15 True Terrifying Crimes That’ll Keep You Up All Night

John Wayne Gacy Jr. aka The Murdering Clown
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Many of us are jaded these days, mostly as a result of watching horror movies and the true crime shows that seem to be on television 24 hours a day. It has gotten to the point that all but the most sensitive of us are unlikely to cringe when we read about brutal murders on our favorite news website.

Once in a while, though, you hear about a crime—and that crime was committed by a truly awful person (or by awful people)—and the details of that crime chill you to your core. You simply can’t be jaded enough to not get a bit freaked out.

Let’s talk about fifteen true crimes that’ll legitimately make you shudder!

1. The crimes of Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker

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He was a rapist, a burglar, and a serial killer. From the summer of 1984 to the summer of 1985, Richard Ramirez’s crime spree—he was way into home invasions—generated terror in the Los Angeles, California area, and then later in the San Francisco, California area.

Ramirez killed between 13 and 17 people and died while waiting to be executed by the state of California. He used a wide variety of weapons to claim the lives of his victims, including knives, a hammer, and a tire iron.

Ordinarily, even the most brutal of killers express a certain level of remorse for their crimes. Ramirez was a Satanist, however, and didn’t seem to remotely regret all of the horrible things he did.

Weirdly, by the time he was on trial, a number of people had become fans of Ramirez—you know, because humanity is a bit terrible. One woman wrote him over 70 letters, and he proposed to her in 1988. In 1996, they were married in the prison in which he was a resident.

2. The Bloody Benders

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Serial killers are a dime a dozen—unfortunately—but an entire family of serial killers? That’s worth taking note of.
The family consisted of a man named John, his wife Elvira, as well as his son and daughter. It is worth making mention of the fact that it has been suggested that the son and daughter were actually not siblings, but common law spouses.

The Bloody Benders operated in the 1870’s in southeast Kansas. While a lot of legend and rumors surround the family, it is believed that the Benders killed over a dozen people who traveled through the region.

They owned a “bed and breakfast”, and would seat their “guest” at a seat above a trap door into the cellar. Guests were struck in the head with a hammer, and then one of the women would slit the victim’s throat.

While victims were often wealthy, others were poor; the Benders likely killed just for the thrill of doing so.

3. The Crimes of John Wayne Gacy Jr., The Murdering Clown

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John Wayne Gacy Jr. used to dress up as a clown, which makes him terrifying for obvious reasons. In the 1970’s, Gacy would—again, while dressed up as a clown—visit children’s parties and fundraisers in the metropolitan Chicago area.

Gacy was convicted of 33 murders, and he also sexually assaulted his victims. While his first victim was stabbed, he liked to kill via strangulation. He was also creepy enough to bury many of his victims in the crawlspace of the place he considered home. A few corpses were discarded in a river.

Gacy was executed by lethal injection in 1994. In case you’re wondering, Gacy’s clown name was “Pogo the Clown”.

4. The Crimes of Edward Theodore Gein

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Edward Theodore Gein, who was also known by the name “The Butcher of Plainfield”, liked to exhume corpses from graveyards in Plainfield, Wisconsin, which was his hometown. He liked to use the corpses to make stuff, including things used to decorate his house.

In the late 1950’s—when authorities finally realized Gein was a total psycho nutcase due to the disappearance of a hardware store owner—his home was searched. Human skin was covering chair seats, and there was also a wastebasket made of human skin. He was pretty creative when it came to using human skin, really, as he also made leggings and a mask.

5. The Crimes of Dr. Henry Holmes

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Also known as H.H. Holmes, Dr. Henry Holmes was a 19th century serial killer who enjoyed killing people who stayed at a “hotel” he owned. Technically, there’s no proof the hotel was ever actually open for business, but Holmes did own a building near the site of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. It is now known as “Murder Castle”.

