Gruesome Serial Killers Throughout Recorded History

History shows us that the human species is capable of committing the most horrible crimes to each other. Many become serial killers of the worst kind.
We live in a world where rapes, tortures, and murders are in our daily news. Somewhere on this Earth, a poor person has to suffer in the hands of a criminal at this very moment. And when it comes to sadism, the imagination of some human minds doesn’t seem to have an end.

But it is not unique to modern times. Serial killers with a love of rape and torture have existed probably since the beginning of human existence. Even cannibalism is nothing new. But not all shocking crimes made it into the records, and with all the details publicly available.

Here are some of the worst killers the world has ever seen. Most people cannot even imagine their actions.

Gruesome serial killers are in all classes of society. Gilles de Rais (1405-1440)

Gilles de Rais was a knight and lord from Brittany, Anjou and Poitou. He was a leader of the french army and also a companion-in-arms with Joan of Arc. But this was not what made him so well known.

It was his reputation, confession, and conviction as a serial killer of possibly hundreds of children in the most gruesome ways. It spread his name near and far, and possibly inspired the 1697 “Bluebeard” by Charles Perrault.

The confessions

Gilles de Rais and his torturous acts
Gilles de Rais

Rais confessed to his first crimes to have occurred between the springs of 1432 and 1433 at Champtocé-sur-Loire. No records of these murders survived. Shortly after, Gilles moved to Machecoul, where the officials discovered of the naked bodies of 40 children later in 1437.

According to his confession, Gilles had sodomized a great number of children.  He either killed them himself or ordered the killings to either his cousin Gilles de Sillé, his body servant Étienne Corrillaut (aka Poitou), or by another body servant called Henriet. The exact number of children killed is unknown.  Poitou was an accomplice in many of the crimes. His testimony described the murders in grim.


According to Poitou, his master hung the naked children with ropes from a hook to prevent them from crying out. Gilles then masturbated upon them and, if the child was a boy, also touch the child’s genitals. When he was done, he took them down to comfort them. He told the children that it was just a game they were playing.

Gilles often killed the children himself. Not before sodomizing and torturing them by inflicting wounds. He kept a braquemard, a short, double edged sword specially for such occasions. The children were killed by decapitation, dismemberment, cutting the throats, or having their necks broken with a stick.

Poitou further testified that Gilles disdained the victim’s sexual organs. That he took “infinitely more pleasure in debauching himself in this manner … than in using their natural orifice, in the normal manner.”

A sadistic mind

According to Jean Benedetti, author of Gilles de Rais the authentic Bluebeard (1971), Gilles confessed that “when the said children were dead, he kissed them and those who had the most handsome limbs and heads he held up to admire them, and had their bodies cruelly cut open and took delight at the sight of their inner organs; and very often when the children were dying he sat on their stomachs and took pleasure in seeing them die and laughed”

Since most of the bodies had been either buried or burned, the exact number of victims remains unknown. It is estimated that between 80 and 200 children are victims of Gilles de Rais. Some estimations even go into the 600’s. The children’s ages ranged from six to eighteen years and were mostly boys.

Gilles de Rais and his accomplices were executed by hanging and burning on 26 October 1440.

Elizabeth Báthory, the blood countess (1560-1614)

Among the most gruesome serial killers is Elizabeth Báthory. She is considered by many as the worst female serial killer of all times. Years after her death stories emerged describing her to have vampire-like tendencies. They quickly became part of the folklore, but are greatly unreliable.

Nevertheless she is often compared to Vlad the Impaler who inspired the fictional story of Count Dracula. She contributed to some of the Dracula’s story herself which earned her the names “The Blood Countess” and also “Countess Dracula”. Even today her story inspires many writers of movies and TV shows. Like in the series of American Horror Stories based on real killers. In one of the episodes her character is played by Lady Gaga.


Portrait of Elizabeth Báthory painted in 16th century
Portrait painting of Elizabeth Báthory from the 16th century – Photo Wikimedia Commons


Countess Elisabeth Báthory was a hungarian noble woman. She tortured and murdered hundreds of young women between the years of 1585 and 1609. Although no one knows the exact number of victims, one servant claimed that she saw the number 650 in one of Elisabeth’s private books. The book was never revealed and the servant never mentioned it during the trial. 300 witnesses gave testimony, including the dying and imprisoned girls rescued during the time of arrest. Furthermore numerous horribly mutilated dead bodies were found together with the surviving girls and other physical evidence.

