Americans have a macabre fascination with true crime stories. One of the most gruesome categories is serial killers. According to Biography.com, Dr. H.H. Holmes was the first documented serial killer in the United States. The article reports that Holmes may have murdered as many as 200 people in his hotel of horrors during the 1890s. Although there have been murderers since the beginning of human history, serial killers have their own classification.
They are usually sociopathic males who have killed three or more people within a short time period. Serial killers have a twisted reason and methodology for their madness. Here are the 4 most notorious Wisconsin serial killers
Serial Killers From Wisconsin
1. Jeffrey Dahmer
Perhaps no serial killer in modern times gained more notoriety than Jeffrey Dahmer of Milwaukee. He was born into a normal family in 1960, says thoughtco.com. According to accounts from family members, young Jeffrey did not exhibit any bizarre behavior until he was about 6 years old. He lacked confidence and basic social skills. After his parents divorced when he was fourteen, the teenage Dahmer developed a disturbing interest in dead things.
His father said that he was constantly dismembering road kill and had a preoccupation with death. Dahmer committed his first murder when he was eighteen years old. Over the next few years, he was constantly in trouble with the law for sexual deviancies. Over the course of 1988-1992, Jeffrey Dahmer killed 16 young men in Milwaukee. His reign of terror ended when a would-be victim escaped and told police what was going on in Dahmer’s apartment. The world was not prepared to deal with what authorities found there.
Dahmer lured young gay men to his apartment, where he would drug them. After strangulation, he dismembered their bodies and kept grizzly mementos. He was a necrophiliac who got a sexual thrill with his departed victims. The worst part of the story was that Dahmer reportedly ate some of his victim’s body parts.
He had a well-publicized trial that ended in a total of 15 life sentences. He was sent to a prison in Portage, Wisconsin, where he was reported to be a “model prisoner”. In November of 1994, a fellow inmate bludgeoned Dahmer to death. At his earlier request, Dahmer’s remains were cremated. He is still considered one of the worst serial killers from Wisconsin, and is even immortalized in this serial killer card game. (Yes you need it for your next party - or just leave it on your coffee table the next time you have your parents over!)
2. Walter Ellis
Walter Ellis was born in the same city and year as Jeffrey Dahmer (coincidence?). He was known as the North Milwaukee Strangler, says Wikipedia.com. From 1986-2007, Ellis raped and murdered seven African American woman in the North Milwaukee area. During the times that the victims were found, authorities could not find the killer. However, they were able to get DNA samples from the bodies.
The murders were cold cases until DNA evidence pointed to a criminal named Walter Ellis. Originally, Ellis plead not guilty to the murders. When his attorney withdrew from the case, Ellis finally admitted no contest to the dastardly deeds. The court found him guilty and gave him seven life sentences without the hope of parole.
Ellis spent some time in Wisconsin until he was finally transferred to a maximum-security prison in South Dakota. Ellis only got to serve a couple of years in prison, because he died of natural causes in 2013.
3. David Spanbauer
This cold-blooded killer was born in Appleton, Wisconsin in 1941. According to a website dedicated to Wisconsin serial killers, Spanbauer had nothing but trouble with the law since he was a teenager. He quit school in his junior year and had a failed attempt in the Navy.
True crime fanatic? Check out our limited edition Charles Manson socks!
Because of Appleton's erratic behavior, he was court-martialed and sent home dishonorably. Spanbauer increased his criminal activity in Appleton. He burglarized homes and finally raped a young woman who was housesitting. That same night, he murdered the woman’s uncle as he was returning for the evening. Spanbauer only spent 13 of the 70 years he was sentenced for the crimes.
He had no remorse and did not change his ways. In two short years (1992-94), he savagely raped and murdered three more females—two of them children. In a report from his hometown newspaper, the judge in this case called Spanbauer “pure evil” and sentenced him to over 400 years in prison. Spanbauer died of possible heart problems at the age of 61 in 2002.
4. Ed Gein
Some of the most disturbing horror movies in our times were inspired by this heinous Wisconsin serial killer, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Gein was born in 1906 to an alcoholic father and a religious fanatic mother. According to Biography.com, his father died and his mother kept him and his brother as virtual prisoners in their farmhouse. She brainwashed them to fear the outside world and to hate other females.
After his mother passed away, the young Gein went mad and became obsessed with woman. His thinking was so perverse that he started robbing women’s graves to collect body parts. Bored with that, he began a killing spree that took the lives of two women. When police finally captured him on murder charges, they were shocked with what they found in the old farmhouse.
Gein had preserved scores of body parts from his victims. It was believed that he was preserving human skin to make a costume for himself. The courts ruled that no one in their right mind could devise such profound horrors. He was sent to the state mental hospital. After a few years in the hospital, he was deemed fit for trial. Again, the court ruled him insane and he was returned to the hospital.
Quick note: If you want to learn more about Ed Gein, I highly recommend this book. The book chronicles his life and goes into great detail about all of the deranged acts he committed.
Ed Gein died in the state hospital of heart failure in 1984. Although these serial killers are gone, they still live in the chronicles of true crime.
People are still intrigued with what makes these monsters tick. They continue to be subjects of documentaries and horror movies, as well as pop culture icons.
Know another serial killer from Wisconsin? Let us know in the comments so we can add it to the list!
More from the blog:
All images by murderpedia.org