We have all heard of killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. They are the ones they caught, the ones whose stories came out after they were apprehended and the ones who we watched get sentenced for their crimes.
But what about the unsolved serial murders, the ones where we’ll probably never know who the killers were and the ones that will forever remain a mystery? There is an element of frustration with all of these unsolved serial murders. But that’s also part of the fascination and the intrigue, and in this guide we’ll look at the biggest and most fascinating.
The Zodiac Killer
- Area: San Francisco
- Murders: 5 Confirmed; More Estimated
- Years Active: 1960s, 1970s
There are many reasons why the legends of serial killers endure. From the ones who got there first, to the ones who were in the “right place at the right time” and the ones who do unspeakable things (see Worst Serial Killers). But if there is anything that can ensure the legacy of a killer it’s the fact that no one knows who they are.
The Zodiac Killer is one of most famous cases of unsolved serial murders in the history of the United States. He is a killer that spread fear into the hearts of the communities he terrorized and has draped a shroud of uncertainty over it ever since.
To read more about this case, take a look at our article on Who Was the Zodiac Killer?
Jack the Ripper
- Area: Whitechapel, London
- Murders: 5 Canonical
- Years Active: 1888 to 1891
You probably knew that Jack the Ripper would make it onto this list. We actually thought about omitting him because it’s a story that everyone knows already. In fact, many of you will probably skip this. But you can’t ignore the fact that this is one of the most famous unsolved serial murder cases in history.
There are many interesting theories out there linking him to everyone from the British royal family to American serial killer H. H. Holmes. Every new story is released to sell a new book or to launch a new TV program. The truth is, we’ll probably never know who Jack the Ripper really was.
Jack the Stripper
- Area: Whitechapel, London
- Murders: 8 Estimated
- Years Active: 1964 to 1965
While Jack the Ripper might have been an obvious inclusion, Jack the Stripper, also known as the Hammersmith Nude Murderer, is one that many of you won’t have heard of. He also targeted a poor area of London and like his namesake his reign was short, brutal, and all about prostitutes.
He was never caught, but there were no shortage of suspects. They included a 57 year old caretaker who plead guilty to one of the murders and then retracted his confession at a crucial time; a Scottish security guard by the name of Mungo Ireland; and a light-heavyweight boxer by the name of Freddie Mills.
Many names have been dragged through the mud, as so often happens, and as yet no one has been able to say definitively who Jack the Stripper was. See more on our British Serial Killers guide.
Long Island Killer
- Area: Long Island, New York
- Murders: 10 to 17
- Years Active: 1996 to Unknown
Long Island is not exactly known for its serial killers and it’s far from a crime riddled region. You won’t find many notorious serial killers here, but there is a major unsolved serial murder case that has hung over this area for many years.
It began in 2010 when the remains of 4 sex workers were found. All of them were thought to have offered their services on Craigslist, where it is believed the killer found them. More bodies would later be discovered, some of which had been missing since 1996. This implies that the killer, if indeed it was the work of a single person, had been committing these vile acts and getting away with them for over 15 years.
Deserving of an inclusion on any top list of unsolved serial murders, this is a case that is not yet cold and could still be solved in the near future. The problem is, police don’t have a great deal of evidence to work with.
Highway of Tears
- Area: British Colombia, Canada
- Murders: 16+
- Years Active: 1969 Onwards
This is one of those serial killers that might not actually be a serial killer, but a gang or even multiple serial killers operating at different times. That’s because these murders are all along a single stretch of highway, with no surviving witness, composite drawing, major MO, coded message or any other major defining factor that points to the work of one serial killer.
It involves a stretch of highway where bodies of women have been dumped, beginning in 1969 and happening as recently as 2006. Many think it is the work of a single serial killer, but it’s a bit of a stretch. It does make for an intriguing story though and one that no one has been able to get to the bottom of as of yet.
The Phantom (Texarkana Moonlight Murders)
- Area: Texarkana, Texas
- Murders: 5
- Years Active: 1946
This is a story that inspired the film The Town that Dreaded Sundown, which is a semi-biographical film. The story began in 1946 in Texarkana. Over a period of several months, 5 people were killed and 3 more were injured after being violently attacked in their homes.
One of the most famous unsolved serial murders in the United States, it was shocking in both the brutality of the attacks, the fear that it spread, the impact that it had on the community and the haste at which the attacks stopped. There were descriptions of the attacker, but these didn’t lead to an arrest. Instead, they actually served to spread more fear, as they described a tall, strong man who wore a white mask.
There were a few suspects, including one who was arrested is 1947 for car theft, only to be imprisoned for the next couple decades. One of the most compelling Phantom suspects is the Zodiac Killer, who was apparently finding his feet as a serial murderer.
We’ll probably never find out the truth, but this is definitely one of the more enduring of all unsolved serial murders in the United States.
- Area: Washington D.C.
- Murders: 6
- Years Active: 1971 to 1972
Six African American girls, all aged between 10 and 18, went missing after running errands for their families. They were all found dead—raped, murdered and then callously discarded. One of the victims carried a note that referred to the killer by the moniker “Freeway Killer” and declared—with mistakes that seem to be common of serial killer letters— that the killer had a distaste for people, “especially women”.
The police believe that this note was written by the victim after being dictated by the killer. At the end of the note the killer promised to “admit the others” if the police caught him. But he seemed to stop after one more murder and the police would never arrest anyone for the Freeway Killer murders.