Serial Killers

What is the definition of a serial killer?

A serial killer is one who commits three or more murders as separate events. When defining serial killers, researchers generally use “three or more murders” AND distinguish serial killers from spree killers or mass murders by adding a temporal component, specifically “murders committed as separate events, usually, but not always, by one offender acting alone”. These parameters are largely from a meeting held by The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2005. The FBI hosted a multi-disciplinary symposium in San Antonio, Texas, which brought together 135 experts.

Origins of the term Serial Killer

The exact origin of the term serial killer is often divided by country or language. The English term serial killer is commonly attributed to former FBI Special agent Robert Ressler, who used the term serial homicide in 1974 in a lecture at Police Staff Academy in Bramshill, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom. Author. While the German term “serial-murderer” was used to describe Peter Kürten by criminologist Ernst Gennat. Finally, in the US it is said the term was popularized through an article published in the New York Times in 1981 about an Atlanta serial killer.


There are many events throughout the history of large numbers of murders. in keeping with the definition above we find lone persons who meet the criteria. As early as 144 BC.

Who was the first serial killer?

The first serial killer by modern definitions is widely accepted to be Jack the Ripper. Although there are many examples prior to Jack the Ripper.

Liu Pengli (144 BC)

Liu Pengli who was the prince of Jidong of China would “go out on marauding expeditions with 20 or 30 slaves or with young men who were in hiding from the law, murdering people and seizing their belongings for sheer sport”. It is believed that Liu Pengli murdered at least 100 people.

Gilles de Rais (15th Century)

Gliies de Rais was one of the wealthiest men in Europe who allegedly sexually assaulted and killed between 140 and 800 peasants (mainly boys).

Elizabeth Báthory (1610)

An aristocrat from Hungary, Elizabeth Báthory, allegedly tortured and killed as many as 650 girls and young women before her arrest.

The first modern serial killer – Jack the Ripper (1888)

By modern definition, Jack the Ripper is widely accepted as the first serial killer.

H. H. Holmes is the first In the US (1890s)

H. H. Holmes was one of the first documented modern serial killers in the United States, responsible for the death of at least nine victims in the early 1890s.

The French Ripper (1890s)

In France, Joseph Vacher (The French Ripper) killed 11 women and children.

Late 19th century: The golden age

Today’s society most closely associates the 1970-200 period to serial killers. This golden age of serial killers had a concentrated and elevated amount of this type of crime and peeked in 1989.

Serial Killer Research

Much research has been done on why serial killers kill. From their psychological state at the time of their killings, early childhood abuse as a root cause, to something called the serial killer gene. Radford University began a project in 1992. This research was later combined with Florida Gulf Coast University and resulted in the creation of Radford/FGCU Serial Killer Research Database. The database was created using information collected by Radford University students from a variety of sources including prison records, court transcripts, media sources, true crime books, and the Internet.

Serial Killer Experts

Some have emerged as experts on Serial Killers. Academic professionals such as Scott Bonn, PhD, or Dr. Katherine Ramsland. A more loosely defined “expert” maybe Stéphane Bourgoin personally interviewed hundreds of serial killers. Although there are suggestions that his expertise has unraveled.


Serial killers often suffer mental illness, they are abused—emotionally, physically, or sexually—by a family member. some studies have found that serial killers often have menial jobs, the FBI, however, states, “Serial murderers often seem normal; have families and/or a steady job.” Serial killers are often portrayed as geniuses who evade law enforcement with their cunning. However, studies have suggested that serial killers generally have an average IQ 89 – No more genius than any other.

The serial killer gene or chromosomes makeup

Science tries to find links between serial killer behavior and their biological makeup. Chromosomes have been suggested and even a Serial Killer Gene is described as being common among serial killers.

Lists of Serial Killers has compiled several views of the data we collect on hundreds of serial killers. These lits of serial killers include List of the most famous serial killers. These are the most common (although not always the most prolific) such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gasey and the Zodiac Killer. List of serial killers with a victim count Serial killers by astrological/zodiac sign Who was the first serial killer What serial killer killed the most people Who was the most gruesome serial killer What country has the most serial killers Child serial killers Female serial killers List of serial killers by US state List of serial killers by country

Active Serial Killers

The amount of serial killers has significantly decreased since its’ peak in 1998. However, there are still active cases.

Medical professionals and pseudomedical professionals

There have been many in the medical profession that have also been serial killers. In fact, some of the most prolific serial killers in history were doctors or nurses. Some believe these killers achieve a feeling of “god-like powers” which motivate them to perform their murders.

Serial killer groups and couples

Perhaps the most difficult to understand is groups or couples that act as killing teams. The González sisters and Henry Lee Lucas & Ottis Toole as examples. A lone killer has only one person to convince their house behavior is somehow justified. When more than one person is involved it becomes bizarrely. We’ve written about more serial killer groups here. Even husband and wife serial killers.

Mothers as serial killers

Mother. It’s a word that has the most profound meaning in our humanity. It is fact that some mothers have taken the lives of more than one of their children.

Juvenile and children serial killers

8yrd old Amardeep Sada is known to be the youngest serial killer. Sadly, there is no shortage of other cases where young people in their teens have been convicted as serial killers. Our article on Famous child serial killers describes them in more detail.

Female serial killers

While most serial killers are men, unfortunately, women have also taken up the title of serial killers. Perhaps the most famous modern female serial killer is Aileen Wuornos. Others include Lizzie Borden, Belle Gunness, and many more. The media has created movies and documentaries about female serial killers.