10 of the World's Most Prolific Serial Killers

Andrei Chikatilo
Notorious Ukrainian cannibalistic serial killer Andrei Chikatilo is shown behind bars in Rostov on the Don, Russia. Georges DeKeerle/Sygma via Getty Images

A native of what is now the Ukraine, Andrei "The Maniac" Chikatilo endured a difficult childhood during the 1930s and 1940s. He and his family survived the famine years caused by Soviet leader Josef Stalin's ill-conceived agricultural policies, as well as the brutal invasion by the Germans during World War II. Chikatilo also reportedly suffered from congenital problems that caused him genital and urinary-tract problems throughout his life.

But none of that fully explains the mental illness that drove him to murder 56 women, whom he befriended at train stations and bus stops and then lured into wooded areas, where he would rape and mutilate them with a knife. Sometimes he cut their eyes out or ate pieces of their bodies. All this while working first as a school teacher and then as a traveling factory clerk.

Police arrested Chikatilo in 1984, but were unable to make the charges stick. (He had a rare condition where the blood type in his blood was different from the type in other bodily fluids, like semen. DNA techniques at the time could not have determined this.) He finally was caught again in 1990, and confessed to 56 murders. He said he did them for sexual gratification. At this trial, he behaved bizarrely, at times singing and talking gibberish, and even exposed himself to people in the courtroom. In 1992, he was convicted and in 1994 executed with a gunshot to the back of the head [source: Biography.com, Bovsun].