10 Little Known Criminals Who Committed History's Worst Crimes
10 Little Known Criminals Who Committed History’s Worst Crimes

10 Little Known Criminals Who Committed History’s Worst Crimes

Khalid Elhassan - March 5, 2018

10 Little Known Criminals Who Committed History’s Worst Crimes
‘Gilles de Rais, Marechal de France’, by Eloi Firmin Feron, 1835. Wikimedia

Marshal of France, Companion of Joan of Arc, and All Around Monster

Gilles de Montmorency-Laval, Baron de Rais, better known to history as Gilles de Rais (1404 – 1440), was a French aristocrat from Brittany. He was a respected knight, and a national hero who rose to prominence as Joan of Arc’s chief captain and right-hand man. Then his true nature was revealed, and his celebrated career was cut short, along with his head, when it was discovered that, away from the limelight, he was an outright monster.

Gilles’ family, the House of Montmorency, was one of the oldest, most respected, and most distinguished aristocratic families in France. From an early age, Gilles seemed to live up to the high expectations of a scion of such an illustrious clan. By age 15, he had distinguished himself militarily during a series of wars of succession that wracked the Duchy of Brittany. He distinguished himself even more in Anjou, fighting for its duchess against the English in 1427.

By the time Joan of Arc emerged on the scene in 1429 to challenge the English, Gilles de Rais was already one of France’s most celebrated military men, despite his youth. He was assigned to Joan of Arc as one of her guards and fought in several battles at her side. He particularly distinguished himself in her greatest victory, the lifting of the English siege of Orleans. He then accompanied her to Reims for the coronation of King Charles VII, who made Gilles de Rais Marshall of France – a distinction awarded to generals for exceptional achievements.

Gilles had inherited significant landholdings and estates from both his father and maternal grandfather. He married a rich heiress, which matches brought him even more extensive holdings, and made him one of France’s greatest magnates. He retired from the military in 1434, but it soon emerged that he was not as good at managing money as he was at managing men in battle. It did not take him long to dissipate his fabulous wealth with a lavish lifestyle that rivaled that of the king.

Within a year of Gilles’ retirement, he lost most of his lands, and his family secured from the king a decree forbidding him from mortgaging what was left. To raise more cash, Gilles turned to alchemy, hoping to figure out a way to turn base metals into gold. He also turned to Satanism, hoping to gain knowledge, power, and riches, by summoning the devil.

Another thing he turned to was the serial rape, torture, and murder of children. In 1440, an increasingly erratic Gilles got into a dispute with local church figures, and things escalated until he ended up kidnapping a priest. That triggered an ecclesiastical investigation of Gilles, which unearthed some horrific stuff. It turned out that the once celebrated national hero had been murdering children – mostly boys, but also the occasional girl – by the hundreds.

His modus operandi was to lure children from peasant or lower class families to his castle with gifts, such as candies, toys, or clothing. He would initially put them at their ease, feed and pamper them, before leading them to a bedroom where Gilles and accomplices would seize their victims. As he confessed in his subsequent trial, Gilles got a sadistic kick out of watching their fear, when he explained what was in store for the kid. And what was in store was none too good. Suffice it to say that it involved torture and sodomy, and ended with the child’s murder, usually via decapitation.

The victims and their clothing would then be burned in the fireplace, and their ashes dumped in a moat. After Gilles confessed to his crimes, he and he and his accomplices were condemned to death. He was executed on October 26th, 1440, by burning and hanging, simultaneously. His infamy inspired the fairy tale of Bluebeard, about a wealthy serial wife killer.

10 Little Known Criminals Who Committed History’s Worst Crimes
Rufus Buck Gang. Indian Country Media Network

A Teenager Who Led a Multi-ethnic Gang That Terrorized Oklahoma

Rufus Buck (1877 – 1896) was born to a Native American father and an African American mother, in the Indian Territory that comprised today’s Oklahoma. He gained infamy as a teenager, when he formed a multiethnic gang of Native American, African American, and mixed-race teens, and led them on a horrific rampage. Upset by the plight of his father’s people, Rufus Buck became a zealot and decided to spark a Native American uprising. To bring it about, he led his gang on a depraved rampage of robbery, rape, and murder, that terrorized white settlers, Indians, and African Americans alike.

As a prelude, Buck and his gang began stockpiling weapons in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. They kicked off their rampage on July 28th, 1895, by shooting a deputy US Marshal to death. On the way back from the murder, they raped a middle-aged widow. They also killed a man while robbing him of his horse. A few days later, the Buck gang robbed a salesman and his assistant. They then stripped the salesman naked, and toying with him like cats with a mouse, offered him a chance to escape.

Unexpectedly, the naked salesman actually managed to escape. So they took out their frustration on his assistant, whom they murdered. Buck and his gang then raped and murdered two women, plus a 14-year-old girl. On August 4th, they raped a woman in front of her husband, whom they held at bay with rifles. At least two of their rape victims died of their injuries.

