A serial killer is one who kills three or more people during a period of more than a month. They are said to commit these murders for some type of psychological benefit. In 2005, the FBI changed their definition to one who commits any two murders during this time frame. It is believed the United States initiated the use of this term for law enforcement in 1976 with the ‘Son of Sam’ case in New York City. There is a distinct difference between the serial killer and the mass murderer. A mass murderer kills large numbers of people in the same location. The serial killer murders three or more people over a month, and have a cooling down period between the killings. These are the top ten cross country American serial killers ever to have haunted our nation and struck fear in many.
List of Top 10 Cross Country American Serial Killers Ever until in 2017
10. Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy was born in 1946 as Theodore Robert Cowell and has been labeled not only as a serial killer, but also a necrophilia, rapist, and burglar. He murdered numerous young women and girls during the 1970’s. Before his execution in 1989, he finally admitted to 30 killings he had committed in seven different states from 1974 through 1978. It is thought the count is much higher than what he admitted to.
Bundy was an incredibly handsome man and had a lot of charm he used to win the trust of the young women he killed. He would approach them while in public places and pretend he was injured or disabled. He also would impersonate an authority figure to lure them into trusting him until he could get them to an isolated area and assault them.
Bundy’s first arrest was in 1975 where he was charged with aggravated kidnapping. He then became a suspect in a longer list of unsolved homicides in multiple other states. When he realized he was going to face murder charges in Colorado, Bundy was able to successfully escape his imprisonment. Once out, he committed more assaults and murdered three more women. He was recaptured in Florida in 1978 and received three death sentences in two separate trials. Bundy died at the Raiford Prison in Starke, Florida on January 24, 1989, at the age of 42 in the electric chair.
9. Charles Manson
Charles Manson was born in 1934 as Charles Milles Maddox and gained his name as a serial killer when he ran the Manson Family in California in a quasi-commune. With his group of followers, Manson committed a series of nine murders at four separate locations over a five-week period in the summer of 1969. He is said to have believed in what he called, ‘Helter Skelter’ an impending apocalyptic race war. He said his murders would help get this war started. A whole culture arose around him and he became an emblem of insanity, macabre, and violence.
Manson was an unemployed convict at the time he started the Family. Most of his life had been spent in correctional institutes for a long list of offenses. He also had been a songwriter in the Los Angeles music industry which he attained through a chance meeting with the founding member of the Beach Boys. Some of his music was released after his conviction for the murders and since various musicians have covered some of his songs. Manson is currently serving nine concurrent life sentences. California had abolished the death penalty in 1970, so he received the stiffest penalty left to place on him.
8. H.H. Holmes
H.H. Holmes was born in 1861 as Herman Webster Mudgett and is one of the first documented serial killers in a modern sense. It is believed he is responsible for the deaths of more than 200 people; however, he only admitted to 27. Of the 27 killings, Holmes admitted to, only nine of them were ever confirmed.
Holmes brought his victims to the World’s Fair Hotel he owned. The hotel was located about three miles west of the fair held in Jackson Park in Chicago. He had purchased an empty lot across from the drugstore and built a three-story, block-long hotel building. The ground level held the relocated drugstore and other different shops. The two upper levels contained Holmes’s personal office and a labyrinth of rooms. These rooms had some with doorways that only opened to brick walls, there were oddly angled hallways, and stairs that didn’t lead to anything. A whole lot of other oddities were built into the hotel including doors that would open from the outside only. Holmes was the only one who understood the completed structure as he continued to hire and fire workers so there was no other one person involved with the complete building.
In was in this hotel that Holmes’s victims met their fate. Some were locked in soundproof rooms that had been fitted with gas lines that he used to asphyxiate them. Some of his victims were locked in a large soundproof bank vault and left to suffocate. One room in the hotel was completely sealed by brick and could only be entered through a trap door on the ceiling. Holmes placed some of his victims inside this room to die from thirst and hunger. He completely stripped some of his victims and sold their skeletons to medical schools, others he buried in lime pits and he also used a giant furnace to incinerate others.
7. John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy was born in 1942 as John Wayne Gacy, Jr. and earned the name of, Killer Clown as a serial killer and rapist. The nickname came from his use of a clown outfit he wore while performing charitable work for fundraising events. He is known for having sexually assaulting and killing more than 33 young men and teenage boys in Cook County, Illinois during 1972 and 1978.
Most of the killings were done by Gacy in his Illinois home in Norwood Park. Luring his victims by either force or deception he would either strangle them or asphyxiate them. He then used the crawl space of his home to bury 26 bodies of his victims. Three of them had been found buried in other areas of his property and the last four of his victims were thrown into the Des Plaines River.
Gacy was sentenced to death for 12 of the 33 murders he was convicted of. He was on death row for 14 years before being executed by lethal injection at the Stateville Correctional Center in 1994.
6. Dennis Rader
Dennis Rader was born in 1945 as Dennis Lynn Rader and is an American serial killer charged with killing ten people in Sedgwick County, Kansas. Rader became known as the BTK Strangler with the initials standing for ‘bind- torture and kill’. Before he was arrested, Rader sent letters describing the details of his crime to the police and local news outlets. He took a break in his killing spree from 1990 to 2000 and then resumed his letter writing once again.
