If you have the IQ of a genius, that doesn’t mean you won’t be a criminal. The people on this list know that all too well, as they used their powerful minds for something other than academic success, namely cold-blooded murder. By the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, an IQ of 130 to 144 is considered “gifted,” and only 2.3 percent of test-takers have hit such a score. Less than one percent hit an IQ score of 145 to 160, which is at genius level and close to the same mental performance as Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein.
The following murderers were all cunning and manipulative. They trapped their victims both mentally and physically, leaving a trail of bloody clues for the police to piece together. Was it their high intellect that turned such dark urges into a hobby? Or were they simply so smart that they thought they’d never be caught? Either way, a lot of innocent lives were lost at the hands of these monsters.
10 John Christie
John Christie killed at least eight women, including his own wife, during the 1940s and 1950s. In his younger years, he was gifted in mathematics, and it was discovered he had an IQ of 128.
Christie posed as a backstreet abortionist. Young and vulnerable women came to him with their unwanted pregnancies, but they never got to leave. He would knock them out with cooking gas before strangling them to death. Christie would store the bodies of his victims at his home either in the garden, stashed underneath the floorboards, or in his hidden kitchen alcove at 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London. The house of horrors has since been demolished, but the sinister crimes that took place there are not forgotten.
Most notably, in 1948, Beryl Evans, her husband Timothy Evans, and their one-year-old daughter Geraldine all moved into the flat above Christie. One year later, he killed both the mother and her daughter and then framed the husband for the murders. Aged just 24 years old, Evans was forced into giving a false confession, and he was executed. This miscarriage of justice helped lead to the 1965 suspension of capital punishment for murder in the United Kingdom.
9 Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy is one of the most feared and recognizable serial killers of all time. During the 1970s, he traveled between seven states, taking the lives of innocent young women and girls. Although he spent a long time denying his crimes, he later confessed to 30 homicides.
He graduated with honors as a psychology major from the University of Washington, and in early 1973, he was accepted into the University of Utah based on letters of recommendation from several professors. Bundy’s IQ was tested at 136, but he did not use his brains for good. Instead, he manipulated his victims by faking injuries or impersonating police officers. Even behind bars, he was still able to escape prison twice.
Bundy’s own lawyer labeled him “the very definition of heartless evil.” He was sentenced to death and died on the electric chair in 1989. Now, psychology majors will find themselves studying his behavioral patterns and the crimes that shocked the country.
8 Lawrence Bittaker
Lawrence Bittaker was one half of the serial killer duo known as the Toolbox Killers. Alongside his accomplice Roy Norris, the pair murdered five victims after subjecting them to a painful torture involving hand tools. They only targeted and kidnapped teenage girls, who they would hide in their blacked out van called the “Murder Mack.”
Bittaker had an IQ of 138 but struggled to concentrate in school. At age 17, he dropped out of high school and turned to petty crime to get his thrills. While serving a sentence at California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, he met Norris, who was serving time for an assault with a deadly weapon.
A psychologist’s evaluation found that Bittaker was a borderline psychotic and that Norris had a “severe schizoid personality.” Despite these factors, they both made parole and were able to launch their evil plans. Their killing spree lasted three months over the summer of 1979 before they were caught. Now, both killers remain on death row in separate prisons in California.
7 Jeffrey Dahmer
Jeffrey Dahmer was also known as “the Milwaukee Cannibal” after he butchered 17 men and boys. His IQ of 145 places him in the top two percent of the population, yet this is little-known, as he is remembered for drilling holes in the heads of his victims in an attempt to turn them into his own “zombies.” From a young age, Dahmer had a fascination with animals; he collected roadkill and developed a fixation for playing with the bones.
In 1978, Dahmer enrolled at Ohio State University with the intention to major in business. Due to his persistent alcohol abuse, he dropped out after just three months and joined the US Army, training as a medical specialist. It wasn’t long before Dahmer’s dark side emerged again. When two soldiers claimed they were attacked by Dahmer, he received an honorable discharge.
Continuous alcohol abuse allowed Dahmer’s mental health to deteriorate further, and his killing spree continued over the next decade. When one victim managed to escape, he ran to police officers, who visited Dahmer’s apartment. There, they discovered human remains and Polaroids of the dismembered victims. The chief medical examiner later said, “It was more like dismantling someone’s museum than an actual crime scene.”
Dahmer was sentenced to life in prison after giving a full confession. In 1994, he was killed behind bars by another inmate, who bludgeoned him to death with a 51-centimeter (20 in) iron bar.
6 Edmund Kemper
Edmund “Ed” Kemper, also known as “the Co-Ed Butcher,” claimed the lives of ten victims, including his own mother and grandparents. Standing 206 centimeters (6’9″) tall, weighing over 113 kilograms (250 lb), and possessing an IQ of 145, he could overpower his victims both mentally and physically. From an early age, Kemper turned his early frustrations to animals; he stabbed one of the family cats and buried another alive.
