Many people ask if serial killers are born or raised with violent inclinations. Experts will claim it is a mix of biological, psychological and social. In some cases when all three are damaged during the early years of development this can quite often grow a serious dark side in someone’s character with deadly results. As one author Jim Clemente explained to Quora.com, “Genetics loads the gun, their personality and psychology aim it, and their experiences pull the trigger.”
We are all in control of our own decision but with the parents these following killers had – they really didn’t stand a chance…
10. John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy, who later became known as “The Clown Killer”, had killed 33 men and teenage boys after luring that back to his home in Cook County, Illinois. The murders took place from 1972 to 1978, the bodies were eventually found in the crawlspace of his home.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, on March 17th, 1942, he was the only son and the second of John Stanley Gacy senior – a World War I veteran. As a child Gacy Jnr was overweight, his alcoholic and violent father would often taunt him about his appearance. He could never win his father’s affection or approval and often would be beaten unconscious during one of his rages. Emotionally he was tormented, as his father would taunt him with names like “sissy”, “Mama’s boy” and that he would “probably grow up queer”. During his time in fourth grade, Gacy began to suffer blackouts and his seizures would often cause him to be hospitalized. Although his father often accused him of faking his illness, often berating him as he stood beside his own hospital bed.
All of Gacy’s victims were killed by either asphyxiation or strangulation. Twenty-six bodies of his victims were found in his home, four more victims were found discarded in the Des Plaines River. He was sentenced to death row on March 13th, 1980 and after 14 years on death row, he was executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center on May 10th, 1994.
9. Henry Lee Lucas
Henry Lee Lucas was a self-confessed serial killer. After his arrest in June 1983, based on his own confessions and hundreds of unsolved murders which were attributed to him, he was convicted of 11 homicides.
For Lucas growing up, he had a troubled childhood full of violence. He was born in Blacksburg, Virginia on August 23rd, 1936. His own brother has assaulted him with a knife, which had lost him an eye – a physical defect he was constantly bullied for throughout his life. His mother then forced him into cross-dressing that caused him to be rejected by all of his peers. Even more disturbingly, his mother was a working prostitute who would force Lucas to watch her with clients.
In December 1949, Lucas’s father, whose legs had been severed in an accident, died of hypothermia after collapsing outside during a blizzard when he was drunk. Shortly after, Lucas dropped out of the sixth grade and ran away from home. He became a drifter around Virginia. Two years later, he was claimed he made his first kill – strangling to death 17-year-old Laura Burnsley, who had refused his sexual advances.
Lucas was sentenced to death row, but on March 12th, 2001, he was found dead in prison from heart failure – aged 64-years-old. He was buried at Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery in Huntsville, Texas although his grave was left unmarked due to threats of vandalism.
8. Alberto DeSalvo
Albert Henry DeSalvo confessed he was the “Boston Strangler” responsible for the murders of thirteen women in the Boston, Massachusett’s area throughout the early 1960s. Although his confession was questionable, he was imprisoned for a series of rapes that had took place in the same area. It wasn’t until July 2013, with DNA taken from DeSalvo’s exhumed body, that he was found guilty for the murders.
DeSalvo had a history of crime throughout his adolescence. Born in 1931, his anger came from his twisted father, who he lived within Chelsea, Massachusetts. A violent alcoholic, DeSalvo watched as his father knocked all his mother’s teeth out and bent her fingers back until they were broken. He began to deal with the emotional pain by torturing small animals as a child, before moving onto more serious crimes during his adolescence. In 1943, when DeSalvo was aged just 12-years-old he was arrested for battery and robbery.
In 1967, he was sentenced to life in prison in Bridgewater State Hospital but after an escape, he was captured and sent to a maximum-security prison, known at the time as Walpole, where he made his Boston Strangler confessions. On November 25th, 1973, he was found stabbed to death in prison. No one was ever convicted of his murder and it still remains unsolved.
