Serial killers have been a part of society as far back as we can remember. While their methods might have changed according to time and place, their images have remained somewhat constant over time, thanks, no doubt, to the way they have been portrayed by the media. Although our news sources have had to paint visions of what they assume killers were like with vague evidence, other murderers have created a much more literal picture for the news forces. Over the course of time, a number of serial killers have taken control of the press, using their way with words to manipulate their reportage. These letter writing murderers have gone down in history, documenting their own habits at every turn.
- The Zodiac Killer
Perhaps one of the most notorious killers to ever have lived, the Zodiac killer sparked the attention of an entire nation due to their constant self-reportage. Officially credited with five killings in the San Francisco Bay area, Zodiac confessed to have murdered as many as 20 individuals in the letters they sent to the San Francisco Chronicle and Vallejo Times. In one now famous letter, the killer even went so far as to create their own cipher, stating that they contained essential information on the whereabouts of a number of missing bodies.
- Donald Harvey
An American hospital worker, Donald Harvey is known to have killed between 37 and 87 people in his work. Unlike other serial killers, Harvey didn’t just stick to one mode of killing and over the years, was known to have turned to overdosing, tampering with equipment and dosing patients with HIV and hepatitis. The killers earned himself the name “The Angel of Death” and came to the public’s attention during his imprisonment. While behind bars, Harvey penned a number of personal letters to those who took an interest in him, sharing his morbid humor.
- H. H. Holmes
Also known as Herman Webster Mudgett, Dr. H. H. Holmes wanted everyone to know exactly what heinous acts he had carried out in his life. In the late 1800s, Holmes sent in a series of letters to newspaper, The Inquirer, admitting to killing 27 people. As if that wasn’t enough, Holmes claimed that, right before he did away with his victims, he made them write letters to their friends and families so that they wouldn’t question their sudden disappearance. Holmes listed who he had killed, admitting that some were pregnant women, a fact for which he felt remorseful.
- Albert Fish
One of the most notorious serial killers to go down in history, Albert Fish claimed himself as a cannibal, stating that he had eaten over 100 children in his lifetime. Having first committed his crimes in 1910, Fish waited more than 20 years before he told the press about it, going to heinous extremes when he did so. Penning an anonymous letter to his first victim’s parents, Fish listed how he killed their daughter and went on to become a cannibal. Relishing his past actions, Fish went on to describe some of the most gruesome details about the act, torturing the girl’s parents well after her death.
- Jack the Ripper
Perhaps the most famous serial killer ever to have lived, Jack the Ripper still sparks the interests of historians and experts. Stalking the streets of London in 1888, Jack the Ripper is believed to have been responsible for some of the most outlandish murders ever undertaken, a fact that he revelled in with his letters to the press. During his killing spree, he sent a series of letters to the press, telling his tale with the use of red ink. While the letters were analyzed, the killer was never caught and even to this day, he continues to haunt researchers of the subject.