Holmes was executed in 1896 for killing a friend who was also an accomplice, and it was during the trial he confessed to several other murders. One of his first murders was that of a mistress, and no one really knows what happened to her other than the fact she’s currently dead. Another paramour also disappeared; it was not a good idea to get romantically involved with Dr. Holmes.

Remember how I mentioned Holmes killed his friend and accomplice? He also killed the man’s daughters by asphyxiating them in a trunk. When their nude bodies were discovered, one of the girls was missing her feet.
At one point, while incarcerated, Holmes claimed to be possessed by Satan and that everything he did was to become more like the Devil.

6. Robin Gecht and His Crew

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Robin Gecht was a member of a small group called the Ripper Crew that engaged in organized crime; if that weren’t bad enough, it was also a satanic cult.

Also known as the Chicago Rippers, the 4-man crew is responsible for the disappearances of as many as 20 women. From 1981 to 1982, the gang targeted prostitutes of Chicago. The first victim identified had one of her breasts amputated. They would go on to amputate the left breasts of many other women.

According to one of the members of the crew, the amputated breasts would be eaten as part of a satanic ritual. Gecht kept the breasts in a box at his place—which he referred to as a satanic chapel—and would masturbate into the box.
One of the crew members was executed by the state of Illinois. Another member will never be freed as he is serving 6 life sentences as well as 400 years due to other crimes.

However, two of the men will actually be eligible for parole. Technically, one member of the Rippers—Thomas Kokoraleis—already is eligible and should have already been released, which is just a horrifying thought.
Gecht will be eligible in 2042.

7. The Crimes of Albert Fish

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Also referred to as “The Gray Man”, “The Brooklyn Vampire” and a couple other names, Albert Fish was a particularly evil killer because he targeted children. His preferred victims were either disabled or African-American, as he figured those victims wouldn’t really be missed. In 1924, he kidnapped, raped, and murdered a 9-year-old girl. He also confessed to killing a 9-year-old boy in 1927; he drank the child’s blood and made a stew out of parts of his body. He claimed it was the most delicious meal he’d ever had.


Fish was executed in 1936 via the electric chair; he had been found guilty of the murder of a 10-year-old girl.

8. The Crimes of Ted Bundy

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Ted Bundy is a name many of us are familiar with, and that’s because he was an extremely prolific serial killer. He confessed to killing over 30 girls and young women back in the 1970’s. He might have killed as many as 100.

He was considered a charming and good looking man, which made it easy for Bundy to win the trust of the women who would soon become his victims. He was also noted by law enforcement for being difficult to identify because he didn’t have any distinctive features and could easily make himself look completely different by changing his hairstyle or facial hair.
Bundy would typically sexually assault his victims, and most of them were strangled. He had no qualms about having sex with dead bodies, and didn’t really care so much how “fresh” they were.

In January of 1989, Bundy was executed in Florida. He was 42 at the time.

9. The Robinson Family Murders

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This story is better known as the Good Hart murders, and it is definitely not a happy story. It is the story of how an entire family—a father, a mother, and four children—were shot and killed in 1968; they were on vacation in their cabin north of the town of Good Hart, Michigan. Richard Robinson, the father, was the first victim; he was shot five times through a window with a semi-automatic rifle. The others were killed with a semi-automatic pistol.

It took 27 days for their bodies to be discovered. As you can imagine, the scene was not pretty; the bodies were severely decomposed.

It was believed that an employee of Richard Robinson named Joseph Scolaro III killed the family. Charges against him weren’t filed, though, due to the absence of fingerprints at the crime scene as well as the missing murder weapons.
Actually, over four years after the murders, it seemed likely charges might be filed—and that’s when Scolaro, having learned that he might be arrested, committed suicide.

10. The West Mesa Murders

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In 2009, the remains of 11 women were found buried in a desert located on the West Mesa, which is in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

All of the women were killed between 2001 and 2005. Most of them were Hispanic, and it is believed that most were involved in sex work and drug.

