Serial Killer

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"We all go a little mad sometimes."
Norman Bates, Psycho

Which Cop Show has one not appeared in?

A Serial Killer is defined as someone who commits multiple murders, out of some kind of mental or sexual compulsion, in separate incidents with at least a few days in between killings. This is their "cooling off" period, when they temporarily lose the compulsion to kill, and distinguishes them from Spree Killers, who kill in much more regular intervals of weeks or days, if they don't simply go on a murderous rampage that usually ends only when someone captures or kills them. The minimum death toll to be classified as a serial killer is 3-5 people, providing they were killed in separate incidents over a period of more than 30 days. If numerous people are killed in a single incident (e.g. someone murders an entire family in their home), that is mass murder, though mass murderers can and do become serial killers if they act multiple times.

It's worth pointing out that actually getting convicted of the three to five murders is rare. Historically, being convicted of one murder was generally enough to get you executed and pretty quickly as well, with no need or opportunity to prove the rest. Even with large-scale abolition of the death penalty, there's not much point in a prosecutor spending lots of money on multiple charges when just one will probably get the killer a life sentence. Of course, the killer could be deemed insane or kill themselves before the trial.

Real Life serial killers are usually divided into 4 categories, and fictional killers tend to fall into one or more of these categories as well, if not by design, then by their nature.
  • Visionary — The killer suffers a break from reality, delusions, and/or hallucinations, that compel them to murder. They might believe God or Satan, or simply voices, are telling them to kill, or that killing will prevent some kind of disaster. Tends to result from some kind of trauma and/or a mental illness like schizophrenia. The Insanity Defense will usually only apply to this type (though even this only counts if their mental illness impaired their sense of right and wrong), and as such if a killer is going for that defense, they will usually claim to be such — this very rarely works in Real Life, and in fact is very rarely attempted, probably because in practice there is only so much difference between being locked up in a jail cell for life for multiple murders, and being locked in an insane asylum for life for the same.
  • Mission-Based — The killer believes that their actions are for the greater good, or in the service of some higher purpose, because they are performing some kind of social, political, philosophical, or religious service, generally targeting people they blame for society's ills, or view as sinful, distasteful, or dangerous. Though they may be deluded, they are not psychotic like the Visionary killer, having a rough grasp on reality. Vigilante killers are a sub-type of this.
  • Hedonistic — Someone who kills for lust, thrill, or comfort/profit. The first two kill principally because they enjoy it; lust-based killers get sexual satisfaction out of murder, while thrill-based ones simply find it exciting. Comfort/profit killers are the type who kill to maintain or fund a life of luxury, or otherwise for money; hitmen and assassins fall into this category, but it usually refers to cases of fraud, embezzlement, or robbery that involves killing somebody. Women serial killers are usually comfort killers, though not all comfort killers are women.
  • Power/Control — These murderers kill because it makes them feel powerful. Often (though not always) the type who were mistreated or abused as children, they are driven more by insecurity or rage than by any pleasure they might get out of killing, though that might eventually play a part. If rape is involved, it is not, like a Hedonistic killer, motivated by lust, but as another means of dominating the victim. Very often involves torture, and/or binding the victim in some fashion, though neither of these are requirements.

In addition, as mentioned, there are several sub-types of these killers that fit into the above categories. Some examples include:
  • Revenge killers commit murders to lash out at real or perceived wrongs done to them in life, the victims typically being substitutes for the perpetrator of the original offense. May kill friends, relatives, or strangers for slights, sometimes petty in nature.
  • Black Widow killers cash in on the insurance of murdered relatives (or friends with wills). Typically serial spouses who murder their new husbands/wives and then move on, though they have been known to murder other relations, including children. Almost always women.
  • The Bluebeard killer is a male counterpart to the Black Widow killer, except that this specifically refers to men who kill their wives, not other relatives. Also, the motive is usually power, not financial gain, though that often plays a part.
  • Professional Killers are now increasingly regarded as a sub-type of killer, falling under Comfort/Profit Hedonistic killers.
  • Cost Cutters are those who kill to save money, such as a person who murders employees to avoid paying them.
  • Lethal Caretakers are nurses, carers, or other such who kill patients and carees for profit, e.g. to cash in on social security checks in their name. Usually women.
  • Angels of Death are similar, but kill patients for feelings of power and control, or sometimes serial mercy-killing (or believe their crimes to be such), and are thus harder to trace. Again, usually women, though Harold Shipman — British doctor and the most prolific serial killer in the world, falls into this type.
  • Munchausens By Proxy is a personality disorder where the perpetrator harms another for attention — for example, murdering a relative for sympathy at the loss, or killing someone and then trying to "save" them to act the hero. Usually not killers, but serial abusers of relations or strangers, but have been known to turn lethal.
  • Sexual Predators are killers who lure victims to their death with promises of sex or intimacy, or simply chatting the victim up. May drug their victims to make it easier. Usually Lust killers, but other motives are suspected in certain cases.
  • Sexual Sadists are lust killers who torture their victims before killing them; the torture is usually more important than the actual murder. The torture may be psychological and can last for a matter of seconds or minutes, or it can last for hours or days, depending on the offender.
  • Antisocial killers are those suffering from a severe case of a Personality Disorder. Impulsive and impatient, they pathologically violate social norms and values, such as repeatedly committing serious and petty crimes. Serial murder is usually just one of many crimes they regularly commit, and they often do so in the course of other crimes, such as robbery, rape, and various forms of manipulation.
  • Cannibalistic killers hunt down people so they can eat their flesh. Other times they do it out of curiosity after they've killed someone, the cannibalism not having been the primary motive for the murder. Jeffrey Dahmer is a well-known real life example of this type. Hannibal Lecter is the most iconic fictional example.
  • Police killers are serial murderers who are also involved in law enforcement. There's a roughly equal chance that they're a Vigilante Man who thinks he is cleaning the street by killing criminals and anyone else they regard as immoral, or just an indiscriminate psycho who butchers people for fun while using their jobs as covers for their crimes.
  • Supernatural killers are what happens when a normal, flesh and blood killer for any of the above types dies. Or rather, doesn't. He may discover Evil Makes You Monstrous, get turned into a vampire or werewolf, or linger on as a ghost. This usually makes them (perhaps literal) nightmares, as they suffer from a Horror Hunger, gain superpowers, and are nigh unkillable.

Serial killers can further be divided into Organized and Disorganized. The former plan their crimes carefully and often well in advance, and are thus always premeditated. They may even hold a stable job and have a good education, and appear perfectly normal in every way. Such people are very likely to be The Chessmaster. The latter are much more impulsive and careless; their crimes may or may not be premeditated, and they are recklessly executed when they are, without due care for witnesses or leaving evidence. These tend to be poorly educated and not in steady employment.

The following things tend to occur in a serial killer plot:
  • The killer sends a note to the police, or a newspaper, or both, with a taunting message that ends in a challenge along the lines of "You can't catch me." A gruesome souvenir may also be included.
    • A variation is to have the killer send a message saying "Please catch me before I kill more."
  • Serial killers are often, but not always, portrayed as The Chessmaster, brilliantly layering one Evil Plan onto another. Often, this takes the form of a series of Batman Gambits that lead the police on a series of wild goose chases as the killer gloats.
  • They have a wall full of newspaper clippings covering their actions. Sometimes they keep a photographic record of their kills, or even a souvenir of the victim's.
  • If it's part of a Story Arc, one cop is probably going to fall victim (which is part of the requisite Tonight, Someone Dies hype).
  • At the climax, one of the cops is usually Alone with the Psycho, but is saved Just in Time.
  • If the killer is not depicted as Ax-Crazy, then the victims all have something to do with one another.
  • If somebody else is wrongfully implicated, and looks close to taking the rap, the serial killer will bump them off, even though this means casting suspicion back on himself.
    • Or the killer will kill again while the wrongfully accused is incarcerated, casting suspicion back on himself.
    • Sometimes he will do it because it casts suspicion back towards himself, because he is insulted that the police suspect someone he considers unworthy of the attention.
  • The killer might leave a distinctive Calling Card at each scene of his crimes.
  • The killer might be a Poetic Serial Killer, who kills bad people with ironic methods.
  • Or they're a Theme Serial Killer, and they have a set of themes (possibly taken from a poem/book), with each victim fitting the next theme in the killer's list (which they rarely get to complete).
  • The killer will fondly recall or talk about their victims.
  • Some of these plots have the Serial Killer insert themselves into the investigation, either by posing as a witness, victim, or in some cases, an investigator. The killer's purpose in doing this is either to misdirect the police or prove how much smarter the killer is than the cops. While it's much more common in fiction, this has actually happened in real life.

Serial Killer plots tend to be men killing women, although The Bill subverted this. This is somewhat realistic, however, because in the real world, the vast majority of serial killers are men — or, more exactly, men tend to murder in ways that make it easier for them to get caught. Female serial killers will typically be Angels of Death and may work in health care or similar vocations. In fiction, they'll often have a Torture Cellar or do their killings in a Sinister Subway.

Over the last few years, daytime soaps have had an unusually high number of serial killers. One Life to Live has had at least two in as many years. It's the chic way for producers to pare down their casts.

It's notable that many of these behaviors are realistic for serial killers, though seeing all of them with one killer is unlikely. Also notable is the fact that they are practically never allowed to go uncaught by the end, despite many of the most famous unsolved cases in history being serial killer investigations.

Sometimes they are more like a so-called 'Spree killer', i.e. someone who goes on a murderous rampage in a smaller area over a shorter time. In fact, this is more common than actual serial killers, though characters often confuse the two, as time constraints mean the killings in a story usually take place over the space of a few days, whereas real serial killers by definition usually have weeks, months, or years between their kills.

The term "serial killer" isn't actually that old; it was coined in German (as "Serienmörder", serial murderer) in 1930 by Ernst Gennat, the highly influential director of the Berlin criminal police in the 1930s. "Serial murderer" crops up in 1966 and "serial killer" is generally attributed to FBI agent Robert Ressler in the 1970s, it didn't enter popular culture until 1981.

A counterpart to the Serial Rapist; it's not uncommon for the tropes to overlap. Compare with Psycho for Hire, where a job that requires killing people is used by villains to act out their sadism. See also Hunting the Most Dangerous Game, where someone makes an actual sport out of killing people. The killer feared by other killers is a Serial-Killer Killer.

Many potential Serial Killers get caught quickly because they use an MO that makes their crimes easy to detect and identify, or have such a strong compulsion to murder they literally cannot stop themselves even when they know they are under suspicion and/or police surveillance. They may even enjoy it more if they know the cops are watching — yes, they see it as some kind of game. And finally, some of them are so sick and broken that they want to get caught.

Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Barry the Chopper from Fullmetal Alchemist is a comically violent serial killer even after his death.
    • That said, the images of his backstory are rather unnerving, and the only reason he stops killing is because of his involvement with the various conspiracies.
    • Scar is of a different (and often overlooked) variety. He only targets state alchemists with the motivation of revenge for the massacre of his people. This makes him a "mission-oriented" serial killer. He becomes more of a sympathetic Anti-Villain and then Anti-Hero over time.
    • This series also gives us The Slicer, who (like Barry) is Animated Armor, created to guard Lab 5 following the execution.
    • In the 2003 anime version, Barry the Chopper was encountered earlier as a Villainous Crossdresser. When we see him again as #66, he keeps on killing right up until he is killed by Scar.
  • Naruto
    • Gaara constantly murders anyone who gets in his way, all because he believes that this is his sole purpose. Though he and his known victims are combat personnel and thus 'fair game', sort of, they were killed outside of combat situations. One notable instance would be the time Gaara killed two shinobi gamblers trying to get him to take a fall in the Chuunin Exam fights.
    • HIDAN. Kills for pleasure, cool down time between kills, likes to torture. He may even be named after Hedonism, one of the above categories.
    • Orochimaru is, or rather was, a straighter example; he fled the Leaf village after being exposed as a serial killer who had abducted and killed close to a hundred ninja, civilians, and babies to perform gruesome human experiments, though a number of these were technically unintentional in that he was usually trying to find safe ways of performing said experiments on himself and therefore wasn't really wanting them to die (not that he gave a crap if they did, it's just that their deaths were beside the point — plus, he seemed to be really enjoying himself.)
  • Light Yagami, the protagonist of Death Note, being of the mission-based variety, with shades of hedonistic sprinkled in there, uses the titular Artifact of Doom to anonymously kill criminals. Near even lampshades this.
  • Johan Liebert, the Monster. He even manipulated other killers into doing his work for him, most of whom also ended up dead. Johan is an unusual example in that it is debatable whether he has a compulsion to kill, since he shows that he can stop whenever he wants, and his traumatic childhood is revealed to have happened to someone else. It should be noted that having these false memories is the only sign of anything resembling insanity; all of his killings and manipulation may be motiveless and insane, but Johan himself comes across as terrifyingly sane (with the exception of one Freak Out).
    • Also, he does not appear to get any sort of benefit from killing; he shows no signs of getting a thrill or sexual pleasure from his acts, nor does he seem to get any kicks from domination, and the killings are usually carried out as pragmatically as possible (no wasting time through torture, etc.), which suggests that his use of other people to kill might be simple expedience rather than enjoying his ability to manipulate. In addition, with many of his victims, there is no financial gain or any real progress towards whatever plan he may have at the time, making their deaths pointless. The lack of any recognisable motive is the main reason why he's widely considered Nightmare Fuel incarnate.
  • Naoki Urasawa, the creator of Monster, has another manga called Pluto, in which he manages to turn the titular character, a big, goofy-looking green cartoon robot with horns from the classic Astro Boy series, into a genuinely terrifying serial killer figure.
  • Yoshikage Kira, the Big Bad of the fourth part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, kills women for their hands, which he has a strange fetish for (he thinks of the hands as his "girlfriends" and he seems to show no interest in the rest of the body). He is all the more dangerous because his ability leaves no evidence, and he will kill anyone who comes in between him and the normal life he wants to live.
    • Angelo Katagiri was arrested at the age of 12 for robbery and rape, and his crimes became progressively more violent as time went on. 20 years later he was sent to death row for the rape and murder of three teenage boys, and later escaped from prison and went on a killing spree using his Stand before being defeated by Josuke.
  • In the anime version of the Locked Room Mystery in Haruhi Suzumiya, Haruhi saw "a shadow" in the distance during the storm, believing it to be the murderer. Since this is Haruhi, Kyon figures that there might be a psychopathic serial killer lurking around the island, simply because Haruhi wanted to have one. It is left open, but the chances of this really happening are more or less low.
  • With all the seemingly random killings in StrikerS Sound Stage X of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, this was what the investigators originally thought the Mariage Case was about. However, it soon became clear that Mariage wasn't a serial killer but a group of undead super soldiers seeking the whereabouts of their king so they can begin a new war, all orchestrated by someone else as part of a terrorist scheme.
  • One particularly loathsome Contractor in the second season of Darker Than Black was a serial killer before getting his powers, and while being a Contractor means Lack of Empathy, that actually made him a bit saner and more able to control himself.
    • In a way, Nick in the first season might qualify. He was killing people to carry out a goal, not just as an end in itself, but his Power at a Price involved a compulsion to untie his victim's shoes, and so he kind of fit the "killer with a calling card" idea.
  • Descendants of Darkness has played with this. In the Kyoto arc, Muraki goes on a serial killing spree, partially to draw Tsuzuki's attention, and partially to try and create a Frankenstein monster styled body with which to resurrect his hated brother so he can kill him with his own hands. Did I mention this guy's a psycho?
    • He's also behind the serial vampire murders that constitute Tsuzuki and Hisoka's first case together (Nagasaki), and the cruise ship disappearances they investigate later, which turn out to be organ farming. This is kind of his thing.
  • In ARAGO, the Patchman's M.O. is a burned hand print on the throat of the victim... And some body parts missing (he uses them to patch up his own rotting body).
  • The two IceDevimon featured in Digimon Tamers and Digimon Frontier had shades of this.
  • MPD Psycho centers around the protagonist, who attempts to use his multiple personalities to track and thwart serial killers. Since one of his personalities is itself a serial killer, it goes without saying that things at times can get complicated.
  • Goth follows a pair of murder-obsessed high school students who track down serial killers to admire their (often gruesome) work.
  • The Psychopathic Manchild named "Old Cho" from Domu: A Child's Dream psychically controlled 29 people into "committing suicide" all within three years, so he can take one possession of theirs as a trophy.
  • In Ibitsu, Kazuki is horrified to learn, far too late, that he's not the first person approached by the "Strange Lolita" killer. The others who became the Strange Lolita's "older brothers" were never heard from again.
  • Underdog: Naoto's first opponent, Masaya Hiuchi, is an 18 year-old who was just recently released from a mental institution after brutally murdering several of his female classmates in middle school. His first actions in the tournament show that he's already up to his old tricks.
  • Cho Hakkai (AKA Cho Gonou), one of the main characters in Saiyuki, is a mass revenge serial killer who goes Ax-Crazy yandere after his twincest older sister/lover is sacrificed by his village as an offering to the local demon king, leaving half of the village and most of the demons clan dead in the aftermath.
  • Kabuto from Parasyte. We don't know much about him, since by the time he first appeared he was already in jail, but a few flashbacks show that he used to be a big fan of mutilation, cannibalism, and necrophilia. He is brought to help the police catch parasites because he has the ability to see who is infected. It's implied to be because he sees other humans the same way parasites do — but at least the parasites need to eat humans to survive. He pretends that, deep down, everybody is like him, and he's just the only one who doesn't try to suppress his true nature.
  • There's a ton of them in Deadman Wonderland; they all eventually end up being forced to murder each other. A few are excited about that.
  • One of the early Bleach villains counts. Unlike most other hollows, Shrieker is just as bad dead as he was alive. He was a serial killer in life and seemed to simply just really enjoy it. His actions as a hollow are more of the same, just much more creative with his new powers, including sealing the soul of the kid who killed him in a parrot. Needless to say, when Ichigo appeared and ripped out his tongue before curb stomping him, it was incredibly satisfying. Being impaled and dragged to Hell was the cherry on top.
  • Pandora Hearts gives us Illegal Contractors, people that forge a Deal with the Devil in the hopes of changing the past. Part of the bargain requires them to sacrifice victims to their Chain, and many develop patterns or preferred victims over the course of time. The most notable examples include the mysterious Head Hunter and the Red-eyed Ghost — the former beheads victims and turns out to be both Humpty Dumpty and the Queen of Hearts, while the other is in fact Xerxes Break in a surprising example of a Serial Killer with a Sympathetic Murder Backstory.
  • Murasakiiro No Qualia gives one in the form of the culprit to the Tokyo Dismembering Murders. A total and complete sociopath.
  • One early chapter of Franken Fran has Fran being brought on as a consultant for a serial killer case where the killer dumps severed body parts all over town (that, according to DNA tests, all come from the same person, despite the fact that this should be impossible.) Eventually subverted, as there is no killer. All the body parts indeed come from one person...who is suffering from a massively hyperactive malignant cancer that causes her to sprout entire extra body parts and organs, and the ones leaving the body parts everywhere are most likely her parents, who were cutting them off of her.
  • Attack on Titan has Kenny the Ripper, a Jack the Ripper Expy mentioned to have once stalked the streets of the Capitol decades prior. His killings are the stuff of legend, with one soldier wondering whether or not he actually existed. The story goes that he slit the throats of over 100 members of the Military Police Brigade and was never caught. Levi confirms this individual did indeed exist: Kenny Ackerman raised him, and later became a Captain in the Military Police's sinister 1st Brigade. It's later implied that many of his killings may have actually been in response to him and the rest of the Ackermans being hunted down by the government.
  • Mother Keeper has two. Lint is mentioned on multiple occasions to have been a serial killer before becoming a mother keeper, though little is said about his crimes. The second one is Graham Gregson who killed the real Graham Gregson, along with the man's entire family. He later also murdered Silas and everyone working for him.
  • Tokyo Ghoul has several, primarily Ghouls with unusual feeding patterns.
    • Shuu Tsukiyama stands out from other Ghouls due to his unusual feeding patterns imitating a human Serial Killer. He is a Picky People Eater to the extreme, and selects potential victims based on them having some exceptional or beautiful trait. At one point, Investigators discussing the "Gourmet" case are able to discern several important events taking place in the series based solely on him breaking from his strict patterns of behavior and feeding on victims that aren't up to his usual standards.
    • Yuujirou Utsumi, from the second light novel. A businessman famous for his generous nature, he turns out to be a vicious cannibal that enjoys preying on young women. His adopted children are ghouls that he raised to commit the murders for him, while Utsumi himself turns out to be human. By the time he's caught, he's already terminally ill and no longer capable of forcing the children to do his bidding.
    • In the sequel, the ghoul Torso is explicitly described as a serial killer. A deranged loner, he works as a taxi driver and kidnaps women with scars to become his dismembered "lovers". He is considered disturbing even by others of his kind, and his home is a Cannibal Larder filled with the bodies of his victims.
  • The protagonist's neighbor, and later girlfriend, in Ana Satsujin is one of these. He finds out her secret before dating her and being her boyfriend is the reason she hasn't killed him.
  • Two of these appear in Private Actress. One is a Mad Doctor who kills people with Mis Matched Eyes, including a girl whose grown-up sister hires Shiho to make her pose as the reincarnation of her dead older sis. The other is Kana Juumonji/Satoka Ryoudou, the Big Bad of the manga, who as a little girl killed a bully and from then on started eliminating anyone who stood in her way...
  • The main plot of ERASED follows Blessed with Suck Satoru Fujinuma as he's sent back to his childhood in order to thwart a child serial kidnapper and murderer. The serial killer in question turns out to be Satoru's fifth-grade teacher, Yashiro Gaku, who appears to be in the hedonistic camp, killing children for his own sick pleasure.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman has dealt with many of them, and several members of his {{rogue's gallery}} fall into the category from time to time. The most recurring ones are The Joker (obviously) and Victor Zsasz. But by far the most notable serial killers in Batman history (by virtue of their actions being the main plot of a mini-series) are Holiday and The Hangman.
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac is a serial killer protagonist. Psychologically, he see-saws between being a visionary and a thrill/control killer: On one hand, Johnny is very obviously psychotic, talks with his own furniture, suffers memory loss, and believes there's a thingnote  living inside one of his walls (it's never consistent which wall), which he needs to paint with fresh blood regularly to keep the thing inside from escaping. On the other hand, Johnny is aware he's a psychotic serial killer and cherry-picks his targets from perceived Asshole Victims (or anybody unfortunate enough to stand close enough to one) and also exhibits a personal enjoyment in murdering people. Oh yeah, and that thing in the wall? It's real (well, that, or Johnny's psychosis is contagious. And sentient. And able to kill people). It's implied that Johnny was 'chosen' to become the thing's prison guard, with the duty having driven him insane and made him kill people. Then again, his personality doesn't really change all that much from being released from his duty. Senior Diablo notes that Johnny was pretty off to begin with, and being chosen just pushed him over the edge.
  • The Sandman has an issue where a bunch of serial killers have a convention, in the style of a comic book or sci-fi convention. They advertise it as a convention for the cereal industry. The escaped nightmare who draws the plot's attention there is the Corinthian — who became one of these for his own amusement in Morpheus' absence. For over half a century.
    • Has a crossover connection to Hellblazer, where John Constantine was having a run-in with the Cereal Convention's absent guest speaker at the time. ("Anyone seen the Family Man?")
    • Dog Soup hung a lampshade on this trope, complaining at a panel discussion that female serial killers like herself are stereotyped as either angel-of-mercy nurses or black widows. "I'm a serial killer and a woman, and I'm proud of it!" Judging by the name, she is a lot more hands-on about her work.
      • Bonus points because she's flanked by a woman in a nurse outfit and a woman tagged as "the grass widow," both of whom are giving her dirty looks as she says this.
    • The presence of at least two conventioneers who'd written "God" on their name tags, along with the "Religion Panel," may also be a lampshading of the kinds of delusions commonly attributed to serial killers.
  • Sin City:
    • Kevin from the comic/film is a particularly disturbing example. He kills and cannibalizes vulnerable hookers. On the side he's also a hit man for the Cardinal.
    • Roark Junior from the story That Yellow Bastard is another particularly vile one of these. He rapes little girls and slashes them to ribbons, and particularly enjoys hearing them scream. He's protected by his powerful U.S. Senator father, who makes life hell for anyone who tries to take Junior down.
    • A serial killer briefly appears in the short story "Behind Door Number Three". He was targetting Old Town girls. Things ended very badly for him, to say the least.
  • Carnage from Spider-man is one of these; his alter ego Cletus Kasady was one even before he came in contact with the symbiote. (He had been convicted of eleven murders, but he bragged of a dozen more that the police couldn't find evidence for.) Early in his villainous career, he would leave the message "Carnage Rules!" written in his victim's blood (or with his own) at the site of each murder.
  • One story from Alan Moore's famous run on Swamp Thing was told from the perspective of a serial killer who called himself the Bogeyman. His career comes to an abrupt and anticlimactic end when he runs across the eponymous plant-man.
  • Onomatopoeia, a mask-wearing Serial Killer introduced in a Green Arrow story and later seen in Batman: Cacophany, targets Badass Normal vigilantes. He isn't against killing other people such as prostitutes either. The creepiest element of his character is one shared by more than a few Real Life serial killers: he leads a double life as a loving and seemingly normal family man with a wife and two kids. He handwaves the injuries he gets as sports accidents and has a secret trophy room in his house with the masks of the vigilantes he killed.
  • At least one writer for The Punisher has described the character as a serial killer who kills criminals.
  • Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, in addition to regular Batman villains, introduces Jane Doe, who kills people to take their identity and life, and Doodlebug, who drains people of their blood for his paintings but also to free several demons trapped beneath Arkham Asylum.
  • Young Justice has Harm, a sociopathic killer whose ambition is to become the world's top murderer.
  • Foolkiller is on a mission to do Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Although he often falls into Vigilante territory, he's not limited to criminals. The character points out frequently that many of the biggest "fools" have the protection of the "letter of the law" if not the "spirit of the law".
  • Judge Dredd: Actually a fairly mundane type of villain in the dystopian urban setting. Recurring bad guy PJ Maybe, a mastermind-level Chessmaster, is probably the most famous example, but there have been regular serial killers, cannibalistic serial killers, skin-stealing serial killers, Snuff Film serial killers, a dentist serial killer, and robot-hating serial killers. There was even a secret club of serial killers who tried to set a new record by having all of their members go on a killing spree at the same time, unleashing a murder wave in Mega-City One that ended with their leader trying to detonate a nuclear bomb.

    Fan Works 
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog Alternate Universe Fic Prison Island Break, Shadow the Hedgehog is a Serial Killer-Rapist. His crimes had a Power/Control motive. It was eventually revealed that he never actually enjoyed raping his victims, and the murders mostly happened when he lost control.
    Shadow: Eleven rapes, nineteen murders. And that's just what they caught me for.
    • Scourge the Hedgehog is also a Serial Killer-Rapist, but with a much more Hedonistic motive.
  • Cupcakes casts Pinkie Pie as one.
    • Cheerilee's Garden does the same for Cheerilee, though she tries to disguise her Hedonistic motivations as a noble crusade against the "weeds."
    • Popped depicts Pokey Pierce, a fairly overlooked background pony, as a sadistic, power-thirsty serial killer that preys on young mares in and around Ponyville.
    • The Pony POV Series has Dark World!Fluttercruel, who, while she doesn't mind how she kills a pony so long as its violent, her preferred method is akin to Cupcakes!Pinkie Pie; torturing them to death in her Torture Cellar. Her motivation is a mix of Power/Control and Hedonistic, as she enjoys the power over them and gets a thrill. However, her biggest motive she kept secret was that she kills to express her love for her father and due to being raised by Discord, she has no idea that what she's doing is wrong. Also the Supernatural type, due to being immortal, and Discord's demigod daughter.
    • The Secret Life of Rarity is an example of a killer Rarity, dating back to a self-defense murder in her foalhood. She is a power/control killer, and by the end of the story she is the most prolific serial killer in the history of Equestria with well over 100 kills. Having said that, she has dissolved into clear self-loathing by the end of the story, and she hates how she has no control of her desire to kill.
  • The Happy Tree Friends fanfiction "The Reaper" has one.
  • In New Dawn, Nebiros is a Revenge Killer, taking very petty vengeance on those who he thinks were born into better circumstances than him. He also fits the Supernatural mold, due to the whole "he's a demon" thing.
    • In a similar vein, most villains in New Dawn III are Serial Killers, the Big Bad being a Revenge / Mission Based Serial Killer. It's worse in Robin's case because his Modus Operandi leaves no trace of his victims behind.
  • Sleepwalker has confronted multiple serial killers who become supervillains. One example is Fever Pitch, a "visionary"-type killer with a large Charles Manson-like cult following who eventually becomes a living, flaming skeleton that can control and shoot fire. Another example is the Scarecrow, who murdered 16 people with a pitchfork before being caught and executed, but has returned in the form of a demonic Freddy Krueger-like monster that Mind Rapes his victims to death.
  • Spider-Woman's Arch-Enemy, the Ax-Crazy Jack O' Lantern, counts as a serial killer simply based on the sheer number of people he kills over a period of several months. His reason for doing so? For the Evulz, mostly, which qualifies him as an "antisocial" type killer.
  • The Bones fanfic "The Bard in the Bodycount" has Booth and the Jeffersonian team going up against a killer who stages his murders bases on scenes from William Shakespeare's plays. The first victim, for example, is a woman found floating in a river, her body clad in a shroud and strewn with pansies, rosemary, rue, and fennel, referring to the death of Ophelia.
  • In the Doctor Strange fanfic "The Necessary Shadow", Doctor Strange starts hunting down a serial killer known as the April 9th Killer. Once a year on April 9th, he kidnaps, rapes, and tortures five teenaged girls to death in a ritualistic manner, and leaving their bodies surrounded by occult implements. This has been going on for seventeen years, and Doctor Strange is certain that the sacrifices have some occult purpose. It turns out he's right, but not in the way he suspects. The human sacrifice performed by the April 9th killer is actually preventing an ancient Eldritch Abomination from materializing and eating the earth. So in the end, as much as he hates it, Strange must allow the annual murders to continue...
  • The Emergency! fic "Lost and Found'' has a serial killer targeting firefighters. John becomes a victim when he pleads with the guy to take him instead of Roy, but survives because the guy wasn't solely a killer, he was also wanting a willing participant in his twisted games. John gets to the point of willingly complying because he's terrified of being tortured to death like the others. Still, he snaps when the guy says he's keeping him forever, and kills him to escape.

    Films - Animated 
  • Claudandus from Felidae personally kills a huge number of his fellow cats as part of his plan to create a Master Race.

