10 Brazen Serial Killers Who Murdered In Plain Sight
Serial killers have long shaken our society to the very core. With their bizarre behavior and ruthless killings, we know they operate differently than the rest of us. The idea that there are serial killers out there right now, lurking in the shadows, passing you on the street, killing undetected, is enough to make anyone uneasy. The way they walk among us terrifies us. It makes us wonder, “Would anyone notice if I was in trouble?” In the history of serial murder there have been a few close-calls which stood out as particularly audacious, insane, and fearless. Here are ten serial killer murders that took place in plain sight without a single soul noticing.
10Peter Kürten—The Vampire of Düsseldorf
Peter Kürten, a.k.a. The Vampire of Düsseldorf, was a vicious German serial killer who killed at least nine people and attempted over 31 other murders. His barbaric methods of execution were strangulation and beating his victims to death with a hammer, often in public places.
On October 12, 1929, Kürten met a 22-year-old woman named Elizabeth Dörrier outside of a theater. Without any regard for potential witnesses or being seen, he managed to convince Dörrier to join him for a drink before taking a train to a river where they would then take a stroll. Ultimately, this is where Peter murdered the young Dörrier by beating her head repeatedly with a hammer.
Not only is finding your victim and luring them from a public place pretty risky, but he went to four busy locations with his victim and then beat her to death in public with a hammer—not the most covert method of execution. It’s almost as if he didn’t care if he was caught. He didn’t care who saw him. The carnage was more important.
Craig Price makes this list because of his age, and the nonchalant nature in which he stabbed four of his neighbors. Price’s first murder took place at the age of 13, making him the youngest serial killer in the American archives.
On July 27, 1987, a 27-year-old woman was stabbed to death by 13-year-old Price. Then, in 1989, Price murdered again, killing a woman and her two preteen children. During the second slayings, the 15-year-old boy drove the knife so deep into his victims that pieces of it broke off inside of their bodies.
Craig Price is still in prison to this day for the murders. How did this 13-year-old manage to return to his life twice without the least bit of remorse, as if nothing had happened?
8John and Ethyl Christie
John Christie was a lesser known English serial killer and a vicious sadist with an appetite for inflicting pain. He killed at the very least eight people, mostly prostitutes, in the ten-year span between 1943 and 1953, with his faithful wife Ethyl as an accomplice.
Christie offered illegal abortion services to prostitutes, providing them with gas and ultimately strangling and raping them once they became unconscious. Christie would use his garden to dispose of some bodies, but he mostly stowed them under the floorboard of his flat leaving them there to rot.
Ethyl Christie not only allowed her husband to commit these rapes and murders, but she also aided him and provided an alibi when needed. This macabre duo went about their romance of rape and murder for nine straight years when suddenly the Christie house was rocked by an unpredictable curve-ball: John Christie strangled, raped, and killed his wife, Ethyl.
There is a rule if you’re a serial killer: Don’t kill people close to you. That’s how they find you. At this point, Christie had been investigated several times and narrowly escaped, so to turn on his own wife, accomplice, and partner-in-crime was almost unthinkably brave. This was ultimately Christie’s downfall, and he was caught by police and executed on July 15, 1953.
7Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi—The Hillside Stranglers
The Hillside Stranglers were two cousins who engaged in pimping, raping, and eventually murder, killing ten people from 1977 to 1978 in Los Angeles. The duo would often leave the bodies of strangled and raped victims in the hills of busy Hollywood and the surrounding areas for police to find. Not only is abducting victims from the inner city risky, dumping them in the thick of Hollywood is extremely risky.
All of their crimes were pretty ballsy, but one in November 1977 was uniquely deranged. The cousins kidnapped and killed two girls at the same time, Dolores Cepeda and Sonja Marie Johnson, as they walked home from school. All of the killers on this list committed some pretty outlandish homicides, but this is the only case of two victims being taken from a major metropolitan area at the same time.
