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Who is the tallest serial killer?

Jeffrey Dahmer's mugshot
Jeffrey Dahmer's mugshot | Image: ARCHIVIO GBB / Alamy Stock Photo | Background Image:

'Heights of depravity'

Serial killers and their various physical and psychological attributes fascinate anyone with even a passing interest in true crime. Whilst how these twisted psychopaths look, feel and act is a point of interest to many of us, what’s truly interesting are their shared characteristics.

Seen, understandably, as grotesque and petrifying monsters - it’s easy to make assumptions as to serial killers’ physiologies. Due to the fear they elicit, one could be tempted to picture the average multiple murderer as a strong, towering figure. Does this stereotype play out in reality, though?

As it turns out, there is no data to back up the theory that repeat killers look down on the rest of us. At least not physically, anyhow. Here are some of the more noteworthy heights of a few of the world’s most notorious serial killers

Edmund Kemper - 6'9"

Edmund Kemper was an absolute mountain of a man. ‘The Co-Ed Killer’ towered over everyone he met. Understandably, prison guards were wary of him on his first day inside after his conviction for killing ten people. However, while capable - and guilty - of tremendous and horrific violence - Kemper has always been something of a gentle giant and model prisoner in jail.

Keith Hunter Jesperson - 6’7"

One of the lesser-known names on this list, the Canadian-American serial killer Keith Jesperson is a shade shy of 6’8” and weighs in at over 250lbs.

Convicted of killing eight people, the so-called ‘Happy Face Killer’ (he wrote notes to the police signed off with the cheerful emoji) confessed to an astonishing 185 murders. No proof has been established as to the veracity of his claim, but if it’s true, it’s a kill count as huge as the man himself.

Richard Kuklinski - 6’5"

Some criminologists will argue that Richard Kuklinski, an enforcer for the Gambino crime family, was merely an assassin. And, from a career perspective, he was. Anyone who’s read Philip Carlo’s excellent biography of the man, or seen the HBO interviews with Kuklinski, will know that ‘The Iceman’ also killed for fun. Whether at work or off the clock, he was a scary sight at a soaring 6’5” tall.

Andrei Chikatilo - 6'4"

When finally arrested in 1990, after a 12-year reign of brutality, 'The Rostov Ripper' Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo confessed to 56 murders. He was tried for 53 of them, convicted of 52 and sentenced to death in October 1992. Standing at an intimidating 6’4”, many believe that he killed more.

Stephen Port - 6'3"

Rangy to the point of lankiness, ‘Grindr Killer’ Stephen Port is a tall man. Not quite as tall as the man who recently played him in the BBC drama series Four Lives, but then few can match Stephen Merchant’s 6’7”.

Jeffrey Dahmer - 6'0"

As one of the most terrifying serial killers of all time, Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991. The grisly nature of his crimes only adds to his infamy and he is known to have committed necrophilia and cannibalism, as well as performing 'zombification' experiments on his victims' corpses. Dahmer's police mugshot shows that he stood at just a fraction over six feet tall.

Ted Bundy - 5'11"

Part of Ted Bundy’s ‘success’ as a serial killer was his ability to blend in. He was relatively handsome and superficially charming, but aside from that, he hardly struck those he met as unusual. Part of his ability to go unnoticed came from his average build and height.

John Wayne Gacy - 5'10"

Heinous clown killer John Wayne Gacy was a big man, but not necessarily tall. The suburban serial killer, who murdered 33 boys and young men in Illinois and Iowa in the 1970s, was obese - but of average height for an American man.

Ed Gein - 5'7"

The killer, who inspired the writers responsible for fictional serial killers such as Norman Bates and Dr. Hannibal Lector, may have a large pop culture legacy, but - at 5’7” - made a small shadow on the sidewalks of Plainfield, Wisconsin.

Charles Manson - 5'6" (and three-quarters)

Rumours of being very short have long dogged Manson and his grim legacy. It’s something he was incredibly touchy about. ‘Everyone says I’m five-foot-two. When I was arrested, I was five-foot-seven,’ Manson once said. 'Then I went down to five-foot-six. Then I went down to five-foot. By the time that you all die, I'll probably be about three feet tall.'

Asked how tall he was, officially, Manson replied, 'I'm five-six. And three-quarters.'

Peter Kürten - 5'5"

Between May 1913 and November 1929, 'The Vampire of Düsseldorf' terrorised the Rhine province of Prussia, now modern-day Germany. Killing nine, attempting to kill more than 30 and committing untold sexual assaults, Peter Kürten was described at the time by the eminent forensic scientist Karl Berg as ‘the king of the sexual perverts’. Known for being particularly savage with his brutality and for drinking his victims' blood, he earned the nickname of ‘The Düsseldorf Monster’.

Consider the above and you'd be forgiven for picturing a large, powerful and intimidating man. Instead, Kürten was short, slight and unassuming-looking.

Albert Fish - 5'5"

The predatory paedophile, killer and cannibal Albert ‘The Brooklyn Vampire’ Fish stalked, molested, raped, murdered and ate parts of at least three children. He was also quite small himself, standing at just 5’5”.

Aileen Wuornos - 5'4"

At 5’4”, Aileen Wuornos may not have been the average height of a serial killer, but she was the average height of an American woman. After being given six death sentences, Wuornos was executed by lethal injection in Florida.

'Pee Wee' Gaskins - 5'4"

You won’t be surprised to hear that Donald Henry ‘Pee Wee’ Gaskins was a short man. He was also a pathological liar. Yet while he claimed erroneously to have killed more than 110 people, it wasn't all a web of lies. This South Carolina serial killer and rapist stabbed, poisoned, shot and drowned more than a dozen people.

Dr. Crippen - 5'3"

Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, the infamous American homeopath and killer, was executed in Pentonville Prison in 1910. Crippen was just 5’3” which, even for the time, was noticeably short for a man.