    Films - Live Action 
  • M, starring Peter Lorre as the bizarrely sympathetic child killer Hans Beckert, is one of the first film portrayals of a serial killer. Since many of these tropes had not taken effect yet, the climax was actually about saving him from a furious lynch mob.
    • M was inspired by the case of Fritz Haarmann (aka "the Butcher of Hanover"), which also inspired two other movies: Tenderness of the Wolves in 1973, a fictionalized account of Haarmann's killing spree, and The Deathmaker in 1995, an account of Haarmann's psychological examination, based on the actual transcripts of his interrogation.
  • Several Alfred Hitchcock films feature these:
  • Peeping Tom is about a deranged amateur filmmaker who kills women while filming them (specifically their faces).
  • The main antagonist in the time-travel movie, Frequency, specializes in killing nurses.
  • David Allen Griffin in The Watcher, whose main purpose of doing this is so he can continually meet FBI Agent Joel.
  • The other classic cinema example is Preacher Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) in The Night of the Hunter, who famously has "Love" and "Hate" tattooed across his knuckles.
  • Johnathan Doe from Se7en is possibly the most disturbing one on this list. He is a serial killer who is obsessed with sin and punishment, and models his unimaginably cruel murders after the Seven Deadly Sins. The most disturbing thing about him is not only his intelligence and sadism, but that everything goes according to his plan and he is victorious in the end.
  • Mitch Leary from In the Line of Fire. John goddamn Malkovich.
  • 10 Rillington Place is the horrifying Real Life story of John Christie (see Real Life section below).
  • Richard from Dead Man's Shoes, though his motive makes him more sympathetic than most examples.
    • Technically, Richard is a spree killer since all of his killings are implied to occur in under thirty days.
  • Rare female example: Erica Bain from The Brave One. Doubles as a Vigilante Woman.
  • Jigsaw of the Saw movies arguably fits here, though he is fairly sporting — he gives his victims a (very slim) chance to escape, and apparently wants them to escape, on the hope that their life will be improved by the experience.
    • As for his apprentices Amanda Young and (eventual successor) Mark Hoffman, well... Not so much.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, who murdered his customers and sent them down the chute, where his partner Mrs. Lovett baked them into pies. His initial motive is revenge for what happened to him and his wife at the hands of the corrupt Judge Turpin, and his first killing is a man who recognized him from his days as Benjamin Barker and tried to blackmail him, but after "Epiphany", he starts committing the murders that would make him infamous.
  • The Stepfather series of films involves an unnamed serial killer (he only ever uses aliases) obsessed with finding the perfect family to become a part of. Things are all smiles and sunshine for a while, but if the family doesn't reach expectations and becomes too hard to handle, he moves on to another, murdering his current one (and anyone else in the way) in a vicious cycle, being incapable of believing that there is no such thing as "the perfect family". One of the most memorable scenes in the original is of the killer losing his composure in the basement, thrashing around and muttering nearly incomprehensibly, unknowingly in front of his stepdaughter. Also, the "Family Killer", as he's called in the third film was apparently based off real life killer John List.
  • Before becoming a dream-stalking ghost via demons, Freddy Krueger of A Nightmare on Elm Street fame was a serial killer by the name of the "Springwood Slasher", who would prey on young children (and, if an old newspaper in the fifth film is any indication, he'd do more than just butcher them). The sixth film reveals that he had a secret room in his house filled with trophies of his kills (and various implements of torture), and the opening of Freddy vs. Jason also at one point had him flipping through a scrapbook of his victims while chuckling to himself.
  • Henry, the Villain Protagonist of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, is a brutal murderer who changes his M.O. for each kill, so the police don't know what he's up to. He eventually gets away with killing every other major character in the film, including his accomplice and his girlfriend. He's also so cold and unfeeling that he makes Dexter look like a warm, caring individual.
  • The murderous truck driver from Steven Spielberg's Made-for-TV Movie Duel is strongly hinted to be one of these, with numerous license plates mounted on his vehicle, and notches carved in the headlight rims.
  • The focus of an amusing subplot in the Steve Martin comedy The Man with Two Brains, when Martin's character accidentally stumbles across the identity of The Elevator Killer:
    Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: You. You're the elevator killer. Merv Griffin.
    The Elevator Killer: Yeah.
    Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: Why?
    The Elevator Killer: I don't know. I've always just loved to kill. I really enjoyed it. But then I got famous, and — it's just too hard for me. And so many witnesses. I mean, everybody recognized me. I couldn't even lurk anymore. I'd hear, "Who's that lurking over there? Isn't that Merv Griffin?" So I came to Europe to kill. And it's really worked out very well for me!
  • Grindhouse's Stuntman Mike: He's a stuntman. Who horribly butchers women. With his car. Yeah. Tracy Thoms, Zoe Bell, and Rosario Dawson turn the tables on the redneck lunatic.
  • The Scream series each featured a Serial Killer in costume who hunted down all the friends and family of Sidney Prescott (or the cast of the Film Within a Film in the third one). The various people who have donned the Ghostface mask are: Billy Loomis and Stu Macher in Scream (1996), Mrs. Loomis and Mickey in Scream 2, Roman Bridger in Scream 3, and Jill Roberts and Charlie Walker in Scream 4.
  • Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees: He gets even worse after getting hacked up with a machete.
  • Halloween's Michael Myers: Killing just one sister just wasn't enough for him.
  • Scorpio, in Dirty Harry. Scorpio was based on the real life Zodiac Killer who was active in San Francisco in the late 1960's, but never caught.
  • Citizen X, a real one, Andrei Chikatilo.
    • Evilenko, also based on Chikatilo (though much more loosely).
  • Jack in the movie Blacktop, who, as the title suggests, works driving a truck around the mid-West and uses the trailer's freezer to store the strung-up corpses of his victims. Best part is, he's played by Meat Loaf.
  • Mike and Bart in the black comedy How To Be A Serial Killer.
  • Carl Panzram in Killer: A Journal of a Murder, memorably played by James Woods. Disturbing in its way since the story is based on an actual serial killer, although the film isn't nearly as gruesome as Panzram's real career.
  • The Element of Crime subverts many of the expected associated tropes by featuring a very elusive child killer whose identity is never revealed (in fact, he may be have been dead already even before the events of the movie), and by having some of his murders actually committed by the people who pursue him, as they become crazy because of the very profiling method they're using.
  • The protagonist of The Poughkeepsie Tapes is an especially terrifying example.
  • Hugo Stiglitz of Inglourious Basterds was a serial killer that targeted Nazi officers despite being one himself. This got him immediate entry into the Basterds after they busted him out of prison.
  • Angela Baker is a mission-based one. In the original Sleepaway Camp, she killed people who had wronged her in some way, while in the next two films (Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland), she's developed an extreme set of morals, and is a puritanical killer, murdering people who personally offend her (so, the usual slasher film stereotypes). In the fifth film, she murders Alan's main tormenters.
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Leatherface. Several of his relatives also count, but in general, the dirty work is left to him.
  • Child's Play: Charles Lee Ray, better known as Chucky the Killer Doll.
  • Each installment of the Prom Night series features one. The first has Alex Hammond, the second and the third feature Mary Lou Maloney, the fourth has Father Jonas, and the 2008 remake has Richard Fenton.
  • A few of the main characters in Predators.
  • The murderer in Untraceable abducted and killed people in gruesome ways while broadcasting over the internet that he would spare the victim only if it didn't meet the number of viewers that he attracted, as it turns out the people he was killing were people connected to his father's suicide.
  • Monsieur Verdoux, the Villain Protagonist of the eponymous Charlie Chaplin film, is a Bluebeard-style killer, inspired by the actual serial killer Henri Landru.
  • Changeling features Gordon Northcott, who kidnapped and murdered more than 20 young boys on a small farm in California.
  • Monster, the one with Charlize Theron (but not Charlize Theron's eyebrows) as Aileen Wuornos.
  • The Convenience Store Killer from Cornered!.
  • The murderer from Psycho Beach Party killing people they consider imperfect, eg. the disabled girl, a man with an extra toe, etc.
  • The Exorcist III: The Gemini Killer, a serial murderer so evil that he became a body-hopping demon after his death.
  • Some Guy Who Kills People - of the revenge variety.
  • Child killer Rustin Parr in The Blair Witch Project.
  • Zodiac is about the hunt for the real-life Zodiac Killer.
  • Ted Bundy is a film about the real guy.
  • Serial Mom is a humorous example of a Revenge Killer, in that she kills people over extremely small transgressions, like not rewinding rental videos (this was made back in the pre-DVD age), not recycling or wearing white shoes after Labor Day.
  • Man Bites Dog: Notorious Belgian Cult Classic about a documentary crew following a serial killer during his daily activities.
  • The serial killer in The Dead Zone focuses on killing women. He turns out to be a policeman who lived with his mother in a clown-patterned bedroom.
  • The Cell deals with a new experimental technology, to enter the mind of a comatose serial killer in order to learn where he has hidden his latest kidnap victim.
  • Butch Cavendish from The Lone Ranger, who's stated to be an Indian killer and has murdered and eaten people, is a Hedonistic version.
  • In Split/Second, Cowboy Cop Harley Stone is pursuing a serial killer who cuts out his victims' hearts to eat them and has a personal vendetta with Stone. Subverted in that it turns out it is actually a giant monster with unexplained motives for killing people, although presumably intelligent.
  • The protagonist of Cabin by the Lake is an obscure horror movie writer named Stanley, who murders women by kidnapping and drowning them, then writes his activities into his work.
  • Dr. Decker from Clive Barker's Nightbreed is a misanthropic serial killer who murders entire families and anyone else he comes across to 'cleanse' the world. He becomes an undead one at the end.
  • In Hellraiser: Inferno, the Engineer is an eyeless serial killer who is going after the people around Joseph and playing an extensive cat and mouse game with him.
  • Highwaymen features a crippled serial killer named Fargo who uses his customized car to go on a killing spree of women through vehicular homicide.
  • Ghost in the Machine: Karl Hochman starts out as a mundane example who finds victims from address books, untill lightning strike overloading the MRI machine her is in ends up visualizing him. He then becomes a digital ghost who travels through computer networks, overloading electronic appliances, such as turning a hairdryer into a flamethrower.
  • Running Scared (2006): Dez and Edele, a couple who kidnap children to molest them before murdering them and disposing of their bodies. When Terese arrives to rescue Oleg from them, she can barely resist throwing up when she sees that the couple has dozens of videotapes in their collection, all with the names of various children marked on them. Being a fairytale-inspired story, they're an analogue for the witch from Hansel and Gretel.
  • Fear City: The one in this film is a martial arts expert who mainly goes after strippers, toying with his prey before killing them. He apparently sees it as part of a mission to purify the world of sinners.
  • Haunter: The villain of the movie is a serial killer who continued to kill people beyond his death and used his powers as a ghost to keep the spirits of his earlier victims trapped in the house.
  • Road Games: Smith (alias Jones) is a hedonistic serial killer who rapes, strangles and dismembers young female hitchhikers.
  • Nathan from Ex Machina could be interpreted as one. He repeatedly creates artificially intelligent robots which he subsequently deactivates and/or destroys. Since he thinks they are just machines, he does not consider himself a murderer.
  • Crimson Peak: The Sharpe siblings are very appropriately named, especially Lucille. Since their father lost their entire fortune, Thomas and Lucille have fallen on hard times. Unfortunately, their way of getting out of financial distress involves Thomas charming wealthy heiresses to marry him, so that Lucille can kill his wives with poison after they have signed over their fortunes.
  • Mick Taylor from Wolf Creek is a particularly terrifying example.
  • Replicant: Edward "The Torch" Garotte is named such because he beats single mothers to death, then sets their houses on fire and leaves the child inside.
  • The titular John Doe: Vigilante, who spends his nights killing child molesters/abusers, rapists, and abusive husbands/boyfriends, culminating in the man who killed his wife and daughter (the very thing that spurred his killing spree).

    Literature 
  • Hannibal Lecter is the definitive serial killer series, in that almost every fictional serial killer since has been inspired by the two examples in the movie.
    • Hannibal Lecter himself is a cultural icon. He's a well-educated man, a famous psychiatrist, and a genius who sometimes helps out the protagonists. His cold eyes are the only signs that he is a serial killing cannibal. Although in the book (but not the film), he has maroon eyes and six fingers on one hand.
    • Francis Dolarhyde from Red Dragon (the first of the Lecter novels) and the movie Manhunter is a gruesome one, complete with scrapbook of newspaper clippings and drawings from when he was a kid, reflecting his Freudian Excuse. Rather than sending taunting letters to the cops, he sent fan letters to the incarcerated Hannibal Lecter himself.