Kemper’s mother sent him to live with his paternal grandparents, hoping this would curb his violent tendencies—she could not have been more wrong. At 15 years old, Kemper shot his grandmother following an argument then turned the gun on his grandfather when he came home. He was sent to Atascadero State Mental Hospital and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Due to his high IQ, Kemper was able to manipulate mental health professionals into an early release. Between May 1972 and February 1973, Kemper murdered at least six female hitchhikers. One of his final victims was his own mother, who he battered to death with a hammer and then decapitated. He then invited his mother’s friend over and strangled her. The next day, Kemper called the police and confessed to his crimes.
5 Andrew Cunanan
On July 15, 1997, spree killer Andrew Cunanan shot and killed fashion designer Gianni Versace on the front steps of his Miami Beach mansion. He had an IQ of 147 and once had a promising childhood; he’d memorized a whole set of encyclopedias by the time he was ten years old. Cunanan was also a prolific liar. He often claimed his father was an Israeli millionaire, and he displayed early signs of antisocial personality disorder.
To fund the lavish lifestyle he craved, Cunanan befriended wealthy, older men. Then he finally struck it lucky when he moved in with millionaire Norman Blachford, who treated him to luxury cars and vacations in Southern France. When Blachford had finally had enough, Cunanan was thrown out. Criminal profilers later said this was a kick to his ego, since “[his] self-worth was tied to the finer things in life, what [people] could do for him.”
His downward spiral led to the murder of at least five people, including Chicago tycoon Lee Miglin and Gianni Versace. In June 1997, Cunanan became the 449th fugitive to be listed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. In July, his body was discovered in a Miami Beach houseboat. He’d shot himself in the head at age 27.
4 Carroll Cole
Carroll Cole is a twisted serial killer who took the lives of at least 15 women and one boy between 1948 and 1980. He was executed for his crimes, but with an IQ of 152, his fate could have been much different. Cole was bullied badly as a child; his cruel mother dressed him as a girl, and his school friends would taunt him for his “girl’s name.” Cole’s first victim was a classmate who he drowned in a lake, but the crime went unnoticed, as it was considered an accident.
Cole then turned to minor theft before he began more taking part in more sinister crimes. In 1960, he attacked a couple in a car and confessed to the police that he was obsessed with fantasies that involved strangling women. Cole spent time in many mental institutions and was diagnosed with an antisocial sociopath personality, yet just three years later, he was regarded fit for release.
Moving between states, his killing spree really took off. Cole claimed that he had murdered at least 14 women over nine years, although the actual victim count remains unknown, as he was usually drunk at the time of the murders, so he couldn’t remember them all. In 1985, he was executed by lethal injection at Nevada State Prison.
3 Charlene Gallego
Serial killer Charlene Gallego turned from a shy, intelligent young woman into a cold-blooded killer. She performed well at school thanks to her outstanding IQ of 160. However, after two failed marriages, she fell in love with her future husband Gerald Gallego, and the couple became a deadly duo.
Together, they targeted women who were in their teens and early twenties. The victims were abducted at gunpoint and thrown in the back of the couple’s van. They would be subjected to sexual torture at the hands of Gerald and then killed—either shot or strangled. The total victim count was 11, including an unborn child. Charlene and Gerald would become known as “the Love Slave Killers.”
After a three-state killing spree between 1978 and 1980, the couple was captured after a bystander witnessed an abduction and noted the license plate number. Charlene took a plea deal and was sentenced to only 16 years behind bars, compared to Gerald’s death sentence. Now she lives a new life under the name of Charlene Williams.
Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski was a domestic terrorist, an anarchist, and a mathematical prodigy. He excelled academically from an early age and has a staggering IQ of 167. At just 16 years old, he was accepted into Harvard University and ultimately gained a PhD in mathematics from the University of Michigan. Less than a decade later, he had become an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, but after handing in his resignation, his trail of terrorism was set to begin.
The Unabomber turned his back on modern society and moved to a remote cabin in Lincoln, Montana. Between 1978 and 1995, he killed three people and injured 23 others who worked within modern technology. His manifesto, sent anonymously to the press, was published in The Washington Post and explained that the bombs “were extreme but necessary to attract attention to the erosion of human freedom necessitated by modern technologies requiring large-scale organization.”
When his brother read the letter in the news, he recognized Ted’s style of writing and tipped off the FBI. The Unabomber was finally caught and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
1 Rodney Alcala
Serial killer Rodney Alcala’s IQ has been debated as sitting anywhere between 167 and 170. His five victims were four young women and one girl aged just 12 years old, who he killed between 1977 and 1979. His murder spree stretched between California, New York, Wyoming, and possibly Washington.
Alcala almost got away with the murders until new DNA testing in the early 2000s tied him to four murders. The trial did not end well for him, as he cross-examined himself on the stand, asking questions about the murders in one voice and answering them in another. He was sentenced to death and remains behind bars in California.
Alcala had become known as “the Dating Game Killer” in the media because he appeared on the popular eponymous ABC TV show during his killing spree. Luckily, the woman who ended up winning a date with him backed out because she found him too “creepy.” Speaking with a local newspaper after her appearance on the show, she said, “I started to feel ill. He was acting really creepy. I turned down his offer. I didn’t want to see him again.” That could have been a move which saved her life.
True crime fanatic and lover of lists. Can often be found at parties sharing facts like “Did you know Charles Manson was only 5’2″?” Twitter: @thecheish