by Taylor Leonard
A common observation of known serial killers is their polar opposite demeanor in public and around friends, associates, and even loved ones. How often have we heard “He was such a nice boy?” from neighbors and coworkers after they discover they were living and working side by side with a cold blooded monster?
Sometimes, these softer sides to serial killers are simply downright bizarre – so contrary to their evil natures it’s difficult to believe the same individuals could commit such heinous crimes:
John Wayne Gacy – Political Activist
Between 1972 and 1978, John Wayne Gacy murdered at least 33 boys and young men inside his suburban Chicago home, although authorities suspect he killed many more before being caught. Throughout this time, Gacy would occasionally dress up as a clown and perform for charitable events around town, eventually earning him the nickname “Killer Clown” after being apprehended. Gacy was also deeply involved in Democratic Party politics, to the point where he was photographed with First Lady Rosalynn Carter in 1978. In the photo, an “S” pin indicating Gacy was cleared by the US Secret Service can be seen on his lapel, a major embarrassment for the agency designated to protect the lives of the First Family.
Ted Bundy – Family Man
The proverbial 20th-century psychopath, Ted Bundy was connected to the murders of dozens of women across the United States during the 1970s. Utilizing his good looks, charm, and high intelligence, Bundy would employ a variety of tactics to lure unsuspecting young ladies to their grisly demise. Bundy represented himself at trial and during the sentencing phase took advantage of a loophole in the law to marry off and on sweetheart Carole Ann Boone after she took the witness stand. Despite restrictions on conjugal visits, the newly weds were able to have a child before Bundy was executed by electric chair in 1989.
Jeffrey Dahmer – Prankster
If you overheard someone say “Doing a Dahmer” you would probably envision murder, necrophilia, cannibalism, and storing body parts in steel drums. These were the acts attributed to the “Milwaukee Cannibal,” Jeffrey Dahmer, who from 1978 to 1991 raped, killed, and dismembered at least 17 young men before being caught. However, during the would-be murderer’s high school days, “Doing a Dahmer” referred to the teenager’s habit of pulling off
innocent pranks. Dahmer was remembered by many fellow students as the class clown, somebody who sought attention with silly stunts and gimmicks, not someone capable of committing unspeakable acts of violence.
Rodney Alcala – Game Show Contestant
Referred to as a “killing machine” by police, Rodney Alcala is connected to five known murders in California during the late 1970s, with law enforcement convinced the victim count is much higher. After already killing two women, Alcala landed a spot on The Dating Game, vying for the chance at a romantic encounter with contestant Cheryl Bradshaw. Alcala won the contest that day, but fortunately for Bradshaw she canceled the date after finding him to be too creepy. One criminal profiler believes this rejection was a driving force behind several more murders committed by Alcala.
Gary Ridgway – Bible Thumper
Known as the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway was a seemingly unstoppable murdering machine until law enforcement finally caught up to him in 2001. From the early 1980s to late 1990s, Ridgway confessed to killing over 70 women, mostly prostitutes and teenage runaways, though authorities have only successfully tied him to 48 cases. In the middle of his decades-long killing rampage, Ridgway became a born-again Christian. He would read the Bible out loud at work, cry during church service, and work diligently to convert non-believers in his spare time.
By all accounts, he steadfastly maintains his Christian beliefs in prison.
Dennis Rader – Home Security Specialist
“Bind, Torture, Kill” was the calling card of serial murderer Dennis Rader, popularly known as the BTK Killer. Responsible for ten murders in and around Wichita, Kansas from the mid 70s to early 90s, Rader’s M.O. involved breaking into residences and killing everyone inside, with the primary targets usually being an adult female. During the peak of his activity, Rader worked for ADT installing alarms in households across the Wichita area. Many of the homeowners were seeking increased security to avoid becoming victims of the BTK Killer, reassured by Rader’s polite demeanor around their children and professional work done on their property. Little did they know, the BTK Killer was already inside.
Original Night Stalker – Dog Lover
The yet to be identified Original Night Stalker is also referred to as the East Area Rapist and the Golden State Killer, a testament to how long it took law enforcement to realize dozens of home invasions, rapes, and murders across California were the work of a single individual. The ONS/EAR/GSK meticulously stalked his victims before striking, almost always choosing couples in suburban neighborhoods. Dogs owned by the victims wouldn’t bark, leading to speculation the killer would acquaint himself with the canines during reconnaissance. In one case attributed to the ONS/EAR/GSK, a set of canine paw prints were discovered at the residence despite the couple not owning a dog, suggesting the killer brought along his pet pooch on at least one occasion.
The FBI alleges there are anywhere from 25 to 50 serial killers active in the United States at any given time. Many are able to successfully evade capture for years and even decades thanks to a chameleon-like ability to blend into society. The result is often a split personality, where cruelty and evil dominate one-half of a killer’s brain while the other half remains tethered to humanity, if not in a tenuous, sociopathic way.