    • Buffalo Bill from the second book The Silence of the Lambs, is a complete maniac who kills and skins five women. Although feminine and very disturbing, he is a fairly generic serial killer. Buffalo Bill is actually a combination of real life serial killers Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, and Gary Heidnik.* A rare Filipino version in Alex Carlos from Smaller And Smaller Circles. He is also a Depraved Dentist and uses his dental tools to kill and eviscerate his victims, usually young boys from slum areas.
  • Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi has the title character, a charming, wealthy aristocrat who is revealed to have killed hundreds of young women that he keeps in a chamber in his estate.
  • Patrick Bateman from American Psycho is a sadistic sociopath, although he doesn't fit all of the qualifications. For one thing, he might not have actually killed anyone.
  • Annie Wilkes from Misery is an "Angel of Death" example. She was a nurse, and killed many old patients, and later, babies in the hospitals she worked in.
  • Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith has one operating in the Soviet Union in the early 1950's. The catch? The killer is the protagonist's brother, Andrei, from whom he was separated as a child. Turns out Andrei was killing his victims the same way that he and his brother killed game for food, in an effort to lure his brother back to him. Not to kill him, just to be with him again. You find out the identity of the killer a while before the end of the book (if you can put the clues together), so it becomes a whydunnit.
  • Subverted in the Agatha Christie novel The ABC Murders, where Hercule Poirot receives a series of letters from 'ABC' threatening to kill a series of victims in alphabetical order and challenging Poirot to unmask him. Alexander Bonaparte Cust is being used as a front by the real killer, who wants to murder his brother for the inheritance and plans to cover it up by disguising it as the act of a serial killer.
  • In Damnatio Memoriae, Enim and Jack are searching for whoever has been killing local girls in the town outside of their boarding school. Enim thinks he finds the killer, but given that he's an unreliable narrator, it's hard to know what really happened.
  • A staple of the In Death series.
  • Martin Vanger from The Millennium Trilogy defies all stereotypes and all rules on top of this page. He is the kindly CEO of a corporation, a nice but troubled guy, and a friend who even saves the protagonist's life. And he is a serial killer who has been imprisoning, raping, and murdering hundreds of young Russian girls. This has been going on since he was a teenager. The most chilling thing is Martin's explanation for his actions: "This is every man's innermost dream. I take whatever I want".
  • John Dread, from Tad Williams' Otherland series, was raised by a violent, drug-addicted mother who fulfilled her revenge fantasies against the world by intentionally turning him into a sociopath. He started killing as early as 6, was moved from institution to institution and deemed "incorrigible", and finally escaped into society after Corrupt Corporate Executive Felix Jongleur noticed his abnormal psychic powers and began training him as a Psycho for Hire. He murders women for pleasure in fetishistic ways (acting out a Revenge Fic against his mother) and records all the killings in his private video library. He taunts the police by leaving bizarre clues at the scene and "fogging" security cameras with his "twist". He chafes at Jongleur's leash, and eventually breaks free by infiltrating the heroes' group in Otherland and discovering how to break the network's security, upon which point he proves how Eviler Than Thou he is by going on a godlike killing spree.
  • Serial killers are the main subject of I Am Not a Serial Killer.
  • In The Hellfire Club by Peter Straub, Dick Dart is most definitely this, despite how much he hates being called this by the media.
  • In Stationery Voyagers, Clandish Consto toys around with the idea of making a career out of being a Serial Killer. Then, he decides to become a full-blown terrorist instead (with plans to become a god).
  • Gretchen "the Beauty Killer" Lowell, first introduced in Heartsick, has tortured and killed over 200 people, whether alone or by manipulating her lovers into killing for her.
  • Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami, has a strange example: a character known as Johnny Walker (very strongly implied if not proven to be the dad of the main character, Kafka.) Why is it strange? Instead of people, he kills cats, and eats their hearts.
  • The search for a serial killer in New York City in 1896 is the plot of Caleb Carr's The Alienist.
  • Mr. Harvey from The Lovely Bones, for a pedophilic example.
  • The period mystery Eater of Souls is a serial-killer story set in Ancient Egypt. One of the few cases where the "Supernatural" variant of this trope is genuinely and plausibly suspected by the investigators.
  • The David Eddings novel Regina's Song has the Seattle Slasher, a killer who paralyzes sexual predators with a syringe of curare and then carves them to pieces with a linoleum knife. She was a Mission/Revenge type, targeting sex offenders because one of them raped and murdered her twin sister, and ultimately seeking out and killing the specific rapist responsible for that act.
  • The Roman Empire setting of the Marcus Didius Falco novels might strike some as an odd place for a serial killer, but Three Hands in the Fountain has one anyway. Then again, the thoroughly modern sensibility of the series makes it work.
  • Many of Michael Connelly's mystery novels involve pursuit of a serial killer.
  • The first story that featured the infamous demon barber Sweeney Todd, The String of Pearls, had Sweeney murdering his customers by means of a barber's chair rigged to send people down to his basement, taking his razor to any who survived the fall, then delivering the bodies to Mrs. Lovett's pie shop across the street through a tunnel below to be made into pies. Sweeney was not motivated by vengeance like in the musical, but money. The story is a lot less romantic or melodramatic than the musical, and it ends with the two getting caught, Mrs. Lovett poisoning herself before the trial after almost getting lynched by her customers during her arrest, and Sweeney himself being tried, convicted, and hanged for his crimes.
  • Deirdry Noll as the Shadow Snake is a comfort/profit killer. Her modus operandi is to find an otherwise poor family who has some small item of value (an enamel-on-gold lily pendant, some money, pearl earrings, a spell book, so on), kidnap one of their children, and demand the item in return for the child's life. If the item is not paid up in a week, she kills the child.
  • In the Fate/Zero novel, the historical hero Gilles de Rais (summoned to the war as Caster) is a visionary serial killer (with aspects of a thrill killer) who kills to spite God for abandoning Jeanne d'Arc. He favours children as his targets. His master, Ryuunosuke, is a sadistic thrill killer who ended up summoning Caster out of curiosity and gleefully follows Caster because he considers him an artist.
  • Cat of Many Tails by Ellery Queen has Ellery being hired as a special investigator to assist the NYPD to catch a serial killer who has been terroising New York. Initially, the only pattern Ellery can find in the killer's targets, who vary in sex, race, and marital status, is that each victim is younger than the one before.
  • Two stories in Stephen King's Night Shift features a serial killer: "Springheel Jack" in Strawberry Spring and the hammer murderer in The Man who Loved Flowers. In both, the protagonist is the killer; in the former it's a case of The Killer in Me, in the latter an extreme example of Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick.
  • Karkas, villain of Galaxy of Fear: The Brain Spiders, is a touchy, mercurial murderer who's killed at least ninety one people and cut a K into the forehead of each of them.
  • " The Hunter" from Gun Machine has over two hundred kills to his name, performed over a series of twenty years, using "appropriate" pre-used guns to kill every target. He is eventually revealed to be a visionary mission killer: The Hunter is a delusional psychotic attempting to make a wampum pattern out of his murder weapons that he believed would kick-start the Ghost Dance and return Manhattan to its pristine pre-colonization state.
  • Oscar Yeager in Hunter is a white supremacist serial killer, targeting mixed race couples and their children. He later broadens his targets to liberal journalists and government officials, and inspires several copycat killers.
  • The Tim Dorsey novels have Serge A Storms, who goes on spree killings whenever he's off his meds (Read: Every single book). Some people he kills in the pursuit of wealth, and others he kills purely because they offend him, usually for some sort of anti-social behavior (Unsportsman like conduct at a Little League game, playing music too loud...) or for damaging some part of Florida history. A great deal of the humor in the stories comes from the truly inventive ways he can come up with to off people.
  • James Bond
    • Grant from From Russia with Love has urges to kill during full moon, and went working for the Soviets to be able to continue to do so. He became a SMERSH agent, and they use him as their chief executioner.
    • The Big Bad of Never Send Flowers is a serial killer who specializes in arranging high-profile assasinations.
  • In the Flannery O'Connor short story, A Good Man Is Hard To Find, a serial killer called "The Misfit" and minions meet up with a family, whose matriarch tries to talk her way out but it does not work out for her.
  • In part of Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, a woman finds herself on a bridge chased by a serial killer called "The Lonely One" who remembers she has a pair of scissors in her purse.
  • Saxon Hyde from Ghoul by Michael Slade, and the Headhunter, among others. All of the author's novels include a Serial Killer at the centre of the plot, but also discuss cases of Real Life killers such as Ted Bundy and Ed Gein. Slade is the pseudonym for Jay Clarke, a lawyer who specializes in criminal insanity.
The Silver Codex A new serial killer makes their first kill.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Caleb was this pre-series.
  • There's the Showtime series Dexter, and the books by Jeff Lindsay from which it was adapted, which feature as their title character a serial killer who is a police forensics expert, and who preys solely on serial killers whom he feels have escaped justice.
    • In the books, Astor and Cody show signs of developing into serial killers, themselves. It's touched on with Cody in the TV series, but mostly left out due to Executive Meddling.
    • The series also features a serial killer of the season that the police focused their attention towards.
      • Season 1/"Darkly Dreaming Dexter: - The Ice Truck Killer, dabbling in the murders of prostitutes by methods quite like Dexter's methods. Turns out it's Dexter's own brother, Brian, who is later killed by Dexter.
      • Season 2 - Dexter himself, after his garbage bags are found. Doakes takes the fall for it, and Lila kills him in a cabin explosion.
      • "Dearly Devoted Dexter: - Dr. Danco, a former interrogation specialist and surgeon who was employed by the US government in El Salvador, who was sold out and starts to hunt down the people who caused it. A former comrade of Doakes. Killed while experimenting on Doakes with Dexter tied down. Doakes comes out of it missing a few body parts. A lot of them. He gets slightly better.
      • Season 3 - The Skinner, a man known for, well... skinning people. He kidnaps Dexter and tries to get him to tell where Freebo, an associate of the Skinner, was. Dexter snaps his neck and then throws him into the incoming path of a police car.
      • "Dexter in the Dark" - A serial killer who kills in an odd tradition, by beheading and throwing the body in a kiln. A subversion, since it's all being committed by several people in a cult worshiping Moloch, an old god. Arguably played straight when it turns out Moloch is very real, and drives people to murder. Dexter's stepchildren were about to be victims by the head of the cult until Cody saves the day.
      • Season 4 - The Trinity Killer, a man who kills in threes. One of the most prolific and deadly killers in America, having avoided capture for three decades. Dexter unravels Trinity's double life and eventually kills him, but not until after Trinity (or someone using his signature) kills Rita. He killed each person during a cycle in different ways, to reflect deaths of family members he either directly or indirectly killed. It also turns out he killed in fours, but the first part of his cycle was not picked up by the original investigator because the bodies were never found.
      • "Dexter by Design" - A killer who carves out the innards of victims and stuffs them with ironic objects based on the scenery. Averted, turns out they were corpses stolen from the Miami morgue. Then played straight when Dexter kills one of the two masterminds behind it, sending the other one into a killing spree. He then kidnaps Rita and tries to kill her. Dexter and kids save the day.
      • Season 5: The barrel girl gang. Serial rapists as much as killers who murdered their victims to dispose the evidence in all but two cases.
      • Season 6 The Doomsday Killer, who stages his murders to mirror bits of the Book of Revelations in order to bring about the apocalypse. The viewer is first lead to believe that the murders are done by religious studies professor James Gellar and his disciple Travis Marshall, but we later find out that Travis is the real killer haunted by the memory of Gellar, who died years ago.
      • Season 7: Serial poisoner Hanna McKay. People who gave her trouble had a mysterious tendency to die of heart attacks... she's not the antagonist of the season, though; in fact, she's Dexter's love interest that season!
      • Season 8: The Brain Surgeon, who literally cuts off people's skull with a saw and extracts bits and pieces of their brain. Turned out to be Oliver Saxon, Dexter neightbor's boyfriend, which is a cover identity; in reality, he's Daniel, the presumed-dead son of Evelyn Vogel (Dexter's Parental Substitute).
  • Jack of All Trades from Profiler both supported and subverted this trope. Jack was the killer, yes, but he had a girlfriend/project named "Jill", whom he made up to look like Sam Waters, the object of his obsession. But Jill, not Jack, is actually the one who kills off Sam's boyfriend Coop in Season Two.
  • The Carver from Nip/Tuck.
  • So far, the extraordinarily dreadful Wayne Callison has only appeared on two episodes of Shark, but several plot arcs were initiated by his fairly memorable role.
  • Monk had a subversion in "Mr. Monk and the Really, Really Dead Guy". The "Six-Way Killer" sends the police a note bragging that he'll strike again within 72 hours, and the police focus all their resources on the case. Actually, the killer has no intention of killing anyone else. He wants to distract attention from a previous murder long enough for the police to lose their chance at a crucial piece of evidence.
    • Played straight in "Mr. Monk's 100th Case": A modelling photographer goes to the houses of young actresses who have posed for him, takes them off-guard, strangles and kills them, then takes their lipstick (to sign his work). In addition, each target he kills, he paints the deceased target's photo in his own photo studio with lipstick, leading Randy to call him the Lipstick Killer, a name Stottlemeyer disapproves of.
    • Monk has had some other serial killer cases before: one example is "Mr. Monk and the 12th Man", where this is Monk's only explanation for a string of eleven deaths.
  • Criminal Minds has loads of these guys. That's part of the premise.
    • As a side effect of this, and the writers' close working relationship with real members of the BAU, it is very rare for more than two of the listed criteria to appear in the same killer.
    • Most villains that aren't serial killers are spree killers (a slightly different classification, but one that still ends up with a ton of people dead). The sheer variety of them covered in the show is one of its most interesting aspects.
  • Plenty in Wire in the Blood
  • Sylar. Throw in a slew of psychological issues and superpowers and you've got a doozy.
    Luke: "Wow. So you're like a serial killer."
    Sylar: "I'm not a serial killer."
    Luke: "But you've got a pattern. You go after specific victims. You collect mementos."
    Sylar: "Okay, technically, I'm a serial killer."
  • American Horror Story: Asylum has Bloody Face, a masked serial killer running the unspecified area where Briarcliff is located in the 1960s and the ruins of Briarcliff in the present day somehow. In the past Kit Walker is falsely accused of being him after his wife disappears. He turns out to be Dr. Oliver Thredson, the mild-mannered psychiatrist, in the 1960s, and his son in the present day. Incidentally, the original is played by Zachary Quinto, who portrayed Sylar as mentioned above.
    • American Horror Story: Hotel has James Patrick Marsh, who mixes real-life serial killer H.H. Holmes' plan of creating a hotel full of secret passages and hidden rooms to conceal his many many murders with a personality somewhat reminiscent of Howard Hughes. After his death he apparently served as a mentor to several real-life serial killers, who after their own deaths throw a dinner party with him at his hotel: John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Aileen Wuornos, Richard Ramirez, and the Zodiac Killer. The same episode also reveals that March's Dragon Miss Evers lost her own son to another real-life serial killer, the Wineville Chicken Coop Murderer Gordon Northcott, although he is never referred to by name. Finally, Detective John Lowe is pursuing the Ten Commandments Killer who turns out to be John Lowe himself
  • Millennium: Frank Black (no, not the guy from Pixies) specializes in profiling serial killers.
  • CSI has had at least four, including "The Miniature Killer", who made miniatures of the crime scenes before a murder, and ultimately tried to kill Sara Sidle. Turned out this killer was a woman. Others include: the "Blue Paint Killer", who lured women into a trap using wet paint,the "Dick and Jane Killer", who killed couples, keeping the girls to himself and leaving the male bodies to be found, the bodies stabbed sequentially to show their order of death, then ended up stabbing Dr. Ray Langstrom in the Season 10 Cliffhanger, and Sqweegel, a Canon Immigrant from a book written by one of the producers, who dressed in a full body latex bodysuit and shaved off all his hair to avoid leaving evidence. He was never caught.
    • Dentist! Dr. Dave - cuddly older fellow, does dental work for the un-insured, eats lunch in the same little diner for forty years, loves his wife and (grown) kids, and callously murders young women and drops their bodies in places with high crime rates. And gets away with it for years. And when caught, calmly refuses to identify bodies because he simply doesn't care about the victims' families. Beyond creepy.
    • Also, Paul Millander, who shot men in bathtubs and made it look like suicides.
    • CSI: New York had one such arc with "The Cabbie Killer", a guy who gassed people in the back of his taxi- with the exhaust fumes. As means of murder go, that is Nazi-level, being the method used before Zyklon-B was introduced.
    • The other two big CSI NY ones were: Shane Casey, who first targeted the people involved in the conviction of his brother, who committed suicide in prison. He killed them all in symbolic manners and left cryptic t-shirts on the bodies. Eventually,he was arrested and imprisoned, but escaped and turned his rage on Danny and by extension Lindsay,because Danny forced him to confront evidence of his brother's guilt. He was only stopped when Lindsay shot him after he broke into the house and held their infant daughter hostage. The second was the Compass Killer, who left antique compasses at all his kills as his signature.
      • Every CSI show has had numerous serial killer that lasted for only one episode, rather than forming story arcs. Of those that do make recurring appearances, most tend to either die in prison usually via suicide, or be killed by the cops.
  • A classic ep of Hawaii Five-O played around with this trope. The killers (a man and woman) are preying on wealthy young widows and unmarried women, offing about one a month. There is no note to the cops, no wall of evidence. A wealthy young widow goes missing and her attorney pesters Five-O to find her. They come up with scads of missing women who fit the M.O., only to find the attorney's client alive and happy being a hippie on a beach. But all the other women ended up very, very dead. Being Five-O, McGarrett sets a trap using a policewoman as bait and catches said villains.
    • Hawaii Five-O also had an episode with a family of serial killers, headed by Slim Pickens. They're presented as inbred hillbillys with barely an IQ point between them (hey, it was the 60's). In the end they are caught because one of the children kept a souvenir. They excused their crimes on two points. It wasn't robbery because they killed the people first and dead people don't need money and secondly it was okay to kill them because "They weren't kin."
  • In the season 3 finale of Psych, the "Yin-Yang" killer, who will challenge a cop he views as worthy with riddles, challenges Shawn to catch him before he kills. However, Shawn beats him by taking his plan Off the Rails (Shawn was supposed to answer a cell phone they found, but threw it into the ocean), forcing him to change his intended target to keep Shawn "in the game". But it just causes him to be caught for the first time ever. And he turns out to be a she.
  • Subverted in the final season of The Wire, where two cops invent a fictitious serial killer preying on homeless men, even going so far as to fabricate evidence and lie to the media. They use the subsequent uproar to get city hall to pony up funds withheld from the police due to a budget crisis.
  • NUMB3RS has had quite a few, from serial snipers to people staging fake car accidents to murder to a murderer killing people in ways that mirror the death of every one of Jesus' apostles. Most of them only appear in one episode. This being a show about Math fighting crimes, all the serial killers are found using math.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Nicole Wallace. Also, Kevin Riddick a.k.a. The Motel Ripper, Frank Mc Nare a.k.a B.B.J., Dr. Edwin Lindgard, and Jo Gage.
  • Gormogon from Bones was the latest in a line of cannibalistic serial killers who preyed on those they believed to be members of secret societies. Other serial killers who feature in multiple episodes include Howard Epps, Jacob Broadsky and Grave Digger. Two of the four are thankfully dead, the third was captured,and the fourth just got her head shot off as she was going to trial.
    • The one who lasted the longest (much to the the chagrin of the audience) is Christopher Pelant, who went so far as to leave a corpse in Hodgins and Angela's home, on top of their canopy bed. Booth shot him, but he managed to escape. How does he accomplish his crimes? Technobabble. Seriously, none of the technology he uses to hack things for his crimes works that way. Booth finally took him down with a shot square to the chest after Pelant threatened Brennan once to often. Or in other words, once!
  • NCIS gives us Kyle Boone, who killed close to thirty women (one his mother and another a Naval officer) and was ultimately caught by Gibbs some years before the series began. As he was set to be executed, however, more murders occurred. Turns out he'd trained his lawyer to carry on as part of a scheme to escape execution and gain more attention from Gibbs. The lawyer picked Recurring Character Paula Cassidy as his next victim...and she killed him. Others appeared as well, including a serial sniper going after Marine recruiters and a young Jack the Ripoff who laughed after he was caught, convinced that he'd be famous. Gibbs deliberately withheld his name from the press.
    • In the season four episode Smoked, the dead body of a serial killer Fornell has been hunting for years turns up. In the end it turns out it was actually the dead man's wife who was the killer. Except they found the toe of one of the victims in her husband's stomach.
    • At the end of season eight and beginning of season nine, they try to catch the P 2 P (Port-to-Port) killer, who kills navy personnel, dresses them up in uniforms belonging to people above them in the hierarchy, wraps them in plastic and ties their feet together. Turns out he didn't start out as a serial killer. He was part of a CIA/NCIS program called Operation Frankenstein which purpose was to train "super assassins". The training pushed him over the edge and gave him a need to kill. And now this killing machine is angry because of what the CIA and NCIS did to him and seeks revenge.
  • Supernatural:
    • The monster in "Skin" is a shapeshifter whose MO is to take the appearance of someone and then torture, rape and kill one of their loved ones so they would be framed for his crimes.
    • In "No Exit", the protagonists had to take out the ghost of H. H. Holmes, America's original serial killer.
    • In a flashback in "Repo Man", a demon kills and mutilate women while he is possessing somebody. Years after having been sent back to hell by the Winchesters, a very similar killing spree starts again in the same region. The killer is the guy who was possessed by the demon in the past, who always wanted to be a serial killer but never had the strength or expertise to actually do so until he got possessed.
    • Sam and Dean Winchester themselves are considered serial killers by the police because they travel the country killing people at least Once an Episode. Granted the people they kill are all possessed by demons but the cops don't know that.
  • A handful of Cold Case examples. Usually it's the killer resurfacing after years of inactivity, or their dump sites being discovered that prompts the team to investigate.
  • Tobias Lehigh Nagy ("The Smog Strangler") from Seinfeld; Kramer gets mistaken for him. Another episode had The Lopper, who apparently cut the heads off of men who just happened to resemble Jerry.
  • An episode of Everybody Hates Chris had Chris convince the neighborhood that a serial killer (who murdered people with scissors) was on the loose.
  • Castle has had three encounters with serial killers.
    • In the pilot, this trope was averted; the killer framed a crazy person by killing two people in addition to his real target, and staging all three scenes to look like the work of a serial killer.
    • Scott Dunn, the serial killer in "Tick Tick Tick..." and "Boom!", uses a series of ridiculously elaborate plans to point the police at a patsy, who was actually a victim. Later, he got his Alone with the Psycho time with the guest star, and nearly killed an FBI team with his diabolical Evil Plan. Defeated by Castle, who as an author is Genre Savvy and foiled his plot by explaining how he would have written it if it was one of his books.
    • Castle and Beckett finally meet their match in "3xk". This killer is so brilliant that he got another criminal to kill some of his victims while he was hiding in jail on a minor charge— a nearly bullet-proof alibi. While Castle solves this one as well, it's too late to stop the killer from escaping. Escaping, that is, after knocking out Ryan, taking his gun, and gloating as he ties Castle up.
  • The Mentalist:
    • Red John, the Big Bad of the show, is of the uncatchable variety. Fortunately he only kills about once a year. He's technically retired in that most of his last victims are to cover his tracks, or to avenge an insult, whereas he began as someone who targeted women seemingly for kicks; a dramatic change of M.O.
    • At least two serial killers appear for one episode as the murderer of the Victim of the Week. One is an ally of Red John, while the other, the San Joaquin killer, is killed by Red John after insulting him.
  • Life had a serial killer who murdered people and stuffed them in trunks because they were happier than him.
  • Kamen Rider Ouja from Kamen Rider Ryuki is a particularally nasty case. He was already an unrepentant psychopath with a body count before he got superpowers. The fact he actually enjoys killing people made him one of the most successful Riders in the Rider War with the most kills. Is ultimately killed by sniper fire when he emerges from Mirror World and is pinned down by the cops.
  • Kamen Rider Wizard has Sora Takigawa/The Gremlin Phantom. Before his transformation, he murdered girls with black hair and white dresses, due to his love who rebuked him fitting that description before he killed her. After turning into a Phantom, he somehow retained his human self, and continued his killing spree. He's of the Revenge and Supernatural types.
  • The first episode of Sherlock deals with a serial killer who's somehow been forcing his/her victims to apparently kill themselves. Turns out he's a cabbie who's being paid for each murder. Sherlock, incidentally, is beside himself with glee when he confirms that the deaths are in fact the work of a serial killer.
  • Pops up from time to time on Law & Order, perhaps most notably in the episodes "Vengeance" (in which the A.D.A.s have to decide whether to allow the killer to be extradited to Connecticut, which has the death penalty, when they know the crime was really committed in New York), "Agony" (in which the A.D.A.s have so little evidence that they are forced to give the killer a sweetheart plea bargain...then find out he may not be guilty of that particular murder), and "Bodies" (in which the A.D.A.s prosecute the killer's lawyer for conspiring with him because he knows where the bodies are buried and won't say).
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has more then a few: given the show's premise they tend to be sexual predators, and a decent number of them are sexual sadists.
  • Angel:
    • The demon from "Lonely Hearts" wants to find the perfect body to inhabit, but until then it has to keep killing to find a new one when its latest acquisition has been worn out.
    • Like all vampires, Penn in "Somnambulist" loves killings and rampages, but unlike most he has a particular pattern which he has kept for centuries, making him a truer example. As a human, he used to be a man who hated the restrictions of his puritan father. After being made a vampire by Angelus, he murdered his family and deliberately sought out victims who resembled his family, killing them in order to reenact his past murders. He then carved a cross on their faces - the police believes it was because he thought he was doing God's work, nicknaming him "The Pope", but it's actually to mock God.
  • Many, many of them show up in Medium. Notable ones include Dr. Walker, a long-dead serial killer (played by Mark Sheppard) who as a ghost whispers to the ears of innocent doctors until they loose their mind and become killers themselves, and a serial killer who has the same visions as Allison.
  • True Blood: the main villain of the first season is a serial killer who strangles women who are sleeping with vampires or use their blood as a drug. Also, it's Rene.
  • Rizzoli & Isles: Charles Hoyt.
  • Season three of Justified has Robert Quarles, a Detroit mob lieutenant who tortures and kills male prostitutes.
  • The X-Files provided a plenty of them in Monster of the Week episodes, many of them were truly horrifying. Some of them embodied pure human evil while other times the killers were genetic Mutants who needed to kill to satisfy their Horror Hunger. Sometimes they might play with Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane or They Look Just Like Everyone Else.
  • JAG has had several, but Ax-Crazy child-killer Charles "Charlie" Lynch in season 4 is by far the most despicable.
    • In "Déjà Vu", Harm and Meg suspect the murders of multiple Navy Lieutenants around Arlington National Cemetery are related. A local cop points out it could just be statistics: Washington, D.C. has both an unusually high murder rate and an unusually high Navy Lieutenant rate compared to other cities. Obviously, it's a serial killer.
  • The main antagonist through the first series of Bron|Broen, who uses this method to point out social flaws in both Denmark and Sweden. Though this is a cover for his real motive: revenge.
  • The Amateur Detective Serial Killer in the final episode of The Conditions of Great Detectives, of the Mission Based kind. He believes it's the end of the Amateur Sleuth era as they can no longer function in mystery fiction so he believes the best way for all of them to end is to die. He believes that Tenkaichi, who he views as the best Amateur Sleuth, deserves to be framed for the murders and then killed himself. While he succeeds in killing all of them, Tenkaichi kills him in the process and protects Fujii (and the truth).
  • The "sequential killer" (Dr. Ogden's own construction, since the phrase "serial killer" dates from the mid-20th century) in the Murdoch Mysteries episode "Murdoch on the Corner" is Mission Based. She leaves wallets full of money lying around with a note to return them to the Mission Hall, then kills people who keep the money.
  • The It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "Mac is a Serial Killer" dealt with a serial killer who targeted young blonde women, due to a series of coincidences everyone thought it was Mac who was studying to become a doctor, the real killer as it turned out was Gary the fat awkward nerdy guy they kept running into throughout the episode.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In the episode "Living Hell", its villain Wayne Haas is a serial killer with a twist: he and another guy both received an experimental neural implant from an emergency procedure several years apart to save their lives after an accident. He quickly realizes that they can share each other's thoughts, and uses it to send the other guy visions of the way that he graphically murders women.
  • In Haven, it's revealed that Duke's Trouble is the ability to end a family Trouble by killing them and touching their blood. The side effect is an adrenaline rush and Super Strength. This ability causes Duke's father and later his brother to become serial killers.