What makes this series of murders particularly frightening is that no one knows who killed all of those women, or why. Believed to be a serial killer, he is often referred to as the West Mesa Bone Collector.
There is a substantial reward being offered for information leading to the arrest of the West Mesa Bone Collector; however, as it has been over a decade since the last killing, it seems increasingly unlikely this case will ever be solved.

11. The Crimes of the Zodiac Killer

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During the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Zodiac Killer killed at least five people in Northern California. He also definitely attacked two other people, who survived the encounter. He is suspected of killing several more people. During his reign of terror, he would send letters to the local press, taunting them. He was known for his cryptographs, and he claimed to have killed 37 people.

What makes the case of the Zodiac particularly interesting is that no one knows who the killer is; the case is still open in cities and counties in California. There have been a few suspects over the decades, but nothing has been conclusively proven.

12. The Frankford Slasher

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From 1985 to 1990, the Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was terrorized by a serial killer. Nine women were sexually assaulted and murdered, and the killer became known as The Frankford Slasher.

A man named Leonard Christopher was convicted of one of the murders in 1990 and sentenced to life in prison. Did he commit the other crimes? Nobody can really say for sure.

While he was indeed convicted of one of the murders, no evidence exists linking him to the others; it has been argued that evidence tying him to the murder for which he was put away was merely circumstantial.

So the true slasher may still be out there. Stay alert when visiting Philadelphia!

13. Lizzie Borden and the Axe Murders

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Most of us have about Lizzie Borden, mostly because of the folk rhyme about how she took an axe and killed her parents.
Well, killing her parents was exactly what the woman from Fall Rivers, Massachusetts was accused of; Borden’s father and stepmother were indeed found dead in their home in August of 1892. They had indeed been killed by an axe! Lizzie was tried, but found not guilty.

No one else was charged, and considering the murders happened over a century ago, it seems unlikely anyone will ever find out who killed the Bordens. That said, while she was acquitted, Lizzie Borden is still the prime suspect. Other suspects include Lizzie’s sister, her uncle, and her maid.

14. Ricky Kasso’s Murder of His Friend

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Back in the summer of 1984, Ricky Kasso and three of his friends decided to get high on mescaline in the woods. Or maybe it was LSD?

What they took doesn’t really matter, because whatever it was caused Kasso to go a little nuts and kill his friend. There had been a bit of conflict between the friends due to stolen bags of the drug PCP, so the victim probably should have seen it coming.

The case is notable because Kasso claimed Satan told him to kill his victim and even manifested as a black crow when the killing occurred. During that time period, there was a lot of concern over the occult’s presence in things like heavy metal music, and Kasso was wearing an AC/DC t-shirt when he committed the murder. He was also a fan of other heavy metal groups, like Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, which probably didn’t help their reputation in the court of public opinion.
Kasso was eventually arrested for the murder of his friend, and he ended up hanging himself in jail two days later. He was 17 years of age.

15. Gail Pike’s Murder of a Classmate

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What’s creepy about this case is how young the killer was. Christa Pike was only 18 years of age when she brutally tortured and murdered Colleen Slemmer, who she thought was trying to steal her boyfriend.

Actually, the creepiest part of this case is that Pike carved a pentagram in Slemmer’s chest and kept a piece of the skull she had bashed in with a piece of asphalt. She was apparently interested in the occult and worship of the devil.
Not the brightest bulb, Pike showed the piece of skull she “collected” to classmates; naturally, she was arrested within three days.

Pike, of Knoxville, Tennessee, is notable for being the youngest woman sentenced to death in decades. She was convicted in March of 1996. She has been in prison now for almost 22 years and is awaiting execution.
In case you’re wondering, Pike hasn’t exactly mellowed in prison. She tried to kill a fellow inmate in 2001, and she made escape plans in 2012. Fortunately, those plans were thwarted.


Written by Kevin Barrett

Kevin Barrett is an award-winning reporter currently residing in one of the many suburbs of Philadelphia. In addition to working in journalism, he was worked in higher education and logistics. He is single, but does have a distracting little dog who keeps him from achieving maximum productivity.

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