The 10 Most Evil Women in History
By Nicola Porrill, Top 10 Zen, 11 August 2014.
By Nicola Porrill, Top 10 Zen, 11 August 2014.
Traditionally speaking, throughout history and nature, men have been stronger, more aggressive and more violent than women. Dating back thousands of years, it was the men who were the hunters, going out to kill for food, while the women stayed in their homes and villages. That's why it's unsurprising to us when a man commits an awful criminal act - shocking, yes, but surprising, no.
Women are supposed to be naturally caring, compassionate people, so it shocks us to our very core when a woman breaks the mould and commits a heinous crime. Although we've probably all heard on the news about women who have killed - even their own children, on occasions - I bet nobody expected that women could be capable of such hideous crimes as these ten ladies. Their actions are filled with such pure evil that it's impossible for us to understand.
So, lets get right into it. Our journey of the 10 most evil women begins with Rosemary West - a nasty woman if ever I met one.
10. Rosemary West (born 1953)
Rosemary West is probably the most recognizable name on this list, as her shocking case is still within living memory. She formed an infamous killing and torturing partnership with her husband Fred West during the 1970s. Together, they kidnapped, locked up, tortured, raped and killed girls and young women, each over a period of several days. Then they buried these young girls' bodies under their house. Horrifically, this included one of their own daughters, as well as one of Fred West's daughters from a previous relationship. Including these two, it is known that they killed ten women. However, it has been suggested that this could be a reflection of only about half their true number of victims.
Rosemary West did not have the best start in life, as her father was a paranoid schizophrenic who repeatedly sexually abused her, but that's no excuse for the life she went on to lead. After her conviction in 1995, West was given a whole life sentence - only the second British woman in history to be handed this, after Myra Hindley. Although justice can never truly be done for those poor young girls, a less severe sentence would have been inadequate.
9. Beverly Allitt (born 1968)
In the days of modern medicine, when we send our children into hospital, we trust that they'll be looked after and have a pretty good chance of coming out in a better condition. Not so if the nurse was Beverly Allitt, who was dubbed the 'Angel of Death.' Anyone who is given that for a nickname has got to be evil, right?
She was working as a paediatric nurse in England when she killed four children, injured five more, and attacked another four who were in her care. Her methods of killing included insulin or potassium injections, or smothering. Remarkably, all of these deaths took place within the space of less than two months!
As an outsider, it's difficult to see how someone who had worked so hard to reach that point in her career could snap so suddenly, causing such devastation over such a short period of time. However, Münchausen syndrome is probably the underlying reason: it's a horrendous condition where someone in a position of care deliberately causes mental, psychological or behavioural problems to their patients. This isn't an excuse for what she did, but it's a reason - could she have been born to kill?
8. Gertrude Baniszewski (1929-1990)
Being 'evil' doesn't just include killing. It can include a whole manner of behaviours such as manipulating, humiliating and punishing others, for little or no reason. However, this is only scratching the surface, and to put it down so matter-of-factly doesn't do justice to the suffering that evil can cause. This is particularly true of Gertrude Baniszewski; her evil went far beyond the constricts of murder.
It all began when a circus couple employed her to look after their two teenage daughters while they were travelling. 'Care' is just about the only thing she didn't do for them. When payment was late, she beat Sylvia and Jenny Likens, locked them in the basement and forced them to attack each other. The girls were scalded, burned, humiliated, and starved. On one occasion Sylvia was forced to rape herself using a coke bottle; on another, she had the words 'I am a prostitute and proud of it' tattooed on her tummy. She had the most hideous injuries, eventually dying of swelling of the brain, haemorrhaging, and shock caused by all the damage to her skin.