    Mythology 
  • Classical Mythology: When Theseus traveled on the road to Athens, he encountered numerous bandits who had unique murder methods. Theseus offed them with their own methods. These included:
    • Polypoetes, who would beat people to death with his club.
    • Sinis, who would tie people between two trees that he had bent down. Then, he let go of the trees, ripping them in half.
    • Sciron, an elderly man who would ask passersby to wash his feet as a sign of respect. When they bent over to comply, he would punt them off a cliff and into the jaws of a sea monster at the bottom.
    • Cercyon, who would challenge passersby to wrestling matches, then kill them after they had lost.
    • Procrustes, who would invite passersby to stay the night at his place. If they were too short for the bed, he would stretch their bodies until they fit. If they were too tall for the bed, he would chop off the excess. If they fit just right, he would smother the victims between the mattress and a specially rigged canopy.

    Music 
  • The Other Wiki has a list.
  • The Rolling Stones' "Midnight Rambler" is sung from the point of view of one of these.
  • The Beatles's song "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" about Maxwell Edison, a crazed kid that murders with said hammer a girl, his teacher, and the judge who took his case, in front of a full courtroom.
  • Steely Dan's "Midnight Cruiser"
  • Queen's "Killer Queen"
  • Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer"
  • Everything by Macabre, or really any Death Metal band.
    • Especially Cannibal Corpse, e.g. "Stripped, Raped, and Strangled".
  • A rather famous example is the song "Dead Skin Mask" by Slayer. "213", about Jeffrey Dahmer, is a another. "Angel of Death" could count as well, since Mengele racked up quite a body count. Also, "Psychopathy Red" from World Painted Blood is about Russian killer Andrei Chikatilo.
  • Radiohead's "Climbing Up The Walls".
  • Swans, a band never known for their cheery subject matter, have two songs actually from the perspective of serial killers: "Young God" (Ed Gein, who inspired Psycho) and "Killing For Company" (Dennis Andrew Nilsen).
  • Early Industrial music in general, but the Power Electronics sub-genre in particular (Whitehouse are notorious for this).
  • Implied in Scott Walker's "The Electrician", the title character of which is a professional torturer.
  • The Dead Kennedys' "I Kill Children".
  • Sunn O))))))'s "Bathory Erszebet."
  • Band Of Susans' "Elizabeth Stride (1843-1888)" follows the last minutes of Jack the Ripper's third victim.
  • Sufjan Stevens "John Wayne Gacy". Defines Lyrical Dissonance.
  • Ozzy Osbourne has several, most notably Little Dolls and No More Tears.
  • Alice Cooper's 2008 concept album "Along Came A Spider" is all about a fictional serial killer who wraps his victims in silk and cuts off one their legs to construct a flesh spider. His rampage is quelled when he falls in love with his eighth victim and finds Jesus.
  • Beck's cheery and catchy "Girl" takes the POV of one.
  • Rapper Tech N9ne's song "Trauma" is written from the point-of-view of a serial killer, boasting about how evil he is and that he's more deranged than "Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson combined".
  • GWAR is like this ALOT.
  • A Pale Horse Named Death has a song called "Serial Killer". There's also "Killer by Night".

    Tabletop Games 
  • The New World of Darkness has slashers, humans who find themselves compelled to kill. Strangely enough, they're playable, and you can opt for a game in which the people the slashers kill often deserve it. Each slasher archetype, or Undertaking, has two tiers: Ripper (steps above your standard serial killer, but still conceivably human) and Scourge (outright supernatural incarnation of murder).
    • Also the rules presented allow you to make every character seen on this page:
      • Avenger/Legend: Paul Kersey from Death Wish starts killing criminal punks, but eventually becomes so fed up with "the filth on the streets" that he becomes Candyman, haunting the urban projects.
      • Brute/Mask: Mickey from Natural Born Killers gets off on killing so much that he trades all that makes him human — language, literacy, the ability to be around others — to become Jason Voorhees, unkillable but lurking in the woods for the pain human contact causes.
      • Charmer/Psycho: Reverend Powell from The Night of the Hunter gets by on the thin veneer of humanity for so long that it eventually turns inside out and he becomes the freak you can't help but stare at, not unlike The Joker.
      • Freak/Mutant: The families from The Hills Have Eyes (2006) take to the caves and degrade until they become the Crawlers.
      • Genius/Maniac: Hannibal Lecter tells people how much they suck so many times, he comes to believe he's the model example for mankind and goes on a John Doe-esque killing spree with a message.
    • Over in the Old World of Darkness are the Euthanatos of Mage: The Ascension, a group of the mission-based style. Justified to some extent as there really are a number of monsters out there, and they're warned against judging too quickly. Although they have to be careful and not turn into the hedonistic type, otherwise they might become one of their colleagues' next targets.
    • Changeling: The Lost makes mention of Ernest Marker and the Shrike. The former is a serial child murderer, the latter is a True Fae named after the bird that impales animals on thorns. She had considered taking Marker back to Arcadia, but then she became curious about just how his madness worked. As she studied him, she became so interested in his insanity that (as far as "sanity" counts for The Fair Folk) she went mad exactly the same way. Now the two have pooled Marker's knowledge of the mortal world and the Shrike's ages of hunting experience, planning the most heinous crime in human history...
  • Subverted in the Ravenloft adventure Hour of the Knife. What seems like a hunt for Jack-the-Ripper expy "Bloody Jack" is complicated by the revelation that A) "Jack" is a doppelganger, and B) the killings aren't insane at all, but a murderous ritual to empower an artifact-caliber cursed knife.
  • In Mutants & Masterminds, Jack-a-Knives, the Murder Spirit, manipulates people into this role.
  • There have been several in Shadowrun: the Mealtime Killer, the Emerald City Ripper, the Mayan Cutter and his copycats, and the "We are Free" killer(s) are just a few.

    Theatre 
  • In a rare sympathetic (but not noble) example, Sweeney Todd becomes one of these after he fails to kill Turpin.
  • Arsenic and Old Lace pits Only Sane Man Mortimer Brewster against two separate serial killers: his old maiden aunts, Abby and Martha, who poison lonely old men as a "charity" and bury them in their cellar (falling under Visionary as they are clearly insane); and his older brother Jonathan, who is a psychotic murderer with kills all over the world (falling under Power/Control). When they discover each other's crimes, they wind up comparing notes, Body-Count Competition-style, which is played for Black Comedy.