Rader’s crimes were committed in Kansas where he killed ten people and collected items from each of the victims. At the time of his arrest, he admitted he was stalking another victim he intended to kill and even stated he planned the kill for that October. After his 2005 arrest and guilty plea, Rader was sentenced to 10 consecutive life sentences at the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas.
5. Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac Killer is a serial killer from Northern California who has never been identified. During the late 60’s and early 70’s killed four men and three women in Benicia, Vallejo, San Francisco, and Lake Berryessa. The name was pinned on this killer after he sent letters to the local bay area press. Each letter included ciphers of which only one of the four sent were ever solved. In his letter, he admits to killing 37 people but the authorities only confirmed seven victims. Of the seven confirmed victims, only two survived.
The Zodiac Killer continued to send authorities greeting cards and letters. In one correspondence sent in April 1970, he signed the message saying ‘my name is’ which was then followed with a 13-character cipher. Suspects have been named by amateur investigators and law enforcement but they never found any conclusive evidence. In April 2004 the San Francisco Police Department marked the case as ‘inactive’. In 2007 it was re-opened but still has no positive information to make an arrest. He is one amongst the Top 10 Cross Country American Serial Killers Ever 2017.
4. Gary Ridgeway
Gary Ridgeway was born in 1949 as Gary Leon Ridgeway and is labeled as an American serial killer responsible for killing almost 100 people. With the total number of convictions, he received he is the most prolific American serial killer in history. Most of Ridgeway’s victims were known to be prostitutes or women in vulnerable situations and also teenage runaways. He earned the nickname, Green River Killer by the press after his first five victims were found in the Green River located in King County.
Ridgeway would strangle the women by his own hand but sometimes used a ligature. It is said after he killed the women, he then dumped their bodies in forested and overgrown areas in King County. Afterwards, he often returned to the bodies to have sexual intercourse with them. Initially, Ridgeway was convicted of 48 murders, but he later confessed to almost double that amount. After a plea bargain, the conviction was changed to 49 murders.
In 2003 Gary Ridgeway was sentenced to 48 life sentences with no possibility of parole. One life sentence was added to that to be served consecutively. An additional 10 years was added for his tampering with evidence from each of his victims which added an additional 480 years to his already 48 life sentence.
3. Albert Fish
Albert Fish was born in 1870 as Hamilton Howard ‘Albert’ Fish and earned many names for his heinous crimes; Gray Man, The Boogey Man, Moon Maniac, Werewolf of Wysteria, and the Brooklyn Vampire. He was an American serial killer and also a child rapist and cannibal. He was said to have boasted that he had children in every state and was said to have bragged the total number was about 100. The statements were never deciphered to know if he was referring to rapes, cannibalization or if they were even true.
Fish arrived in New York City in 1980 and became a prostitute who raped young boys. Throughout 1898 he took a job as a house painter and said he continued to molest children who were mostly younger than six. Around 1919, Fish stabbed a disabled boy in Georgetown, Washington DC and was known for mostly choosing his victims that were mentally handicapped or African-American as he believed they would never be missed. Fish tortured his victims with a meat cleaver, small handsaw, or butcher knife.
During Fish’s trial, it was attempted to persuade the jury that he was insane. The jury didn’t doubt that he was insane but returned a verdict of sane and guilty. He was sentenced to death. In March of 1935, he was sent to Sing Sing and was executed in January of 1936.
2. Richard Ramirez
Richard Ramirez was born in 1960 as Ricardo Leyva Munoz Ramirez and is known as a serial killer, burglar, and rapist. His home invasion crime spree was highly publicized as it terrorized the people of the greater Los Angeles area. He moved on to San Francisco and instilled the same level of terror in the residents there. He earned the name, Night Stalker by the news media as his invasions were conducted often after his victims had gone to bed at night. His method of terror included a machete, a tire iron, hammer, knives, and a handgun. Ramirez was a Satanist who never expressed any remorse for his crimes during his trial.
In September of 1989, Ramirez was convicted of 13 counts of murder, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries. After receiving his sentence of death by gas chamber, Ramirez told reporters, “Big deal.” He furthered stated that death has always been a part of his plan and he would see them all in Disneyland. Ramirez was not executed as he died from complications due to lymphoma before it could be carried out.
1. Jeffrey Dahmer
Jeffrey Dahmer was born in 1960 as Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer and was an American serial killer and sex offender. He was convicted of rape, murder, and dismemberment of seventeen men and boys. Dahmer’s later crimes also included necrophilia, cannibalism, and he preserved body parts of his victims. His lawyers tried for an insanity plea including psychotic disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Even with this attempt, he was found to be sane at trial.
During questioning where Dahmer refused counsel stating he needed to end the horror he started. He confessed to having killed 16 young men in Wisconsin and additional in Ohio. Most of his victims were rendered unconscious before he killed them, but he admitted some had died as a result of having acid or hot water injected into their brain.
Dahmer was tried in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for 15 counts of murder. The court ruled Dahmer was sane and suffering from any mental disorder. On one count he was sentenced to life imprisonment plus ten years and the remaining 13 counts carried a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment plus 70 years. There was no option to apply a death sentence. In November of 1994, Dahmer was beaten to death in prison.
The FBI states that there have been approximately 400 serial killers in the U.S. in the past century. There is no way to know how many serial killers are active at any one time but they do seem to have increased in the past 30 years. These are the top ten cross country American serial killers ever until 2017 that will haunt our history books.