Although serial killers are a worldwide phenomenon, there’s one place in the world which seems to mass-produce them: the United States.
With around 3000 known serial killers in history, not only does the US have the highest number, but it accounts for over 60% of the total number of serial killers in the world. The number is about 19 times higher than the first runner up, the UK, which has ‘only’ around 100.
Exactly why is still unknown. There are undoubtedly a number of socio-economic factors, as well as the fact that the US has many competent law enforcement agencies which are able to unearth these killers in the first place. Whether the US does indeed have more serial killers, or whether they’re just better at finding them than other countries is still widely debated.
Within the US, there is one state in particular which seems to be the serial killer capital of the world: California. With over 120 serial killers to its name, equalling a total of around 1600 serial killing-related deaths, the Golden State has been the hunting grounds of some of the most brutal and terrifying criminals in US history.
California isn’t the only serial killer hotbed in the United States. Florida and Texas take the second and third place on the list, with 240 and 180 serial killers respectively.
Interestingly, if we consider the number of serial killers per capita, the first place award actually goes to Alaska. This small state only has ten known serial killers throughout its history, but compared to its population of around 700,000, the number is terrifyingly high.
There’s certainly a lot to choose from, but here’s a short list of the most notorious ones that would make anyone think twice about visiting Killifornia, the US state with the most serial killers.
Richard Ramirez, known as The Night Stalker, was a serial killer, burglar and self-confessed satanist who operated throughout California in the mid-1980s. After his move there as a young adult, Ramirez began his killing spree, which included 13 counts of murder, 5 counts of attempted murder, 11 counts of sexual assault and 14 of burglary.
Ramirez’s modus operandi varied depending on the situation. He was an opportunistic offender, and would use anything from guns to knives to hammers to subdue his victims. During his killing spree, Ramirez sent waves of terror throughout California. He seemed unstoppable killing machine, sometimes hitting multiple homes on the same night.
However, his reign was short-lived, as he was caught only a year after committing his first murder. Ramirez received the capital punishment and was banished to San Quentin prison, but died there from cancer while on at the age of 53. Check out our Richard Ramirez Night Stalker t-shirt.
Charles Manson remains a figure of fascination the world over, even years after his death. Manson started out as an aspiring musician throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but eventually went down a much darker path. He began recruiting young men and women, plied them with drugs and orgies, which laid the foundation for the infamous Manson Family cult.
The cult was based around Manson’s bizarre teachings and his belief that there would be an upcoming race war between whites and blacks, a movement he termed Helter Skelter. Manson spent most of his life in and out of prison and correctional facilities for petty crimes like theft and armed robbery, but in 1969, he convinced his followers to start committing murders in the Los Angeles area. Over two days in 1969, the Manson family murdered a total of seven people, including famous actress Sharon Tate.
Although Manson didn’t commit any of the murders the cult was accused of, he was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1972. He applied for parole many times, but he was deemed too mentally unstable to be released into society. He died in 2017. We have several Charles Manson products in our True Crime Shop.
Edmund Kemper was a particularly disturbed individual. He spent his childhood dismembering stray animals, decapitating his sister’s dolls, and fantasizing about being shocked to death in the electric chair.
And at just 15 years old, Kemper shot and killed both of his grandparents. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and sent to a mental institution, eventually being release at age 21. Almost immediately, he began killing again, mostly female hitchhikers who’d he pick up, drive someone secluded, then blitz-attack. After their deaths, Kemper often dismembered or decapitated them post-mortem.
Aged 29, Kemper committed the rare act of matricide, attacking and murdering his own mother as she lay asleep in bed. Straight afterward, Kemper turned himself in to police. He remains in prison to this day.
Golden State Killer
Also known as the Original Night Stalker or the East Area Rapist (sometimes abbreviated to EAR/ONS), the Golden State Killer was one of the most elusive serial killers in US history. A prolific and merciless criminal, the Golden State Killer was presumed to have carried out over 13 murders, 50 rapes and 120 burglaries between 1974 and 1986.
Not content with just rape and murder, the Golden State Killer became known for his excessive taunting of those who survived his attacks, which included cruel phone calls and letters.
Unknown for decades, it wasn’t until 2018 that police linked former police officer Joseph DeAngelo to the Golden State killings. In 2020, DeAngelo offered to plead guilty in order to escape the death penalty, but the offer hasn’t been accepted yet by the District Attorney.
Originally from Hong Kong, Ng came to the US in the 1960s on a student visa to study biology, but quit after one semester. Shortly after, Ng met associate Leonard Lake and together the two went on to torture and kill at least twelve people, however, it’s believed that the total number of victims could be as high as 25.
Ng was arrested in 1985 for shoplifting, but that arrest would uncover the horrible crimes that the pair were responsible for. The police raided the cabin they shared and discovered video evidence of their crimes as well as around 40 pounds of charred bone fragments from various victims.
Upon arrest, Lake committed suicide by ingesting a cyanide pill, while Ng continued to fight and even represented himself during his lengthy trial. He received the death sentence in 1985 and is still awaiting his execution to this day.
One of the most notorious and prolific serial killers in California, Kraft was also known as the Scorecard Killer, the Southern California Strangler and the Freeway Killer. Kraft’s victims were young men, particularly teens who he would lure to his car with drugs, and then rape and murder them after they were subdued.
Kraft was found guilty of the murder of a staggering 16 men, but his total count is thought to be much higher, theorized to be upwards of 60. Upon his arrest, police found a scorecard with 61 codes and phrases believed to refer to specific killings. Kraft was eventually caught in 1983 and sentenced to death, but he is still claiming his innocence.
Lonnie David Franklin AKA The Grim Sleeper
Lonnie David Franklin was a serial killer active in the Los Angeles area between 1988 to 2007. The nickname ‘The Grim Sleeper’ came after an alleged break of 14 years from his crimes. However, his break could be attributed to a lack of evidence or undiscovered victims.
Franklin’s victims were mostly young black women, many of whom were sex workers who Franklin hired and took back home. He would then shoot them with a handgun and dump their bodies in alleyways. While officially responsible for at least ten murders, it’s believed that Franklin could be responsible for upwards of 20.
Franklin was finally arrested in 2007 after police found photos and videos of the victims in his home. He was awarded the death penalty. However, Franklin died unexpectedly in his prison cell in March 2020. The cause of death is still unknown as the results of the autopsy are pending.
More From Our Serial Killer Blog