These Lesser-Known Serial Killers Might Make You Double Check Your Doors Tonight
Most people are familiar with the big-name serial killers: Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the ever-notorious Jack the Ripper. For those of us who can't get enough of that kind of thing, though... well, we have a tendency to stay up reading about lesser-known serial killers. Who needs sleep anyway? (Of course, whether you're happy that you know all about these gruesome crimes is an entirely different story; reasonable people probably prefer to go about their days without that kind of knowledge lurking in the back of their minds. Oh well.)
Serial killers, not to mention the true crime genre as a whole, have fascinated the public for ages, even though the odds of encountering one in real life are super slim. (Although maybe not as slim as you'd hope.) Maybe the appeal is in the adrenaline-pumping shock value, or pure psychological curiosity. As criminology professor Scott Bonn wrote in TIME last year, "The stories of real-life killers are often for adults what monster movies are for children."
No matter the reason, the fact remains that plenty of people are drawn to tales of serial murderers. If you know the famous cases inside and out (pardon the expression) and are looking for something new to learn, here are six serial killers you might not have come across before. But first, a word of warning: That doesn't mean they're any less terrifying.
1The Chessboard Killer
10 years ago, a Moscow court convicted Alexander Pichushkin of 48 counts of murder. Not much is known about his early life, but according to his own confession, he committed his first murder in 1992 at age 18, when he pushed his neighbor's boyfriend out of a window. (At the time, the death was ruled a suicide.) Nearly a decade later, he killed again, and this turned out to be the beginning of a murder spree lasting five years.
Pichushkin usually targeted the elderly or the poor, luring his victims by asking them to drink with him at his dog's grave. After they were drunk, he would attack with blunt force and dispose of their bodies in a sewer pit. Following his arrest in 2006, police allegedly found a chessboard in Pichushkin's home with dates written on more than 60 of its 64 squares. This led to the nickname "The Chessboard Killer," as some assumed the dates corresponded to the number of people he killed.
On Oct. 29, 2007, he was sentenced to life in prison.
Around the same time as Pichushkin's first murder, Russia's most notorious serial killer was convicted of killing 56 people. Born in the Ukraine state of the USSR in 1936, Andrei Chikalito was a married schoolteacher when he began killing in the '70s. He tended to target runaways and students, asking them to take a walk down dark, wooded paths where he would ambush, assault, and kill them. You can read about his tactics on your own, because they're honestly too intense to describe here. After several brushes with the law, he was convicted in 1992 and executed two years later.
Beginning in the '70s — apparently a busy decade for serial killers — Robert Hansen abducted and hunted down 17 women in the Alaskan wilderness over the course of a dozen years. Meanwhile, he also worked as a baker in downtown Anchorage, where he lived with his wife and children; accordingly, the press nicknamed him the "Butcher Baker." He was convicted in 1984 after confessing to the murders, and at the time of his death in 2014, he was still serving a 461-year sentence.
Henri Landru, a French man living during the turn of the 20th century, is often compared to the legend of Bluebeard, and for good reason. After being swindled by his own employer, he took to conning people himself, usually focusing on elderly widows. In the early 1900s, he began placing personal ads in newspapers to lure in widows; once he convinced them to hand over access to their money, he would kill them and dispose of their bodies in an oven. He was found guilty of 11 murders in 1921 and executed by guillotine in 1922.
5Fred & Rosemary West
Responsible for some of the most brutal murders taking place in the '60s and '70s in England, Fred and Rosemary West killed numerous girls and young women together, including their own daughter. The case details are disturbing even for a particularly disturbing subject, so tread with caution here. Fred West died by suicide while awaiting trial in 1995, and Rosemary West was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment for 10 counts of murder.
6The Genesee River Killer
Arthur Shawcross, also known as the Genesse River Killer, claims to have had a troubled childhood growing up in upstate New York. In 1972, he was arrested and confessed to the murder of two children, but that's not the only reason for his notoriety. After being released on parole 15 years later, he returned to murder; between 1988 and 1990, he killed 11 women. Near the end of that year, he went on trial for the 10 murders he committed in Monroe County, New York. Found guilty on each count, he passed away in 2008 while serving his 250-year prison sentence.