History’s First Serial Killer
Prince Liu Pengli, who lived in Ancient China in the 2nd century BC, was a member of the ruling Han Dynasty’s imperial family. He was also the first serial killer in recorded history. In 144 BC, Emperor Jing, Liu Pengli’s cousin, appointed him king of the city of Jidong and the surrounding district. That was bad news for the good people of Jidong, who would be ruled by Pengli for the next 23 years.
Pengli preyed upon his subjects, killing them for the sheer fun of it. He probably would have liked the Ramsey Bolton character from Game of Thrones, because like that fictitious character, Pengli enjoyed hunting human beings for sport. A minimum of 100 people was murdered by Pengli for his amusement, and odds are that the true number of his victims was much higher.
His reign of psychotic terror lasted for over two decades, during which his subjects were too scared to come out of their homes at night. It only came to an end after one of Pengli’s victims finally screwed up the courage to travel to the imperial capital, where he complained to the emperor. Because justice was illusory throughout most of history, Pengli got off light: he was not executed but was simply stripped of his rank and banished.
As described by Han historian Sima Qian: “Liu Pengli was arrogant and cruel, and paid no attention to the etiquette demanded between ruler and subject. In the evenings he used to go out on marauding expeditions with twenty or thirty slaves or young men who were in hiding from the law, murdering people and seizing their belongings for sheer sport. When the affair came to light … it was found he had murdered at least 100 or more persons. Everyone in the kingdom knew about his ways, so that the people were afraid to venture out of their houses at night. The son of one of his victims finally sent a report to the [Han Emperor], and the Han officials requested that he be executed. The emperor could not bear to carry out their recommendation, but made him a commoner and banished him to Shangyong“.