    Video Games 
  • Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines has the psychotic Dr. Gimble who lures victims to his prosthetics lab with the promise of a modeling job, and proceeds to lock them in the basement and slowly vivisect them over a matter of months.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • Eddie Low in Grand Theft Auto IV is a pedophilic serial killer.
    • Catalina as well. In fact, in San Andreas, she has three bodies buried in her backyard.
    • One of the convicts who are busted by Johnny Klebitz is an intelletual, yet cannibalistic serial killer, complete with a faux british accent.
    • Trevor Philips is heavily implied to be one, among other things. Michael has implied that abducting and murdering hitchhikers is a pastime of his. He is also implied to be the "San Andreas Strangler", but claims he doesn't strangle people... anymore. Also, delivering innocent people to a cannibalistic cult could also make him one.
    • Grand Theft Auto V has the Infinity Killer, who you never meet, but can find clues about in the form of newspaper clippings and writing on walls by the killer in certain places in San Andreas. If you follow the clues, you can even find the bodies of their victims. The killer is believed to be a man named Merle Abrahams, who went insane and became obsessed with the number 8.
  • SHIKI in Tsukihime in the routes where he's in control over Roa. He doesn't actually enjoy killing and unlike Satsuki he isn't doing it to live. He just doesn't possess the power to stop.
    • It's revealed that he's trying to find and kill Shiki because their mind-connection is driving him mad, but he can never find him because he was given false information about what he looks like. So instead he kills women who bear a resemblance to his sister Akiha because he wants to drink their blood.
  • Touhou's Sakuya Izayoi is a maid, and an awesome one at that. But she is a Knife Nut and her spellcards have a serial killer theme. Could it be that she used to be a serial killer before joining Remilia?
  • The Origami Killer from Heavy Rain, a sick fuck who murders children by throwing them in deep ditches and waiting for them to drown, in addition to putting their fathers through hellish trials. It's really Scott Shelby: player-character, resident Nice Guy and private detective "investigating" the Origami Killer.
    • There's also Dr. Adrian Baker, an insane doctor who murders people with surgery, and Leland White from the Taxidermist DLC, who murders young women before stuffing them and displaying them around his house.
  • The Baldur's Gate series features several of these, starting with Neb, the child-killing gnome who returns in the sequel, and the "tanner" in Baldur's Gate 2, who removes the skin of his victims and makes clothes out of it.
  • Tohru Adachi from Persona 4 is an interesting case. He was one of the three people who were granted the power to enter the TV world (the others being Taro Namatame and your character), and discovered that he could kill people by throwing them into the TV world. He had a major lust for both Mayumi Yamano and Saki Konishi, and tried to rape them both before throwing them into the TV. He then recruited Namatame to carry out his evil work by convincing him that by throwing people into the TV himself, that he would be able to protect them from what Adachi would do to them. And the reason he did all this? Because he was amused by it all.
  • The Scissorman from the Clock Tower series. In the first game he's more a generic monster who chases you, but by the second game (the first one released in America), he fits this trope because there is genuine mystery as to his identity and most of the characters are criminal psychologists.
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has the Whytechurch murderer, loosely based on Jack the Ripper. His true identity is Vincent, an elven wizard possessed by a demon.
  • Morinth from Mass Effect 2 is an Ardat-Yakshi, an Asari with a genetic abnormality that kills whoever she meets by seducing and "melding" with them. She puts it to use to satisfy her insatiable lust. Liara mentions in Mass Effect 3 that Morinth was just hitting her stride, and that Ardat-Yakshi who kill leave behind astronomical body counts.
    • Garrus references an Elcor serial killer that was operating on the Citadel during his first year on C-Sec.
  • One of these can be optionally confronted in Action Doom 2: Urban Brawl, depending on which path throughout the game you take. Hugo's a huge, fat silent guy who looks like Hugo Andore and lives alone in a farmhouse in the middle of a forest where he keeps a vicious dog. He kidnaps children and apparently butchers them, then hangs them up in his barn. You confront him one-on-one and potentially beat him to death in a fist fight... or just slice him in half with a chainsaw, if you have found it.
  • Dragon Age II has Quentin, an insane Blood Mage who murders women and takes parts of their bodies that resemble his dead wife in a crazy attempt to bring her back. His last victim is Hawke's mother Leandra.
    • Kelder from the sidequest "Magistrate's Orders" is an insane killer who targets elven children because they are "too beautiful" and blames his impulses on imaginary demons (as opposed to the real ones in the setting). He has managed to escape justice thanks to 1) the protection of his powerful magistrate father and 2) the lack of concern most humans have for elves. Part of him is still sane enough to realize that he is beyond redemption and he begs Hawke to kill him.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has a serial killer on the loose in Windhelm whose methods and motivation are very similar to the one from Dragon Age II, except that this guy is trying to bring back his dead sister rather than a wife.
  • Kara no Shoujo: There are three serial killers, though one has disappeared from the police radar a few years back. They all appear to be a mix of type one and two.
  • Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal is of the hedonistic type with antisocial and disorganized sub types.
    • And not just Sweet Tooth. There's a few more running around, while the cast of Black are either serial killers, will be turned into serial killers if they win or good guys who are going to be fucked over hard by a serial killer (which Calypso seems to be in this continuity).
  • Naughty Bear is about a teddy bear who kills other teddy bears.
  • The Emerald City Ripper, a serial killer that stalks the Barrens in the Dead Man's Switch campaign of Shadowrun Returns. He stuns his victims with magic and drugs and kills them in the process of extracting one of their internal organs while they're still alive as some kind of twisted souvenir taking. He is eventually revealed to be an organised profit killer for hire: His victims were all connected by their organs all coming from the same organ donor, whose corpse he had been hired to restore.
  • Sakahagi of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne routinely kills his fellow Manikins and proceeds to skin them, using the skin as a coat. He later attempts to kill Chiaki, leading to the victim's Start of Darkness, before finally attempting to kill the main character.
  • A Role in Town of Salem. They can kill 1 person each night, similar to the Mafia's killing role, but unlike the Mafia are lone wolves who usually act alone - but they can win in teams.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's prominently features one in its backstory lore. One of the posters you can see on the cameras occasionally changes to newspaper articles about a man wearing a costume luring five children to the back room of Freddy's, where they were murdered and implied to be stuffed inside the suits. The second game expands on this detail in its minigames and in the third game we get to see the spirits of the children avenge their death by tricking the killer into wearing a faulty animatronic-hybrid suit. Which is also the same animatronic that's been trying to kill you the entire game, in fact.
  • The indie horror game White Night has you wandering through the mansion of 'The Wolf of Black Lake', a serial killer that targeted dark-haired young women.
  • Hot Line Miami 2 Wrong Number features the Miami Mutilator, a killer who leaves behind mutilated corpses with cryptic messages. It turns out that the killer is Manny Pardo, a detective working the case who you play as for parts of the game.
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 3 has the pre-war killer the Pint-Sized Slasher, a child who apparently wore a clown mask and stabbed numerous people. You can pose as this killer in the Tranquility Lane simulation.
    • Clanden in Fallout: New Vegas is a seemingly-normal man working for the Omertas who is in fact a psychotic killer who makes snuff films of himself raping, torturing and killing prostitutes.
    • Pickman from Fallout 4 is a serial killer of raiders, and he uses their blood and corpses to make grotesque art in his gallery.
      • From the same game, you can visit the Fens Street sewer just north-west of Diamond City, there you'll find a trail of dead bodies and holotapes left by the 'Fens Phantom' for a long-dead detective who was on his trail.
  • Even before he started competing in the Twisted Metal tournaments, Needles Kaine, aka Sweet Tooth, was a monster. By his own account, he killed over a thousand people before being caught, his wife and sons being among the first.
  • In roleplaying games such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout, The player can become a serial Killer if they wanted to, in Fallout 4 some perks are ideal for a serial Killer such as allowing the player to stealth kill other characters if they are asleep or to do more damage and be more charismatic to characters of the opposite gender.
  • Yandere Simulator allows the option of the main character becoming a serial Killer in order to eliminate any potential love rivals.
  • Lakeview Cabin Collection has several throughout the episodes; the killers in III and V are supposedly from the same family while IV has a redneck cannibal family. There is also one present in the Hub Level, and the epilogue has you play as one. VI is the only episode to not have one, as it's about an alien invasion instead.
  • Dead By Daylight has one lone player as a serial killer hunting down a band of survivors in three flavors: the Trapper, the Hillbilly, and the Wraith.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney has four serial killers, by definition [three or more murders, with time between each one]. A list of serial killers and the people they killed are as follows:
    • Joe Darke (Edward Jones, Jason Knight, Edith Kirby, Rachael Moss, Jeb Bates, Neil Marshall Except he didn't kill the last one. Things are more complicated than it seems.) (Technically, he's a spree killer, but the game identifies him as a serial killer)
    • Professional Killer Shelly de Killer (Juan Corrida, many unseen others as mentioned through in-game conversations)
    • Dahlia Hawthorne (Valerie Hawthorne, Terry Fawles (by proxy), Doug Swallow. Attempted to murder Diego Armando, Phoenix Wright, and Maya Fey)
    • Sirhan Dogen, another Professional Killer (Di-Jun Huang, many unseen others)
    • Kristoph Gavin comes close, and succeeds in the bad ending of Apollo Justice. (Zak Gramarye, Drew Misham, Vera Misham in bad ending)
  • The most common type of criminal in Cause of Death, due in part to the efforts of the Connoisseur to cultivate them when possible. We have Power/Control (the Maskmaker, Zero, arguably Livewire, the dispenser of Nightmare), Hedonistic (the Hunter, the Ladykiller), and Mission-Based (the Hand of Justice, the Boogeyman).
  • Hinimizawa Syndrome in Higurashi: When They Cry tends to induce people to become the Visionary type. Most prevalent with Shion Sonozaki, who also adds the revenge sub type in the Cotton Drifting and Eye Opening chapters.
  • Genocider Syo from Dangan Ronpa is apparently well-known enough in universe that they're one of the first suggestions when the students are speculating on the identity of the mastermind who locked them in the school. Syo is rumoured to have killed thousands of young men, writing "BLOODSTAIN FEVER" on the wall of each scene in the victim's blood and crucifying them with hand-made scissors. When a student turns up crucified in the locker room, with the aforementioned message, it becomes clear Syo is indeed among them. Except that Syo, who is Fukawa's Split Personality, didn't kill Chihiro; Togami strung the body up to resemble her MO in order to make the trial more interesting. Syo is a Hedonistic type, as all the boys she's killed were Fukawa's crushes, and is therefore fairly safe to be around during the Deadly Game, as killing in any way other than their usual MO would be boring, and if anyone else turned up crucified everyone would immediately know it was Syo.
    • Played with in Super Dangan Ronpa 2. Early into the game, the same set-up that Genocider Syo has is run though again, with the killer and her MO being introduced, and then a character being killed with the serial killer's calling card left nearby. It turns out to be a ruse, as the killer is trying to get somebody else out of the game through a perceived loophole in the rules, and pretends to be the aforementioned serial killer to get everyone to vote for her quickly without thinking too hard about the circumstances surrounding the murder.

    Webcomics 
  • The Dragon Doctors: The Doctors confronted a magical serial killer in their "Messenger of Death" chapter. The murderer killed several shamans using summoned spirits of his own; finding out what spirits were used to determine the character profile of the murderer was the main focus of the plot.
  • Achewood: Nice Pete, who combines type 1 (visionary) and type 4 (power/control) with a thoroughly creepy dead-eyed stare.
  • Jared features four serial killer characters. Mary and Shia are more Headonistic, while Lilac seems to like the power. Jared is more of an antisocial killer.
  • In Homestuck, Vriska Serket and Eridan Ampora were both serial killers well before the story even started (although both had their excuses). Much later, Gamzee Makara goes Ax-Crazy after a major crisis of faith and ends up killing a couple minor characters.
  • The Greatest Gift What Happens In Hayagas presents a chilling version in Venus (or rather Jupiter, who took her twin sister's name). She spends the story arc trying to personally murder Inidouh's entire family, starting with Hazel. At first we think she's doing this because Inidouh rejected her, but then we find out that her 'when I don't get what I want, ponies suffer' comment was far worse than it seemed. The investigation of her mansion after she's killed reveals that she had a list of ponies, all of whom that had been checked off were dead or missing. What makes her so chilling is the fact she outright says killing Hazel (actually a decoy) wasn't as satisfying as she thought it would be, all the while keeping a completely serene look on her face.
  • Dongsoo Seon from Bastard has been serially murdering women for years, going so far as to use his son Jin to help him do it, initially as bait and later, when he's older, as an unwilling accomplice.
  • Everyday Heroes: In Jane's origin story, it's revealed that Jane's boss, Wrecking Paul, was a female-targeting killer, who used their heists as cover for murdering female guards and heroes. And, as Jane tragically found out, his own henchwoman, in a pinch.
  • Clockwork: Arcadia has been plagued with at least one, perhaps several in recent years. Their aristocrats have been ruthlessly targeted, and they can't seem to catch the killer(s).

    Web Original 
  • Terrence of KateModern was revealed to be a serial killer in "Precious Blood".
  • Unexpectedly used in Survival of the Fittest. Johnny "Mordread" Lamika of version one and Walter Smith of version two were both serial killers despite being high-school age teenagers. Johnny was explained as having initially never left enough evidence for the deaths to be considered anything but an accident, but was eventually caught and sent to a mental institution after a successful insanity plea on the part of his defense. Walter got away with his actions because his father was a Senator, and used his influence to cover up Walter's actions and get him out of trouble on the few occasions he was suspected. In return, his father would sometimes bring him political enemies to torture and/or dispose of.
  • Cause of Death is all about this. The very first episode shows the nameless killer bust into the victim's house and kill him...with a granola bar. There seems to be some mystery behind who the woman is in the picture, but the story is ongoing.
  • A Played for Laughs version from Echo Chamber: In Terrible Interviewees Montage, there was one terrible interviewee known only as "???" who might have been one. He had a large knife, seemed Axe Crazy, and talked about a large freezer...
  • Every lich in Angel Of Death is in the Supernatural category.
    • Cody, however, is notable for how well known he becomes to the Public.
    • As is Valthakar when he begins to kill innocent civilians, (unlike Cody, who only killed criminals,) in order to hurt Cody's public image.
    • Then there's the Blue Butterfly, who, despite also being a lich seems to have every desire to kill in any case.
    • Despite the series' name, none of the characters introduced so far are actually Angels of Death as defined on this page.
  • There is a Played for Laughs version in the Yogscast miniseries "Yogtours". Turpster, the host, will go around various offices and give the audience a tour of that office in each episode, only to kill the owner of that office when the episode reaches its end. Every person involved has died, bar Turps, although Hat Films fought back and Duncan Jones has been shown to appear alive again with no explanation.
  • Worm features the Slaughterhouse Nine, a gang of thrill killers with high-end superpowers who rampage across North America attacking cities and subjecting random people to hideous torture and carnage. They likely have a higher body count than the rest of this page combined; their visit to Brockton Bay kills hundreds inside of a week, and they've been active for more than ten years.
  • Jeff The Killer.
  • RedLetterMedia's Mr. Plinkett is a 119-year old serial killer who murders women in his creepy basement. He's also a very opinionated movie critic.

    Western Animation 
  • In an American Dad! Halloween Episode, Stan, in order to upstage his neighbor's awesome haunted house, brings in five of the most vicious serial killers in the Eastern Seaboard to act as attractions in his own. Havoc predictably ensues.
    Stan: "Head for the woods, its always safe there!"
    • In the same episode, Klaus claims that after university he traveled around Italy, stabbing students.
  • A couple of Beavis And Butthead episodes dealt with serial killers, in "Most Wanted" the duo hunt for a serial killer with a tattoo on his forehead of the word "KILLER" whom we later find out is named Tom, so they can collect the prize money. They end up encountering him in their backyard and he attempts to kill them but due to their stupidity they think he is also looking for the killer. He becomes friends with them because Beavis is just as crazy as he is and as a reward he gives them tattoos of butts on their butts, we see him in a later episode calling a dating service to invite women over to his jail cell so he can kill them.
    • Another episode "A Great Day" they encounter another serial killer whom resembles real life killer Jeffrey Dahmer after following a trail of blood to his house he gives them 20 bucks to forget what they saw, later on he can be seen loading a dead body into the trunk of his car and the duo present him with the body of a canary presumably belonging to the victim that had been stabbed to death he again tells them to forget what they saw and gives them another 20 bucks.
    • The crazy old farmer from the episode "Cow Tippin'" is probably one, considering how he decides to chop up a cow that fell on Beavis with a chainsaw while muttering "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away...."
  • In his first appearance on Courage the Cowardly Dog, Katz ran a Hell Hotel where he fed his guests to spiders for no discernible reason other than to just do it — yet another horrifying trope this show played straight and seriously.
    • In his second appearance, he turned his victims into machines to have them battle to the death for his amusement. He also tried to blow up a submarine with all aboard and, despite having a motive this time, still relished in killing a huge number of people. His only appearence where what he's doing isn't a front for commiting murders is his candy shop. Then again, he seemed to be well versed in turning people into candy...
    • Benton Tarantella and Eroll Von Volkheim. Amatuer film directors who managed to slay 12 people before their deaths. Then they came back from the dead to keep doing it!
    • An example of a supernatural one is the Great Fussili who tricks people and transforms them into puppets for him to play.
    • Schwick is implied to have lured many people to their deaths by taking them to an underground "rehearsal room" feed them to his monster behind the door.
  • An episode of Family Guy dealt with the "Fat Guy Strangler", who strangled fat men. It turns out to be Lois' brother Patrick (voiced by Robert Downey, Jr.), who was sent to an insane asylum as a child after being traumatized by seeing Jackie Gleason having sex with his mother, and from there concluded that all fat people were evil and so went on a killing spree.
    • An earlier episode had The Mass Media Murderer, who specifically targeted members of the press. Another episode briefly featured a Quahog encyclopedia of crime, which mentioned such figures as "The Berserk Hobo" and "The Golden Autumn Day Strangler".
    • Stewie has killed many people over the course of the series.
  • Flippy from Happy Tree Friends.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, this was Heloise's original characterization, before they decided to make her a Mad Scientist instead. She's still pretty Ax-Crazy.
  • A Looney Tunes short entitled "Bye Bye Bluebeard" involved Porky Pig being paranoid about a serial killer named Bluebeard who raids houses to kill the residents and steal their food, a mouse hearing the news decides to impersonate him eventually Porky sees through his disguise and soon comes face to face with the real Bluebeard.
  • South Park has (at least) four episodes involving serial killers.
    • "Cartman's Incredible Gift" features the Left-Hand Killer, who is a better example of a typical serial killer in comparison to later examples, though not by much. He's mostly a parody of Francis Dolorhyde as depicted in the newer Red Dragon film, with a few other tropes thrown in.
    • "Hell On Earth 2006" shows the "antics," of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Jeffery Dahmer. Said "antics," are called so because they become a parody of sorts of The Three Stooges after their initial introduction.
    • The obviously insane Hat McCullough from "Free Hat", though his defenders claim he killed those twenty-three babies in self-defense.
    • "Merry Christmas Charlie Manson".
  • The Tattletale Strangler from SpongeBob SquarePants.
  • The Total Drama Island episode 'Hook, Line, and Screamer,' dealt with this: the contestants had to watch a horror movie about a psycho killer with a chainsaw and a hook (the whole thing said every time.) As quoted above, Duncan found it hilarious, until a real killer confronts Gwen, and everyone rushes to save her. Thankfully, she manages to kick his butt.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse villain Khyber is an Egomaniac Hunter whose trophies include the skulls of sapient aliens. His current target is Ben.

    Real Life 

As discussed above, many of these are merely strongly suspected and not fully confirmed by conviction; frequently found guilty of one murder and executed. A full 49 of the 60 British serial killers were convicted of less than five murders or never convicted at all.

