History's Top Executioners of All Time
History’s Top Executioners of All Time

History’s Top Executioners of All Time

Khalid Elhassan - June 5, 2020

History’s Top Executioners of All Time
A nineteenth century illustration depicting Gilles de Rais and his victims. Missed in History

3. An Aristocratic Sicko

The killer, Gilles de Rais’ modus operandi was to lure children from peasant or lower class families to his castle with gifts, such as candy, toys, or clothing. He would initially put them at their ease, feed and pamper them, before leading them to a bedroom. There, de Rais and his accomplices would seize their victims. As he confessed in his subsequent trial, de Rais got a sadistic kick out of watching the children’s fear, when he explained what was in store for them.

History’s Top Executioners of All Time
Bluebeard. Bedtime Short Stories

What was in store was not good. Suffice it to say that it 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 de Rais 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.

History’s Top Executioners of All Time
Emperor Jing of Han, who appointed Liu Pengli ruler of Jiangdo. Wikimedia

2. Ancient China’s Serial Killing Royal

Ancient China’s Prince Liu Pengli was a member of the ruling Han Dynasty. 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.

The killer, Pengli preyed upon his subjects, killing them for kicks and giggles. 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. At least 100 people were murdered by Pengli for his amusement, and the true number of his victims was probably 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.

History’s Top Executioners of All Time
Ancient Chinese historian Sima Qian. Taida Student Journal

1. Getting Away Light

Throughout most of history, justice has often been illusory, and usually unequal. Which explains why Prince Penglii 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“.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

ThoughtCo – Gary Ridgway: The Green River Killer

All That is Interesting – Peter Niers: The Medieval Boogyeman Who Ate Babies

Crime and Investigation – Charles Sobhraj: The Serpent

Crime Library – Green River Killer: River of Death

Encyclopedia Britannica – Elizabeth Bathory

Encyclopedia Britannica – Gilles de Rais

Gabory, Emile – Alias Bluebeard: The Life and Death of Gilles de Raiz

Kidd, Paul B. – Australia’s Serial Killers (2006)

Korea Times, November 27th, 2009 – Book Reconstitutes Secret of Prince Sado’s Death

Listverse – 10 Terrifying Serial Killers You’ve Never Heard Of

Mad Monarchs – Sado of Korea (a killer)

Murderpedia – Charles Sobhraj

Murderpedia – Karl Denke

Philbin, Tom and Michael – The Killer Book of Serial Killers: Incredible Stories, Facts, and Trivia From the World of Serial Killers (2009)

Ranker – Terrifying Facts About John Lynch, the Worst Serial Killer in Australian History

Ranker – The Untold Story of Peter Niers, The Cannibal Magician Who Killed 500 People

Rejected Princesses – Elisabeth Bathory: The Blood Countess

Russiapedia – Prominent Russians: Darya Saltykova

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

Wikipedia – Charles Sobhraj a killer

Wikipedia – Gilles de Rais a killer

Wikipedia – Liu Pengli a killer

Wyden, Peter – Stella: One Woman’s True Tale of Evil, Betrayal, and Survival in Hitler’s Germany (1992)