Nearly everyone knows of the fictional evil genius Hannibal Lecter, but how many real-life serial killers are actually dastardly intelligent? It turns out the theory that all serial killers are geniuses is untrue— one study found they had an average IQ of 94.7. Interestingly enough, their IQs varied based on what method they used to kill, with bombers being the most clever and poisoners being the least. But even though some serial killers may be distinctly average, there are definitely some cases of intelligent murder - and intelligent murderers - out there. And there are some downright evil geniuses that make this list.
And it makes sense, because to earn the title of serial killer you have to do a pretty substantial amount of killing without getting caught - and that's going to take some brains.
IQ: Estimated 170
Rodney Alcala, also known as The Dating Game Serial Killer, is the smartest serial killer known to man, with an estimated IQ of 170. His nickname doesn't exactly spark images of genius, but it should, because this guy was such a cold-blooded murderer that in the middle of his many, many kills, he took part in the famous TV show The Dating Game. And he won the date.
Not only that, despite investigators finding more than 1,000 photos he took of his crimes and some estimates guessing he had around 50 victims, he was only found guilty of five. And on his fist trial for the murder of four women, his crazy IQ meant he managed to get off on technicalities, only being sentenced in 2005 when DNA evidence finally nailed him for the crime.
And the murders themselves? One victim was beaten to death with a claw hammer and, in a true evil genius move, others were strangled and resuscitated over and over again, just to torture them. "He gets off on the infliction of pain on other people," prosecutor Matt Murphy told the court. "He committed unspeakable acts of horror."
Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas
Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, had an IQ of 167, and is probably the ultimate serial killer genius. A math prodigy, he was accepted into Harvard at just 16. But he had a big problem with modern technology. To take a stand against it he mailed bombs, mostly to professors, and between 1978 and 1995, these killed three and injured 23.
He would leave messages encrypted with mathematical codes that not even the FBI could crack. He managed to escape capture for 17 years, a feat showing genuine intelligence. What finally did him in? When his manifesto was released, his brother and sister-in-law recognized the writing style and tipped off the FBI. Who knows if he would have been caught otherwise.
Birthplace: Evergreen Park, Illinois, United States of America
A rare female serial killer, Charlene Gallego committed numerous murderous with her husband, Gerald Gallego, in the late 1970s. A violin prodigy with an IQ of 160, some believe that Charlene was the mastermind behind the couple's reign of terror. They kidnapped 10 people, some as young as 13 and mostly female, who they raped and kept as sex slaves before eventually killing them.
The real genius move? She agreed to testify against her husband, so she only received a sentence of 17 years. She was released in 1997.
Despite his high IQ, Carroll Cole was a poor student. As a child, he was forced to watch his mother have sex with other men while his father was away. To keep him from telling his dad, his mother would threaten to beat him. This caused him a great deal of pain, and contributed to his issues with women in his life.
His first murder is thought to be drowning his friend at the age of 10, though nobody realized it was a murder at the time. He went on to have fantasies of murdering women, and those fantasies turned into a reality. He picked up women in bars and killed them, targeting women he believed to be "loose" or adulterers - just like his mother. He was twice caught by the police in the middle of violent acts but, like any true genius, managed to talk his way out of them.
He was eventually sentenced and executed for the death of five women, though his death toll could have been much higher. He told an interviewer shortly before his execution, "I just messed up my life so bad that I just don't care to go on."