All of you know who Jack the Ripper is. Some of you know that the name comes from a letter to the police signed “Jack the Ripper” by the purported killer. But why “ripper”?
A ripper is “a tool that is used to tear or break something,” and the victims were actually torn open. After Jack’s killings, however, “ripper” came to mean “a murderer who mutilates victims’ bodies.” You can thank the media for that.
Just like “gate” is added to any political scandal, the press now calls any killer who is bloody enough a ripper. It makes for a great headline because of the fear the word “ripper” conjures in the public’s mind. If the victims are prostitutes, so much the better.
Over the last 100 years, the press has invoked “ripper” numerous times. But many of these rippers killed more than Jack did—some a lot more. Here is a list of serial killers more deadly than Jack with his five confirmed murders.
10 Ypsilanti Ripper
Before Ted Bundy slaughtered coeds in the 1970s, the young and handsome John Norman Collins raped, tortured, and mutilated at least seven coeds in the late 1960s in Ypsilanti, Michigan, home of Eastern Michigan University.
The first victim was 19-year-old Mary Fleszar whose badly decomposed body was found on August 7, 1967. She had been stabbed to death, and her feet and fingers had been cut off. The police thought that this was an isolated incident until months later when another body and then another and another were found.
In total, Collins killed seven girls. All had been (or were thought to have been) raped and brutally tortured. None had been murdered where their bodies were found, a fact that made it hard for the police to gather evidence other than that found on the women. Most had been wearing dangling earrings, were menstruating, and had tree branches inserted into their vaginas.
By July 1969, the public was panicked and demanding results from local and state authorities. Not only did the police bring in a psychic, they used a mannequin from J.C. Penney in an attempt to trap the killer. The police thought that he would return several times to the bodies he had dumped.
When his last victim, Karen Sue Beineman, was discovered in a wooded area, the police did not release the information. Instead, they replaced her body with a mannequin and staked out the area, waiting for someone to approach. Finally, around midnight on July 26, a young man approached the ravine in a pouring rain. But when he discovered the deception, he ran and the detectives lost him.
Ultimately, it was Collins’s state trooper uncle, with whom Collins had been staying, who broke the case. When the uncle returned from an out-of-town trip, he found blood in his basement and told the detectives. Later, it was determined to be Beineman’s. Ultimately, Collins was convicted of her murder and received a sentence of life without parole, which he is still serving.
9 Gainesville Ripper
In August 1990, a killer was terrorizing Gainesville, Florida, home of the University of Florida. In a matter of days, Daniel Harold Rolling raped and murdered five students. Panicked parents pulled their children out of school by the thousands. Students huddled together in each other’s apartments with all the lights on. Gun sales went up along with sales of padlocks and Mace.
It started with two college roommates, Sonja Larson, 18, and Christina Powell, 17. On August 24, Rolling broke into their apartment where they were sleeping. He stabbed Larson to death first. Then he bound Powell, raped her, and stabbed her multiple times. Afterward, he posed both bodies in sexually provocative positions.
The next night, Rolling ambushed Christa Hoyt, 18, in her apartment. He raped her, cut off her head, and posed it on a shelf facing the body. Then he sliced off her nipples and slit her body open.
Two days later, he stabbed to death Manny Taboada, a burly 23-year-old-man, after a struggle in the man’s apartment. The fight awoke Taboada’s roommate, Tracy Paules, 23, who barricaded herself in her bedroom. When Rolling burst into her room covered in blood and carrying a large knife, she said, “You’re the one, aren’t you?” He said, “Yeah, I’m the one.” He then stripped, bound, raped, and stabbed her.
Rolling left Gainesville soon after and was later arrested for other charges. Finally, in early 1993 while in jail, he confessed to the Gainesville murders. Later charges would be brought against him for the 1989 murders of a family of three in Shreveport, Louisiana, Rolling’s hometown. He was executed for the Florida slayings on October 25, 2006.
The Gainesville Ripper story served as inspiration for the Wes Craven–directed 1996 slasher film Scream.
