Crow warriors. Johnson is said to have embarked then on a vendetta against the Crow Nation that lasted for years and during which he murdered, scalped and ate the livers of 300 Crow warriors, although Thrapp (1991) considers this number inflated and incompatible with the Crow population at the time. Died of natural causes in 1900.|
|Manuel Blanco Romasanta||Spain||1844–1852||9–14||"The Werewolf of Allariz". While on the run from his first murder (a constable killed over a debt), Romasanta assumed a new identity and offered his services as a mountain guide to women and children, whom he murdered, later selling their clothing (and according to rumor, also making soap made from their body fat). Following his arrest, he confessed to 13 murders, which he claimed were committed involuntarily during his transformation into a wolf as a result of a curse. He was found guilty of nine and sentenced to die by garrote. This was changed to life in prison following a petition by doctors who wished to study him further. He died in jail in 1863.|
|Edward Rulloff||United States||1844–1870||2–7||Called "The Genius Killer" and "The Man of Two Lives". Medical doctor and philologist who had a parallel career as an armed robber and con man. Tried for the murder of his wife and daughter in 1846, he was given ten years for kidnapping because neither body was ever found; he was arrested again in 1870 for the murder of a clerk during a robbery. Hanged in 1871.|
|William Palmer||United Kingdom||1846?–1855||1–10||Gambling-addicted physician who poisoned friends and relatives with strychnine and ammonia, usually to collect life insurances or to keep money that the victims lent him; also suspected in the death of four of his newborns. Tried for one murder and hanged in 1856.|
1851 to 1880
|Name||Country||Years active||Claimed victims||Notes|
|Boone Helm|| United States
|1851–1864||8–24+||Desperado active through western North America who killed several men in alcohol-induced fights or to rob them. Engaged in survival cannibalism at least once. Hanged.|
|Mary Ann Cotton||United Kingdom||c. 1852–1873||21||Poisoned her husbands, lovers and children with arsenic. Hanged.|
|Catherine Wilson||United Kingdom||1854–1862||1–8||Nurse believed to have poisoned her husband and 7 patients with colchicum (plus a failed attempt, with sulphuric acid), but tried for only one. Last woman publicly hanged in London.|
|Martin Dumollard||France||1855–1861||3–30+||Lured women to Lyon with promises of work and then killed them. Tried and guillotined in 1862. His wife, Marie-Anne Martinet, was found guilty of assisting him and sentenced to 20 years of hard labor in a women's prison. She died in 1875.|
|Lydia Sherman||United States||1858–1871||10||"The Derby Poisoner". Confessed to poisoning three husbands and seven children with arsenic. Died in prison.|
|Edward William Pritchard||United Kingdom||1863?–1865||2–3||Doctor who poisoned his wife and mother-in-law with antimony; also a suspect in the death of a maid who had officially died in a fire two years earlier. Hanged.|
|The Bloody Espinosas||United States||1863||8||Gang formed first by Neomexicano road bandit brothers Felipe Nerio and José Vivián Espinosa, and after José Vivián's death by Felipe Nerio and nephew José Vicente, who acted in Conejos County, Colorado. Following a skirmish with the U.S. Army, the Espinosas declared war on the United States and decided to kill as many Anglos as they could, until they were tracked and killed by adventurer Tom Tobin and soldiers of Fort Garland.|
|Dan Morgan|| New South Wales
|1864–1865||3||Violent bushranger who robbed railroad stations and shot hostages without necessity; one railroad worker and two police sergeants died. Shot dead in a standoff with Victoria police.|
|Thomas and John Clarke||New South Wales||1861–1867||5||Violent bushranger brothers who robbed travelers and farms and shot and killed five police officers. Their activities led to the passing of the Felons Apprehension Act of 1866 that allowed citizens to kill bushrangers on sight. Hanged.|
|Matti Haapoja|| Finland
|1867–1894||3–10||Known to have killed 3 in Finland and suspected of 7 more murders, 5 of them in Siberia, to which he had been exiled in the 1880s. Also wounded 6 people. Killed himself in prison in 1895.|
|"Wild" Bill Longley||United States||1869–1878||32||Racist gunfighter who claimed to have killed 32 people, most of whom were unarmed blacks and Mexicans. Hanged for the murder of a childhood friend.|