Indian Police and white settlers formed posses to track down the gang. However, while the posses raced around the countryside in search of Buck and his gang, the homicidal teenagers brazenly rode into Okmulgee, where they robbed three stores. Along the way, whenever they encountered somebody riding a horse they liked, they offered to trade, and shot any rider who refused. Outside Eufala, they encountered a black child, and shot him just to watch him twitch as he died.

US Marshalls finally tracked the murderous teens to a hideout near Muskogee, on August 10th, 1895. After a furious firefight, Buck and his gang were forced to surrender when their ammunition ran out. They were taken into Muskogee, where they encountered a Creek mob determined to lynch them. They escaped only after a tribal chief pleaded with the mob to disperse, and the US Marshalls vowed to shoot the first man who tried to seize their prisoners. Buck and his gang were then taken to Fort Smith for trial. They were found guilty of rape, murder, and robbery, sentenced to death, and hanged on July 1st, 1896.

10 Little Known Criminals Who Committed History’s Worst Crimes
Stella Kubler, posing with two fellow Jew Catchers. Donna Deitch

A Jewish Anti-Semite Who Delivered Thousands of Jews Into the Nazis’ Clutches

Stella Kubler (1922 – 1994) was born and raised as the only child of an assimilated middle-class Jewish family in Berlin, and was treated like a princess by overprotective parents. Stella grew up financially comfortable, but not as rich as her schoolmates in a Jewish school. That gnawed at her and left her harboring resentments against her richer schoolmates. During WWII, Stella became infamous for collaborating with the Gestapo to track down and denounce other Jews hiding from the Nazis. Many of those denounced by her were her former schoolmates and their families, whom she repaid in spades for their crime of being richer than Stella’s family.

During WWII, Stella secured forged identity papers that listed her as a German Aryan. She was blond and blue-eyed, so it worked for a while. However, she and her boyfriend were eventually denounced to the Gestapo by a “Jew Catcher” – a Jew working for the Gestapo to find other Jews in hiding. To save their necks, her boyfriend, and future husband, offered the Nazis his services.

The Gestapo put the couple to work as Catchers, paying them 300 Reichsmarks for every Jew they turned in, and promising to spare Stella’s parents so long as she kept producing. The duo had good instincts for hiding places, having lived in hiding themselves. Stella was particularly effective because she knew many of Berlin’s Jews from her years in a segregated Jewish school.

Stella had not chosen to become a Catcher of her own free will. However, how she exercised what freedom of choice she did have while working as a Catcher was entirely within her control. She exercised that freedom of choice by pursuing hidden Jews with remarkable zeal. Even after the Jews she turned in were arrested, and her task was over, Stella enthusiastically took part in beating, torturing, and humiliating the arrestees.

Notwithstanding her zeal, the Nazis reneged on their promises to Stella, and deported her parents to their death in a camp. Her husband and his family were sent to Auschwitz in 1943. Despite that, Stella’s enthusiasm for seeking out hidden Jews and denouncing them to the Gestapo did not wane. Betting on a German victory, she secured a promise from a high-ranking Gestapo official in 1944, that she would get declared an Aryan after the war.

By war’s end, Stella had been responsible for the arrest, deportation, and subsequent murder of untold hundreds of Jews. Estimates of the total number of her victims ranged from a low of 600, to possibly as high as 3000. Their numbers included many of her personal friends, former schoolmates and their families, and even some of her own relatives.

Nonetheless, Stella got off light. She was captured by the Soviets, tried, and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. After her release, she moved to West Berlin, where she was tried by the West German authorities, and sentenced to 10 years. However, she did not serve any time of that sentence. She then converted to Christianity and became a lifelong anti-Semite. In 1994, she took her own life by jumping out the window of her Berlin apartment.

10 Little Known Criminals Who Committed History’s Worst Crimes
Prince Sado. Wikimedia

A Psychotic Prince

In 1762, Korea’s king Yeongjo had a difficult question to answer: what to do with his son and heir, Crown Prince Sado? When Sado was born in 1735, his arrival had been greeted with great joy. The infant was set up in his own palace, with an army of maids and governesses and servants. Unfortunately, king Yeongjo dropped the ball by failing to personally supervise his son’s upbringing, so Sado was spoiled rotten.

The king was a distant father, figuratively and literally: he spent little time with his son as he grew up. On the rare occasions when the king visited, he was irritable and grew angry at his son’s slightest missteps. Sado thus grew up terrified of his father, and desperately trying to please him. Pleasing his father was difficult, however, and whenever sire and son met, the king was far more critical than affectionate.

Between his daddy issues, absence of fatherly supervision, indulgence and flattery by courtiers, and other neuroses, something went seriously wrong, and Sado became a monster, given to violent mood swings. One day, he would be the decorous and dignified prince who embodied all that his father had ever wanted in a son and heir. The next, he would run around in a mad frenzy, raping and murdering servants and courtiers. What is known about his conduct indicates that he was probably schizophrenic.