Bloodthirsty cannibals

As survivors of attempted murder can attest to, the perpetrator is often someone you know and trusted. As was the case with Elisabeth Báthory.

She lured many of her victims with offers to work for her as well paid maidservants. Others she chose from girls sent to her gynaeceum by their parents, thinking they are to receive schooling in court etiquette. A few were simply abducted from the streets and their homes.

Torture and cannibalism by a team of killers

Báthory had four accomplices, Dorotya Semtész, Ilona Jó, Katarína Benická, and János Újváry. Together they severely beat the girls, burned and mutilated their hands, and committed acts of cannibalism. Elisabeth greatly enjoyed biting off pieces of flesh from any of the victim’s body parts, including the face. Further torture was scolding the girls with hot thongs and then placing them in freezing cold water. Many of the girls would be covered with honey and ants. It is suspected that many more forms of torture had been carried out by Elisabeth. The victims who survived the tortures would die due to starvation and freezing to death.

Punishment and the one that got away

Dorotya, Ilona, and János were sentenced to death for their roles in the torture and murders. Dorotya’s and Ilona’s fingers were ripped off their hands with hot pincers. Then they were burned at the stake. János was beheaded and his body burned. Testimony was given by witnesses who saw Katarina being bullied and dominated by the other women. This saved her from a death sentence. She received a life sentence in prison instead.

Due to her influential family and high standing in the courts, Elisabeth escaped a harsh punishment of death or prison. Instead she was placed in solitary confinement within the walls of Csejte Castle. There she occupied a set of rooms with only openings for passing food and to provide air circulation. She remained there until her death four years later.

One of the most gruesome serial killers of modern times. Andrei Chikatilo (1936-1994)

Andrei Chikatilo can be considered as one of the worst of all gruesome serial killers. Chikatilo is better known as the Rostov Ripper, the Red Ripper and the Butcher of Rostov. This russian, pedophilistic and cannibalistic serial killer is responsible for the torture and deaths of 56 mostly women and girls. They ranged between the ages of 9 and 18.


The worst of gruesome serial killers, Andrei Chikatilo, during his arrest
Andrei Chikatilo

Andrei Chikatilo’s first victim was a 9 year old girl in 1978. He lured the girl to an abandoned house where he tried to rape her, but failed to achieve an erection. Chikatilo ended up choking her and stabbing her in the abdomen 3 times during which ejaculated. He then threw her body into the River where she was found two days later. After her murder, Andrei was only able to achieve sexual arousal and orgasm during his stabbings of girls and women.

Failed rapes and rage

He typically attempted to rape his victims, but could never achieve an erection. This would send him into a rage of stabbing and slashing, subsequently finding sexual satisfaction. With each victim his need grew to see the pain he inflicted, to hear them beg for their lives. He began stabbing and slashing his victims 50 or more times, gouging out their eyes, ripping open their chests, and disemboweling them. The girls were found with their uterus missing. The young boys had been castrated.


Andrei confessed that he tied the victim’s hands behind their back and inflict a multitude of knife wounds upon them.  Starting with shallow knife wounds to the chest area before inflicting deeper stab and slash wounds—usually 30 to 50 in total—before proceeding to eviscerate the victim. Chikatilo regularly sat beside his victims waiting for their hearts to stop beating, adding that the victims’ “cries, the blood and the agony gave me relaxation and a certain pleasure.” Often he tasted their blood and confessed to tearing the victim’s genitalia, nipples, tongues and lips with his teeth. He admitted that he had chewed on the uterus and testicles after the cutting, but later discarded those parts. However, he also admitted that he had swallowed the nipples of some of his victims.


Chikatilo was found guilty for the killings of 53 women and children between 1978 and 1990 in addition to five charges of sexual assault against minors committed when he had been a teacher, and was executed in 1994 with a single gunshot to the back of his neck.

Cannibal Joachim Kroll (1933-1991)

Here’s another one who tops the list of most gruesome serial killers. Joachim Kroll aka Ruhr Cannibal, aka Ruhr Hunter, and aka Duisburg Man-Eater was a German serial killer convicted of eight murders, but confessed to fourteen.


Gruesome serial killers: Joachim Kroll seated between his lawyers during his trial.
Joachim Kroll during his trial

Starting with his first victim in 1955 Joachim mainly focused on young girls ranging from 4 years of age to 19 years old. Although two of his victims were women at the age of 24 and 61. He was very careful about where he would kill, making sure to use the same locations only several years apart.