The infamous story of Albert Fish and his young victim Grace Budd still strikes horror in the American psyche almost a century later. Albert Fish was a cannibal serial killer who had led a life of various crimes and murders, which spanned from 1919 to 1930, and reached its pinnacle with the brutal murder of Grace Budd.
After many successful killings of various men and boys, Fish committed his most hideous crime when he responded to a classified ad for a boy named Edward Budd, 18, who was looking for work in 1929. Fish showed up at the Budd’s home at 406 West 15th Street to meet the boy and his family. During his interactions with the family, Grace Budd, just a young girl, came home and Albert met her as well. Fish was 57 years old in 1928 and hardly seemed like a ravenous murderer in any sense. During the conversation, Fish said he was going to attend a birthday party for his young niece that evening, and he somehow managed to convince the family to let him take Grace with him. The murderous cannibal literally walked into the home of his victim, met her family, and convinced the complete strangers to let him fearlessly walk right out the front door with their young daughter.
After the murder, Fish penned a horrific letter to Grace’s mother, which can be found here, where he described killing, raping, and eating her daughter over a series of nine days. He was caught through the investigation of the letter, however, and eventually executed for his crimes.
Ed Kemper was a serial killer in California who killed six students between 1972 and 1973. In September 1972 the 6’9″ serial killer, dubbed The Coed Killer, picked up a young Korean hitchhiker by the name of Aiko Koo and took her to a secluded location to make her his next victim. Kemper pulled out a gun and made it known that foul play was about to transpire. Interestingly, he then stepped out of his car and locked his keys inside, with Koo still inside—Kemper was unable to get in. He simply asked Koo to open the door for him, and she obliged, at which point he began to rape and murder her.
After the murder, Kemper stuffed Koo’s body in the trunk and drove off. He stopped at a bar to have some drinks, admiring the “catch” that was in his trunk. If that’s not absolutely crazy enough, he took the body home and severed the head, after which he kept Koo’s body in his apartment for several days.
Now, here comes the really ballsy part: Needing to keep an appointment with a court-appointed attorney, Kemper went despite having Koo’s severed head in his trunk the entire time. With a decapitated head just sitting in his car in the parking lot, Kemper calmly had his meeting and went about his way. No one was the wiser, and Ed was free to kill again.
Jeffrey Dahmer will remain in infamy as one of the most disturbed serial killers of all time. The Milwaukee Cannibal, as he was also called, killed men and boys from 1978 until his eventual capture in 1991. Anyone who was alive to witness the grizzly scene of horrors that came from apartment 213 when Dahmer was finally caught, remembers the police spending hours bringing out body parts and the iconic blue barrel of acid Dahmer used to dissolve his victims. Police were shocked when they found severed limbs in the fridge and skulls and body parts all over Dahmer’s apartment.
However, one night stands out as particularly unusual in Dahmer’s 13-year killing spree that took 17 lives. On May 27, 1991, the ruthless killer lured a 14-year-old boy to his apartment with the promise of money if the youth would pose for photographs. It was there Jeffrey drugged the young boy unconscious, drilled a hole in his head, and poured acid into his skull in an attempt to make the boy a sex zombie. I know . . . I know. That’s crazy.
With the boy unconscious, Dahmer went to a bar to drink and buy more alcohol for himself. A serial killer leaving a living victim to go drink and buy booze is just about unheard of. But then things get weirder: Dahmer returned to his street to find the boy awake and crying along with some concerned bystanders who had called the police. After an exchange between everyone involved, the police arrived, and Dahmer had the audacity to explain to them that the 14-year-old boy was really 19, and was his lover who’d had too much to drink following a fight. Police believed him and escorted the boy and the killer back to the apartment where all of the horrors took place. The boy was dead a few hours later.
Now, I’m personally not a serial killer, but I would guess that there is some sort of unspoken rule that says you don’t leave a living victim (and witness) in your apartment and go drinking. Just a hunch.
3Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper is unanimously the most famous serial killer of all time. He is a household name and even had a movie about him starring Johnny Depp—he’s that mainstream. But he definitely deserves a spot on this list for the “double event” night of September 30, 1888. This was the evening he killed two victims separately, Catherine Eddowes and Elizabeth Stride.
The really crazy part about that night is the Ripper killed both victims within an hour of each other in the same general area, and the police found both bodies soon after. Stride was found first, having been murdered only an estimated 30 minutes before the discovery of her body, and Eddowes was found a mere 45 minutes later. It’s pretty ballsy to kill one victim and, knowing the body would soon be discovered, go back out some half hour to 45 minutes later and claim yet another life.
We don’t know who Jack the Ripper actually was, and the figure is shrouded in mystery to this day, but this double murder must have shocked London in the year of 1888. It is as if the Ripper’s blood-lust was so much greater than his fear of being caught, he didn’t even slow down or hesitate between his victims.
The Ripper and the Hillside Stranglers were not the only killers to go for two victims in the same day. Ted Bundy was an American serial killer who killed in five different states and claimed upward of 30 victims in the wake of his terror—though many believe the real number to be more than 100 people. Ted Bundy had a “double event” in broad daylight.
In possibly one of the most terrifying scenarios imaginable, Ted Bundy, sporting an arm cast, managed to convince a young woman by the name of Janice Ott to escort him to his car from a crowded beach of eyewitnesses at Lake Sammamish Park in Washington State. The lake was a popular attraction during the summer months for young people, meaning there were hundreds of people present when he took his victim.
Bundy wore a fake cast and asked if Ott could help him move a sailboat from his car, but when they got there, he struck her with a crowbar knocking her unconscious and took her from the lake to his dump site. After binding and raping her at the secluded location, he returned to the lake four hours later and kidnapped another victim, Denise Naslund. The young women suffered a horrific fate, with one being forced to watch Bundy murder the other.
Bundy boldly took both young women in the middle of the day, without the cover of night. Witnesses gave testimony to the police about the event, but Bundy would not be caught until years later. Bundy almost always kidnapped in broad daylight by striking his victims on the head with a crowbar, but taking two victims, back to back, from a populated park and going completely undetected is unbelievably daring.
Donald Harvey, a.k.a. The Angel of Death, is a lesser-known but extremely deadly serial killer who was a hospital orderly. Harvey claimed up to 57 lives, a very high number for a serial killer, and he did it right under the noses of hospital staff and administrators.
Working at Marymount Hospital in Kentucky, where his murderous rampage was only beginning, he killed at least 15 patients, and no one even noticed. The killer would often hook up faulty oxygen tanks to his victims or smother them to death as they lay helplessly in their hospital bed. Going to work and killing victims right there in the hospital with all the hustle and bustle of staff around you takes a heart of ice. His coworkers would even joke with Harvey about how many of his patients would die under his care, and he would joke back with them.
Here is where the plot really thickens: after the killing spree at Marymount Hospital, Harvey was arrested on March 31, 1971, for burglary. Highly intoxicated during his arrest, Donald Harvey confessed to the murders he had committed thus far, but an investigation did not bring up sufficient evidence to charge him. The police let him go with only the burglary charge.
Later, Harvey would go on to kill friends, lovers, and eventually get hired at several more hospitals where he would continue to kill innocent patients, completely undetected by the hospital staff. The fact that Harvey almost entirely killed in highly public places where he could easily be caught is terrifying to a degree I simply don’t have words for. How did Harvey get away with it for so long? How did no one seem to notice or when they did notice, thought it was coincidence and even joked about it?
How were all of these men able to keep a mask of composure on and fool reasonable, sane, professional people and continue to get away with murder? I honestly don’t think anyone knows the answer to this yet.
I own and manage Serial Killer Memes and Murderworks: Horror on Facebook.
Read more about serial killers on 10 Terrifying American Serial Killers Still At Large and Top 10 Notorious Women Serial Killers.