The treatment of the girls is appalling enough, but what makes Gertrude Baniszewski even more of a foul human being - if she is even deserving of that title - is that she enlisted the help of her own children and their friends. Baniszewski had seven children, three of whom were also arrested for murder, along with two other neighbourhood children. A number of other kids had also been coerced into being involvement, and were subsequently arrested for 'injury to a person.' That one woman could inflict so much suffering on a single person is disgusting, but the fact that she brainwashed and forced innocent children into doing the same thing is truly the stuff of nightmares. This woman was evil personified; even Hollywood couldn't write a story like this.
7. Tracey Wigginton (born 1965)
Photo via Murderpedia
Tracey Wigginton, also known as the 'Lesbian Vampire Killer,' developed a taste for blood when she started drinking the blood of pigs and cows, which she was given by a butcher. She even drank blood directly from the carefully-slit wrists of her girlfriend. One night, the two women and two of their friends convinced a drunk man to get into their car. On the way home, they stopped off at a park, where Wigginton stabbed him so many times that his head almost came off. With her friends watching, she drank the blood which spurted from his body. This is one of the most bizarre stories on the list - it's so shocking and incomprehensible that 'evil' is the only explanation for it. Anyway, who said vampires were confined to the Twilight saga?
6. Dorothea Puente (1929-2011)
A sweet little old lady who runs a boarding house for elderly, unwell and otherwise vulnerable people is hardly your first candidate for murder, but that's exactly what Dorothea Puente was. In her younger days, she drugged people, stole from them, ran a brothel, and did time in jail. However, after she moved to Sacramento, California, she started up a boarding house where she took in people in need. Some people praised her for her kind nature and hospitality, while others saw a darker side...some 25 sick, troubled elderly men were trapped and killed. Her motives were monetary, as she continued to forge their Social Security checks, spending the money on clothes, makeup and even plastic surgery. Anyone who places such materialistic items above the value of human life is clearly the lowest of the low, the most evil of all.
5. Belle Gunness (1859-1931)
Belle Gunness was a formidable woman. She stood at 6 ft (1.83 m) tall and weighed over 200 lb (91 kg). A strong, powerful woman, she was born in Norway but moved to America at around the age of 20. As if any one reason could be more appalling than another, what would you consider to be the worst reason for killing? I would suggest that murder for monetary gain (rather than out of anger or spite) is the most awful, because it is so cold and selfish. However, that's exactly what Belle Gunness did. She killed for money - mostly life insurance policies or cash - eventually earning around a quarter of a million dollars, an extortionate amount at those times. To build up this sort of wealth, she murdered both her husbands, all of her children, friends, and most boyfriends and admirers.
The number of dead tops 20, but rumours suggest that she could have killed as many as 100 people. Perhaps most shockingly of all is that she was never caught or charged. After a fire at her home (during which another woman died, who was believed to be Gunness for some time) she fled and escaped, and managed to live out her days without ever facing repercussions for what she'd done. In this case, to say life is unfair is the understatement of the century!
4. Irma Grese (1923-1945)
Photo credit: Eqdoktor/Wikimedia Commons
When considering all the evil in the world, it's no surprise that Nazis are included on the list. Irma Grese was a guard at the Ravensbrück, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps during WW2 who could rival the men in terms of evil. During her time at Auschwitz, she was promoted to 'Senior Supervisor', meaning that she was the second highest ranking woman there. This was a role in which she revelled, attacking prisoners left, right and centre. She set her trained, starving dogs on them, beat them with a plaited whip, sexually abused and shot them. She even had the cruel, dreadful role of selecting prisoners for the gas chambers. Wait - cruel doesn't even begin to cover her true nature. How could it, when she wore heavy boots and carried a pistol to make her beatings and killings easier?
Undoubtedly she was one of the harshest, most awful of all the Nazis, regardless of gender. She became known as 'the Beast of Belsen' and 'the Beautiful Beast' - and she managed all this before the age of 22. Millions of Jews saw justice served when Grese faced her comeuppance at her execution. She was hanged, aged just 22.