Alcohol was forbidden at court, but that did not stop Sado from turning into a raging alcoholic. When he became depressed, nothing cheered him up or lifted his depression quicker than murdering servants. On many days, several corpses were seen being carried out of the palace. Sado also liked raping court ladies, and after murdering his concubine, he started sexually stalking his own sister.

The Crown Prince’s depravities made him widely feared throughout Korea as an all-around monster. Eventually, king Yeongjo concluded that he could not allow his criminally insane son to succeed him on the throne. So on July 4th, 1762, Sado was summoned to the throne room by his father, who ceremonially disinherited and disowned him. The king was prevented by taboos from outright executing his son, so he ordered Sado locked inside a strong wooden, and kept him there until he starved to death.

10 Little Known Criminals Who Committed History’s Worst Crimes
The coronation of Emperor Bokassa I. Les Plumes Derca

Self-Proclaimed Emperor of a Tiny Nation, Who Kept Children’s Corpses in a Deep Freezer

The now largely forgotten Jean-Bedel Bokassa (1921 – 1996) was a military officer in the Central African Republican. In 1966, he launched a coup and seized power, then ruled that small nation as a military dictator until 1979. Erratic and prone to delusions of grandeur, Bokassa declared his small landlocked country an empire, and anointed himself Bokassa I, Emperor of the Central African Empire.

Bokassa had been a captain in the French colonial army when Central Africa gained its independence from France. The newly independent country’s president, a distant cousin, appointed Bokassa to head its armed forces. Bokassa showed his gratitude by staging a coup, ousting his cousin from power, and appointing himself president. An admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte, Bokassa emulated his idol by crowning himself Emperor of Central Africa. He then bankrupted his impoverished country with a lavish coronation event that cost about 80 million dollars and featured a diamond-encrusted crown worth 20 million.

Bokassa’s rule was marked by a reign of terror, during which he personally oversaw the judicial beating of criminal suspects. He also decreed that thieves were to lose an ear for the first two offenses, and a hand for the third. Additionally, Bokassa supervised the torture of suspected political opponents, then fed their corpses to lions and crocodiles kept in a private menagerie. He was also into cannibalism, as shown in Paris-Match magazine expose, which ran photos of a deep freezer in Bokassa’s palace, containing the bodies of children.

Bokassa’s rule featured many atrocities, of which best known was the arrest of hundreds of schoolchildren in 1979 for refusing to buy school uniforms from a company owned by one of his wives. Bokassa personally oversaw the murder of more than 100 of the children by his imperial guard. That caused an uproar, and soon thereafter, Emperor Bokassa I was deposed by French paratroopers.

The deposed ruler had a soft landing, however, and he went into a comfortable exile in France, financed by millions of dollars embezzled and stashed in Swiss bank accounts. The exile did not stay comfortable for long, however: within a few years, Bokassa had managed to waste his millions, and was reduced to poverty. Things got so bad that he made a brief reappearance in international news in the 1980s when one of his children was arrested for shoplifting food. Bokassa returned to Central Africa in 1986, where he was tried and convicted of murder and treason, and sentenced to death. However, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was released in 1993. He lived another three years, before dying in 1996.

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Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

The Famous People – Charles Sobhraj

CNN Travel – Blood Countess in Slovakia: Tourists on the Trail of Elizabeth Bathory

Encyclopedia Britannica – Jean-Bedel Bokassa

Guardian, The, December 3rd, 2010 – ‘Cannibal’ Dictator Bokassa Given a Posthumous Pardon

India Times, May 28th, 2015 – 12 Things You Didn’t Know About the Infamous Charles Sobhraj

Mad Monarchs – Biography of Crown Prince Sado of Korea

Vocal Media – Thoughts on Liu Pengli, the Han Dynasty’s Serial Killer Prince

The Line Up – Liu Pengli Was One of History’s Earliest and Vilest Serial Killers

Grunge – The Prolific German Serial Killer Who Probably Didn’t Exist

Sky News – The Serpent: The Story of The Real-Life Hippie Trail Killer Charles Sobhraj

OZY – The Serial Killer Who Fought Alongside Saint Joan of Arc

Peter Wyden – Stella: One Woman’s True Tale of Evil, Betrayal and Survival in Hitler’s Germany

Los Angeles Times – Bokassa Testifies: ‘I Am Not a Cannibal’

Military Wikia – Stella Kubler

Paranormal Guide, The – Karl Denke, the Cannibal of Ziebice

Tovar, Diana, UC Santa Barbara – Stella: the Story of Stella Goldschlag

Wikipedia – Gilles de Rais

Wikipedia – Liu Pengli

Wikipedia – Rufus Buck Gang

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