What is it that makes serial killers so interesting to the collective psyche? Is it morbid curiosity, or the desire to understand evil? Whatever the reason, America is seemingly obsessed with serial killers. Although serial murders make up less than 1% of murders in the United States, there are hundreds of podcasts, TV shows, and documentaries that are dedicated to studying American serial killers.
Although serial killings are rare, the United States’ fascination with them makes more sense when you keep in mind that the U.S. has the most serial killings of any country in the world. We are also, unfortunately, home to some of the most notorious serial killers of all time.
While every state in America has produced at least one serial killer, some states are worse than others. Some are the birthplace of dozens of serial killers, while others are home to only a few. Care to know where your home state lines up? Check out the list below to discover the eight states with the most serial killers.
Coming in at number one, we have New York. As of 2023, New York has been home to 18 serial killers, and has a total number of 677 serial killer victims.
David Richard Berkowitz, known as “The Son of Sam,” is New York’s most infamous serial killer. From 1976 to 1977, Berkowitz murdered six people and wounded 11. He earned the moniker “Son of Sam” after the police received a letter in which he referred to himself by that name, which is a reference to his next door neighbor. Berkowitz believed his neighbor’s dog was possessed and wanted him to kill. He was sentenced to life in prison on May 18th, 1978.
California is in second place for the number of serial killers, but in first place by almost double for the number of serial killer victims. California has 15 serial killers who slew over 1,770 innocent victims. California is home to several of the most notorious serial killers of all time, which accounts for the exceedingly high kill rate.
You have probably heard of the Zodiac Killer, whose work has been described as the most famous unsolved case in American history. He terrorized Southern California between 1968 and 1969. In taunting letters to the police, he claimed to have murdered 37 men and women. Of the 37, seven have been confirmed: five dead, and two survivors. The case remains open to this day.
Other notorious killers include Kenneth Alesso Bianchi, more commonly known as “The Hillside Strangler,” and Ricardo Ramirez, “The Night Stalker.”
Texas accounts for eight serial killers and 948 victims, putting them in second place for number of victims, although that is still a shocking 829 victims behind California.
One of Texas’ most awful serial killers is Genene Jones, aka “The Angel of Death,” who in the early 80’s killed between 11 and 46 innocent children while working as a pediatric nurse. A truly evil individual, Genene would inject the children—as young as 1 month old—with lethal doses of drugs that would induce fatal paralysis or heart failure. She has been sentenced to life in prison and won’t be eligible for parole until she is 87 years old.
Infamous serial killers from Texas also include Ángel Maturino Reséndiez, nicknamed the “Railroad Killer”; Dean Corll, “The Candy Man”; and Kenneth McDuff, “The Broomstick Killer.”
From Illinois, there have been seven serial killers, with a total kill count of 680 victims. They are the only state on this list to have the same ranking for both killers and victims, as they are in fourth place for both.
John Wayne Gacy, commonly referred to as “The Killer Clown,” is one of the most well-known serial killers in U.S. history. His number of victims is disgustingly high, as he killed at least 33 young men and boys. He stored most of the victims in the crawl space underneath his home in the Chicago suburbs. Terrifyingly, Gacy’s side job involved playing a clown at children’s birthday parties, hence the creepy nickname. He was executed by lethal injection on May 10th, 1994.
Other “famous” serial killers from Illinois are “The Chicago Rippers,” a satanic cult made up of Robin Gecht, Edward Spreitzer, and brothers Andrew and Thomas Korkoraleis, as well as “The Lipstick Killer” William Heirens, who famously on the wall with one of his victim’s lipstick.
Ohio has the same amount of serial killers as Illinois—seven—-but is ranked lower due to the fact that it has fewer serial killer victims at 505 total.
Ohio’s most notorious serial killer is Shawn Grate, who raped and murdered five young women between 2006 and 2016. In September of 2016, the police received a 911 call from a woman who whispered that she had been kidnapped and was currently only a few feet away from her sleeping kidnapper. As 911 tried to coach her out of Grate’s home, she accidentally woke him up, and the race to find her before she could become his next victim began. When law enforcement arrived at the scene, they found trash piled up to the ceiling and multiple decomposing bodies. Grate was arrested and is scheduled to be executed in 2025.
Though Jeffrey Dahmer committed the majority of his murders in his native state of Wisconsin—and would therefore fall under Wisconsin on this list—it is important to note that he grew up in Ohio, and that is also where he committed his first murder.
Indiana is the home state to six serial killers, who in total killed 349 victims. This puts it at sixth on the list of serial killers, but only 12th on the list of victims.
Herb Baumeister was a prominent businessman from Indiana who lived on an 18-acre estate with his wife and two children. In June 1996, the skeletal remains of 11 missing young men from the Indiana gay community were found on his property, leading Baumseister to take his own life before he could be charged. Interestingly, while Baumeister’s wife denies knowing anything related to her husband’s sinister ways, she does admit to one of their children finding a skeleton in the backyard—which Baumeister explained belonged to his deceased father, who was a doctor.
Other notorious serial killers from Indiana include Belle Gunness, Larry Eyler, and Darren Deon Vann.
Louisiana has had six serial killers who were responsible for the death of 344 victims.
Samuel Little is known by many to be the most prolific killer in American history. He confessed to 93 murders, of which 60 are confirmed. Based on his confession, Little would be responsible for more than a quarter of all serial killings in the state. Almost all of his victims were female drug addicts or sex workers, whom he believed would leave the least evidence behind for law enforcement to follow. He died in prison at age 80 while serving four life sentences without the possibility of parole.
In eighth place is Pennsylvania, with five serial killers. The five killers from Pennsylvania were responsible for 462 deaths, which outranks both Indiana and Louisiana.
Pennsylvania’s most well-known serial killer is Harvey Miguel Robinson, who is known for being one of the youngest serial killers reported in the U.S. When he was just 18, Robinson went on a violent killing spree, during which he killed three young women and seriously injured two. One of Robinson’s surviving victims led to his eventual arrest. After the victim escaped his evil grasp, the police used her to bait Robinson. They managed to shoot him before he fled to a hospital, where he was arrested. Robinson is currently on death row in Pennsylvania.
Other notorious serial killers in Pennsylvania are the “House of Horrors” killer Gary Heidnik, Harrison Graham, and Mark Spotz.