It’s hard to imagine the depravity that leads someone to kill another human, but some among us are wired differently and find pleasure, satisfaction or release in taking the lives of others. Serial killers are even more depraved, repeating the heinous act over and over again. While we will never fully know what causes someone to become a serial killer, it often starts in their youth, and is tied to their family life.
Let’s look at the childhood homes and crime scenes of some of America’s most infamous serial killers.
Jeffrey Dahmer was born in Wisconsin but spent most of his formative years in Bath, Ohio. Initially a happy child, he quickly descended into isolation and alcoholism, and demonstrated an overintense curiosity in dissecting and preserving dead animals. He committed his first murder shortly after graduating high school, likely an unplanned act.
Starting in 1987 he began murdering gay or bisexual men inside the home he shared with his grandmother and disposing of their bodies in various ways. He moved into an apartment where he developed several rituals, including posing the bodies and saving and preserving body parts, in addition to committing sexual acts.
In 1991 he was caught when a potential victim escaped and found police. When the police arrived, they found his apartment was a working crime scene. He was found guilty of murdering at least 17 men, and confessing to the details of the murders. He was sentenced to 16 life terms, but was beaten to death in prison in 1994.
The apartment complex where he murdered most of his victims was razed to the ground, and the lot has never been developed since.
John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy spent an unhappy childhood in Chicago, Illinois, where his alcoholic father beat him and the rest of his family regularly. After high school, he worked for a short time as a mortuary assistant, where he had his first encounters with corpses. He went to college, married, had a family and a good career. However, after a sexual incident with a young man, he served time in prison and had to start his life over.
He moved to Norwood Park, where his encounters with young unconsenting young men continued. His first murder was an accident, but he realized that there was an “ultimate thrill” in killing. His killing spree ramped up between 1976 and 1978, when he killed at least 33 teens and young men. He buried most of them on his property.
He was eventually discovered and prosecuted for his crimes. After the jury deliberated for only two hours, he was convicted of 33 murders and sentenced to death. He was executed on May 10, 1994. The house where Gacy murdered his victims was razed to the ground and another home has since been constructed on the site.
Ted Bundy was born in Vermont to a single mother. They lived in Philadelphia for three years before moving to Tacoma, Washington. There, she met and married Johnny Bundy, who adopted Ted. They lived in the West End until Bundy went to college.
While crimes similar to Bundy’s MO started in the early 1970s in the Pacific Northwest, he was always vague about his early murders. Some believe he began killing as early as age 14. Bundy killed women throughout the Seattle area, then in Utah, Idaho and Colorado, when he moved to Salt Lake City to attend law school. It is believed he may have murdered women in his apartment there, and it was known he kept body parts and mementos from the murders.
In 1976 he was arrested for attempted kidnapping and sentenced to prison, then prosecuted in Colorado for a murder. While in prison awaiting trial, he escaped and made his way to Florida, where he quickly began killing again. He was arrested in February 1978 on unrelated charges but police quickly tied him to his crimes.
Juries found him guilty in multiple trials and sentenced him to death. Bundy confessed to killing 30 women, but police believe he killed 100 or more. He was executed in Florida on January 24, 1989. Police officers and others tied to the crimes celebrated at his death.
Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi
Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi were cousins who together became serial killers known as the Hillside Stranglers.
Buono was born in 1934 in Rochester, New York, and quickly developed a long rap sheet with the police for both petty and violent crimes. By age 41, he was living in California. He was a pimp, holding women as prisoners and forcing them into prostitution. In 1977, he became partners with his cousin Bianchi, who was 20 years his junior and also had a long record of criminal activity. Buono and Bianchi began pimping together, assaulting women, and quickly escalated to murder.
Using fake badges and posing as undercover police officers, the men would cruise the Los Angeles area and force women into their car. They would then take them to Buono’s home, where they were assaulted, tortured, and then murdered. Over the course of about 15 months, they assaulted and killed at least ten women.
Bianchi was so brazen as to even apply for a job with the LA Police Department and participate in ride alongs with officers during the crime spree. To avoid detection, Bianchi moved to Washington, where he murdered two more women, but his sloppy technique led to his arrest and subsequent arrest of Buono. Both men were sentenced to life in prison. Buono died of a heart attack in 2002 and Bianchi is serving a life sentence in Washington.
Unfortunately, there are many more serial killers than we’ll ever know, and this list covers just a few that got caught. Fortunately, your chances of being captured and killed by anyone, let alone a serial killer are less than your odds of winning the lottery. Just watch your back.