If you’re a horror fan, a true crime buff, or just someone interest in abnormal psychology—you probably have at least a low-grade fascination with female serial killers. Female serial killers are an easy addiction to feed since they are often referenced in music, movies, and even TV. But if that’s the only place you’re getting your information, you might not get all the facts. While the gory details of these murderous ladies are often altered or amped up for the media—the truth about female serial killers is still pretty frightening. These feminist fiends may have a type, but murderous women don’t discriminate. Some murder men, others prefer children, and for some—any bag full of blood is good enough. There are killers of opportunity, those who murder for recreation, while some kill for their own selfish reasons. What they all have in common is a disrespect for human life and a thirst to take the lives of others.
Erzabet Bathory is a timeless favorite among fans of female serial killers. She’s been portrayed as everything from Dracula’s cousin to a modern day professor of vampire lore. Last season’s Penny Dreadful featured Helen McCrory as Evelyn Poole, a blood-bathing witch inspired by Bathory. But who was Bathory really? She wasn’t a vampire, nor a practicing witch. But Countess Erzabet was a mass murderer who, by virtue of her wealth and status, got away with torturing and killing servant girls for decades. It is believed she literally bathed in their blood, thinking it was the key to eternal youth.
Genene Anne Jones may not be a name you recognize. She was the inspiration for Stephen King’s Annie Wilkes, the antagonist from the novel Misery. Jones was a pediatric nurse who is believed to have poisoned roughly a dozen babies under her care. Jones poisoned children in order to look heroic by saving them. Trouble is, she kind of sucked at saving the babies—and many of them died. Her real death count may be as high as 50. While she is not known to have kidnapped any writers, the similarities between her crimes and those of Stephen King’s anti-heroine are undeniable.
Lizzie Borden is probably the most famous female serial killer of all time—despite the fact her body count of two doesn’t technically qualify her as such. Elizabeth Montgomery, AKA the chick from Bewitched, played Lizzie in a reasonably accurate biopic in 1975. Christina Ricci played her in a far worse movie (with an abysmally misplaced soundtrack) in 2014. What we do know about Lizzie is she killed her father with seven whacks and step-mother with eleven. Why they didn’t work those numbers into the famous rhyme, I’ll never know. Lizzie was acquitted at trial, and went on to cavort with the theatre crowd until her death in 1927.
Marie Delphine LaLaurie is a name that came to prominence in recent years—largely because of Kathy Bates incredible portrayal of her on American Horror Story: Coven. In real life, LaLaurie was accused of torturing, dismembering, and otherwise tormenting scores of slaves—so much so she was actually arrested despite her high-society status. Keep in mind sexually assaulting, beating, whipping, and otherwise tormenting slaves was either legal or punished with a fine. Circumstances surrounding Delphine’s death are hazy. What’s known is she died a free woman and rumors of her resurrection by witches were greatly exaggerated.
Aileen Wournos became a household name mainly because of the film Monster, where the beautiful Charlize Theron played the murderous prostitute. A true female serial killer, Wournos endured a childhood of abuse and molestation before taking her rage out on at least six of her unfortunate johns. Theron’s portrayal of Wournos is a sympathetic one—suggesting her being attacked by a client left her with severe PTSD that led her to think she was defending herself as she committed her crimes. Wournos was convicted of six murders and executed by lethal injection in 2002.