The world has known many a criminal, but there are a select few whose crimes are so inhumane that they stole the spotlight and have left their mark on history.
From Ed Gein, who is the inspiration behind horror classics like Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Jack the Ripper, whose identity to this day still eludes police, the world has been marred by a nasty past. Peoples’ morbid curiosity with the crimes of charismatic leaders who take the vulnerable under the wing and men and women who have committed hideous crimes have caused these names to be etched into history.
These are the most notorious serial killers and cult leaders in history.
One of the most notorious killers of all time, the Zodiac Killer is yet another serial criminal who has managed to elude police for decades.
The unknown serial killer operated in Northern California from 1968 to the early 1970s. He taunted police and the press by sending cryptograms to the Bay Area press – only one of which has been definitively solved. While only five murders are confirmed to be his, the killer claimed to have killed 37.
One of the most famous cult leaders of all time, Charles Manson was the leader of a group of young people in California during the late 1960s. He called his cult “The Family.”
Manson’s family committed a series of nine murders in July and August 1969, most notable were the murders that took place on the night of August 9, 1969, which included the murder of pregnant actress Sharon Tate.
Jack the Ripper, the name given to this unidentified killer, was active in the Whitechapel district in London in 1888. His victims were usually female prostitutes, whose throats were cut before he mutilated their abdomens. Due to the precision of the way in which organs were removed from three of his victims, it’s believed he may have had surgical knowledge. He earned himself the title “Jack the Ripper” after a letter was written by a person claiming to be the famed serial killer.
Dubbed “The Angel of Death,” Charles Edmund Cullen is believed to be the most prolific serial killer in American history. His exact victim count is not known, but he confessed to murdering 40 of his patients while working as a nurse at various hospitals. Experts believe that his actual victim count could be in the hundreds.
While working as a prostitute between 1989 and 1990, Aileen Wuornos murdered seven men in Florida by shooting them at point-blank range. She claimed that all of her victims either raped her or attempted to rape her.
Her story was told in the 2003 film Monster, where Charlize Theron portrayed Wuornos.
Jeffery Dahmer committed the rape, murder, and dismemberment of 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. He also committed necrophilia and cannibalism. At the time of his arrest, police discovered the preserved body parts of several of his victims within his home.
Active between 1972 and 1978, Gacy sexually assaulted, tortured, and murdered 33 teenage boys and young men. 26 of his victims were buried in the crawl space of his Cook County, Illinois home. Gacy was also known for dressing up as “Pogo the Clown,” leading to him being dubbed the “Killer Clown.”
James Warren Jones was an American religious leader whose name has now become synonymous with the phrase “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.”
Born in 1931 in Indiana, he founded the People’s Temple in the 1950s, proclaiming himself a messiah. He went on to found a socialist utopia in Jonestown, Guyana in the ‘70s, where, on November 18, 1977, he became responsible for the mass suicide and mass murder of over 900 remaining members of his cult.
Known as the Butcher of Plainfield, Ed Gein only ever confessed to two killings, but it was his other crimes that made him an infamous killer. Gein exhumed corpses from graveyards and fashioned body parts into furniture, household items, and other keepsakes.
Gein has been the inspiration behind countless movies, including Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Nicknamed “The Butcher of Rostov,” Andrei Chikatilo was convicted of the murder of 53 women and children in Russia between 1978 and 1990.
“When I used my knife, it brought psychological relief. I know I have to be destroyed. I was a mistake of nature,” he once said.