3. Ilse Koch (1906-1967)
Karl Koch is a name that most of us are familiar with; he was commandant of two WW2 concentration camps. Dishearteningly, his wife Ilse Koch was as beastly and brutal as he was. Eventually, she reached the level of 'chief overseer' of the few female Nazi guards which were present at Buchenwald. Obviously, this gave her immense power, which quite frankly, she abused. It is widely believed that she specifically chose tattooed inmates to be killed, in order that she could cut the tattoos from their skins and keep them as souvenirs. Sickeningly, it was thought that she had lamp shades in her house made from human skin, as well, but when she was later tried these were discovered to be goat skin.
A vile woman, she was famous for being promiscuous and openly having sexual relationships with other SS officers, and even some camp inmates - at the same time as being married to her husband. However, she didn't stop there. She was responsible for building an indoor sports arena - this might sound like a beacon of light, a blessing to society, but the 250,000 marks which were spent on the construction were stolen from concentration camp inmates. It begs the question of what lengths she would have gone to, or at would point she would have stopped her sickening behaviour. Did this woman have no morals? It's frustrating that this 'Witch of Buchenwald' (or 'Die Hexe von Buchenwald', as she was known) chose the cowardly option and hanged herself in prison at the age of 60. However, I can't help but feel pleased that the world was rid of one more foul excuse for a human being.
2. Mary Ann Cotton (1832-1873)
Most of the dastardly women on this list committed their crimes relatively recently, within the last century or so. However, evil women have been around for much longer, as is evident with Mary Ann Cotton. Over the course of her life, she moved all over England. At each place she settled, tragically she lost people close to her. Her three husbands all died, as did a lover, her friend, her mother, and all of her thirteen children. At this point in any other story our hearts would be breaking for this woman, but in her case the story's a little darker. All of those who died had life insurance policies taken out in their names...and all of them died after having the same symptoms of stomach pains and intestinal problems.
It turned out that she had poisoned them all with arsenic, in order to gain the money from their life insurance. What makes her more evil than many other serial killers is that everyone she murdered was meant to be close to her. Women are traditionally nurturing, loving and caring, but she killed in cold blood those people who she was meant to have those very feelings for. She must have been one of the most cold-hearted women in history. She was sentenced to death for her crimes, so was hanged aged 40. However, she didn't die of a broken neck, as usually happened in hangings. The rope was too short for a clean execution (apparently on purpose) so she died a slow death of suffocation. Hats off to that hangman.
1. Katherine Knight (born 1955)
If you aren't already horrified by some of the stories of pure evil which have coursed through history, be prepared to be horrified and revolted now. Katherine Knight was the first Australian women to be handed a natural life sentence, without the possibility of parole. What could she possibly have done to deserve such a punishment? Well, it all started because she had a history of violent relationships. She crushed an ex-husband's dentures, and slit the throat of another ex-husband's eight week old puppy right in front of him. However, that's not enough to be sentenced to spend the rest of her life in prison; her crimes escalated.
In 2000, after having altercations with her fourth husband, she sent her two children to have a sleepover at a friend's house. She came home and used a butcher's knife to stab her husband 37 times in his front and back. She then skinned his body and hung his 'suit' of skin from the door in the living room. She proceeded to cut off his head and put it in a pot to cook, as well as baking his buttocks. She prepared vegetables and gravy as side dishes for this 'meal,' which she served for her children alongside notes addressed to them.
I told you it was disturbing! This is one of the most horrifying stories I've ever heard, regardless of the fact that it was carried out by a woman. Knight is clearly a very unwell lady, but I can't help but turn my thoughts to her children (although the saving grace is that the police arrived before the children ever had to witness the scene). The fact that it was carried out so recently makes it even more shocking. Thankfully, she is currently locked well away, never to see the light of day again. I didn't think it was possible for anyone to harbour this much evil, let alone a woman. Let's hope that she is the last of her kind.
[Source: Top 10 Zen. Edited. Links added.]