With the recent crime documentary craze, we here at History Buff know that the Robert Dursts and Charles Mansons of the world aren't the only mass murderers worthy of media attention. Here are five serial killers from antiquity and beyond worthy of their own Netflix or HBO mini-docs.
1. Locusta, Nero's personal poisoner
Meet Locusta, the personal poisoner of the Julio-Claudian imperial family of ancient Rome. Agrippina, Nero's mother, decided to poisoner her uncle-husband, Claudius, in order to put her son on the throne. She chose Locusta, "who had lately been condemned for poisoning, and had long been retained as one of the tools of despotism," to concoct the poison and have Claudius's eunuch drop it in his food.
A creepy baby Britannicus, whom Locusta allegedly killed. Image via Gautier Poupeau/Wikimedia Commons.
Later, Nero used Locusta for jobs of his own, attempting to bump off his stepbrother/cousin, Claudius's son and heir, Britannicus, with her help. This time, the potion she employed worked too slowly for the emperor, so Nero "beat her with his own hand, charging her with administering an antidote instead of poison." Eventually, she got the concoction just right, allegedly killing Britannicus, and was rewarded. Nero "gave Locusta pardon, and rewarded her with a great estate in land, placing some disciples with her, to be instructed in her trade." A few decades later, Locusta was executed under the reign of the emperor Galba.
2. Zu Shenatir, who was the Evil Witch from "Hansel and Gretel," but in ancient Yemen
In fifth-century Yemen, there was an awful human being named Zu Shenatir. He seduced poor, hungry young boys into coming into his house by offering them food and money; then, he sexually assaulted them and tossed them out the window. This terrible man eventually got a taste of his own medicine when one of his victims threw him out the window to his death. Truly epic defenestration!
3. Gilles de Rais, Joan of Arc's frenemy
At first glance, Breton nobleman Gilles Rais seemed like a typical fifteenth-century knight: lieutenant to Joan of Arc, spending his money on decorating his houses, and marrying rich. But there was much more to this evil man than met the eye: he was actually a mass murderer, torturing and killing more than 140 children. de Rais was a Satanist, kidnapping kids from local villages and brutally assaulting them in absolutely awful rituals that survive in court records.
de Rais strikes a pose. Image via History.com.
4. Elizabeth Báthory, who took baths in virgin blood
Four hundred years ago, a Slovakian-Hungarian countess terrorized the young female population of her territories. Dubbed "the Blood Countess," she supposedly took baths in her virgin victims' blood to keep her skin young and fresh. In the first decade of the 1600s, rumors started milling about peasant women going missing in her lands (sound familiar?), but it wasn't until 1609, when noblewomen went AWOL, that trouble started brewing for Countess Báthory.
By the time the courts got to her, Elizabeth claimed to have killed over 600 women. Some said she tore skin off her victims before branding them with hot irons or tossing them into a river. Eventually, the "female Dracula" was convicted and imprisoned for the rest of her life.
5. Lewis Hutchinson, the "Mad Doctor of Edinburgh Castle"
A Scottish-born doctor named Lewis Hutchinson moved to Jamaica in the eighteenth century...and became that island's first serial killer in the process. In the 1760s and 1770s, he allegedly killed around 40 people, travelers who passed by his estate. Hung in 1773, Hutchinson left money behind for an epitaph on his fancy tombstone: "Their sentence, pride and malice, I defy/Despise their power, and like a Roman, die."
Feature image via Pokeme.