12 Terrifying Historical Serial Killers Worse Than Jack The Ripper

Jack The Ripper is one of the most famous serial killers of all time, and his short-lived reign of terror in London's East End is one of the most theorized and talked about in history. However, when compared to the horrifying deeds of other brutal killers throughout history, those of Jack The Ripper can't even hold a candle to the black magic practicing, mass-murdering, dark and sadistic serial killers of antiquity. 

From insane landowners who abused their servants in bizarre ways to the leaders of murderous cults that killed hundreds with their own hands, history is full of monsters. Some killed for personal gain, others for pleasure, and others allegedly to gain supernatural power. Especially in Europe, dark magic practitioners would target pregnant women, fetuses, and infants to use in their twisted rituals. To learn more about some of history's most horrifying psychopaths, take a look at this list.   

  • Thug Behram, The Man Who Killed More Than 900 People
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Fair Use

    The most prolific serial in history is arguably Thug Behram, the leader of an Indian bandit cult who accumulated more than 900 victims under his belt. His followers, "Thuggees," were famous for defeating British forces, worshipping the Hindu goddess Kali, and garroting their victims. Over a 600-year period, it is said that the Thuggees killed over 2 million people. Mass graves of Thuggee victims have been found containing more than 500,000 corpses. 

    Thug Behram, described as a quiet, young man, eventually became one of the most feared men in India. Travelers would avoid routes he was said to be on, and it's said that he could walk into a village and take whatever supplies and women he wanted, and no one would challenge him. While Jack The Ripper hid in the shadows, Behram was an unquestioned force of nature. He led British law enforcement on a wild chase for decades, killing any officers that came looking for him. In 1839, Behram was caught at age 75, while in bed with a woman. The British hanged him in private and even tried to downplay his murder count to lessen his mystique and demoralize the network of Thuggees he had cultivated. 

  • Big And Little Harpe, America's First Serial Killers

    Big And Little Harpe, America's First Serial Killers
    Photo: Petr Kratochvil / Public Domain Pictures / Public Domain

    In the late 1700s, brothers (or maybe cousins, depending on the source) Micajah "Big" Harpe and Wiley "Little" Harpe terrorized the frontier, leaving a trail of mutilated bodies in their wake. When the Revolutionary War began, the pair joined a Tory rape gang, and throughout their lives, took whatever side they could in various conflicts to inflict the most violence possible. Their trademark was gutting their victims, filling their bodies with rocks, and dumping them in the nearest river. The brothers raped and pillaged at will and were so brutal that even a pirate gang they joined forced them to leave. You might say that, unlike Jack The Ripper, they really diversified their portfolio, getting involved in almost any horrible thing imaginable. 

    After Captain James Wood shot and wounded Little Harpe during a skirmish, the pair kidnapped his daughter ,Susan Wood, as well as another young girl named Maria Davidson, taking them as their "wives." The Harpe brothers repeatedly raped them, dragged the girls all over the frontier against their will, and killed any children they gave birth to. In 1799, Big Harpe was finally caught by authorities, and his head was sawed off and stuck on a pole at an intersection in Henderson, KY. Before his death, he confessed to at least 20 murders. Little Harpe met a similar fate in 1804. 

  • The Werewolf Of Dole, A Cannibal Possessed By The Devil

    Gilles Garnier, known as The Werewolf of Dole, was a 16th-century French hermit, serial killer, and cannibal. When children began to disappear entirely or parts of their bodies were found mutilated around the small town of Dole, provincial law officials decided the perp had to be a werewolf. They issued an edict encouraging local citizens to hunt it. While on the hunt, they found Garnier hunched over the body of a dead child and captured him. 

    Garnier confessed to stalking and murdering four children for food, eating them, and even feeding some of their parts to his wife. He also said that a demon visited him and gave him special ointment that turned him into a wolf, which made it easier for him to hunt. In January, 1573, Garnier was burned at the stake for his crimes. Many believed him to be a werewolf at the time, and this - combined with his targeted mutilation and cannibalization of children - makes him more twisted than the decidedly less-wolfish Jack The Ripper. 

  • La Voisin, The Black Magic Practitioner Who Sacrificed Babies

    Catherine Monvoisin, known as "La Voisin," was a fortune teller, black magic practitioner, and serial killer who helped the French aristocracy partake in dark rituals in the mid 1600s. After her fortune-telling work taught her that most of her clients wanted the same things (such as love, money, and the death and misfortune of others), she began guiding them in increasingly twisted and expensive magical rituals to procure their desires. 

    Even though she started with amulets and simple spells, La Voisin eventually helped develop a network of poisoners and black magic practitioners. She was even part of a failed plot to murder King Louis XIV. Eventually caught, La Voisin was convicted of witchcraft and burned to death in public in Paris. For her part, she never revealed the names of her influential clients, and it is unknown how many infants she killed. This high-society sorceress who tried to kill the King of France and spent decades extorting the aristocracy was a serial killer and con artist unlike any other.   

  • Burke And Hare, The Serial Killers Who Sold Bodies To Science
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In the mid-19th century, Edinburgh, Scotland, had a thriving medical science community, but the corpses needed for study were hard to come by. People would go to extensive lengths to guard the corpses of their deceased loved ones to ensure that they would not fall prey to body snatchers and grave robbers once they were buried. Enter William Burke and William Hare, two Irish immigrants living in Edinburgh who killed 17 people between 1827 and 1829. Seeing an opportunity to make money selling corpses to Dr. Robert Knox, Burke and Hare decided that waiting for people to die of natural causes was bad business. They began murdering people and selling the bodies to Knox, killing 17 people before they were discovered.

    Basically, in the lodging house Hare owned, the pair would murder lodgers using a trademark method of suffocation, which became known as "Burking." That's right - the pair murdered so successfully that a method of murder was named for them. While Hare was granted immunity for testifying against Burke, Burke was hanged to death on January 28, 1829. He was then publicly dissected, and his skeleton remains on display at the Edinburgh Medical College Museum to this day.

  • La Quintrala, The Beauty Who Escaped 15 Documented Murder Charges

    One of Santiago Chile's most infamous figures is that of Doña Catalina de los Ríos Lisperguer, better known as La Quintrala. In the early 17th century, this hedonistic and cruel woman was born into a family of wealthy landowners, and she spent years abusing her position. One of her favorite hobbies was killing slaves and serfs, which led to frequent fines from the authorities. However, La Quintrala's killer instincts did not stop there. 

    La Quintrala famously killed her own father, ordered the assassination of a priest, tried to stab another to death, and tortured one of her many lovers to death in the cellar of her home. Due to her wealth and connections, she escaped trial on 15 documented murder charges. However, as slave deaths were not counted by authorities, it is impossible to know just how many people she actually killed. According to legend, the number may be in the hundreds. Her bloodlust and privileged position in society gave her all the time in the world to murder and torture as she pleased.