American culture has a particular fascination with serial killers, to the point where they have been elevated to the level of myth: terrifying monsters that keep us up at night but ones we seemingly can't stop learning about. While it's chilling to read about the atrocious acts that serial killers such as John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy committed, it's just as fascinating to speculate about the ones who have never been caught.
There's something uniquely frightening about the thought that many of these killers are probably still out there somewhere, walking among us. We crave answers to our questions, but unfortunately, we'll probably never know the true identities of most of these murderers. While there are numerous serial killers who have successfully evaded capture, the stories behind the following murderers are perhaps the greatest examples of the ones who got away.
10. The Babysitter
The Oakland County Child Killer, better known as "The Babysitter," is an unidentified serial killer who murdered at least four children in Oakland County, Michigan, between 1976 and 1977. The killer received their nickname because each child was bathed before their murder, suggesting the killer had some form of twisted parental instinct. Due to children being the only targets, the investigation set off a wave of mass hysteria in the state of Michigan at the time, with parents understandably obsessed with educating their children on "stranger danger" and instituting many neighborhood watch initiatives. The truly disturbing part of the whole case was that each of the children —Mark Stebbins, 12, Jill Robinson, 12, Kristine Mihelich, 10, and Timothy King, 11 — were discovered fully-clothed and washed, and were held anywhere from 4 to 19 days before being killed. Despite a few promising leads, including the discovery of a Blue AMC Gremlin suspected of having been the killer's car, the case remains open.
9. Highway of Tears Killers
While the United States is generally thought of as the serial killer capital of the world, Canada has had its fair share of heinous murders, including more than a few that remain unsolved. Perhaps the most infamous of these is the Highway of Tears in British Columbia, a 450-mile (720 kilometer) stretch of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert that has seen at least 18 (and possibly as many as 40) predominantly Indigenous women murdered between 1969 and 2011. Given that the murders span almost a 50year period, it is believed that there have been multiple killers along the Highway of Tears, with only one suspect ever being implicated definitively in some way. The DNA of serial killer Bobby Fowler, who died in 2006 while in prison, was discovered on the body of Colleen MacMillen, who went missing in 1974. Unfortunately, investigators have concluded that it would have been impossible for Fowler to have commited most of the murders given his movements at the time, so it is likely that the other killer or killers remain at large.
8. Bible John
Regarded as Scotland's biggest manhunt, the hunt for Bible John has turned up multiple suspects over the years, but his identity has never been proven in the 45+ years since the murders of Patricia Docker, 25, Jemima McDonald, 32, and Helen Puttock, 29, occurred. All three victims had been beaten and raped prior to their murders and had all met the killer at the same Glasgow club, the Barrowland Ballroom. The key information in the case came from Helen Puttock's sister Jean, who had driven in the same taxi as her sister and the suspected killer the night she was murdered. Jean's information helped investigators form a psychological profile of the killer and the man's many Bible references led to the "Bible John" nickname. Unfortunately, Jean died in 2010.
7. Alphabet Killer
The Alphabet Murders occurred in the early 1970s in Rochester, New York. The names of the case and the suspected killer are derived from the fact that the three victims, all young girls, had alliterative first and last names (Carmen Colon, 10, Wanda Walkowicz, 11, and Michelle Maenza, 11). Each victim was raped and strangled and despite numerous promising leads, the New York Alphabet Murders have never been conclusively solved. One of the main suspects was Joseph Naso, who was convicted of four similar murders in California (in an eerie twist, one of Naso's victims was also named Carmen Colon). His DNA, however, did not match samples taken from the New York victims, and he was sentenced to death for the California murders in 2013.
6. Charlie Chop-Off
A killer who operated in Manhattan from 1972 to 1974, Charlie Chop-Off killed four children and attempted a fifth. The killer was given their nickname due to their practice of committing genital mutilation on their male victims. The prime suspect was Erno Soto, who was arrested by police in May 1974 after trying to abduct a young boy. Soto, a mental patient from the Manhattan State Hospital on an on-and-off basis, confessed to the 1973 murder of 8-year-old Steven Cropper. Soto, however, was never conclusively linked to the murders and was deemed unfit to stand trial, although the murders did stop after his arrest.
5. Servant Girl Annihilator
One of America's earliest serial killers, the Servant Girl Annihilator stalked Austin, Texas, over the span of a year from December 1884 to December 1885 and had eight known victims. The killer got their nickname because they primarily targeted female servants, but they also had one male victim. Each victim was attacked while asleep in their beds, with several women dragged outside to be murdered. The killings instigated a wave of paranoia and fear in Texas, with a Dec. 26, 1885, article in The New York Times reporting that over four hundred men were arrested by area police over the course of a year. The murders were never officially solved, with some believing that the increased public vigilance and safety measures forced the killer to move away. The most likely suspect was Nathan Elgin, a young African American cook who was shot and killed by police shortly after the last murder for assaulting a woman with a knife.
4. The Long Island Killer
A killer who operated in the Long Island region for at least 20 years from 1996 to (possibly) the present and with anywhere from 10-17 murders attributed to the unknown suspect, the Long Island Killer is one of the most recent American serial killers to go unidentified. Authorities know very little about the suspect, speculating that he is likely a white male in his mid-20s to 40s with extensive knowledge of law enforcement operations and techniques, which would explain how he has avoided capture successfully.
3. The Doodler
The Doodler got his nickname due to his practice of sketching his male victims before having sex with them and stabbing them to death. The killer operated in the San Fransisco area from January 1974 to September 1975 and targeted the area's gay community, claiming between six and 14 lives in the process while injuring multiple other victims who survived. Due to the sensitive nature of identifying as gay at the time, the surviving victims were reluctant to speak to police in fear of being "outed" and as a result, there was very little information for authorities to go on. An unidentified young man was the primary suspect, but was never officially charged because none of the men would testify in court.
2. The Zodiac Killer
Thanks in large part to the 2007 film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. that depicted the investigation, the Zodiac Killer is perhaps the most infamous unsolved serial killer case in the United States. Much like Jack the Ripper did almost a century prior, the Zodiac taunted police by sending investigators and the Bay Area press cryptic messages, only one of which was ever conclusively solved. There has been an open case file on the Zodiac Killer since 1969 and in total, 5 murders have been definitively linked to the case, with as many as 37 victims possibly being connected. There have been numerous suspects over the years, but this is one case that will likely remain unsolved for a long time to come.
1. Jack the Ripper
He's the most iconic serial killer for a reason, which is primarily because he was never caught. Jack the Ripper is often credited with jump-starting Western culture's serial killer fixation, and it's easy to see why. The Ripper murdered at least five women in the impoverished Whitechapel district of London in 1888 and the media frenzy surrounding the case contributed greatly to public obsession, ignited as it was by a series of letters purportedly sent to police by the killer, including the infamous "From Hell" letter that inspired related modern fiction of the same name. In all, there are now well over 100 theories regarding the Ripper's identity, proving that this unsolved case continues to have a collective hold over our murder-obsessed culture.