Criminals have committed plenty of gruesome acts throughout history. Few have continued to terrorize the world the way these three have.

Quick notes:

·         Charles and the Manson Family murders reshaped the hippie landscape of California into a state of terror.

·         Ted Bundy’s charismatic personality and handsome appearance drew in dozens of helpless victims.

·         John Wayne Gacy (a.k.a. “Pogo the Clown”) spent six years murdering more young men than Pennywise himself.

Some criminals are walking examples of the worst that mankind has to offer. These three killers are it. From preying on vulnerable youth to trying to charm their ways out of consequences, this brutal bunch has produced enough terror to last a few hundred lifetimes.

Charles Manson’s sociopathic murder spree

Charles Manson‘s murder spree of the late 1960s brought a brutal end to Hollywood’s hippie era. Manson and his followers, the Manson Family, terrified Californians to their cores. Before the famous Sharon Tate killings, Manson housed his cult at a place called Spahn Ranch. There, he preached about a race war called “Helter Skelter,” engaged in orgies, and hunted for the Devil’s Hole in Death Valley.

What makes the murdering Manson so terrifying? He was manipulative enough to convince others that he was God’s right-hand man. Many thought that he was brilliant, including Hollywood stars like Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. As charismatic as Manson was, he was caught soon after his brief murder spree, and the Manson Family was disbanded by authorities shortly after. He served a life prison sentence before passing away in 2017.

‘The Campus Killer,’ Ted Bundy

No criminal list could be complete without The Campus Killer, Ted Bundy. He imposed a culture of terror on young women nationwide. Bundy, like Manson, was young, charismatic, handsome, and smooth-talking. Unfortunately, for the young women he wooed, he didn’t seem dangerous until it was too late to escape. He often roped in victims through scenarios in which they respected, pitied, or felt attracted towards him. Once they were alone, he raped and murdered them.

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Bundy was officially arrested in 1975, accused of a singular kidnapping and assault. Soon, authorities began to draw parallels between Bundy and crimes committed across several states, from California to Utah. Facing multiple charges of murder and assault, Bundy orchestrated two great escapes from custody, being recaptured by the police both times.

The trials that followed were erratic. Bundy, a law student, often served as his own defense, though he was prone to outbursts. Through it all, he feverishly maintained his innocence. Of course, he was found guilty and sentenced to death three times. Before his execution, he admitted to committing a stunning 30 homicides–and those were only the ones he shared with police.

John Wayne Gacy/’Pogo the Clown’

If you think Pennywise is terrifying, John Wayne Gacy will take your breath away. Kicking off his killings in 1972, Gacy went on a six-year murder spree during which he killed dozens of children, teenage boys, and young men. Although he was charged with 33 of these deaths, Gacy claimed that he killed far more.

What’s the creepiest part about his murders? His costume. Gacy joined the Jolly Jokers (a clown charity group) as “Pogo the Clown,” showing up to children/hospital charity events to volunteer. This earned him a stellar reputation in his community. However, the dark reality is that his social status often made his victims trust him. And all of his killings were committed within his own home.

 Wikimedia Commons

From 1972 to 1978, Gacy lured vulnerable young men to his quiet home. There, he would have sex with them, then strangle them. He carelessly buried 27 of these individuals on his property, which authorities discovered during a warranted search. Gacy proudly admitting to the killings and was sentenced to death by injection. His final words? “Kiss my a**.”

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:

London’s most notorious killer might finally have a face to his alias.

John Wayne Gacy’s house of horrors could end up on a list like this.