What does your mind conjure up when you think about what the archetypal serial killer might be like?
Chances are, you’ll end up imagining a character that’s somewhere between the average - and much trotted-out - FBI Behavioural Sciences profile and any one of the blood-lusting maniacs spoon-fed to us all by Hollywood.
The idea of the serial murderer as a cunning white man, who’s between 25 and 30 years of age and who boasts an above average intellect, is actually something of a stereotype. And not a particularly accurate one, at that. When you look back through the previous three decades of American history, at the data as to who serial killers often are and how they operate, the results are more than a little surprising...
The Serial Killer Information Center is a database containing detailed information on more than 3,300 repeat murderers and it paints a really quite a different picture. Started by a professor of psychology at Radford University, the centre’s research empirically shows that only 12.5% (one eighth) of serial killers in America fit into the typecast of the ‘smart Caucasian male in his mid-to-late twenties’.
The idea that all serial killers stalk the street for their prey as fearsome lone wolves is something of a fallacy too.
Also known as The Serial Killer Database Project, the work of Dr. Mike Aamodt and his team shows that, since the late 1980’s in the US, a surprising number of serial killers have been female (around 10%), African-American (60%) and over 30 (70%). With the average IQ generally being a good 5-10% lower than Joe and Joanne Public.
The myth-busting doesn’t end there, though. The idea that all serial killers stalk the street for their prey as fearsome lone wolves is something of a fallacy too. There have been plenty that come as a deadly duo. And not just romantic pairings, either. So forget the likes ofHindley andBrady orFred andRosemary West for a moment and come with us on a journey exploring the truly bizarre and wretched world of platonic serial killing partnerships…
Henry Lee Lucas & Ottis Toole
Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer. They’re perhaps the most famous serial murderers of modern times. Also quite likely to make that list is the notorious figure of Mr Henry Lee Lucas. Convicted of 11 murders, the one-eyed Lucas is thought to have committed many, many (many) more. In fact, on his arrest, the man claimed to have been directly involved in almost 3,000 murders. Few people realise that the man rarely acted alone, though. His preferred killing pal? An arson-obsessed rapist and murderer by the name of Ottis Elwood Toole.
Both already convicted killers, the two men befriended each other in a Floridian soup kitchen back in 1976. Each man sensed a bloodlust in the other and the two quickly became inseparable. Plenty has been written about Henry Lee Lucas down the years, with thousands of articles and dozens of books written about the man. Not to mention the countless documentaries and movies made about him. His sometime accomplice Ottis Toole is just as fascinating a character, though.
Known as ‘The Jacksonville Cannibal’, Toole admitted later in jail - in some detail - how he and Lucas would kidnap, mutilate, kill and sometimes even eat their victims. Sometimes the cannibalism would be part of ritualistic ‘ceremonies’ he claimed the pair took part in with a death cult for whom the pair would also kidnap children for.
It’s safe to say that the two of them weren’t very nice men.
Strange but true…During his tenure as the Governor of Texas, George W. Bush quite famously executed more people than any of his predecessors. In fact, he never commuted any Death Row prisoners’ sentences at all. Apart from one person. Henry Lee Lucas. One of the most vicious and prolific serial killers in American history.
Work that one out.
Wolfgang Abel & Marco Furlan
Düsseldorf-born Wolfgang Abel was a handsome and well-educated young man who worked for an insurance company. Although born in Germany, he was raised in the Italian city of Verona. His friend Marco Furlan, a similarly fresh-faced university graduate, was as sharp, good-looking, charismatic and easily bored as his pal Abel. Both men happened to share quite far-right political sensibilities and - wouldn’t you know it? - violent tendencies.
The pair’s crimes were driven by their hatred of various sections of society. While the number of people killed by Abel and Furlan doesn’t compare with some of the other partners-in-crime on this list, the two more than make up for their relatively small death count with the grisly and grotesque nature of their abominable crimes.
Their first murder saw them burn a drug-addicted traveller to death in his own car by throwing Molotov cocktails at the vehicle as he slept inside. They then knifed two gay lovers, stabbing one of them nearly forty times. The pair killed a 51-year-old sex worker with an axe and two elderly priests with hammers. The second of which had large nails hammered into his forehead for good measure. They then went back to arson, setting a student alight as he slept rough in a sleeping bag.
We are the last of the Nazis' and 'Death comes to those who betray the true god
They were only caught after setting their sights higher. They briefly got away with burning down a porn cinema, killing six men inside. One woman died and forty were injured as they attempted to burn down a disco together shortly afterwards. But it was just after a botched attempt to set light to a nightclub containing more than 400 young Italian revellers that the two men were apprehended.