American serial killer Aileen Carol Wuornos was convicted of the murders of seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990. She claimed that her victims, who she had met when she was working as a prostitute, had either raped or attempted to rape her and the murders were in self-defense. Her entire life had been one long struggle.
Wuornos was born in Rochester, Michigan, on February 29th, 1956. Although she had never met her father, who was in prison for sex crimes against children at the time of her birth, she found out he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had hung himself in prison. Then when she was just four-years-old, her mother took off and abandoned her. She was sent to live with her grandparents but it wasn’t long before her own grandfather, a violent alcoholic, had begun to sexually molest her, forcing her to strip in front of him before beating her. At the age of just 11-years-old, she had begun having sex with boys at school in exchange for cigarettes, drugs, and food.
Then at 14-years-old, she had fell pregnant after a friend of her grandfather had raped her. She gave birth to a baby boy who was then adopted. A year later, her grandmother died of liver failure and her grandfather threw her out of the house. She began supporting herself by drifting and working as a prostitute. She was eventually convicted of murder and executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002.
6. Anthony Sowell
Anthony Sowell became known in the media as the Cleveland Strangler. In 2009, he was arrested after eleven bodies were discovered at his Cleveland, Ohio home. He had been raised in East Cleveland, in a large family as one of seven children. His sister also had seven children who lived in the house with them.
His mother, despite being chronically ill, would physically abuse her children whilst the others in the house were made to watch. She would force one of the children to strip in front of their siblings and then whip them with electrical chords until they bled. Sexual assaults between the children were not uncommon in the house either. At 19-years-old, Sowell fled home after joining the United States Marine Corps in 1978. During his seven years of service, he received a Good Conduct Medal, a Certificate of Commendation and two Letters of Appreciation.
Many years later, when the remains of eleven women had been found at his home he was 50-years-old. Jurors recommended the death penalty for Sowell. He pleaded with the Ohio Supreme Court to change his sentence from death to life in prison, as he had not received a fair trial due to the extensive media coverage. He is currently awaiting execution at Chillicothe Correctional Institution.
5. Andre Crawford
Andre Crawford is a serial killer and necrophiliac who killed 11 women between 1993 to 1999; he would often target prostitutes or drug addicts in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.
Born March 20th, 1962, Crawford lived alone in squalor with his mother; he would be left as an infant for long periods of time. Eventually, he was placed in foster care, but the abuse did not end there, as he was subjected to physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his carers. As a teenager, he was even forced to have sex with his own siblings before he ran away. Crawford survived by sleeping in vacant buildings around Chicago.
His final attack on women was on Thanksgiving 1997, the survivor, who would have been his twelfth victim, was able to alert the police. He was then linked by DNA to 7 of the victims and eventually confessed to all 11 murders. In 1998 he was sentenced to death and is currently on death row at Menard Correctional Center.
4. Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy was a serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, and necrophile at large during the 1970s. He confessed to killing thirty victims between 1974 and 1978, although the real victim count is believed to be much higher.
Bundy was born on November 24th, 1946, in Burlington, Vermont. His birth certificate claims his real father was an Air Force veteran named Lloyd Marshall, but his mother later changed the paternity to a sailor named Jack Worthington. After years of research, no men matching these names and professions could be found leaving many to speculate that his mother was hiding who his real father was.
Bundy grew up in Philadelphia with his grandparents, Samuel and Eleanor Cowell. To avoid the stigma of being a child born out of wedlock they raised him to believe they were his parents and his mother was his sister. Bundy discovered the truth when his cousins taunted him with his birth certificate and labeled him a “bastard”. He spent his life resenting his real mother for lying to him for so long.
Bundy has spoken in many interviews of his admiration for his grandfather. However, during his trial, witnesses told attorneys that his grandfather was a violent bully, a bigot, and a racist. He beat his wife and the family dog and tortured neighborhood cats that walked onto his property. He once threw his own daughter down the stairs because she had overslept one morning. His grandmother grew depressed and underwent electroconvulsive therapy that left her with a fear of the outdoors. Bundy began to turn to crime as a means of escapism and during high school was arrested twice on suspicion of burglary.
