11 Serial Killers Who Had High IQs

In addition to their heinous crimes, some of the most notorious serial killers in history also have surprisingly high IQs. While at least one study showed that the average IQ of a serial killer is only 94.7, the people on this list proved to be quite intelligent - though they were also phenomenally cruel.

From Unabomber Ted Kaczynski to the imposing Edmund Kemper, this list breaks down the IQs and crimes of 11 infamous serial killers.

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  • Rodney Alcala
    Photo: San Quentin State Prison, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    IQ: Estimated 170

    Rodney Alcala, also known as The Dating Game Serial Killer, had an estimated IQ of 170. Alcala was known for being the winning contestant on a 1978 episode of The Dating Game, which occurred while he was simultaneously killing women in California.

    Although after Alcala's trial, investigators found more than 1,000 photos he took of his crimes and estimated he had 50 victims, Alcala was only found guilty of killing five people. Alcala managed to get off on a technicality in his first murder trial but was convicted in 2005 due to DNA evidence.

    Alcala died in prison from natural causes in 2021.

    • Age: 77 (1943-2021)
    • Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas
  • Ted Kaczynski
    Photo: Federal Bureau of Investigation / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    IQ: 167

    Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, had an IQ of 167 and was considered a math prodigy. Kaczynski was accepted into Harvard at just 16, but he reportedly took issue with modern technology. To take a stand against it, he mailed bombs (mostly to professors) between 1978 and 1995 that killed three people and injured another 23.

    Kaczynski would leave messages encrypted with mathematical codes that not even the FBI could crack. He managed to escape capture for 17 years, but upon the release of his manifesto, his brother and sister-in-law recognized the writing style and tipped off the FBI.

    • Age: 80
    • Birthplace: Evergreen Park, Illinois, United States of America
  • Charlene Gallego

    Charlene Gallego
    Photo: California Department of Corrections / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    IQ: 160

    Charlene Gallego committed numerous murders with her husband, Gerald Gallego, in the late 1970s. A violin prodigy with an IQ of 160, some believe Charlene was the mastermind behind the couple's killings. They kidnapped 10 people, some as young as 13 and most of them female, whom they sexually assaulted and held captive before eventually murdering them.

    Charlene later agreed to testify against her husband and, as a result, received only a 17-year prison sentence. She was released in 1997.

    • Age: 65
  • Carroll Edward Cole

    IQ: 152

    As a child, Carroll Edward Cole's mother forced him to watch her have sex with other men while his father was away. She would then threaten him with violence to prevent him from telling his father. Cole later claimed this trauma contributed to his issues with women in his adult life.

    Authorities believe his first murder was the drowning of his friend at age 10, though nobody knew it was murder at the time. As an adult, he picked up women in bars and killed them, targeting women he believed to be "loose" or adulterers. Police caught Cole twice in the middle of violent acts, but he managed to talk his way out of them.

    He was eventually sentenced and executed for the death of five women, though his death toll may have been much higher.

    • Age: 47 (1938-1985)
  • Andrew Cunanan
    Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    IQ: 147

    Andrew Cunanan is widely known for murdering the fashion designer Gianni Versace, but he also had four other victims. He was reportedly a bright student and spoke seven languages but ran into trouble in school when he began pathologically lying.

    From a young age, Cunanan reportedly had an obsession with violent sex and even had sex for money as a teenager. Despite the numerous murders he committed, beginning with his former lover, Jeff Trail, the FBI couldn't seem to catch him.

    Versace is considered Cunanan's final victim. Cunanan took his own life eight days later, never revealing his motive for murdering the designer.

    • Age: 27 (1969-1997)
    • Birthplace: National City, California
  • Edmund Kemper
    Photo: Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    IQ: 145

    Investigators described Edmund Kemper as a "natural born killer," and with good reason. Kemper was formidable: He was 6'9", weighed over 300 pounds, and had an IQ of 145. His victims included his grandparents, several women, and even his own mother. Authorities believe Kemper murdered 10 people in total, and he reportedly kept some of his victims' heads for days before disposing of them.

    Kemper managed to evade law enforcement for nine years until he eventually turned himself in and requested the death penalty. Instead, Kemper was given eight life sentences.

    • Age: 74
    • Birthplace: Burbank, California