Top 10 Serial Killers with the Worst Parents

Serial killers are chilling figures - their acts are incomprehensible. Yet, even the most monstrous individuals were once vulnerable children. Can a horrific childhood forge a cold-blooded killer?

You've likely heard of notorious figures like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. But how do seemingly "normal" people reach such a point of disturbing violence? In some cases, the roots of their atrocities can be traced back to utterly traumatic upbringings. Abuse, abandonment, and deep psychological scars played roles in molding them.
The Top Ten
1 Ed Gein Ed Gein's mother, Augusta Gein, was a fervent Lutheran who preached to her sons about the immorality of the world and the evils of women, deeply influencing Ed's perceptions. His father, George Gein, was an alcoholic and largely ineffectual, contributing little to the family's income or stability. The family dynamic was dominated by Augusta's religious fanaticism and isolationist tendencies, creating a repressive and unhealthy environment for raising children.
2 Aileen Wuornos Aileen Wuornos's mother, Diane Wuornos, married at a young age and quickly had two children, of whom Aileen was the younger. Diane abandoned Aileen and her brother when Aileen was just four years old, leaving them to be raised by their grandparents. Aileen's father, Leo Dale Pittman, was never a part of her life, as he was incarcerated and later died by suicide, leaving a legacy of tumult and instability that shadowed Aileen's upbringing.
3 Ottis Toole Ottis Toole's mother was abusive and neglectful, contributing to his troubled childhood and development. His father was largely absent from his life, leaving Ottis to face the consequences of a dysfunctional family environment on his own. The lack of a stable, nurturing home life played a significant role in shaping Ottis's later behaviors and criminal activities.
4 Henry Lee Lucas Henry Lee Lucas's mother, Viola, was a sex worker who often forced him to watch her work and subjected him to physical and emotional abuse. His father, Anderson Lucas, was disabled and an alcoholic, providing little support or stability in the household. This toxic family environment contributed to Henry's distorted view of relationships and violence from a very young age.
5 Jeffrey Dahmer Jeffrey Dahmer's parents, Lionel and Joyce Dahmer, were described as having a troubled marriage that ultimately ended in divorce. Although not abusive, the emotional neglect and lack of attention Jeffrey experienced during his formative years contributed to his isolation and internal turmoil. Lionel Dahmer was a chemist, which inadvertently exposed Jeffrey to the interests that would later become part of his crimes, while Joyce struggled with mental health issues, adding to the family's strained dynamics.
6 Richard Chase Richard Chase's parents were strict and often disciplined him harshly, contributing to his sense of isolation and fear. His father was a strict disciplinarian, and his mother was overprotective, creating a conflicting environment that did not offer stability or understanding. The lack of emotional support and understanding within the family likely contributed to Richard's developing psychopathology.
7 Edmund Kemper Edmund Kemper's mother, Clarnell Elizabeth Kemper, was critical and domineering, often belittling Edmund for his size and mocking his masculinity. His father, Edmund Emil Kemper II, left the family when Edmund was a young boy, leading to further feelings of abandonment and resentment. The complex and troubled relationship with his mother would later become a central motive in Edmund's crimes.
8 Hadden Clark Hadden Clark's upbringing was marked by extreme dysfunction within his family, with both parents contributing to a chaotic home environment. His father was an alcoholic, and his mother was described as domineering and possibly mentally unstable, which led to a lack of stable, nurturing care. This tumultuous family life played a critical role in shaping Hadden's later behavior and criminal activities.
9 John Wayne Gacy John Wayne Gacy's father, John Stanley Gacy, was an abusive alcoholic who physically and verbally abused John throughout his childhood, often demeaning his masculinity. His mother, Marion Elaine Robinson, was a passive figure who did little to intervene in the abuse, though she was known to be caring towards her son. This abusive and complex family relationship contributed to Gacy's distorted perceptions of himself and others, playing a role in his development into a serial killer.
10 Myra Hindley Myra Hindley's father, Bob Hindley, was a strict disciplinarian who encouraged toughness in his daughter, while her mother, Nellie Hindley, was overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood and distanced herself emotionally from Myra. The family dynamic was further complicated by Myra's relocation to live with her grandmother, which affected her sense of stability and belonging. These early experiences contributed to Myra's susceptibility to influence and her eventual participation in criminal acts.
The Contenders
11 Luis Garavito Luis Alfredo Garavito Cubillos, also known as La Bestia or Tribilín is a Colombian rapist and serial killer. In 1999, he admitted to the rape, torture and murder of 138 children and teenagers.
12 Charles Manson Charles Milles Manson (né Maddox; November 12, 1934 – November 19, 2017) was an American criminal, cult leader, and musician who led the Manson Family, a cult based in California, in the late 1960s. Some of the members committed a series of nine murders at four locations in July and August 1969... read more
13 Ted Bundy Theodore Robert Bundy was an American serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, and necrophiliac who assaulted and murdered numerous young women and girls during the 1970s and possibly earlier. He was born on November 24th, 1946, and died via the electric chair on January 24th, 1989. He was born illegitimately,... read more
14 Richard Ramirez Ricardo Leyva Muñoz Ramírez, known as Richard Ramirez, widely known as the Night Stalker, was an American serial killer, rapist, and burglar.

Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas, on February 29, 1960, the youngest of Julian and Mercedes Ramirez's five children. His father, a Mexican national... read more
15 Albert Fish Hamilton Howard "Albert" Fish was an American serial killer and cannibal. He was also known as the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria, the Brooklyn Vampire, the Moon Maniac, and The Boogey Man. In March of 1935, he was convicted and tried of first degree murder, and sentenced to death by electrocution... read more
16 Carl Eugene Watts Carl Eugene Watts, also known by his nickname Coral, was an American serial killer dubbed "The Sunday Morning Slasher".
17 Pedro Lopez Pedro Alonso López is a Colombian serial killer, who was sentenced for killing 110 girls, but who claims to have raped and killed more than 300 girls across Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and potentially other countries.
18 Richard Kuklinski
19 Donald Henry Gaskins
20 Fritz Haarmann Friedrich Heinrich Karl "Fritz" Haarmann (25 October 1879 - 15 April 1925) was a German serial killer, known as the Butcher of Hanover, the Vampire of Hanover and the Wolf Man, who committed the sexual assault, murder, mutilation and dismemberment of at least twenty-four young men and boys between 1918... read more
21 Gordon Stewart Northcott
22 Henry Brisbon Jr.
23 David Berkowitz David Richard Berkowitz, also known as the Son of Sam and the .44 Caliber Killer, is an American serial killer convicted of a series of shooting attacks that began in New York City in the summer of 1976, perpetrated with a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver.
24 Marc Lepine
25 Fred West
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