|Sher Ali Afridi||British Raj||1869–1872||2||Pashtun sowar deported to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands for murder, where he killed the visiting Viceroy of India, Lord Mayo. Hanged.|
|Margaret Waters||United Kingdom||1870 and earlier||19||Baby farmer who drugged and starved children in her care. Convicted of one murder and hanged.|
|Juan Díaz de Garayo||Spain||1870–1879||6||Known as El Sacamantecas ("The Fat Extractor"). Strangled women after having sex with them—first willingly, then by force. Garroted in 1881.|
|Jesse Pomeroy||United States||1871–1874||2||Called "The Boy Fiend" and "The Inhuman Scamp". Beginning at age 12, he lured younger children and tortured them for his sexual pleasure, killing two. Youngest person sentenced to death by the state of Massachusetts, later changed to life in prison under solitary confinement which was only lifted in 1917. Died in prison in 1931 of natural causes.|
|The Bloody Benders||United States||1872–1873||10–12||Family of four who owned an inn and small general store in Labette County in southeastern Kansas from 1871 to 1873. They murdered around 11 clients, using a mallet and a knife to rob them. They fled when their crimes were discovered. Their fate is unknown, although two members of the posse that found the bodies made deathbed confessions decades later where they claimed to have tracked down and murdered the family.|
|Stephen Richards||United States||1878||6–9||"The Nebraska Fiend". Confessed to killing two men, one woman and her three children, in all cases but one to rob the victims. Hanged in 1879.|
|Bochum Serial Sex Murderer||Germany||1878–1882||8||Raped, strangled and mutilated women walking or working alone in the country. Wilhelm Schiff was found guilty of three murders and beheaded in January 1882, but the crimes continued until May of that year. Moral panic over the serial killings contributed to the full restoration of capital punishment in the German states by 1885, after a hiatus of ten to fifteen years.|
|Victor Joseph Prévost||France||1876-1879||2+||Former butcher and policeman known as "The Butcher of the Chapel". Was charged with the murders of two people, with an additional two other murders suspected. Killed his victims for profit via blunt force trauma before disembowling them. Later executed via guillotine on January 19, 1880.|
|Thomas Neill Cream|| Canada
|1879–1892||5–8||Doctor known as "The Lambeth Poisoner". Poisoned one man and several women with chloroform and strychnine, attempting to frame and then blackmail other men for the murders in some cases. Allegedly confessed to be Jack the Ripper before his execution by hanging in 1892, although he was in prison at the time of the Ripper murders.|
|Amelia Dyer||United Kingdom||1879–1896||6–400+||Baby farmer who strangled the babies in her care. Hanged.|
|Catherine Flannagan and Margaret Higgins||United Kingdom||1880–1883||4–8||"The Black Widows of Liverpool". Killed at least 4 people by poisoning in order to obtain insurance money. Hanged in 1884.|
|Maria Swanenburg||Netherlands||1880–1883||27–90+||Killed at least 27 people by poisoning with arsenic, suspected of over 90 deaths. She murdered for the victims' insurance or inheritance. Sentenced to life in prison, she died in 1915.|
|Robert Butler|| New Zealand
|1880–1905||1–4||Irish-born burglar and highwayman. Arrested in 1880 for the murder-robbery of a family of three in Dunedin, but acquitted because all evidence was circumstantial. Hanged years later in Queensland for shooting a man.|
|Francisco Guerrero||Mexico||1880–1908||21||Known as El Chalequero ("The Vests Man"). An open misogynist, between 1880 and 1888 he raped and killed 20 women in Mexico City, often claimed to be prostitutes, strangling them or cutting their throats, in some cases also decapitating them. He then threw their bodies in the Consulado river. Tried for one murder and another attempt, his initial death sentence was changed to 20 years in prison and was indulted in 1904. In 1908, he raped and murdered an old woman and was again given the death penalty, but died in prison of natural causes before he could be executed. Guerrero predates Jack the Ripper by eight years.|
|Name||Country||Years active||Claimed victims||Notes|
|Émile Dubois||France Bolivia Chile||1882–1905||6||French criminal and murdered that killed six people in three different countries. He was captured in 1905 and after a trial, found guilty of the murders committed in Chile and executed by four riflemen on March 26, 1907.|