Strange but true…At each and every one of their devastating crime scenes the pair left a unique printed leaflet. Written in Italian, they were signed off with the name 'Ludwig' and prominently featured a Nazi eagle with a swastika background. Each separate leaflet had its very own slogan, including such chilling line as 'We are the last of the Nazis' and 'Death comes to those who betray the true god'.
Kenneth Bianchi & Angelo Buono (aka The Hillside Stranglers)
When Angelo Buono Jr. heard that his little cousin was leaving his Rochester home in the winter of 1976 and moving west to California, he picked up the phone and told him he was welcome to stay with him in LA until he got on his feet. The far shyer and more reserved Kenneth Bianchi was thrilled at the offer.
Both men were vicious, woman-despising maniacs who continued to kill independently even after falling out...
Two years later the men would be arrested for working together on the kidnaps, rapes, torture and murders of ten young woman after a four-month-long reign of terror that started with a low-level prostitution ring and ended with a (figurative) pile of corpses.
It was assumed at the time that Buono coerced his younger and more reserved relative into helping him commit the crimes. The truth, however, was even grimmer. Both men were vicious, woman-despising maniacs who continued to kill independently even after falling out and refusing to murder together again in February 1978. Luckily for the women of America, both men were caught and imprisoned the following year.
Strange but true…In November of 1977, Bianchi and Buono pulled over a 24-year-old woman called Catharine Lorre Baker. As they were about to kidnap - and presumably kill - Catharine, they went through her purse, looking for ID. There they saw a photograph of a young Catharine with the moon-faced Austro-Hungarian actor Peter Lorre. He was, it transpired, her father. The Hillside Stranglers refuse to strangle her ‘out of respect’ for her old man. Ironically, it was the pair’s love of Lorre’s portrayal of a twisted child killer in Fritz Lang’s classic 1931 crime thriller M. that made them release the young woman.
Delfina & María de Jesús González
To their community in the north-central Mexican state of Guanajuato, they were known as the González sisters. To their friends and family, they were Delfina and María. In time, when their crimes were known, they would become known as Las Poquianchis. Later, the Guinness World Records would call them the 'the world's most prolific ever murder partnership'.
The bodies of 11 men and 80 women were discovered scattered in shallow graves across the grounds.
For more than a decade, the pair owned and operated ‘Rancho El Ángel’, a brothel they ran with - it’s fair to say - quite the iron fist. In 1963, when the ranch was raided by Mexican authorities, they discovered something that no amount of training can prepare you for. The bodies of 11 men and 80 women were discovered scattered in shallow graves across the grounds. It didn’t take much to drive María and Delfina to murder, either. Customers would take the big sleep if they misbehaved or assaulted one of the girls. Forced abortions were commonplace too. But it was the girls who really suffered. Fail to please the punters, act up or even have the temerity to lose their looks a little and they would meet a sticky end at the hands of the lunatic González sisters.
Strange but true…The sisters recruitment process was, unsurprisingly, quite cynical. They didn’t exactly advertise very honestly when they were looking for new girls to work in their cathouse. The pair had two tactics: they would claim to be looking for housemaids and then force applicants to work as prostitutes. Or, failing that, would just outright kidnap their ‘employees’. The vile siblings would then get them hooked on cocaine and heroin, force them to work and then, eventually, kill them.
Leonard Lake & Charles Ng
Leonard Lake was a sadistic Vietnam Vet with paranoid schizophrenia, a history of sexually abusing his sisters and a penchant for starring in and distributing his own extreme BDSM pornography.
Charles Ng was a Chinese-American with a history of theft and violence who had been thrown out of the US Marines for attempting to steal a cache of machine guns.
The men kidnapped young Californian women and kept them in a dingy dungeon concealed in the cabin behind a false wall
Individually, each man was dangerous. Together, they were a truly devastating and sickeningly murderous two-man crime wave. The two met in 1983 and forged an instant bond. They soon discovered they shared more than a few rather ‘fringe’ hobbies and, with each spurring the other on, they soon began living out their macabre fantasies. Within two years the couple killed anywhere between 11 and 35 young women.
Lake had a cabin in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The men kidnapped young Californian women and kept them in a dingy dungeon concealed in the cabin behind a false wall. There they would beat, humiliate, rape, torture and kill their victims. Lake would often photograph or film the murders, with one tape being used in the court case against them, truly shocking the stunned and understandably disgusted jury.
Strange but true…Ng has served 33 years in jail, but Lake never really saw justice. Shortly after his 1985 arrest, he swallowed cyanide pills that he’d managed to smuggle into his cell by secreting them in his clothing.
Here’s hoping these terrible twosomes cause less carnage together in Hell, eh?