  • Rodney Alcala, perhaps most (in)famous because he was a contestant on The Dating Game back in 1978, right in the middle of his murderous rampage, and won. Luckily for the woman who chose him, she later found him too creepy and refused to go on a date with him.
  • The Axeman of New Orleans rampaged through the city from May 1918 to October 1919, slaughtering Italian-Americans. He was never captured. Notoriously, he sent a letter to a newspaper claiming that he would strike on a given date... but would spare anyone listening to jazz. (Every music hall in New Orleans was filled to capacity that night, and no murders were reported.)
  • Countess Elizabeth Báthory is one of history's most prolific serial killers. The legend is that she tortured and killed over 500 women, although she was only convicted for 80. After her death, the legend is that she bathed in the blood of young virgins to maintain her vitality, but it is more likely that Báthory did it just for the fun of it, which is far more chilling.
    • However, modern Hungarian historians have attempted to give her a Historical Hero Upgrade by claiming that maybe she wasn't a serial killer at all, but a victim of a show trial by the Habsburgs to get her land and fortune. However, the reports of the murders, in which her husband was a participant, are far closer to contemporary accounts and it seems fairly likely that she killed at least some. The notaries in the case took testimony from more than 300 witnesses, several of whom lost relatives. Two of the accused named around 36 victims (although they may well have been tortured so the reliability of that is up for debate).
  • Herbert "Herb" Baumeister led a double life. By day, he was a model father and husband, and owned several successful businesses in Indianapolis. By night, he killed homosexual young men for his own sexual satisfaction. His murderous activities went unnoticed until police investigation led to Fox Hollow Farm, an estate property of Baumeister, where the bones of 11 young men were unearthed. He was also the #1 suspect in at least 9 other murders. Baumeister, however, was never tried nor convicted of any crime, since he Ate His Gun before he could be apprehended.
  • Levi Bellfield only murdered three women (and attempted to kill two others), but one of those murders (the murder of Milly Dowler) he got away with for years until he was suspected of it in 2008 and convicted in 2011 (he had been convicted of the other murders in 2008).
  • Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka became just as infamous for the legal hijinks which took place after their capture as their crimes themselves. Bernardo was a serial rapist and prime suspect in the gruesome murders of three teenage girls, including Homolka's younger sister. Homolka claimed to have been abused into helping Bernardo, and made a plea deal in which she agreed to testify against him in return for a reduced sentence...only for evidence to later turn up proving that she took a much more active role in the crimes than she let on. Under the terms of the deal, Homolka was released from prison and currently lives in the Caribbean, while Bernardo is serving a life sentence.
  • David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz. Claims to fame: Saying that his neighbor's dog told him to kill, sending rambling letters to the newspapers and shooting his victims with a .44 Special revolver. (He was dubbed "The .44 Caliber Killer" in the press before the bizarreness with the dog came out.)
  • Jerry Brudos wasn't very prolific, at four known victims he just barely meets the definition of serial killer. But, he stands out for one particular reason: at his trial, he argued that a photograph of him with one of his victims couldn't be used as evidence against him because the victim in the picture wasn't the person he was on trial for killing. To be fair, that's a valid legal point (prejudicial to a jury) but also an example of the detachment from empathy and common-sense that is characteristic of sociopaths. Like other sexual-driven seriel killers he had an insatiable fetish for women's clothing, and gruesomely preserved parts of his victim's bodies to use as real-life mannequins.
  • Ted Bundy, who popularized the idea of the boy-next-door serial killer who blends in effortlessly with the general community. He was also a textbook case in the extreme lack of empathy and guilt exhibited by sociopaths. He denied ever meeting a woman he had proposed marriage to, was shocked that anyone reported any of his victims missing, and in the end, while awaiting execution, blamed everything from television to pornography to neglectful parents for his behavior.
  • Richard Trenton Chase, the Vampire of Sacramento. His Wikipedia article alone consists of pure Nightmare Fuel.
  • John Reginald Christie, subject of the book and film 10 Rillington Place. He killed at least seven women (including his wife) and a 13 month old child between 1943 and 1953, usually tenants of his flat in London. Most victims were gassed, sexually assaulted and finally strangled to death; Christie either buried their corpses in his garden, or concealed them behind his apartment wall. He's most notorious for framing Timothy Evans, husband and father of two of his victims; Evans was hanged, and after Christie's arrest, the resultant outcry over Evans' wrongful conviction played a role in Britain's repeal of capital punishment.
  • One of the most prolific in history, Andrei Chikatilo, who killed over fifty women and children. The reason he got away with it for so long was because the Soviet Union, where he lived and killed, was in denial and believed serial killers to be a consequence of the "decadent west". He also was a member of the Communist Party, so any time the police investigation got close to him, they were politically pressured to drop the matter.
    • Although it is debatable just how many victims were really his, and how many were simply unsolved murders that the Soviet authorities pinned on him once they had someone to blame for them. He certainly was a prolific killer, but just how prolific may never actually be known.
  • Leonarda Cianciulli, AKA The Soap Maker of Corregio. She was the mother of fourteen children, but ten of them died in their childhood. This, added to the fact that a fortune teller told her in her youth that all her children would die young, made her pathologically obsessed with protecting the remaining four. So when World War II began and her eldest son was sent to fight at the frontlines, she decided that the only way to ensure his survival was Human Sacrifice. Being a fortune teller of sorts herself, Cianciulli lured her neighbours, who were illiterate peasant women, served them drugged wine and killed them with an axe. Then she made soap and tea cakes out of the bodies, which she both consumed and sold to acquaintances. She was arrested after claiming her third victim and sentenced to 30 years in prison, plus three years of commitment in a mental hospital. She died of a cerebral apoplexy in 1970.
  • The Cleveland Torso Murderer is an especially gruesome example of an unsolved serial killing case. As the name suggests, the victims of this killer were dismembered and some of them were disembowled. Only a handful of the victims could be identified, making it an even more disturbing case. He/She also might be the culprit behind the infamous Black Dahlia murder.
  • Australia's Eric Cooke was an unusual serial killer who changed his M.O. Two innocent men were also charged with crimes Cooke committed, but have since been exonerated. He earned a bit of notoriety for being the last man hanged in Western Australia.
  • Dean Corll was the first serial killer to get nation-wide publicity in the US. He raped, tortured and murdered at least 28 boys (probably more) in Houston, Texas in the 1970's. He owned a candy store and was often called the Candy Man, a name that in hindsight seems like a gigantic red flag. And he had two teenaged accomplices, David Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley, who procured victims and helped kill them. Brooks did it because he seemed to be in love with Corll; Henley was probably Only in It for the Money. Ironically, Corll would never stand trial for his crimes, as he would be killed by Henley when Henley attempted to break away from him and Corll attempted to also murder Henly.
  • Juan Corona was a Mexican-American labor contractor, who in his time off took to murdering drifters and migrant workers with a machete. He killed 25 people and would probably have gone unnoticed if a Japanese farmer had not found the grave of one of Corona's victims in his orchard. Corona was sentenced to 25 consecutive life sentences and remains in prison to this day.
  • Dr. Thomas Neill Cream was a Victorian era poisoner of prostitutes, killing at least five. Dr. Cream would befriend his victims at pubs, using his status as a doctor to earn their trust, and lace their drinks with a deadly dose of strychnine, causing them a slow and agonizing death. His luck ran out when an attempt to blame two fellow doctors misfired. He was put on surveillance, and finally arrested in 1892. Sentenced to death, he was hanged in November of that year. Legend has it that his last words as the trapdoor opened were "I am Jack...", leading to more than a century of speculation on whether he really was Jack The Ripper. note 
  • A likely American counterpart to Shipman was Charles Cullen, who pled guilty in 2004 for killing around forty patients over the course of his 16-year nursing career. Authorities strongly suspect that he may have committed up to four hundred murders. His emotionless interview on 60 Minutes is the stuff Nightmare Fuel is made of.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer,the Milwaukee Cannibal, who raped, murdered and dismembered seventeen young men and boys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and whose later murders involved necrophilia, cannibalism and the permanent preservation of body parts — typically part of or all of the victim's skeletal structure. He was sentenced to life in prison, and eventually was beaten to death by another inmate.
  • Albert DeSalvo is a controversial case. He confessed to being the infamous Boston Strangler, but was never tried for the killings, but rather a series of rapes. To this day there is a lot of debate about whether he was the murderer or a fall guy.
    • DeSalvo was less a fall guy and more a classic pathological liar and narcissist (and also a sociopathic rapist) who shared a cell with one of the other prime suspects in the case, George Nassar, and allegedly confessed to him. Nassar contacted his lawyer, F. Lee Bailey (yes THAT F.Lee Bailey, and they basically arranged a deal that went "DeSalvo will confess to the murders in exchange for not being tried for them, go to prison for life for rape, Boston gets to hold up someone as their killer, and F. Lee Bailey gets to sell book and movie rights." Money, Dear Boy never seemed so black.
      • DeSalvo was also completely and utterly incompetent as a criminal, always getting caught and only getting back out on the streets because of shoddy police work. To have also committed numerous murders which left virtually no evidence strains credibility. It is highly likely there were multiple Stranglers: one who killed the first several victims (all old Caucasian ladies), one who killed all but one of the rest of the remaining victims (all young Caucasian women), and one victim, Sophie Clark, who was black (hence putting her outside traditional serial killer pathology where they tend to stick to a specific type of target and within their own race, unless their killing is rooted in race hatred like Joseph Paul Franklin below) and was more likely brutally murdered by an ex-boyfriend who managed to pass the death off as one of the Stranglers, and that none of them were DeSalvo. Needless to say, the city of Boston is not eager to dig around and fact-check lest they look bad.
  • It's somewhat surprising that Saldivar Efren isn't better known. While his methods aren't unusual (he was an Angel of Death killer, a doctor, and used muscle relaxants to murder), his motives are truly horrifying. He felt that the hospital staff where he worked were overburdened, and killed excess patients to reduce the workload. A few years ago a documentary on his killings interviewed a number of people involved in the case, who felt that to this day he sincerely believes he was being helpful!
  • Albert Fish a vicious pretador and cannibal of children.
  • Joseph Paul Franklin, a Neo-Nazi serial killer who targeted Jews, African-Americans, and interracial couples, killing at least eleven. He unfortunately served as the inspiration for the serial killer Oscar Yeager in the novel Hunter, by white supremacist William Pierce.
  • Lonnie David Franklin Jr. AKA the Grim Sleeper, was a serial killer who operated in African American communities of California during the time of the gang wars between the Bloods and the Crips which spanned from the 80s to the early 90s. Because of this, many of his killings of African American women went completely unnoticed by the Los Angeles police department, whom believe the killings were done by different people. He laid low for years, before he began killing again in the early 2000s, hence his nickname, "Grim Sleeper". After one of his victims survived getting shot, a female reporter, Christine Pelisek, who interviewed the victim, realized a serial killer was preying on African American women for over a decade and decided to do a personal investigation. After uncovering evidence, she finally convinced a doubtful police department to take the theory seriously. This led to many Unfortunate Implications by the African-American citizens who already didn't trust the California police, believing they let the serial killer reign, because they didn't care about black victims. He was finally caught in 2010, thanks to DNA evidence found on a piece of pizza he didn't finish at a local pizza place he frequented. In May 2016, he was convicted of murdering 10 women.
  • John Wayne Gacy, most notable for being a party clown when not slaughtering young men and hiding them in the crawlspace under his house. Notably, when he realized the cops were after him, he taunted them by publicly smoking weed and breaking traffic laws, knowing they didn't want him on lesser charges and even picked up the restaurant tabs of the detectives who had him under surveillance. Eventually he got so bold, he invited cops to his house for dinner, where they caught the smell of rotting flesh that was his ultimate undoing.
  • Donald Henry "Pee-Wee" Gaskins, "The Redneck Charles Manson". He claimed to have killed over a hundred people, though the confirmed number is much smaller. A number of his victims were hitchhikers he picked up near the South Carolina coast, then brutalized and murdered (eventually; he enjoyed making them suffer) in various ways For the Evulz. He even claimed to have cannibalized some of them. His capture and conviction didn't stop him from committing murder, however. While incarcerated on death row, he killed a fellow inmate with a homemade explosive device.
  • Vaughn Greenwood, "the Skid Row Slasher". Notable in that his list of victims very nearly included famous stuntman and director Hal Needham.
  • Harvey Glatman confessed to raping and murdering three women in California, luring them by posing as a photographer.
    Glatman: The reason I killed those girls was 'cause they asked me to. They did, all of them.
    Officer: They asked you to?
    Glatman: Sure. They said they'd rather be dead than be with me.
  • Belle Gunness killed dozens of people in the early 20th century, including husbands, suitors, and her own children, for the purposes of life insurance payouts or robbery. Although she was initially believed dead in a house fire in 1908, it is generally agreed that she faked her death and escaped.
  • John George Haigh is another famous British example, killing between six and nine throughout the 40's so he could get his hands on their money and fund his lavish personal lifestyle. He ghoulishly dissolved those he killed in a vat of sulphuric acid and then dumped out the remains, erroneously believing he couldn't be charged with murder if a whole body could not be found. He was eventually convicted and hanged in 1949.
  • Robert Hansen grew up being the stereotypical Nerd; shy, skinny, and with a very nasty case of acne. Shunned by the girls, he developed intense feelings of hatred towards women. In his adulthood, he moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where he opened a bakery and gained some praise among the locals as being a very good hunter. A couple of years later, in 1971, he began hunting human prey. Once he had chosen his victim (almost always a prostitute or a stripper), he would lure her to a secluded cabin in the mountains where he would beat and rape them. After that, he stripped his victim naked and gave them several minutes of head start before hunting them like animals, using his hunting knife or a big game hunting rifle. He killed 17 women and is estimated to have raped 30 more, until in 1983 a would-be-victim managed to escape and bring the police straight to Hansen's doorstep. He was sentenced to +460 years in prison, and died there in 2014 due to an unknown condition.
  • The Harpe Brothers, AKA Micajjah 'Big' and Wiley 'Little' Harpe, probably America's First Serial Killers, accounted for at least 40 victims in the late 18th - early 19th century along the Natchez Trace, and could easily have slain more, many more. They started out as Tory irregulars, allied themselves to renegade Indians who preyed on both Indians and local white settlers, and then went off on their own careers of robbery and murder, slaughtering everyone from innocent merrymakers to white and black children, including their own.
  • Similar to the Boston Strangler case, William Heirens was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of two women and a young girl in Chicago. He confessed, but whether his interview was either coerced or forced is up to question.
  • H.H. Holmes, real name Herman Webster Mudgett, was one of America's first publicized serial killers, active during the time of Chicago's Colombian Exposition in 1893. He killed mostly women, and while it's confirmed he killed at least 27, some people believe the true body count to be over a hundred. He committed his crimes in a labyrinthine hotel/boarding house that was full of secret passages, a Torture Cellar and at least one Gas Chamber (masquerading as just another room). It was designed from the start to be a murder house for his own depraved amusement.
  • Colin Ireland, dubbed by the British tabloids as London's Gay Slayer, was a serial killer wannabe that killed 5 people between March and June 1993 just so he could be the center of attention. He cruised homosexual bars, and chose men who were into bondage in the belief that they would be easier prey, since they were more likely to go home with a stranger and (presumably) be less likely to arouse public sympathy. Once he was alone with his victims, he would tie them up, strangle them and arrange the body in a sexually humilliating pose. Between murders, he would make taunting calls to the police, relishing the press coverage and the public outcry caused by his deeds. After his 5th victim, Ireland told the police he would stop, since he could be now considered a serial killer in his own right. Said victim was indeed his last, since he was arrested shortly after and sentenced to life without parole. He remained in prison until his death in 2012.
  • Jack the Ripper, murdered and brutally mutilated five prostitutes in London's Whitechapel district in 1888. One of the first to have his crimes extensively documented by the media as they happened and certainly the most famous uncaught serial killer in history.
    • Similarly, Peter Sutcliffe murdered 13 women he believed to be prostitutes over a five-year span, earning him the alias "The Yorkshire Ripper" in the press.
    • "Jack the Stripper", who killed several prostitutes by choking them to death. Like Saucy Jack, he was never caught.
  • Edmund Kemper, 6'9" tall, over 300 pounds of weight and IQ of 145. Started with his grandparents (at 15) and worked his way from there. Also known for being one of the very few serial killers who turned themselves in. When asked by the judge what he thought a suitable punishment for his crimes would be, Kemper answered, "Death by torture." He got life imprisonment instead.
  • Bela Kiss, an Hungarian killer notable for being one of the very few serial killers in history to evade capture despite being identified and proven as such. A tinsmith by trade prior to World War I in the Hungarian town of Czinkota, Kiss would contact women via correspondence, and bring some of them to his home. At the same time, he began collecting large tin drums, which he explained contained gasoline to prepare for the oncoming war. In 1914, Kiss was drafted to the front, and two years later the authorities tried to make use of Kiss' supposed stockpile of gasoline. What they found inside the barrels, however, were the bodies of scores of women, many of them reported missing, preserved in alcohol. An arrest order was issued for Kiss, but it was too late; he is believed to have exchanged his identity with a deceased soldier. His eventual fate is unknown to this day.