|Servant Girl Annihilator||United States||1884–1885||8||Unidentified killer, also nicknamed "The Austin Axe Murderer". Abducted women from their bedrooms at night, raped and killed them, hitting them with an axe or stabbing them with a knife or other iron implement, always in the head. Two husbands sleeping with their wives were dispatched first with a single strike from an axe (one died) but children, when present, were usually not harmed. The first five women targeted were black servants sleeping in cabins; the last two, white women in houses. Some sources name Nathan Elgin (1867–1886), an African-American cook shot by police while he was assaulting a girl, as the likely culprit.|
|Martha Needle|| Victoria
|1885–1894||5||Poisoned her husband and three children, and her new fiancé's two brothers (one of whom survived) with arsenic. Hanged.|
|Jane Toppan||United States||1885–1901||31||Nurse who confessed to poisoning 31 people in her care and lying in bed with them as they died for her own sexual gratification. Found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a mental hospital in which she remained for the rest of her life.|
|Mary Ann Britland||United Kingdom||1886||3||She murdered her daughter, her husband, and the wife of her lover with mouse poison, and was hanged for her crimes.|
|H. H. Holmes|| United States
|1886–1894||9–230+||Notorious for designing and building a "Murder Castle" where he tortured, killed, dissected and incinerated the bodies of people who had come to visit the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He cashed on the victims' life insurance and sometimes kept and mounted their skeletons to sell them to medical institutions. Also killed an accomplice (by burning him alive) and three of his accomplice's children. Confessed to 27 murders, although the police estimated 230 victims in Chicago alone after examing the "Castle". Hanged in 1896.|
|Jack the Ripper||United Kingdom||1888–1891?||5–11||Unidentified killer who stabbed at least five prostitutes and mutilated four in the Whitechapel district of London. Several suspects have been named over the years.|
|Thames Torso Murderer||United Kingdom||1887–1889||4||Unidentified killer who left the dismembered remains of victims in or near the Thames River.|
|Johann Otto Hoch|| United States
United Kingdom (alleged)
|1888?–1905||1–50+||German con man who married women under false identities, swindled and poisoned them with arsenic. Hanged in 1906 for one murder, but suspected to have committed between 15 and 55.|
|Minnie Dean||New Zealand||1889?–1895||3+||Baby farmer hanged for the murder of three infants that were found buried in her property. Only woman executed in the History of New Zealand.|
|Frederick Bailey Deeming|| United Kingdom
|1891||6||Killed his wife and four children (cutting their throats, except one daughter that was strangled) and buried their bodies in concrete under a rented house in Rainhill, England. He then fled with his mistress to Windsor, Victoria, where he bludgeoned her and cut her throat, and also buried the body in concrete in another rented house. The discovery of the last body led to his arrest and the uncovering of the ones in Rainhill, attracting the attention of the international press, which considered him the possible identity of Jack the Ripper. Hanged in 1892.|
|John and Sarah Makin||New South Wales||1892 and earlier||12–13||Baby farmers who murdered infants in their care. John was hanged in 1893 but Sarah's death sentence was commuted for life imprisonment and hard labor. She was paroled in 1911 and died seven years later of natural causes.|
|Lizzie Halliday|| United States
|1893?–1906||5–8||"The Worst Woman on Earth". Acquitted of killing her stepson by burning down their New York family home in 1893. After her husband disappeared the following year, a search of their farm found the bodies of two women in the hayloft who had been shot to death; the husband's mutilated body was found under the floorboards of the house a few days later. Halliday was convicted of the murders, becoming the first woman sentenced to die in the electric chair, but her sentence was later commuted to being interned in an asylum after she was found to be insane. In 1906, she killed an asylum's nurse with a pair of scissors. Another stepson claimed that Halliday had confided him that she had murdered a previous husband in Belfast, but had concealed the crime successfully. Died in 1918.|
|Louise Vermilya||United States||1893–1911||9||Believed to have poisoned seven relatives and two boarders with arsenic in Chicago for economic gain. May have attempted suicide with arsenic while in home arrest in 1911, if so she survived and saw all charges dismissed in 1915.|
