Many people believe that serial killers are a relatively new phenomenon. And that these homicidal maniacs are a terrifying by-product of modern society’s manic pace and lifestyle. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, serial killers have existed for millennia and will probably continue to exist – much to our dismay.
Here are three serial killers that rampaged during the historically significant and turbulent eras of the Middles Ages and Renaissance.
During the late Sixteenth Century, a German killer named Christman Genipperteinga wreaked terror upon the countryside just outside of Cologne. Apparently, this Medieval killer slaughtered hundreds of people. Some historians have the body count at 964, but most agree that this is a grossly exaggerated number that has been inflated as a result of oral folklore. But, the fact remains, this monster killed many, many innocent people.
Christman lived in an underground home that was built into the beautiful landscape. And, although his dwelling was apparently situated somewhat underground, the interior resembled a normal home for that time-period. This psycho’s underground lair was located at the intersection of some ancient Roman roads that connected several German cities. From his inconspicuous underground home, he was able to watch and stalk travelers as they traversed through the remote area.
After stalking his prey, Christman would randomly attack, murder and dismember random voyagers who roamed across the ancient roads. Because he was known to attack groups of 3-4 people, many wonder if he had assistance from others. Christman’s downfall came after capturing and imprisoning the daughter of a local barrel-maker (an important job in that era). The prisoner eventually escaped, recalled the horrific ordeal to her influential dad – and the rest is history.
The killer’s home was eventually ransacked for evidence, during which time the local population uncovered years of clues concerning his years-long murderous and pillaging rampage. In June 1581, Christman was executed by the “breaking wheel,” an excruciatingly painful and barbaric Medieval torture device.
Catalina de los Ríos y Lisperguer
Known as La Quintrala, due to her flaming red hair, Catalina de los Rios y Lisperguer was a 17th Century Chilean aristocrat, landowner and cold-blooder killer. Hailing from Spanish, Native American and German descent, La Quintrala was a member of Chile’s ruling class during the Chilean Colonial Period.
La Quintrala owned and managed vast swaths of land, which were inhabited by South America’s indigenous population and recent settlers from Europe. Unfortunately for her tenants, La Quintrala had an explosive and violent temper, which often resulted in cruel and inhumane treatment of her subordinates.
Over the course of her wicked rule, La Quintrala brutally murdered over 40 people, including slaves, tenants, former lovers, a priest and even her own father. Using her nobility and wealth to her advantage, this psychotic killer evaded justice for years despite the community’s growing knowledge of La Quintrala’s evil deeds.
The horrific acts of La Quintrala eventually caught up with her, and she was publicly convicted of her murderous acts. As she was only sentenced to house arrest and not executed, many contemporaries believed that her punishment was much too lenient. Regardless, La Quintrala never received a harsher punishment and she eventually died while still under house arrest.
La Quintrala’s notorious legacy still lives on in Chilean culture where she is viewed as the embodiment of Spanish colonization and the resultant oppression.
Resurrection Men / Burke and Hare Killings
Whenever you do research on serial killers, the bizarre and macabre details that emerge will cease to amaze. Here is one such instance. In the 1820s, Edinburgh, Scotland was a leading European city in the study of anatomy. And, in order to truly study the human body, these pioneering scientists required lots and lots of test subjects, i.e. dead people.
This high demand for cadavers led to a shortage of bodies on which to perform scientific experiments. So, whenever there is a demand, some resourceful folks will always manage to find a way to offer the supply. The first people to meet the ever-increasing demand for dead bodies were people known as resurrection men. No, they did not rise from the dead. Rather, they were gravediggers, who stole bodies and delivered them to area scientists.
Under Scottish law, only certain dead bodies were allowed to be used for science, such as suicide victims and dead prisoners. So, these so-called resurrection men and their scientist counterparts were most likely criminally liable for the rampant body snatching from the graves of “respectable society.”
At this point, only dead bodies were being snatched. That all changed after the proprietor of a local boarding house was convinced to sell the body of a lodger who died at his inn. The proprietor was William Hare and his friend was William Burke. Apparently, Burke knew of a scientist, Dr. Knox, who was in desperate need of cadavers.
Within a few months, Hare and Burke had resorted to murdering instead of awaiting lodgers to die through natural causes. Over the course of 10 months in 1828, Burke and Hare killed 16 people. That’s right. These psychos murdered almost 20 people in less than a year. And it was all for one purpose – to make some extra cash by selling murdered bodies for scientific experimentation.
Some guests at the boarding house had suspected foul play after the death of their last victim – Margaret Docherty. This led to an investigation. And the arrest of both men as well as their wives. Hare agreed to an immunity deal which involved selling out Burke, who was eventually hanged for his crimes.
Even though Burke was executed, Hare was never convicted. And neither were the wives, who eventually fled the United Kingdom. And so did Hare, apparently. But no one really knows for sure as to what happened to Hare.
As for Burke, his body was dissected, and his skeleton was put on display at the Edinburgh Medical School’s Anatomical Museum. To date, Burke’s skeleton remains on display.
Scotland swiftly enacted new laws that made it easier for doctors, medical students, and anatomy lecturers to acquire legal cadavers, thereby ending the reign of resurrection men.
These are some macabre and creepy real-life stories that truly exemplify the horrors humankind is capable of. Are there any other killers from the past that you have heard about, who could be included in this post?
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A fascinating post, Jennifer. I am surprised Texas haven’t experimented with the breaking wheel.
Thank you for stopping by. Ah yes, Texas 😉