  • Japan's most infamous serial killer, Yoshio Kodaira was already a juvenile delinquent when he joined the Imperial Navy in 1923. He took part on the atrocities committed by the Japanese in mainland China, where he claimed to have killed and raped many innocent civilians. He apparently enjoyed the experience, and upon returning to Japan he began raping and killing young women in earnest. He killed at least 10 women, his own father in law, and is believed to have raped at least 30 more women. Kodaira was arrested in 1946, and executed in 1949.
  • Ali Reza Kordiyeh, AKA "The Vampire of Tehran", was an Iranian cab driver who betwen February-June 1997 raped and stabbed to death nine female fares, then burned their bodies to erase any clues. After two of his victims escaped, he was captured and sentenced to death. His execution in August 1997 was more like a public lynching; he was flogged mercilessly by relatives of his victims before being hanged from a construction crane.
  • Peter Kürten, also known as the Vampire of Düsseldorf. Known for being one of the first investigations to use a criminal profile.
  • Bruce Lee (No, NOT that Bruce Lee), born Peter George Dinsdale, is one of Britain's most prolific serial killers of modern times. A pyromaniac, Bruce could only reach sexual climax by setting fires, which he did whenever the opportunity presented itself. This quirk caused the death of 26 people before he was captured in 1979. Charged of more than 20 counts of manslaughter, he was sent for "an indefinite period of time" to a mental hospital, where he still remains.
  • Gary & Thaddeus Lewingdon were a pair of murderous brothers nicknamed as the ".22 caliber killers" who terrorized Columbus, Ohio and the surrounding areas in the late '70s. They killed a total of ten people, and were firm followers of the rule that There Is No Kill Like Overkill, since they literally riddled their victims' bodies with bullets. They were caught when Gary used one of the victims' credit card. Once in custody, he broke down and pointed at his brother Thaddeus as his partner in crime. They both were sentenced to life without possibility of parole. Thaddeus died of lung cancer in 1989, while his brother Gary died of a heart attack in 2004.
  • Pedro López, the "Monster of the Andes" raped and killed at least a hundred, but maybe three hundred, young girls across South America. The higher figure would make him one of the most prolific known serial killer in history. What could be scarier than that? He's been a free man since 1998 and is wanted for murder again.
  • Henry Lee Lucas is an interesting case. While he confessed to the murder of nearly 600 people (including people who turned out to still be alive), he often would recant his confessions, only to confess to other murders. He often became the "go-to" guy by police departments who wanted to clear their unsolved murder files. Since he was already sentenced to death, he relished in the attention that the confessions brought him. When he died in prison in 2001, forensics were only able to confirm 3 of his confessions, which technically did make him a serial killer. His supposed exploits inspired the brilliant Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
  • Charles Manson himself may not have been a serial killer, but his followers, the Manson Family absolutely were. A serial killer is defined as someone who kills more than three people with a "cooling off" period in between the killings. Music teacher Gary Hinman was murdered by the Family on July 25, 1969. On August 9, 1969, they murdered five people, six if you count Sharon Tate's unborn baby; the next night, they killed grocers Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. On the 26th, they killed Donald "Shorty" Shea, a Hollywood stuntman. That's nine people (ten if you count Tate's child) in just a few weeks. In addition, other people are suspected of having been victims of the family, including Ronald Hughes, one member's defense attorney (believed to have been killed for balking at letting his client sacrifice herself to clear Manson). Although he was a chief conspirator in all of the killings, Manson did not personally draw a single drop of blood — except for cutting Hinman's ear off, according to testimony — but the various members of his "family" could certainly count as serial killers, especially Charles "Tex" Watson (Tate, LaBianca and Shea murders), Susan Atkins (Hinman and Tate), and Patricia Krenwinkel (Tate and LaBianca).
    • Charles Manson himself is suspected of killing at least one person - a black man who he believed was a member of the Black Panthers (or claimed to believe); he started preaching his race-war creed "Helter Skelter" shortly afterwards. Whether he genuinely thought the Black Panthers were out to get him or if it was just another level of manipulation is unknown. He is also known to have taken part in at least one of the Family murders; he did not kill the victim, but he tied her up for his followers to do so.
  • Ivan Milat, Australia's Backpack Murderer, who preyed on tourists visiting the Belangalo State Forest, near Sidney. He stands convicted of seven murders, committed between 1989 and 1992, but is suspected of several more dating back to the 70s. His gruesome deeds were the inspiration for the character of Mick Taylor from Wolf Creek.
  • Between 1968 and 1985, the Italian city of Florence was terrorized by an elusive killer only known as "The Monster of Florence". He targeted young couples, shot them at close range with a small caliber pistol and performed gruesome mutilations on the women. He killed an estimate of 16 people, and several people have been arrested for the murders, but it is believed that the real killer was never caught.
  • Herbert Mullin killed 13 people in and around Santa Cruz, California, in the late 70's. Fellow serial killer Edmund Kemper (see above) was also active when Mullin was committing murders, earning Santa Cruz a rather bad reputation at the time. Mullin apparently was a completely normal person until the death of his best friend in a car accident in 1965, which marked the beginning of his Sanity Slippage. He started behaving erratically (he was later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic) and abusing hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD until in 1972 he started hearing voices that urged him to kill, or else a massive earthquake would destroy California. His list of crimes include a catholic priest stabbed inside his confessional booth, a female hitchhiker whom he disemboweled, and four teenaged campers he shot to death. He was caught in 1973 when witnesses to his latest murder (an elderly man Mullin shot in broad daylight) gave the police his car's plate number. Mullin was sentenced to life imprisonment, and will be eligible for parole in 2020.
  • Arfinn Nesset. A Norwegian serial killer that is nearly the same as the other medical murderers on this list. However this guy is still alive and free. Scary right?
  • Dennis Nilsen - Despite committing his crimes years earlier (1978 - 1982), he's sometimes called the "British Jeffrey Dahmer" for the similar M.O. He would lure homosexual men to his apartment where he'd strangle them to death and perform necrophilia on the body until it began to decompose, at which point he'd dispose of it and start looking for his next victim. He killed at least 12, though the actual count could be higher, many of his victims were young, transient and unemployed, meaning no one reported them missing. Convicted of six murders, he remains imprisoned to this day.
  • Mixing this trope with Those Wacky Nazis, Paul Ogorzow, a railroad worker and DNSAP member known as the S-Bahn Killer, commited his crimes in Berlin at the height of World War II. He took advantage of the constant power outages caused by Allied bombings to stalk, rape, and bludgeon his victims to death. He killed at least eight women from 1940 to 1941, when he was finally apprehended and sent to the guillotine.
  • A particularly terrifying example was Anatoly Onoprienko, an Ukranian serial killer dubbed "The Terminator" by the press. Orphaned at a young age, he was sent to an orphanage while his older brother was taken in by relatives. This, Onoprienko said, caused in him a pathological hatred for families, which would lead to a seven year rampage that would leave 52 people dead. The Terminator would target isolated homes, herd the terrified families in the living room and kill them all with a shotgun, starting with the men, then the women and leaving children for last. He then would torch the houses to get rid of evidence. If anyone was unfortunate enough to witness any of Onoprienko's massacres, he would kill them too. Finally captured in 1996, Onoprienko was sentenced to death, although it was later commuted to a life sentence. He died in prison in 2013 of a heart attack.
  • A self-styled Vigilante Man, Manuel "Manny" Pardo Jr. was an ex-cop who went in a murder rampage in 1986, killing 9 people he believed to be "drug traffickers" between January and April of that year. He was arrested a month later, sentenced to death in 1988, and executed via lethal injection in 2012. He serves as inspiration to one of the playable characters in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, to the point of being named after him.
  • Carl Panzram.
    • Quote: "In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arsons and last but not least I have committed sodomy [read: rape] on more than 1,000 male human beings. For all these things I am not in the least bit sorry."
    • Originally Panzram was only sentenced to twenty-five years. Why was he executed? When they sent him to Leavenworth, he told the warden, "I'll kill the first man that bothers me." You hear this a lot, but Panzram kept that promise - he beat the laundry foreman to death with an iron bar, and then threatened to kill the human rights groups that tried to appeal the death sentence he got for it! Specifically, he sent them a letter containing the now-legendary line, "The only sentiment you'll get out of me is that I wish you all had one neck and I had my hands around it." He reportedly also criticized his own hangman for taking too long while prepping him for said execution.
  • Thierry Paulin, a French murderer known as "The Monster of Montmartre", was as flamboyant (a transvestite black man who dyed his hair platinum blonde) as he was brutal. Between 1984 and 1987 he preyed on elderly women in the Parisian district of Montmartre along with his accomplice and lover Jean-Thierry Maturin. The deadly duo entered the elderly ladies' homes, where they bound, gagged and beat and/or stabbed them to death. They were caught in 1987, but Paulin died from AIDS two years later before standing trial. His accomplice was sentenced to life imprisonment, and was released on parole in 2009.
  • Robert Pickton, who inspired the Criminal Minds season 4 finale.
  • Thomas Quick note , Sweden's most notorious serial killer, who may have not actually killed anyone. He has confessed to around 30 murders, supposedly committed in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland between 1964 and 1993, and has been convicted of eight of them. He is mentally ill, and is serving his sentence in a mental institution. In later years, the convictions have been questioned, the reason being that he was convicted on very shaky grounds based mostly on his own confessions and not much else, and the fact that a lot of his confessions simply don't make any sense. In 2008 he officially recanted all of his confessions. Public opinion of is all over the place. Some think he killed all the people he originally confessed to killing, some think he may have killed some of them but probably not the more far-fetched ones, and some think he's simply a sick, attention seeking man who has been used in the most heinous of ways by police and other authorities trying to make themselves look good by catching a serial killer.
  • "BTK" (Bind, Torture, Kill): Dennis Rader, who murdered 10 people in the Sedgwick county area of Wichita, Kansas from 1977-1989 while sending taunting letters and poems to the police, and was caught approximately a decade and a half after his last victim, because after such a long time he got bored and started sending letters to the police again, announcing that he was plotting his next murder. Lots of televison shows have since had a take on him, though most commonly the reason for their killer's lengthy absence is that he was seriously injured in some way and had to temporarily stop.note 
  • Gilles de Rais was a French nobleman, war hero, compatriot of Joan Of Arc and murdered at least 80 children between 1432 and 1440, the majority of whom were also raped or sexually abused. Much like Bathory, a few people have tried claiming that he was framed by the church to acquire his lands but that's extremely unlikely since firstly, the church didn't have a hope of acquiring his lands (which ended up going to the Duke of Brittany); secondly, his confederates gave very detailed testimony and thirdly, around forty bodies were discovered. Margaret Murray has also tried claiming that he was a Dianic pagan who was subject to religious persecution but the evidence for this is virtually nil.
  • Richard Ramirez is notorious for his completely random modus operandi as well as choice of victim. He terrorized the whole LA area in the 80's. He died of natural causes at age 53 in 2013, after spending over 23 years on death row.
  • While serial killing sibling teams are not unheard of, Larry and Danny Ranes are unique in that they were both serial killer brothers who committed their crimes with no contact whatsoever between themselves. Larry, the younger brother, robbed and shot five men in 1964. Danny, for his part, raped and killed four women in 1972. Both are currently serving life sentences.
  • Gary Ridgway, better known as the Green River Killer, is one of the most prolific serial killers of the 20th century. He was convicted for the murder of 48 women over the course of three decades. However it is believed that he killed up to 90 women.
    • Ridgway is, in many ways, something of an outlier as far as serial killers go. His motivations didn't entirely fit into either the mission based or power/control categories, although not particularly intelligent and rather spontaneous in his killings (a stereotypical "disorganized" killer), he had an uncanny ability to hide bodies and eliminate evidence (he was caught due to a DNA swab from one of his first victims), and he was able to either stop or greatly curtail his killings for a considerable length of time. This has led many conspiracy theorists to believe that the Green River killings were the work of multiple killers, and that large parts of Ridgway's confessions were fabricated.
  • Heriberto Seda, a copycat of the Zodiac. He was caught because he sent so many messages to the police that when he shot his sister's boyfriend with a zip gun, the cops recognized his M.O. and his handwriting.
  • Tommy Lynn Sells, recently claimed to have killed 70+ people, once said that he didn't like/use guns, because they were dangerous.
  • The Servant Girl Annihilator, in turn of the century killer from Austin, Texas. Noted for stalking black and white women with an axe, his crimes predate Jack the Ripper by only a few years, leading the newspapers of the time to claim the two were the same man. Two men were tried for the crime, but no one was ever convicted. The killings were supposedly the indirect inspiration for the famous moon towers that dot the Austin cityscape.
  • Harold Shipman stands as one of the most prolific serial killers, if not the most prolific one, in history. A British medical doctor, he was sent down for a full life term (no possibility of parole) in 2000 for 15 murders, using drug overdoses. Investigations concluded that he had, overall, killed at least 215 people, mostly old women, and 459 patients had died in his care overall, but it is unclear how many he actually killed since all those deaths were recorded as 'old age'. He was caught when another doctor finally noticed his high death rate and the number of cremations he ordered - no, he wasn't caught, the investigation was abandoned due to lack of evidence and he managed to kill three more elderly women before Kathleen Grundy brought to the attention of the police her mother's will, which left everything to Shipman. He pleaded innocent until the very end and died of a suicide in his cell in 2004.
  • Timothy Spencer is notable for two reasons: he was a rare interracial serial killer, and he was the first murderer to be convicted on the basis of DNA evidence, which also exonerated an innocent man convicted of one of his crimes. He was executed in 1994 for the rape, torture and murder of five women.
  • Lucian Staniak, also known as the "Red Spider" because of the characteristic handwriting he displayed on the taunting letters he sent to the press, was a Polish serial killer who between 1964 and 1967 killed, raped, mutilated and disemboweled 20 women and teenage girls. He was declared insane and sentenced to spend the rest of his days in an asylum. More info about him here.
  • Gerald Eugene Stano was an absolute mysoginist. Unlike most serial killers, he didn't kill his female victims out of sexual desire, but out of pure rage and hatred towards women. As one detective famously quoted: "He thinks about three things: stereo systems, cars, and killing women". When he was caught, he provided details of 41 murders. He was sentenced to death and went to his date with Ol' Sparky in 1998.
  • Then there's Michael Swango, a medical student and one-time EMT believed to have killed at least four and possibly sixty of his patients between 1983 and 1997 by overdosing them on drugs or using poison. While employed in non-medical occupations, he would slip arsenic into his co-worker's food to try and poison them too. When his notoriety became such that he couldn't get work in US hospitals, he fled to Africa where he continued killing until his final apprehension. One of the US hospitals where he worked took to using the phrase "Double-O Swango" to mean "getting away with murder".
  • Jack Unterweger grew up in Austria with a nasty case of Mommy Issues, which led to an increased escalation of violence towards women that culminated in his first murder of a prostitute in 1976. Convicted and jailed for that crime, Jack "reinvented" himself in prison, becoming a writer of poetry, plays, and even publishing an autobiography, which made him popular among Vienna's hipster community. Apparently rehabilitated, Unterweger was paroled in 1990 and became a celebrity, appearing in TV shows and having his stories for children aired on the radio. But alas, old habits die hard, and Jack's apparently successful life was just a Mask of Sanity. From his release from prison and his capture in Miami in 1992, he killed an estimate of 11 prostitutes in the Czech Republic, Austria and the United States. Extradited to his native Austria, he was sentenced to life, but the day after his trial, he hanged himself in his cell.
  • Possibly Spain's most prolific serial killer, José Antonio Rodríguez Vega, known as "El Mataviejas de Santander" (The Old Lady Killer of Santander), killed at least 16 elderly women between 1987 and 1988. He pretended to be a repairman to enter his victims' homes, where he strangled them and sexually assaulted them after death. He then arranged the crime scene so it would appear the poor women had died in their sleep. He was caught and sentenced to more than 400 years in jail, but said sentence was a mere formality, since by Spanish law no one can serve more than 30 years in prison, which meant he would have been eventually released. Fortunately, that would never happen, since in 2002 he was stabbed to death by a gang of fellow inmates.
  • Aileen Wuornos, whose story inspired the movie Monster.
  • Yang Xinhai, called the "Monster Killer", was the worst serial killer of China. He confessed to committing 65 murders between 1999 and 2003. He'd enter homes at night and kill everybody inside with axes, hammers and shovels. He was sentenced to death and executed in 2004.
  • Another Chinese serial killer, Huang Yong preyed upon young boys in the Henan province, murdering at least 17. He would lure his victims to his home under the pretense of a job offer, where he would submit them to marathon sessions of torture and rape, before finally strangling them with a length of rope and disposing of the bodies in a pit he built in his apartment. Yong's spree ended when his last victim, a 16-year-old boy called Zhang Liang, told Yong that he would become his foster son and care for him in his old age if he let him live. Unbelievably, Yong listened to the boy and let him go. Of course, Liang went straight to the police, who upon searching Yong's apartment found the remains of more than a dozen of victims and a torture device built from a noodle making machine Yong dubbed "The Intelligent Wooden Horse". Yong was sentenced to death and executed in December 2004. Months after Yong's death, the bodies of a couple more victims were found.
  • The Zodiac, who was never caught during his lifetime, was especially notorious for consistently taunting the police about their inability to catch him via letters, including some that were encrypted in ciphers of which only one has been successfully cracked. Authorities seem to have narrowed their area of suspicion down to about a dozen different men. However almost all of whom are now dead so even if they do manage to figure it out, there's a good chance they'll never be able to bring the guy to justice.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SerialKiller