A name not commonly known now, people in the 1500s and 1600s feared this bloodthirsty Hungarian countess. Seeming to murder young women for fun, she was rumored to bathe in the blood of victims to keep her skin looking youthful. This led to the legend that she was a vampire. She did drive needles into her servants’ lips and fingernails and notoriously beat a maidservant so viciously that Elizabeth’s shirt was soaked with blood. After hours of merciless torture, Elizabeth finally stabbed the girl with a pair of scissors – all because she stole a pear. She finally was held accountable for her crimes – 650 total murders. Her punishment: being walled into her room, where she died four years later.
This notorious leader of the People’s Cult coerced more than 900 people into killing themselves. Known as the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, these faithful followers – men, women, and children – drank punch filled with cyanide. Jones started his ministry career as a pastor of a Methodist church but left to start his own Wings of Deliverance church in 1955. Over the next 20 years, he started his descent into madness, eventually moving his followers into an armed compound in 1974. Called Jonestown, Jones ran this “church” like a prison. No one was allowed to leave, and they were given little food. Eventually, outsiders – including a local Congressman – became suspicious. After this Congressman toured the compound, he took some of Jones followers with him – only to be gunned down by Jones’ guards once outside of Jonestown. Jones then ordered everyone still within the compound to drink poison – if they didn’t, guards forced them to. Of these more than 900 victims, 276 of them were children. Jones then either got shot or shot himself in the head, leaving a wake of destruction behind him.
Mary Ann Cotton
A prolific serial killer in the late 1800s, Mary Ann killed 20 of her family members – and one friend – over the course of 15 years. Motivated by receiving insurance money, Mary Ann laced food and drink with arsenic, murdering eight of her own children, three husbands, a lover, her mother, seven stepchildren and one friend. After so many mysterious deaths, neighbors finally got suspicious and alerted Thomas Riley, a local government official. Mary Ann was convicted of all 21 murders and was executed in 1873 in a botched hanging – her neck didn’t break, so she strangled to death.
John Wayne Gacy
This serial killer could make even the most devoted clown lover change his mind. Convicted of killing 33 young boys and men, Gacy trapped his victims by promising them construction work. He then sexually assaulted and strangled them, sometimes dressed as Pogo the Clown, the alter-ego he used to perform at children’s birthday parties. Murdering his first victim in 1972, police didn’t discover his involvement until 1978 when the disappearance of Robert Piest led them to Gacy’s house of horrors. Police unearthed most of Gacy’s victims’ remains from beneath his house. Gacy was killed by lethal injection in 1994.
Known as the “Beautiful Beast of Belsen,” Irma was a guard at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during World War II. Recruited from her work at a dairy farm, Irma became known as one of the more vicious, sadistic guards at the camp. Only 22 at the time of her arrest at the end of the war, Irma beat prisoners to death with her boots and plaited whip, fed them – alive – to her dogs, and made lampshades out of victims’ skin, which she used to decorate her room. In the Belsen Trial after the war, Irma was convicted of war crimes and hanged on December 13, 1945.