8 French Ripper
“The crimes of Joseph Vacher have surpassed in number and atrocity those of the Whitechapel murderer known as ‘Jack-the-Ripper,’ ” wrote The New York Times on December 31, 1898. The newspaper was reporting the guillotining of the French Ripper following his conviction for murder. The French Ripper’s crimes had been widely reported on both sides of the Atlantic.
The trial had been a media circus. Crowds outside the courtroom had shouted, “Death to Vacher,” while inside, journalists swarmed to report Vacher’s antics. He had admitted to murdering, raping, disemboweling, and/or sodomizing five shepherd boys, five shepherd girls, and one woman. He was dubbed the “Killer of Little Shepherds” by the French press. Authorities believed that the actual number of victims might have been as high as 27.
Vacher claimed insanity as a defense, and he certainly looked the part. Due to an unsuccessful suicide attempt years earlier, Vacher’s face was paralyzed and scarred on one side. His ear oozed pus. Ultimately, his insanity defense was rejected and he was sentenced to death.
7 Chinese Jack The Ripper
On August 26, 2016, Chinese authorities arrested Gao Chengyong, 52, an unassuming grocer, and charged him with the murders of 11 women and girls. They had been searching for him for decades.
Between 1988 and 2002, Gao stalked single women dressed in red. He raped, murdered, and mutilated his victims, cutting off the breasts or genitals of several of them. One was an eight-year-old girl. No one knows why the killing stopped in 2002.
The case had been cold for years until the police caught a break. Gao’s uncle had been arrested, and a DNA sample had been taken. His DNA showed that he was related to the killer, whose DNA that had been collected over the years. This led police to Gao, who confessed to the murders. No reason for his heinous crimes has been given.
6 Craigslist Ripper
“They’re trying to kill me!” That is what Shannan Gilbert told a 911 operator the night of May 1, 2010. Gilbert was a prostitute who used Craigslist to find clients. Police searched for her but found nothing until December 2010.
An officer with his K9 partner was on Gilgo Beach, Long Island, when the officer discovered the remains of a woman wrapped in a burlap bag. Gilbert had been located—except it was not her.
It was the remains of another prostitute who had used Craigslist to set up dates. Over the course of a few days, three more bodies of prostitutes were found at Gilgo Beach. All were wrapped in burlap. All had used Craigslist. None of them was Gilbert.
She was not found until December 2011. In that intervening year, six more bodies were found, including a skull that matched severed legs that had washed up on Fire Island, New York, 15 years earlier. The remains of a mother and a child, dumped in separate locations, were discovered. A male dressed in women’s clothing was found, too.
Since then, more bodies, some dismembered, have been found in and around Gilgo Beach. No arrests have been made. The Craigslist Ripper is still out there.
5 Yorkshire Ripper
From 1975 until he was caught in 1981, Peter Sutcliffe murdered 13 women and badly injured seven more in Yorkshire, England. Many, but not all, were prostitutes. Most had been hit in the head with a ball-peen hammer and then stabbed to death with either a screwdriver or a knife.
The police investigation of the murders was roundly criticized at the time for its ineptitude. They had interviewed Sutcliffe nine times during the killing spree but still had not connected him to the slayings. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher threatened to take over the investigation herself if progress was not made.
Police finally arrested Sutcliffe in 1981 for a minor offense but later found a knife, hammer, and rope near the location where he had been stopped. They also found a knife hidden in the toilet tank of the restroom he had used at the police station.
One thing about the Yorkshire Ripper that was only revealed in 2002: When he was strip-searched by the police, he was wearing a “kill suit.” He had on an inverted V-neck sweater with his legs through the arms, the elbow patches over his knees, and his genitals exposed by the V-neck. It was thought that the sweater gave padding and protection to his knees when he knelt over his dead victims to gratify himself.