In 1978, Bundy was captured and received three death sentences during two separate trials for homicide. He was sentenced to death and died in the electric chair at Raiford Prison in Starke, Florida, on January 24th, 1989.
3. Ottis Toole
Ottis Toole was a drifter convicted on six counts of murder. He killed alongside Henry Lee Lucas who he met in a Jacksonville soup kitchen and they engaged in a sexual relationship together. Toole claimed he and Lucas were responsible for 108 murders. Although, with no evidence and with police believing his claims were too extreme, he was not charged.
Toole’s early life was one of incest and abuse. He claimed he was forced to have sex with his father’s friend when he was just five-years-old. His own mother was an abusive alcoholic who made him dress in women’s clothes and have sex with his older sister. Suffering from epilepsy and with an I.Q of 75, he was extremely vulnerable and would often run away from home, choosing to sleep in derelict buildings. As a teenager, he became a male prostitute, obsessed with gay pornography and sexually aroused by fire.
Toole confessed to his first murder in 1981. Later when he was found guilty or this attack and more, he received two death sentences but after an appeal, this was changed to life imprisonment. He died in his cell from cirrhosis, aged 49-years-old.
2. Mary Bell
In 1968, Mary Bell strangled to death two little boys, 4-year-old Martin Brown and 3-year-old Brian Howe, in a suburb of Scotswood, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. She was convicted of manslaughter the same year and released from prison in 1980. She now lives under a different identity.
Bell’s life was one of constant abuse, which she suffered at the hands of her mother Betty, who was a prostitute, and her clients. Family members claimed that Betty had attempted to kill Mary more than once and wanted to make it look accidental. Once Mary had “fallen” from a high window and “accidentally” taken sleeping pills. She would often witness her mother engaging in violent sexual acts with clients she had brought back to the home. Her mother was so twisted that she even forced her into prostitution at the age of just 4-years-old.
On May 25th, 1968, just days before she turned 11-years-old, Mary strangled 4-year-old Martin Brown in an abandoned house. Then on July 31st, she and friend Norma Bell (no relation), strangled 3-year-old Brian Howe to death in an abandoned wasteland near their homes. Mary later returned to carve an “M” into the boy’s stomach and mutilate his penis with scissors.
While her friend Norma Bell was acquitted, Mary was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Psychiatrists described her as displaying “classic symptoms of psychopathy” and that she posed a “very grave risk to other children”. She spent 12-years in prison and now lives a new life, where it was rumored that she had recently become a grandmother.
1. Ed Gein
Born August 27th, 1906, Ed Gein was a killer, grave robber, and necrophile. In his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, he would dig up exhumed corpses from local graveyards and turn their skin and bones into trophies. He confessed to killing two women from 1954 to 1957. In 1968, Gein was found guilty but legally insane sentenced to life in psychiatric institutions.
His mother, Augusta Gein, was one wicked woman. She moved her son to an isolated farm and would only allow him to leave the home for school. There was punishment if he tried to socialize with anyone outside of his immediate family. When he wasn’t at school, Gein was forced to do constant chores and listen to his mother, a Lutheran, preach about how all women were instruments of the devil and they were all prostitutes. She would read him only the most graphic verses from the Old Testament about death, murder, and divine retribution.
After the death of his father in 1940 and the death of his brother in 1944, he was alone with his mother. That was until her own death in 1945 that devastated Ed as he was now alone in the world. He then began turning to recreating human parts out of exhumed corpses. When he was arrested, the detectives had discovered a wastebasket made of human skin, several chairs with covers made out of human skin, skulls on his bedposts and a belt made from human nipples.
Gein later died at Mendota Mental Health Institute of cancer-induced liver failure on July 26th, 1984. He is buried in the Plainfield Cemetery, in an unmarked grave.