Serial killers are the real-life monsters that we disguise as horror movie villains. Bundy, Dahmer, and Manson are names that are as recognizable as Freddy, Jason, and Michael. They are horrifyingly fascinating because, in the movies, motives aren't questioned; it's just a fun, scary time, and the threat ends when the lights come on. But in real life, it is unfathomable that people could be so monstrous. We've gathered five of the sickest, most horrifying serial killers that you should be aware of - but probably aren't. Be forewarned: they may make your skin crawl.
The "Bloody Benders"
In the late 1870s in Kansas, a startling number of missing persons were reported to the authorities. When traditional inquiries revealed suspicions but no evidence, the authorities issued search warrants for every homestead in the area. When search teams made it to the Bender home, they discovered an abandoned cabin, empty save for a few starving farm animals and a hideous odor.
Allegedly German immigrants, the Bender family consisted of parents John and Kate, and adult children John Jr. and Kate. However, it is widely believed that only the women were actually mother-and-daughter, born Stateside, while the men were, in fact, immigrants. Some reports claim that Kate and John Jr. were married, not siblings. By the time the authorities came to search the Bender home, they were long gone. All that was left was a blood-soaked cellar and an orchard that hid dozens of shallow graves. It is believed that the Benders would take in boarders, and when a wealthy one came in, the younger Kate would distract them while one of the men would come out from hiding behind a curtain at the lodger's back and beat them with a hammer. One of the women would slash the throat, and the victim would be dropped down into the cellar via a carefully positioned trapdoor. The bodies would be stripped of valuables and buried at a more convenient time. Over a dozen bodies were eventually found on the property, along with a variety of body parts. Reports vary as to what happened to the Benders, but no one was ever brought to trial for the crimes.
Much like Capone, a simple white-collar crime brought H.H. Holmes down. With Holmes, it was insurance fraud, when it was discovered that he faked a friend's death in order to collect the insurance money. But as Holmes's lies became more tangled and convoluted, investigators decided Holmes had actually killed his friend - and three of his children.
During the course of their investigation, authorities discovered Holmes's "Murder Castle" - a three story building that held retail space on the bottom, and rooms for rent above. Holmes built the castle near the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, which allowed him a steady stream of victims, ripe for the picking. He hired and fired construction workers frequently so no one could figure out what he was doing, but it is still hard to believe no one raised any questions. The top two floors of the castle consisted of over 100 rooms. Many were windowless, built at odd angles, and had doors that could only open from one side. Other trademarks included stairs to nowhere and doors that opened to brick walls. Many rooms were airtight or hooked to gas lines to allow for the spontaneous murders of visitors. Designed for quick and easy body disposal, trapdoors were built with chutes to the basement. There, bodies could be dismembered, cremated, or eroded with acid.
Holmes's killing spree at the Murder Castle only lasted about a year. Authorities were able to pin 27 murders on Holmes, but his actual body count could be as high as 200. Holmes was arrested and convicted in 1894, and was hanged to death in 1896. His Murder Castle succumbed to a mysterious fire in 1895, and the now the site is - fittingly - occupied by a post office.
The most notorious killer from Russia since Stalin, Andrei Chikatilo was convicted of 53 murders, although he confessed to 60 and is thought to have even more victims. His reign of terror spanned over a decade, and left police baffled, as he left virtually no evidence behind. Over a dozen men were arrested for crimes later associated with Chikatilo. His quiet, unassuming manner made him easily forgettable when coercing victims from train stations and bus depots. Early on, semen found on one victim was thought to belong to someone with AB blood. Later on it was revealed that a lab error could have given a false reading and meant that suspects who were ruled out because of blood type now had to be ruled back in. One of those men was Chikatilo, who was brought in for questioning early on, and was considered a likely suspect. His A-type blood forced the cops to let him go. A massive undercover operation finally caught Chikatilo in 1990, but it still took nearly two weeks to get a confession.
Chikatilo was a sexual deviant, but surprisingly, suffered no abuse in his childhood. He was chronically impotent and admitted to "unnatural" sexual feelings towards young girls. He quickly discovered that ejaculation only came with violence. His victims were women, girls, and boys. All had their skulls bashed in, were stabbed in a frenzy, masturbated on, and had their eyes gouged out. Many victims had nipples bitten off, mouths and tongues chewed off, and missing sexual organs that Chikatilo is believed to have eaten. At trial, Chikatilo tried for an insanity defense. While he was found to be psychotic, the doctors also determined that he knew what he was doing was wrong. He was convicted in October 1992 and executed two years later.
Born in Iowa, Robert Hansen had that typical lonely, bullied childhood that is common in serial killers. He was arrested for a number of minor crimes, including arson and theft. In the late 1960s, he and his second wife moved to Anchorage, Alaska where Hansen seemed to thrive as a businessman. It all changed very quickly when a half-naked, terrified woman with a handcuff on one wrist was picked up by a truck driver. She told the police that a man had propositioned her for sex, raped her, then promised to let her go when they got to his remote cabin (only accessible via aircraft). While he prepped his small plane for flight, she escaped. The authorities connected her case to the bodies of several prostitutes that had shown up in the last year. Going off the living victim's airplane ID, Hansen was brought in for questioning. He went willingly, and while in custody, police executed search warrants on Hansen's property. They returned with a mountain of evidence and Hansen was formally charged. Realizing the case was airtight, Hansen made a deal: he would plead guilty to the murders of the four women the police had found remains for, and offer a full confession. In exchange, the death penalty was off the table and he would serve out his sentence in federal prison.
Hansen buried his victims in such remote locations, the only way to locate them - even with a map - was to let Hansen lead the way. He showed them 15 grave sites and described his crimes. He would proposition prostitutes, then threaten them with a gun in order to wield power and intimidate them. He would rape them repeatedly, torture them, and take them up to his remote cabin. Once there, he would strip them naked - sometimes blindfold them - and give them a head start. He would then pursue them, hunting them like big game - and he always "won." Robert Hansen is currently serving out a 400+ year sentence in Seward, Alaska.
Fred and Rosemary West
Fred and Rosemary West are two of the most notorious killers in modern history. The British husband and wife team were linked to and convicted of 12 sexually motivated murders, and suspected of at least 20 more. Both came from severely dysfunctional families: Fred was a mommas boy, and his father was a strict, conservative man - but that didn't stop him from raping his daughters regularly. Rose's mother was a near-catatonic depressive and her father was a violent schizophrenic who physically and sexually abused his kids. In order to avoid the severe beatings, Rose "seduced" her father and engaged in a sexual relationship with him well into adulthood. Their upbringing turned Rose and Fred into sexual sadists. Even before meeting each other, Fred was raping women and girls as young as 13 and Rose was a prostitute with a temper.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the pair lured young girls back to their house where they kept their victims bound in the cellar to rape and torture them until they grew bored with them - then they were killed, dismembered, and buried within the house. Among the Wests' victims were Fred's first wife and her daughter, and Fred and Rose's own daughter, Heather (Rose had eight children: five with Fred and three with various johns). In addition, Anne Marie, Fred's biological daughter from his first marriage, faced a lifetime of constant sexual abuse from her father and step-mother. Fred was eventually charged with 12 sexually-motivated murders, but he hanged himself in prison before he could stand trial. He did admit that there were at least 20 other victims "whose bodies will never be found." Rose stood trial and was convicted of 10 murders, for which she is serving 10 consecutive life sentences.