The Monster of the Andes, The Meanest Man in America, and 7 other Prolific Serial Killers
by Anna Shaw
1. Thug Behram
Estimated Body Count: 931
The Story: Between 1790 and 1830, Behram was the leader of India's infamous Thugee Cult. The death toll attributed to this cult varies from 50,000 to 2,000,000 people. They were an organization of thieves who would befriend travelers before robbing and killing them. Cult members believed that every person they killed prevented the coming of the goddess Kali for another millennium. As the leader of the gang, Thug Behram confessed his involvement in the 900+ murders, and admitted to personally strangling at least 125 people.
Capture: The British Government finally created policies against the Thugee Cult in the 1830s. The government recruited spies from the inside, who would eventually lead to the cult's downfall in the 1870s.
Punishment: Thug Behram was never tried for his action, as he became an informer for the government after his capture.
2. Elizabeth Bathory
Estimated Body Count: 600+
The Story: Elizabeth Bathory was a Hungarian countess in the 16th century. Her husband was killed in the Long War, leaving her in charge of the family estate. During her reign, many young girls began to disappear. Bathory and her servants would keep them captive, torturing and eventually killing them.
Capture: Local parish priests began to complain about Bathory's action in court, leading to an investigation. Upon searching her castle, they found many bodies, as well as many dying girls.
Punishment: Because of her position, Elizabeth Bathory was never tried. But her servants were. Their method of execution was rather brutal itself: they were thrown into a fire. Bathory was confined to a single room in her castle. The door was cemented shut, leaving only a slit to allow food to be slipped in. She died four years later, in 1614.
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3. Giuseppe Greco
Estimated Body Count: 300
The Story: Giuseppe Greco was a hitman for the Sicilian Greco Mafia Family during the Second Mafia War during the 1980s. He would assassinate enemies of the Family, including family members of those considered threats. Giuseppe's tactics varied, but his favorite weapon was the AK-47. His talent for killing helped him quickly gain power with the Mafia, so when the war ended, he became a target of his own family.
Capture: It is believed that after the war ended, Giuseppe fled to the United States. However, the Mafia eventually caught up with him, killing him in his home sometime in September of 1985.
Punishment: Death was not the end for Greco. Even after he was killed, the Sicilian government charged him with 58 counts of murder. He was given a life sentence.
4. Pedro Lopez
Estimated Body Count: 300+
The Story: Pedro Lopez was also known as the "Monster of the Andes." He would attack young girls in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. He would rape and kill them, burring their bodies throughout the countryside.
Capture: The main investigation began in 1980 when a flash flood uncovered the grave of one of his victims. Lopez was arrested after an attempted abduction went wrong, and the connection to the murders was later made. He then confessed his series of killings to the police, leading them to more bodies.
Punishment: Lopez's cooperation with police helped to reduce his sentence to a mere sixteen years. Good behavior moved his release date up two years. He was released from prison in 1998, and his current whereabouts are unknown.
5. Harold Shipman
Estimated Body Count: 284
The Story: Shipman was an English doctor who would give his patients lethal doses of morphine or diamorphine. Unlike Jack Kevorkian who gave his patients lethal doses consentingly, Shipman would give healthy patients these drugs, and forge medical notes stating that they were in ill health. In most cases, there was no apparent benefit to this. In only one case did Shipman get money in someone's will.
Capture: Shipman was placed under investigation after his local coroner noticed the high fatality rate of his practice. This investigation was abandoned due to lack of evidence, but after more suspicious deaths, Shipman was arrested.
Punishment: Shipman was charged with, and found guilty of 15 sample cases of murder. He received 15 life sentences, but committed suicide in his cell on January 13, 2004.
6. H.H. Holmes
Estimated Body Count: 230
The Story: Herman Webster Mudgett used the name H.H. Holmes or his illegal activities. He bought property in Chicago, eventually constructing a large hotel. But this was no ordinary hotel "“ its rooms were built to seal shut and fill with deadly gas. There were special chutes built to funnel bodies directly into the furnace or into pits of hydrochloric acid. He would fire employees after two weeks to avoid paying them. He opened this hotel during the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, so he easily filled his hotel with potential victims.
Capture: In 1895, one of his life insurance schemes fell through, leading to his arrest and a police investigation. The search of his hotel uncovered many dismembered bodies.
Punishment: There were only 27 confirmed murders, but using the missing persons list, the police identified some 230 murders that are attributed to Holmes. He was hanged on May 7, 1896.
7. Gilles de Rais
Estimated Body Count: 140+
The Story: Gilles de Rais was a French noble who fought alongside Joan of Arc against England. He had a habit of decapitating and torturing young boys from the local villages. Rais also had his servants kill young boys while he watched.
Capture: His downfall stemmed from a failed attempt to kidnap a clergyman. This led to an investigation.
Punishment: He was hanged on October 26, 1440.
8. Donald Henry "Pee Wee" Gaskins
Estimated Body Count: 200
The Story: Unlike the others on this list, Gaskins found his victims by driving around the American south, picking up anyone he felt like. He would also kill people he knew, but only if he had a specific reason to do so. He was eventually dubbed the "Meanest Man in America."
Capture: On December 4, 1975, Gaskins led police to a mass grave. He was arrested on the spot.
Punishment: Gaskins was sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison when South Carolina outlawed the death penalty. However, after killing a fellow inmate, he was once again put on death row, and executed on September 6, 1991 "“ the fourth person to be executed after the ban on the death penalty was lifted.
9. Luis Garavito
Estimated Body Count: 140
The Story: Garavito, also known as "Le Bestia" or "The Beast" was a serial killer in Colombia between 1992 and 1998. He would convince poor peasant children to follow him into secluded fields, where he would kill them. He would then prop up the bodies and have "tea parties" with them, until he grew bored and found others to kill.
Capture: He was captured in April 1999 while attempting to kidnap a child. He then admitted to 140 murders, and led the police to several mass graves.
Punishment: Garavito received a 22-year sentence, which he is currently serving in Colombia.
Anna Shaw is an occasional contributor to mentalfloss.com.