How Infamous Serial Killers Felt About Their Own Crimes

Why do serial killers commit such extreme acts of violence? Some may want to seek out individual perpetrators for an answer, but not all of them are as forthcoming as you might imagine. In fact, infamous serial killers like John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy denied any wrongdoing after they were finally brought to justice. Others, like Jeffrey Dahmer, have painfully honest answers for why they killed and how they felt about it.

In this list, 11 of history's most notorious serial killers offer insight into how they felt about the murders they committed.

Photo: Donn Dughi / State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

  • Albert Fish
    Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Known as both the “Brooklyn Vampire” and the “Werewolf of Wysteria,” Albert Fish murdered at least three children between 1924 and 1928. He wasn't captured until 1934, when he sent a letter to the family of Grace Budd, one of his victim whom he abducted in 1928 when she was 10 years old.

    The graphic letter contained information about how Fish had killed and eaten the young girl. In the letter, which Fish addressed to Grace's mother, he wrote, “On Sunday June the 3 - 1928 I called on you at 406 W 15 St. Brought you pot cheese - strawberries. We had lunch. Grace sat in my lap and kissed me. I made up my mind to eat her.”

    Albert Fish was subsequently arrested, tried for murder, and executed via the electric chair on January 16, 1936. Regarding how he felt about murder, Fish stated, “I always had a desire to inflict pain on others and to have others inflict pain on me. I always seemed to enjoy everything that hurt.”

  • David Parker Ray

    David Parker Ray
    Photo: Unknown author / Wikipedia / Fair Use

    David Parker Ray, often referred to as the “Toy Box Killer,” took women to his soundproof trailer, which he called the “toy box,” where he would torture, r*pe, and sometimes murder them. Although Ray was never tried for murder, law enforcement believed he may have killed as many as 60 women.

    Ray was captured after one of his victims, Cynthia Vigil, escaped from the trailer in 1999. An exhaustive investigation of the premises revealed Ray used a number of torture devices on women, whom he would hold hostage for months. Ray would then drug the women and leave them on the side of the road.

    Ray later said of his crimes, “I don’t like killin’ the girls that we bring here, but occasionally things happen. What can I say? I would really hate to have to dump that pretty little body off in a canyon somewhere, to rot. I’m not trying to scare you. That’s just the way it is.”

  • Between 1976 and 1977, David Berkowitz shot eight people in New York City. At one of the murder scenes, he left a letter for the police in which he referred to himself as the "Son of Sam.” Berkowitz claimed he joined a Satanic cult in 1975 and that he was carrying out the crimes under Satan's orders.

    Authorities captured Berkowtiz on August 10, 1977, and he confessed to the shootings a day later. Psychiatrists believed he was a paranoid schizophrenic, and Berkowitz was sentenced to life in prison, where he reportedly became an Evangelical Christian.

    In his memoir, My Testimony, Berkowitz wrote, “Eventually I crossed that invisible line of no return. After years of mental torment, behavioral problems, deep inner struggles and my own rebellious ways, I became the criminal that, at the time, it seemed as if it was my destiny to become."

  • Richard Ramirez: The Night Stalker
    Photo: Los Angeles Police Department / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Between 1984 and 1985, Richard Ramirez attacked dozens of people and murdered at least 15 individuals in San Francisco and the greater Los Angeles area. Known as the "Night Stalker” prior to the discovery of his identity, Ramirez was captured in a Los Angeles neighborhood after residents recognized him from police sketches and chased him down.

    Ramirez received the death penalty in 1989 but died in prison in 2013. During his trial, he was known for bizarre outbursts, including his first court appearance, where he flashed a pentagram he'd drawn on his hand, and shouted, “Hail Satan.”

    While being escorted to a jail bus following his guilty verdict, Ramirez snickered and said, "Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland."

  • Jeffrey Dahmer
    Photo: Revere Senior High School / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Between 1978 and 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer assaulted, tortured, murdered, and at times cannibalized 17 boys and young men. He was finally arrested when a victim escaped his apartment on July 22, 1991.

    When police searched the home, they were shocked to find human remains in Dahmer's kitchen and bedrooms, as well as photo albums documenting his crimes.

    In 1994, the same year Dahmer was murdered in prison, he sat down with journalist Stone Phillips to discuss his crimes. In a matter-of-fact tone, Dahmer explained,

    The killing was a means to an end. That was the least satisfactory part. I didn't enjoy doing that. That's why I tried to create living zombies with uric acid in the drill [to the head], but it never worked. No, the killing was not the objective. I just wanted to have the person under my complete control, not having to consider their wishes, being able to keep them there as long as I wanted.

  • John Wayne Gacy
    Photo: Des Plaines Police Department / Wikimedia Commons / Fair Use

    John Wayne Gacy was arrested for murder on December 21, 1978, after authorities found 33 bodies in the crawlspace of his Chicago-area home. Investigators later determined Gacy had murdered dozens of young men and boys between 1972 and 1978 after luring them to his home.

    Gacy, who refused to admit to any of the murders, said after his arrest, “All the police are going to get me for is running a funeral parlor without a license.”

    Gacy was executed by lethal injection May 10, 1994.