Kroll surprise attacked his victims as they were walking, or even sitting in a parked car and quickly strangle them. Then he stripped them of their clothing, raped them and often times masturbating over them again after the intercourse. When he was done he mutilated his victims with his knife and proceeded to cut off pieces to take home to be eaten later. Once at home he had intercourse again with a rubber sex doll.

The arrest

His last victim was Marion Ketter, a 4 year old girl who inadvertently helped with his arrest in 1976.

The police were searching for the little girl going door to door for questioning. One of Kroll’s neighbors approached a policemen telling him how his waste pipe in his apartment had backed up and when he was asking Kroll if he knew what was blocking the pipe Kroll had answered “guts”. The police then went into Kroll’s apartment where they found the cut up body of little Marion, some parts of her being in the refrigerator, one of her hands cooking in a pot on the stove, and her bowls stuck in the waste pipe.

Kroll was any lawyer’s nightmare. Even for hardened defense attorney’s who had to defend the worst criminals. During his trial Kroll said that he ate parts of his victims simply to cut down on the grocery bill. He was convicted on all charges and sentenced to life in prison where he died in 1991 from a heart attack.

Does a werewolf top the list of gruesome serial killers? Gilles Garnier (Died 1573)

While many criminals disguise themselves as clowns to lure children into a deadly trap, back in the day it could’ve been werewolves.

Of course Gilles Garnier was not really a werewolf, but he was convicted as such. Known as “The Hermit of St. Bonnot” and “The Werewolf of Dole” this french man not only believed himself that he was a werewolf. More than 50 witnesses saw him attacking and killing children, eating their raw flesh. Those witnesses believed to have seen him at times in human form and at others in the form of a werewolf.


Gruesome serial killers: Gilles Garnier depicted as a werewolf eating a child.
Gilles Garnier

Gilles’ story sounds more like a scary fairy tale than that of other known gruesome serial killers.

He was a hermit who had found himself a wife. Gilles brought her to live with him in his isolated home. Now he had another mouth to feed. Not really knowing how to provide for more than just himself caused some trouble with his wife.

The testimony

According to his testimony, one night as Gilles was out hunting for some food, a ghost appeared to him. The ghost offered him help with his troubles and gave him some ointment that would allow him to change into a wolf to make hunting more successful. Now every time he went on the hunt he changed himself into a wolf, stalk a child and attack it with his claws and teeth, strangling the child and ripping off pieces of flesh which he ate raw right then and there. Then he removed some of the flesh to take home for his wife to eat. One time he cut a boy in half by tearing at the boy’s belly with his teeth. Another time he used his teeth to tear off the entire arm of a little girl to bring it home to his wife.

Gilles confessed to the murders and cannibalism of at least four children, 2 boys and 2 girls, between the ages of 9 and 12.  He died at the stake in 1573.

A gang leader on the list of gruesome serial killers Peter Niers (Died 1581)

Peter Niers was a German gang leader of robbers, rapists and murderers. He confessed (under torture) to have murdered 544 people. This included 24 fetuses cut out of pregnant women and used in magical rituals and cannibalism. His death sentence was not any less horrible than his acts, but seemed to be a justified way to execute gruesome serial killers like Peter Niers.


Peter nears on the wheel being ripped of his skin.
Execution of Peter Niers

A gift from the devil

It was rumored that Peter had received the gift of invisibility from the devil himself so he was able to terrorize a wide landscape with his gang of 49 rapists, robbers and murderers.

Peter Niers confessed that when his gang gathered, they would have meetings with the devil who gave the gang his blessings, providing them with supernatural powers and a monthly pay.

To make himself invisible, Peter carried with him a bag in which he kept the magical materials needed. Said materials were the remains of fetuses. During the casting of a spell, meant to allow them to rob a house without waking the inhabitants, the fetus hearts would be eaten as well as candles burned which had been made with the flesh and fat of infants.

The discovery and subsequent execution

Peter was caught when he left his bag with the innkeeper where he was staying for safekeeping. Two guests thought to recognize him and convinced the innkeeper to open the bag. There they discovered several cut off hands and hearts from fetuses.

Niel was executed in the most horrible manner that deemed a suitable punishment for gruesome serial killers at that time. His was a series of excruciating ways to die.

On the first day they tore strips of flesh from his body and filled the wounds with heated oil.

The second day they wiped heated oil on his feet and roasted them over glowing coal.

Then, on the third and final day they tied him onto the breaking wheel and slammed it down on him 42 times to break his bones.

Finally, being still alive, he was dismembered by quartering.

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