4 Joel The Ripper
No tag on a truck. That is what stopped Joel Rifkin’s four-year slaughter of New York City prostitutes. On June 28, 1993, a trooper noticed a Mazda truck without license plates. He tried to stop the vehicle, but it sped off, eventually crashing into a pole. The trooper had no idea that the rotting corpse of 22-year-old Tiffany Bresciani, the 17th and last victim of Joel the Ripper, was in the bed of the truck.
Rifkin confessed to 17 murders in detail. He would pick up prostitutes, pay them for sex, and strangle them. He dismembered his first victim with an X-Acto knife and disposed of her various body parts in different locations. Her head was hidden in a paint can that he put in the woods of a golf course.
After his confession, police obtained a warrant to search his house. Inside, they found jewelry, driver’s licenses, undergarments, and other “trophies” belonging to his victims. They also discovered newspaper clippings about other serial killers.
In the shed, they found a wheelbarrow with blood in it and a chainsaw with human flesh on it. Rifkin was convicted for murder and sentenced to 203 years in prison. He is eligible for parole in 2197.
Even after he was arrested, Joel the Ripper caused the death of one more person. The woman found dead in the bed of his truck was the girlfriend of front man Dave “Insurgent” Rubenstein of the seminal hardcore punk band Reagan Youth. She had turned tricks to support their heroin addictions. Rubenstein last saw his girlfriend the night she got into Rifkin’s car. Days after her body was discovered, Rubenstein committed suicide.
3 Balashikha Ripper
From 1988 to 1993, Sergei Ryakhovsky killed 19 people. The attacks were vicious. He strangled or stabbed his victims, had sex with their corpses, and mutilated their bodies, mostly focusing his knife on their genital areas. He was called “The Hippopotamus” because of his huge size: nearly 198 centimeters (6’6″) tall, thick-necked, and weighing over 127 kilograms (280 lb).
Ryakhovsky claimed to have been compelled to rid the world of homosexuals and prostitutes. However, most of his victims were neither, with many being elderly women. During his trial, he tried to present himself as a victim of both childhood trauma and the failings of the Soviet education system. The jury, however, did not buy it and convicted him of murder in 1995.
Upon being given a death sentence by firing squad, Ryakhavosky said, “I’ll be back.” His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. He died in 2005 of tuberculosis.
2 Atlanta Ripper
From 1911 to 1915, at least 20 young black or mixed-race women were found with their throats slashed. One had been disemboweled and nearly decapitated. She also had her heart cut out. The Atlanta press proclaimed that another Jack the Ripper was stalking the streets.
On July 1, 1911, a worried Emma Lou Sharpe went searching for her mother because she had not arrived home as expected. A strange man, whom Emma Lou described as “tall, black, broad-shouldered and wearing a broad-brimmed black hat,” approached her on the street and said, “How do you feel this evening?”
When she tried to move past him, he stabbed her in the back. She survived the attack. However, her mother had not survived her own encounter with the Atlanta Ripper. She was found nearly decapitated.
The police arrested six different men for the murders, but none was the killer. And then in 1915, the murders stopped as mysteriously as they had begun. The case remains unsolved. These were Atlanta’s worst serial killings until Wayne Williams killed nearly 30 children between 1979 and 1981.
1 Rostov Ripper
More Than 52 Victims
Compared to the Rostov Ripper, Jack was an amateur. Between 1978 and 1990, Andrei Chikatilo killed 21 boys, 14 girls, and 17 women. The judge at his trial said, “[Chikatilo] tortured his victims while they were alive by biting out their tongues, tearing away their sexual organs, and cutting their bellies open.”
Chikatilo’s first sexual experience involved attacking a teenage girl. But the encounter ended with his inability to perform, for which he was ridiculed. From that point forward, sex and violence were fused together for him. He could only be satisfied sexually when he was stabbing and mutilating his victims.
A hallmark of the Rostov Ripper was removing his victims’ eyes entirely or stabbing and slicing them. Chikatilo said he did this because of the lore that the murdered keep an imprint of their killer’s face on their eyes.
On February 14, 1994, he was executed by a single bullet to the head behind his right ear.
I am a public defender with an English degree from Savannah, Georgia, who loves any type of list except a to-do one.