The best of the worst


It’s one of the most horrifying aspects of the human experience. And, as part of human nature, people often try to understand how one person can take the life of another. In that pursuit, societies form guidelines as to what kind of killings are acceptable, or at least understandable.

Killing in war is accepted. Concerning a murder committed in self-defense, the killer is considered a victim. In crimes of passion, a murder is unacceptable, but there is an understanding as to why it happened.

But truly unsettling is a serial killing committed by a psychopath. The very nature of the crime makes it unfathomable to the average human being. While psychologists have tried, understanding the mental disorder that leads to psychopathic killings is often difficult, and the ghastly crimes overshadow the research.

However, in recent years, researchers have begun to characterize the type of people who become psychopathic killers.

The term commonly used to describe such criminals is sociopath, which is derived from antisocial personality disorder. In almost every case of sociopathic serial killers, the culprit suffers from a troubled childhood. They have no concern for human life and often show no remorse for their crimes.

But what is scarier to the general public is that sociopaths are often outwardly polite, clean and decent looking. Most victims have no idea they are in the presence of a hardened killer until it is too late.

Because of the attempts to understand these criminals, they have become somewhat romanticized. Movies, such as Silence of the Lambs explore the minds of sociopaths. And the public, in general, continues to be fascinated by them. Their names become famous, and their horrifying tales become folk legend.

Some experts believe that many violent criminals have sociopathic tendencies. But, in every generation, there are only a few for whom the mental disorder is so severe that they become serial killers. Those killers are known by names such as Charlie Manson, or nicknames, such as the Son of Sam and the Zodiac Killer.

So, which of these killers is the most ruthless, most horrible of them all? Below is a list of the best of the worst, arguably the five most severe psychopaths.

5. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel

The Mafia is known for its psychopathic killers. Murder, in fact, becomes part of life, and, as Henry Hill said in the mob classic Goodfellas, murder is “no big deal.”

But for a few mafioso, murder is more than just part of the job. They relish the opportunity to kill.

Such was the personality of Mafia associate Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, was credited with several major mob rub-outs in the first half of the 20th century. He was known for his brutality and short temper.

Siegel showed all of the classic sociopathic symptoms. He showed no remorse for his crimes. Externally, he was a dapper dresser and known for his suave charm. He made several appearances in Hollywood at ritzy parties.

Those features were in stark contrast to his murderous side. Siegel was credited with several brutal slayings and assaults, including an assassination of a New York mob boss. He relished his crime, and one of his partners said he never backed down from a fight.

Siegel was credited with bringing mob money to the tiny desert town of Las Vegas and sending it on the path to becoming the gambling Mecca it is today. It was there that Siegel built his Flamingo Casino and said one of the most famous lines in mob history.

One construction worker on the project allegedly feared for his life when Siegel got angry.

“Don’t worry,” Siegel allegedly said to the worker. “We only kill each other.”

His mob associates finally got him. Siegel was murdered in 1947 while sitting on his girlfriend’s couch.

4. John Wayne Gacy

By all accounts, John Wayne Gacy was a nice guy. He lived a normal suburbanite life, running a contract business. In his free time, he threw parties for neighbors and dressed up in a clown suit to entertain children.

But Gacy had a deep, dark secret, and a sexual deviancy noted in many sociopaths. Gacy grew up with an abusive father. His first conviction was for sodomy when he was caught inducing a coworker into a homosexual relationship.

Gacy’s killings involved mostly teenage boys. After luring the boys into a pair of handcuffs, Gacy would proceed to rape and kill them. He murdered more than 30 boys, many of whom he buried beneath his house. Gacy would often keep the boys inside the house for hours after their deaths before burrying them.

When Gacy confessed his acts to police, he described a different side of his personality. He told police his other, darker self, which he called “Jack Hanley,” was responsible for the crimes.

Gacy was executed in 1994. Taking his disease to his death, his final words before the lethal injection entered his veins were, “Kiss my ass.”

3. Jeffrey Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer had an obsession with death from his early childhood days. Reportedly, Dahmer was fascinated by roadkill and would dissect dead animals.

Dahmer, a homosexual, allegedly tortured and killed about 20 boys. But it was his obsession with death that made him unique as a sociopath. Dahmer allegedly had a sexual fetish for the dead bodies and would perform sexual acts on them. He also dismembered and ate parts of the bodies, and reportedly stored them in his refrigerator.

Dahmer was arrested and given a maximum sentence. It was while in prison that he met a fellow psychopath and was brutally murdered.

2. Ted Bundy

In 1989, Ted Bundy was executed in Florida’s electric chair. It was the culmination of a nationwide murder spree that claimed the lives of an untold number of young women.

Bundy’s teenage years were noted by a fascination for dirty magazines. But Bundy did not enjoy the average pornography. He was fascinated by images of women being brutalized.

As he grew up, Bundy became a law student and developed into a handsome young man. However, it was not only his good looks that were notable. Bundy had an air about him. One of his victims who survived described him as seeming in control.

Bundy’s modus operandi was to lure young women to his car and take them to a quiet location. There he would brutally rape and murder his victims, dropping their bodies in secluded locations. Some victims, may never be found.

Bundy’s intelligence served him well in chasing his prey. It also helped him escape from prison on more than one occasion.

Bundy started his murder spree in Washington and ran all the way to Florida before being caught. His murderous rampage has become the stuff of folk legend, and movies and documentaries have been made about his life.

1. Jack the Ripper

In all probability, no one will ever know the identity of this horrible killer. His crimes, however, lend much to interpretation.

The Ripper displayed a carnal hatred for women, and his brutality is unparalleled. His victims were killed by a slash to the throat. But it was what happened after their deaths that made this killer so horrifying and has turned him into a modern-day Boogie Man.

The Ripper, upon killing his victims, tore the bodies apart in an apparent fit of rage and release of anger. These attacks got more and more vicious. The Ripper’s final victim, Mary Kelly, was so badly torn apart that her body no longer resembled a human form.

The Ripper, judging by his killings, had a basic anatomical knowledge of the body. This has led to speculation that he was a butcher or a doctor.

Whoever The Ripper was, killing and tearing female bodies was a release for whatever horrible anger lay within. His murders ended suddenly, but their shadow remains on London’s East end more than 110 years later.

Contact Rob Brannonat