You might believe that serial killers are purely an American problem, what with all the ‘true crime’ podcasts and TV shows that seem to focus on it. But if you take a peek into history, you’ll see that this grim crime happens more often than you’d think, popping up all around the world, from places like Indonesia, China, and Russia, to Japan.
9. The Siberian Nightmare: Mikhail Popkov, Russia
Mikhail Viktorovich Popkov, a former cop turned serial killer from Russia, was responsible for a series of horrific murders in Siberia between 1992 and 2010. Born in the Angarsk region of the Soviet Union in 1964, Popkov started his career as a security guard before switching to law enforcement in Irkutsk.
Popkov, notoriously known as ‘The Werewolf’ and the ‘Angarsk Maniac’, used to trick his victims into his police car by offering them free rides while dressed in his cop uniform. Once he got them alone, he would sexually abuse them before violently killing them with different weapons like knives, axes, and baseball bats. The bodies were often mutilated so much they were hard to identify. Even though there were many suspicions and testimonies from survivors, Popkov managed to avoid capture for more than twenty years.
The big break in the case came in 2012, when DNA tests were randomly carried out on 3,500 police officers, including Popkov. The DNA evidence firmly linked him to the crimes, leading to his arrest in 2015. He was found guilty of 22 murders and sentenced to life behind bars. Popkov later admitted to 59 more killings, raising his total count to a staggering 81 victims.
8. The Rostov Ripper: Andrei Chikatilo, Russian SFSR
Andrei Chikatilo, a former Soviet Army officer and teacher, also went by grim nicknames like ‘The Butcher of Rostov.’ He started his horrifying murder streak in 1978 in the Rostov region of Russia. Chikatilo was born in Ukraine in 1936, but it was his terrifying crimes, beginning with the murder of a nine-year-old girl, that put him on the map. His spree spanned twelve years, during which he assaulted and killed women, kids, and sex workers.
Although there were numerous whispers about his actions from students and peers, Chikatilo managed to slip through the cracks for years, thanks in part to the social and economic unrest of the Soviet Union at the time. Finally, after a thorough police investigation, he was nabbed in 1990, found guilty of 53 murders two years later, and executed in February 1994.
7. The Monster Killer: Yang Xinhai, China
Yang Xinhai, known as ‘The Monster Killer,’ was born in China’s Henan province in 1968. Raised in poverty and the youngest of four siblings, he left school to work as a laborer. However, he soon turned to a life of crime and spent time in labor camps for theft and robbery.
Between 1999 and 2003, Yang unleashed a reign of terror, murdering and assaulting at least 67 people and 23 women across various Chinese provinces. He’d break into homes at night, wiping out entire families with homemade weapons. With his knack for altering his appearance and eliminating evidence, he stayed off the police’s radar.
However, his spree ended in November 2003 when a routine check led to his arrest. DNA evidence tied him to the heinous crimes, and Yang Xinhai was sentenced to death, executed by firing squad in February 2004.
6. The Chessboard Killer: Alexander Pichushkin, Russia
Alexander Pichushkin, another infamous serial killer from Russia, also known as ‘The Chessboard Killer,’ emerged during the Soviet Union’s turbulent final years. Born in Moscow in 1974, he sustained a severe head injury as a child and attended a school for the disabled. Pichushkin was a brilliant chess player who could beat older opponents in Bitsa Park.
However, his grandfather’s death and the drinking habit that followed changed his personality significantly. During a police investigation, Pichushkin confessed to killing his first victim in 1992. He often targeted homeless men, luring them with the promise of vodka before attacking them brutally. He left their bodies in Bitsa Park or dumped them in a sewer.
Pichushkin was caught in 2006 when he was 33 years old. The following year, he was convicted of 48 murders and three attempted murders. Due to Russia’s suspension of the death penalty at the time, he was handed a life sentence.
5. The Beast of Ukraine: Anatoly Onoprienko, Soviet Ukraine
Also known as ‘The Terminator’ or ‘Citizen O,’ Anatoly Onoprienko was a ruthless killer who confessed to taking the lives of 52 people. Active from 1989 to 1995, his killing spree began by picking secluded homes. To catch his victims’ attention, he’d make a ruckus, then execute them one by one, starting with the adult male, followed by his partner, and lastly the kids. To hide evidence, Onoprienko would often set the houses ablaze and even silence any extra witnesses who might pose a threat to him.
Arrested on April 16, 1996, he had the murder weapons and mementos from his victims. Initially, Onoprienko confessed to eight murders, but later on, he admitted to a chilling total of 52. He was convicted for his ghastly deeds and sentenced to life in prison.
4. Martha Rendell, Australia
In 1909, Martha Rendell was convicted and executed for a horrifying crime that shook Western Australia. Married to a man named Thomas Morris, she murdered three of his children by applying spirits of salts to their throats. The cruel, slow deaths of the children went unnoticed until one of their siblings, George Morris, alerted the police about his stepmother.
The investigation was slow due to the difficulty in linking the effects of spirits of salts to the children’s deaths, despite the suspicion raised by Rendell’s large purchases of the harmful substance. Autopsies finally confirmed the presence of a poisonous substance that caused the kids’ bowel inflammation and hemorrhages, leading to her conviction. Rendell met her fate at the gallows in Fremantle Prison on October 6, 1909.
3. Bruno Lüdke, Germany
Bruno Lüdke, a German-born in 1909, goes down in history as one of Europe’s most notorious serial killers. He’s suspected of committing over 80 murders, along with a string of cruel sexual offenses, starting in 1928 and lasting 15 years.
Most of his heinous acts occurred during Germany’s tumultuous interwar period. The Nazi government deemed him mentally impaired and sterilized him, following the era’s prevalent eugenics policies. Lüdke
was arrested in 1943, and the Nazi regime subjected him to fatal medical experiments in a Vienna hospital a year later.
2. Mother Rasputin: Mariam Soulakiotis, Greece
Nicknamed ‘Mother Rasputin’ in Greek folklore, Mariam Soulakiotis was a Greek Orthodox abbess and a confirmed serial killer active from 1939 to 1951. She was convicted of a series of murders at the Peukovounogiatrissas Monastery near Keratea, Greece. Soulakiotis would entice wealthy women into the convent, torture them until they handed over their fortunes, and in some instances, ended up killing them.
Charged with homicide, fraud, forgery, blackmail, and torture, she was brought to justice in February 1951 and received a life sentence in 1952. She passed away in prison two years later, never officially admitting her misdeeds.
1. Luis Garavito, Colombia
Born in Génova, Colombia, in January 1957, Luis Garavito’s name is synonymous with a brutal string of crimes committed in the 1990s. His troubled childhood included consistent abuse from his father and a neighbor. At 16, he left home, took up work as a farmhand, struggled with alcoholism, and eventually developed a sinister attraction towards children.
Garavito’s killing spree, spanning about seven years, mainly targeted young boys from low-income