When you’re a serial killer, it’s not exactly clean work, especially with bodies piling up. There are two parts to being a serial killer — the front-end, which is the act of murder itself, and the back-end, where they hide or destroy any evidence. Often, it’s this latter part where many serial killers slip up, as getting rid of a body isn’t a walk in the park.
These notorious serial killers took it a notch further, becoming incredibly inventive with how they handled their victims’ remains. From feeding them to living creatures to trading the bodies for a quick buck, here are the top 10 most horrific ways infamous serial killers hid their victims.
Joe ‘The Alligator Man’ Ball Served Them to Alligators
The notorious killer Joe Ball got his nickname ‘The Alligator Man’ when his victim’s remains turned up at his bar in Elmendorf, Texas. It’s thought he murdered up to 20 women.
After prohibition ended, Ball opened up a bar where he frequently hosted cockfights. Seeking to make a real splash, Ball caught a few alligators from nearby marshes and kept them in a concrete pool. According to Elton Cude Jr., whose father was part of the investigation team, “Any wild animal, possum, cat, dog, or any other animal without an owner helped make the show a little better. Get drunk, throw an animal in and watch the alligators.”
Soon, local women started disappearing, including Ball’s barmaids, ex-girlfriends, and even his wife. When deputies came to question Ball in 1938, he quickly grabbed a handgun and killed himself. Clearly, he had quite a bit to hide.
When the police investigated the pool, they found the alligators amidst decaying flesh. They also found a blood and hair-covered ax. It didn’t take long for them to figure out the terrifying truth: Ball had butchered his victims and fed them to his pool of hungry alligators.
John ‘Acid Bath Murderer’ Haigh Melted Them with Acid
John George Haigh, a British serial killer, claimed six lives between 1944 and 1949. He’d make his victims vanish by dissolving their bodies in sulfuric acid until they liquefied, then he’d pour what was left down the drain. This chilling method got him the name ‘Acid Bath Murderer’. He even creepily confessed to drinking their blood.
Haigh had already done a four-year stint in prison for fraud after pretending to be a lawyer. Once he got out, he started an even more chilling scam. Haigh first murdered a young man and his parents, coaxing them into his London basement like sitting ducks, then he forged documents to inherit their estate.
His next victims were a well-off couple. He shot and killed them, then, like before, forged documents to take over their estate. His last victim was an older woman who he killed for her jewelry and other pricey items, including her fur coat.
When Haigh was finally nabbed, he boasted, “I have destroyed (the victims) with acid. You can’t prove a murder without a body.” Haigh truly thought he couldn’t be convicted without a body as evidence. But he was sentenced to death and hanged at Wandsworth Prison in 1949.
Robert ‘The Pig Farmer’ Pickton Traded Them as Meat
Canadian serial killer Robert Pickton was a pig farmer with a gruesome secret. He’d butcher his victims and sell their remains as ground meat. From 1983 to 2002, he killed six people in Vancouver, either by injecting them with antifreeze or stabbing them.
In 1997, one woman managed to escape from his farm, running for her life, naked and injured. She got to the police, but they didn’t believe her, thinking she was an unreliable witness.
Pickton finally confessed to an undercover cop pretending to be his cellmate. When asked about the best way to get rid of a body, Pickton replied, “A rendering plant.” These plants turn animal tissues into other useful things like lard. Once Pickton had minced the bodies, he’d sell the remains as meat.
He also admitted, “I made my own grave by being sloppy. Doesn’t that just kick you in the ass now?” It’s thought that the actual count could be 49 women, as Pickton told the undercover officer he was shooting for the “big 5-0”. He was sentenced to life with no chance of parole.
Zhang Yongming Served Them to His Dog
In 2012, Chinese serial killer Zhang Yongming, dubbed the ‘Cannibal Monster of Yunnan’, was convicted for the murder of 11 young men. He either chopped them up, burned them, or buried the bodies. He even fed some parts to his dog and sold others at a local market in Kunming city, fooling people into thinking it was ‘Ostrich Meat’.
Yongming was no stranger to the justice system, having been found guilty of murder back in 1979 but was freed in 1997. He came under suspicion again when young boys started disappearing near his home, sparking fears they had been sold into forced labor. One boy managed to escape after Yongming tried to strangle him with a belt.
The police found human remains in his home, including flesh left out to dry and eyeballs in wine bottles. The court declared, “He used cruel means to kill the victims, and the circumstances and consequences were especially serious.” In 2013, he was taken to an execution site and put to death.
Luis ‘La Bestia’ Garavito Dumped Them in a Mass Grav
From 1992 to 1999, Luis Garavito put Colombia in a state of fear as he journeyed through up to 54 towns across the country, using various disguises, where he tricked young boys—aged between eight and sixteen—into meeting their end. Garavito, also known as ‘La Bestia’ or ‘The Beast’, would tire his young victims out by making them walk for miles, then he would bind and torture them. He even mutilated their private parts.
