Gilles De Rais was a noble, French serial killer of the fifteenth-century. He became a marshal after his participation in the War of 100 years and amassed a vast fortune. His fame in the French towns changed when his atrocities were discovered. He may have suffered from severe schizophrenia.
The ruthless nature of his crimes seemed contrary to his exacerbated Christian faith. In 1422, Gilles kidnapped his mother-in-law and locked her, feeding her only on bread and water until she acceded to the punishments he required.
The Dauphin Charles gave an army to Gilles and Joan of Arc to release the English siege of Orleans. Gilles went on to say that Joan was God and that if he should kill under her mandate, he would do it.
He became her bodyguard and protector, saving her on several occasions during the clamour of battle. He could not prevent Joan of Arc’s death at the stake, although he hired a small army of mercenaries.
Gilles took refuge in the castle at Tiffauges and released his most perverse instincts. In order to fulfil his eagerness to obtain victims, their servants would look for children and teenagers, promising them they would make them Mr de Rais’ pages.
Between 1432 and 1440, there were over a thousand missing children, between eight and ten years, in Britain. Gilles and his henchmen tortured, harassed, humiliated and murdered previously abducted children.
The Bishop of Nantes, Jean Malestroit investigated the disappearances and discovered the person responsible for the crimes. Gilles de Rais surrendered and was brought to trial.
Initially, he pledged innocence, but during one of his personality crises, he ratified his murders. On October 26th, 1440, Gilles de Rais, having rejected the royal pardon granted to him for being a peer of France, was hanged at Nantes.
Erzsébet Báthory, the Blood Countess, belonging to one of the most powerful families in Hungary, she was an aristocrat who committed a series of crimes which were motivated by her obsession with beauty.
Erzsébet has the Guinness record for being the woman who committed the most murders in history, with 630 fatalities. According to some sources, the crimes attributed to the Countess could be inventions of her enemies in a complex political context. Many tortured girls and lots of corpses scattered around the gardens, were found in her castle. In 1612, a trial began against her in Bitcse.
Erzsébet did not appear, making use of her nobility rights. Those who did appear, by force, were her assistants. Her butler testified that he had witnessed at least 37 murders of women between 11 and 26 years old, and that six of them had been personally recruited by him to work at the castle.
The prosecution focused on the murders of young nobles, as the servants were unimportant. In the judgment, all of them were convicted. Erzsébet’s assistants were beheaded and their bodies burned. But, by law, her noble status prevented her from being executed.
She was consequently sentenced to life imprisonment in solitary confinement. She was locked in the dungeon of her castle. Doors and windows were sealed, leaving a hole to pass the food. After four years, Erzsébet died on August 21st, 1614. They tried to bury her in the Church of Čachtice, but local residents objected. She was buried in the village of Ecsed in northeastern Hungary. It was forbidden to talk about her around the country.
Jesse Harding Pomeroy was one of the youngest murderers in the history of crime. It is said that his father was an alcoholic and that, for whatever reason, he would undress his children and beat them to calm himself.
Pomeroy’s physical appearance inspired fear. He was too robust for his age. His facial features were unappealing. His right eye had no iris or pupil, which gave him a frightening appearance.
Pomeroy’s attacks were directed to children younger than him. He committed atrocities and mutilations, burying needles into his victims’ bodies. Clues to find him were found quickly because his completely white eye made him easily recognizable.
After he was identified by one of his victims, he was arrested. When he was asked to explain, he just said, “I could not help it.” The judgment stated he should be placed in a reformatory until age 18.
But at 14, Pomeroy was conditionally released. Then his brutal murders began. He was arrested again, and his mother had to sell her clothes store because everyone who knew the story avoided her.
When renovations began, they found the corpse of a girl buried in a pile of ashes in the basement of the store. Pomeroy was convicted on December 10th, 1874, and sentenced to death by hanging, but no governor dared to sign the death sentence of a fourteen-year-old boy. There were no precedents in criminal history.
He was given a life sentence in a state of complete isolation. The only person who visited him was his mother.
In 1917, after 43 years of isolation, he was allowed to integrate with the rest of the prisoners. He spent the last two years of his life plagued by disease and in absolute agony. He died on September 29th, 1932, showing no remorse for the crimes he committed.
H. H. Holmes, which real name was Herman Webster Mudgett, was a Don Juan of crime especially attracted to women with fortunes. In his first stage, he seduced, robbed and led to the disappearance of many wealthy widows. Then he built the “Holmes Castle,” an alleged hotel that was actually a house of crime, with gas taps to choke its visitors, a secret chute for dropping the bodies down to a basement with buckets of sulfuric acid and a room with torture instruments.
One of the machines installed caught the attention of reporters: it was an automated machine that tickled the soles of the victims. Holmes chose them carefully. They had to be rich, young, beautiful, and alone and, in order to avoid unexpected visits, their homes had to be located in a state far enough away.
When hotel rents fell, Holmes set the top floor on fire to claim insurance, unaware of the fact that the company would do some research before paying it. Exposed, he took refuge in Texas. There he developed another criminal operation.
The idea was simple: an accomplice called Pitezel, would buy insurance from a company in Philadelphia. Then they would present an anonymous body disfigured by an accident, pretending it was Pitezel. They would share the insurance money, and Pitezel would take refuge for a reasonable time in Latin America.
Shortly after their operation began, Holmes changed plans and killed Pitezel for real, avoiding the disfigured corpse and keeping all the money for himself. He later got rid of Mrs Pitezel and her children. Once arrested, police searched his home, finding the expected results. Holmes was sentenced to death by a court in Philadelphia and hanged on May 7th, 1896. He was thirty-six years old.
Jack the Ripper five crimes perpetrated in Whitechapel in 1888 revolutionized London and the world.
For years, investigators, detectives, police officers and fans have unsuccessfully tried to determine the name of the murderer. Jack the Ripper is the most famous serial killer in history Jack the Ripper five crimes perpetrated in Whitechapel in 1888 revolutionized London and the world — a true unsolved mystery.
His brief reign of terror began on August 31st, 1888, although it is suspected that two previous murders had also been committed by him. His nickname originated in a letter written by someone claiming to be the murderer, who used this alias. As a result of its diffusion through the media, the nickname came to be known by the public.
Several sources believe that the letter was written by a journalist to increase the interest in the story. Often, the legend of Jack the Ripper presents a smart, effective, mocking, cunning, cold and obsessive murderer.
Attacks attributed to him involved female prostitutes from poor neighbourhoods and a distinctive modus operandi consisting of strangulation, beheading and abdominal mutilation. The removal of the internal organs of the victims led to the belief that the murderer had surgical knowledge.
Meanwhile, rumours that the murders were connected intensified between September and October 1888, when a large number of letters, written by one or more anonymous subjects, were sent to Scotland Yard and various newspapers.
One of the letters included half of a human kidney from one of the victims. Due to the brutal nature of the crimes and the media’s orientation when they decided to spread them, everyone understood that it was a single murderer. The wide press coverage led these crimes to achieve international notoriety.
Although it could not be efficiently established that the crimes were connected to each other, the legend of Jack the Ripper spread as if it were true. The murders were never solved. This favoured the proliferation of specific details based in part on the research and also in folklore and fiction.
Serial killers do not resemble the ones we see in films, or literary texts. Crime is a fictional genre whose constructive strategies must depart from reality to be effective and catch the audience’s interest. To do this, fiction takes elements of reality and processes them in narrative terms.
The life of a real person is usually not as interesting as the story of a fictional character. This also applies to serial killers. Therefore, Hannibal Lecter or Dexter Morgan narratives are ingenious narrative creations, but not true murderers.