|Frances Knorr||Victoria||c. 1894||2||Baby farmer hanged for the murder of two babies that were found buried in her property.|
|Harry T. Hayward||United States||1894 and earlier||1–4||"The Minneapolis Svengali." Gambler and serial arsonist who confessed to three other unreported murders after being found guilty of one. Hanged in 1895.|
|Joseph Vacher||France||1894–1897||11–27+||Mentally ill vagrant known as "The French Ripper" and the "Ripper of the South-East", although he was also active in central and northern France. Raped, stabbed and disembowelled women, teenage boys and girls who worked alone in the countryside. Guillotined in 1898.|
|Theodore Durrant||United States||1895||2||"The Demon of the Belfry". San Francisco sunday school teacher who raped and strangled two women who rebuffed his romantic advances, then abandoned their bodies in the church's library and bell chamber. Took part in the search for the first victim and suggested that she had been kidnapped and taken out of town. Hanged in 1898.|
|Belle Gunness||United States||1896?–1908?||21–42+||Murderer for profit who killed her relatives, employees and several suitors that she contacted through lonely hearts ads in Norwegian language newspapers of the Midwest, dismembering and burying most under a chicken coop in La Porte, Indiana. The 1900 strychnine poisoning of Gunness' first husband is often reported as her first murder, but the deaths of two of her children in 1896 and 1898 (who were insured) manifested similar symptoms. Reported dead, along with her three remaining children, in a fire that destroyed her farmhouse in 1908, even though the children's bodies contained strychnine and the woman's body found next to them was decapitated and smaller than Gunness'. Several people claimed to see her alive in the following years.|
|George Chapman||United Kingdom||1897–1902||3||Poisoned three of his mistresses with tartar emetic. Suspected at the time of his execution by hanging in 1903 to be the real identity of Jack the Ripper.|
Legendary serial killers
The existence of the following serial killers is dubious or contradicts the accepted historical record:
|Andrew Christie||Scotland||mid-14th century||Called "Christie-Cleek". Purported Perth butcher turned road bandit, murderer and cannibal during a severe famine.|
|Christman Genipperteinga||Holy Roman Empire||1568–1581||Claimed German bandit who was executed for 964 murders, according to a 1581 pamphlet. Possibly inspired by real bandit Peter Niers, who confessed under torture to 544 deaths and was executed in the same year, although similar characters appear in German fairy tales and folk songs from before that time.|
|Sawney Bean's clan||Scotland||1000+||Claimed cannibal family that robbed, killed and ate travellers in a cave of Bennane Head, until their manhunt and execution by James VI. Contemporary documents make no reference to the hundreds of disappearances and murders said to have been carried by Bean's clan, which was probably inspired by the earlier legend of Christie-Cleek.|
|Sweeney Todd||United Kingdom||1801 and earlier||London barber said to kill his clients by slashing their throats and/or throwing them through a trapdoor, after which an accomplice would make pies with the meat of their bodies. Introduced in the 1846–1847 penny dreadful The String of Pearls, Todd was first claimed to be a real criminal in the first published edition of 1850, supposedly tried in December 1801 and executed in January 1802. Court records of the time do not mention Todd or anyone similar.|
|Don Vincente||Spain||1834–1836||Bibliomaniac ex-monk and librarian said to have killed ten men in Barcelona in order to steal unique books and add them to his collection, sentenced for his crimes to die by garrote. The story, first published as an anonymous article in an 1836 Parisian newspaper, was reprinted as a true story in France for a century, while remaining largely unknown in Spain.|
|Agnus McVee, Jim McVee and Al Riley||Canada||1875–1885||Family claimed to have owned a hotel and store on the Cariboo Road of British Columbia during the Cariboo Gold Rush, where they killed miners for their gold and kidnapped women to make into sex slaves until their arrest and death in prison in New Westminster. The story comes from a single source and there are no records of disappearances in the area at the time of the murders nor existing death certificates of the supposed serial killers apprehended.|
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