Most of the boys were homeless, away from their families, so many of the murders went unnoticed. In 1997, a mass grave was discovered in a ravine in Pereira, initially thought to be the doing of a satanic cult, containing the remains of 25 children. This was Garavito’s dumping ground—and he nearly got away with it. Luckily, investigators found glasses at the site with a unique prescription, leading them straight to the killer.
Upon his arrest, photos of the victims and diaries with a ‘tally chart’ of his victims were found in his apartment. Garavito eventually confessed to over 300 murders and 138 were confirmed. He was sentenced to life in prison.
John Christie Hid Them Inside His Kitchen Walls
John Christie, a British serial killer, took the lives of six women, including his wife, during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1938, he moved into 10 Rillington Place in West London with his wife, Ethel. A decade later, his home became a macabre storage place as he concealed the bodies of his victims within the walls and garden of the property.
His first two victims, 21-year-old Ruth Fuerst and 32-year-old Muriel Eady were buried in the garden. His next victim was his 20-year-old neighbor, Beryl Evans, whose body he hid in a sewer drain, leading to her husband being wrongly accused and executed for the murder.
Running out of space in the garden, Christie began stuffing the bodies within his kitchen walls. The bodies of 25-year-old Rita Nelson, 26-year-old Kathleen Maloney, and 26-year-old Hectorina McLennan were later found there. The reek of the decomposing bodies hidden in the walls eventually became too much, and he left the house. When the new occupants renovated the kitchen, they found the cause of the sickening smell and also found the body of Ethel Christie under the parlor floorboards.
Christie was sentenced to death and
Gary Heidnik Forced Them to Eat Each Other
Gary Heidnik is counted among the most horrifying serial killers ever known. Over 1986 and 1987, he abducted and tormented six women, imprisoning them in the cellar of his Philadelphia, Pennsylvania home. The horrifying happenings in that basement could rival any horror movie’s storyline.
Former FBI Profiler and author of ‘Mindhunter’, John Douglas, admitted that Heidnik’s deeds still give him the chills. Douglas noted, (Heidnik) was even worse than the guy Buffalo Bill in the movie ‘Silence of the Lambs”. (Heidnik) would fill a pit with water, not to drown (his victims), but make them stand in water up to their necks. Then he would take an electric wire and torment them while they stood in the water.”
He added, “What made it even worse was after he killed them he then would put the victims in a meat grinder and fed (them to the other) victims.”
Fortunately, one victim was able to trick the deranged killer into letting her leave temporarily to visit her family. She seized the opportunity to sprint to a phone booth and dial 911. Heidnik was put to death by lethal injection in 1999.
Albert ‘The Ghoul’ Fish Savored Them
Albert Fish, a notorious child murderer and cannibal, is infamous for taking the lives of 8-year-old Francis McDonnell, 8-year-old Billy Gaffney, and 10-year-old Grace Budd. In a shocking claim, Fish stated that during his terrifying spree, he had “kids in every state,” with the actual number of victims potentially reaching a hundred.
After committing the murders, Fish didn’t stop tormenting the parents of his victims. He wrote a chilling letter to Grace Budd’s mother, graphically detailing how he had butchered and cooked the young girl. In his words, “I cut her into small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms—cook and eat it. It took me 9 days to eat her entire body.”
But this letter became Fish’s downfall. The envelope had his rooming house address in New York City on it. When confronted, Fish didn’t deny any of his crimes, leading to his execution by electrocution at Sing Sing Prison in 1936.
Dr. H. H. Holmes Traded Their Remains for Science
Herman Mudgett, who later changed his name to Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, is remembered as America’s earliest known serial killer. In 1893, he constructed a hotel in Chicago which was essentially a massive, intricate chamber of torture, equipped with horrific death traps. While he confessed to 27 murders, the actual number could be as high as 200.
In his ‘Murder Castle,’ he enticed victims with job offers at his pharmacy, insisting they secure a life insurance policy naming him as the sole beneficiary. As these unfortunate individuals vanished within the hotel, never to be seen again, Holmes collected the money. He became skilled at disposing of the bodies, using his medical contacts to sell organs and skeletons to medical schools in Chicago, which were always in need of more cadavers.
Holmes once said, “I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing.” He was eventually hanged for his crimes in 1896.
Ed Gein Crafted Them Into Household Items
Ed Gein’s gruesome acts inspired the horrifying characters of Buffalo Bill in ‘The Silence of the Lambs,’ Leatherface in ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,’ and Norman Bates in ‘Psycho.’ Following the death of his mother in 1945, Ed decided to create a revolting tribute to her.
After his mother’s death, Ed, who lived on a secluded farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin, sealed off all of her rooms and lived in the kitchen. He then killed two women and exhumed several others.
When detectives, looking into the last known whereabouts of a victim, visited his home, they were unprepared for the horror that awaited them. They found a headless body, organs preserved in jars, skulls as bedposts, a belt made of nipples, a shoebox of vulvas, and masks crafted from human skin.
Ed spent the rest of his life in a mental institution, passing away at the age of 77. Some of the gruesome artifacts Gein crafted can be seen in the video above