The Harpe Brothers were America’s first recognized serial killers. It’s suspected that the brothers killed out of enjoyment rather than any typical reason. Most of their murders occured after their involvement in the American Revolutionary War and American Indian Wars. The Harpe brothers were Loyalists who committed violent crimes during both wars. The brothers mainly hated Patriots and would regularly murder and commit crimes against them. After the wars ended, they continued their criminal activity until their deaths.
Felipe Espinosa was suspected of killing 32 people in Colorado in 1863. His goal was to kill hundreds of ‘Gringos’ and ‘Anglos’, as Espinosa put it. This lead many to believe that his crimes were racially motivated. However, his crimes were proven to be motivated by land acquisition. In a letter, Espinosa told the governor of the Colorado Territory that he would kill hundreds of whites if he wasn’t given property. After the letter was received, lawmen were sent to find Espinosa and he was shortly killed.
John “Liver-Eating” Johnson was said to have killed more than 300 Crow Indians to avenge his wife. After serving in the Mexican-American War, Johnson’s wife was killed by a Crow. He supposedly went on a revenge killing spree after. He was said to have killed and eaten the livers of hundreds of Crows in his quest for vengeance. He coined his nickname from the legend of him eating the livers of the Crows he killed. Although there’s more legend than proof behind his story, it was effective in making Native Americans fearful.
Although Bill Longley was hanged for the murder of Wilson Anderson, he’s known to have killed 32 people in his lifetime. Anderson was the only murder of consequence to Longley, as the authorities posted a reward for his capture. Despite Longley eluding the authorities for years, he was eventually caught and hanged on the charge of Anderson’s murder. It’s widely speculated that most of Longley’s murders were motivated by racial bias. Most of this speculation is based on the fact that his first kilos were former slaves. Aside from any racial bias, Longley generally killed anyone that got in his way.
The Axeman of New Orleans committed his murders in this map’s locations from 1918-1919. The Axeman made a name for himself by typically killing his victims with an ax, but sparing the lives of people who would play jazz in their homes. Despite the peculiar nature of his crimes, the axeman was never identified. It’s widely speculated that the Axeman‘s crimes were racially or sexually motivated due to the typical profile of his victims. The majority of his victims were women of Italian descent. The theories behind his motives continue to be unrealistic due to his combination of race, sex, and jazz related motivators.
Madame LaLaurie was a New Orleans socialite who was known for allegedly torturing and killing her slaves. LaLaurie was known throughout New Orleans for the extreme mistreatment of her slaves. Some of her slaves were reported to have even attempted suicide to escape her. Although she was never truly punished for her crimes, New Orleans citizens enacted their own kind of justice on her. Townspeople discovered abused slaves in LaLaurie’s attic in 1834. They destroyed her home and lead her to flee to France, where she later died.
Patty Cannon traded, kidnapped, and killed slaves in the 1820s. Townspeople were too afraid of her to speak up, but she was eventually caught and imprisoned for her crimes. Once authorities found four black bodies buried on her property, she was charged with four counts of murder and later died. The gang she lead was responsible for what was known as the ‘Reverse Underground Railroad’. Cannon’s gang would trade and kidnap slaves and free black people. Since this is basically the opposite of the Underground Railroad, Cannon’s gang’s crimes were known as the Reverse Underground Railroad.
Billy Gohl was a union official who murdered sailors in Washington. His number of victims and years of activity are unknown. He was eligible for the death penalty, but was sentenced to life in prison instead. As a union official, Gohl was suspected of using his status to kill. He was suspected of being responsible for the deaths of migrant workers as well as the forced recruitment of other union workers. He would shoot and kill union sailors until his capture.
The Doodler killed 14 San Franciscans a little over 40 years ago. He was never found and the number of people he killed is still uncertain. He coined his name from his habit of sketching his victims before he killed them. It’s generally believed that the Doodler’s murders were motivated by sexual bias. All of his victims were male members of San Francisco's gay community. The murders ignited discussion on the oppression of gay people, including Harvey Milk’s opinions.
Son of Sam is an infamous 1970’s serial killer. He killed six people by 1977 and evaded the police despite their persistence in his capture. This put New Yorkers into a panic and lead to his arrest. Son of Sam gained worldwide notoriety for his crimes. His letters to the press made him famous not only in New York but to the country and some parts of the world. He went on to be arguably the most well known serial killer in western popular culture because of the attention the media gave him.