We all tend to focus on the evil men in the world and forget some of the truly evil women that have lived. I hope to correct that with this list. Here we have not just serial killers, but other utterly despicable women who have caused tragedy in many people’s lives. So, without further ado, here are the top 10 most evil women in history.
10. Queen Mary I Born: 1516; Died: 1558
Mary (first child of Henry VIII), the fourth crowned monarch of the Tudor dynasty, after the uncrowned Jane Grey and before Elizabeth I, is remembered for briefly returning England to Roman Catholicism. To this end, she had numerous religious dissenters executed; as a consequence, she is often known as Bloody Mary. Numerous Protestant leaders were executed in the so-called Marian Persecutions. Many rich Protestants chose exile and around 800 left the country. It should be noted that Elizabeth I shares position 10 on this list for her equally bad behavior.
9. Myra Hindley Born: 1942; Died: 2002
Myra Hindley was an English serial killer involved in the “Moors murders” with her partner Ian Brady. Together, Brady and Hindley took part in the abduction, sexual abuse, torture, and murder of three children, aged 10-12, and two adolescents, aged 16 and 17, from the Manchester area. Hindley was arrested when a suitcase containing incriminating evidence was recovered from the left-luggage depot at Manchester Central Station. Part of the evidence was a tape recording of the murder of one of their victims in which the girl is heard screaming whilst Hindley and Brady torture her. During her five final days of freedom, she developed an arrogant attitude, which was subsequently regarded as her trademark. In a 2006 television documentary about Hindley’s years behind bars, Police secretary Sandra Wilkinson said that she distinctly remembered Hindley and her mother Nellie, leaning against the wall of the courthouse and eating a cream cake. While her mother appeared to be in obvious distress, Hindley seemed to be almost indifferent to her situation.
8. Isabella of Castile Born: 1451; Died: 1504
Isabella I of Spain and her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, laid the foundation for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Carlos I of Spain (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor). She is well known as the patron of Christopher Columbus. At her request, Tomás de Torquemada became the first Inquisitor General of the Spanish Inquisition and began a policy of religious cleansing. On March 31, 1492, the Alhambra Decree for the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims was issued. Approximately 200,000 people left Spain. Others converted, often only to be persecuted further by the Inquisition investigating Judaizing conversos. In 1974, Pope Paul VI opened her cause for beatification. This places her on the path toward possible sainthood. In the Catholic Church, she is thus titled Servant of God.
7. Beverly Allitt Born: 1968
Beverley Gail Allitt, dubbed the ‘Angel of Death’, was an English paediatric nurse who was convicted of killing four children and injuring five others, in 1991, on the children’s ward of Grantham and Kesteven Hospital, Lincolnshire where she worked. She has since become one of Britain’s most notorious female serial killers. Her main method of murder was to inject the child with insulin or potassium to cause cardiac arrest; when unable to obtain the injections, she suffocated the child. Allitt had attacked thirteen children, four fatally, over a fifty-eight day period before she was brought up on charges for her crimes. Allitt’s motives have never been fully explained. According to one theory, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy explains her actions. This controversial personality disorder is described as involving a pattern of abuse in which a perpetrator physically falsifies illnesses in someone under their care, in order to attract attention.
6. Belle Gunness Born: 1859; Died: 1931
Belle Gunness was one of America’s most profligate known female serial killers. At 6 ft (1.83 m) tall and over 200 lb (91 kg), she was a powerful Norwegian-American woman. She may have killed both of her husbands and all of her children (on different occasions), but she is known to have killed most of her suitors, boyfriends, and her two daughters Myrtle and Lucy. Her apparent motives involved collecting life insurance benefits. Reports estimate that she killed more than twenty people over several decades–some claim more than one hundred–and possibly got away with it. She became part of American criminal folklore, a female Bluebeard.
5. Mary Ann Cotton Born: 1832; Died: 1873
Mary Ann Cotton was an English serial killer believed to have murdered up to 20 people, mainly by arsenic poisoning. Mary Ann, aged 20, married William Mowbray and they moved to Plymouth, Devon. The couple had five children, four of whom died from gastric fever or stomach pains. William and Mary Ann moved back to the Northeast and she had another three children, all of whom died. He died of an intestinal disorder in January 1865. William’s life was insured by the British Prudential Insurance office and Mary Ann collected a pay out of £35 on his death. That was to become a familiar theme. Her second husband, George Ward, also died of intestinal problems, as did one the two of her remaining living children. After the death of yet another child, the local newspapers latched on to the story and discovered Mary Ann had moved around northern England and lost three husbands, a lover, a friend, her mother and a dozen children, all of whom had died of stomach fevers. She was hanged at Durham County Gaol on 24 March, 1873. She died slowly, the hangman having misjudged the drop required for a “clean” execution.
4. Ilse Koch Born: 1906; Died: 1967
Koch was the wife of Karl Koch, the commandant of the concentration camps Buchenwald from 1937 to 1941 and Majdanek from 1941 to 1943. Ilse is infamous for taking souvenirs from the skin of murdered inmates with distinctive tattoos. She was variously known as “the Witch of Buchenwald” (”Die Hexe von Buchenwald”) and “the Bitch of Buchenwald” (”Buchenwälder Schlampe”) by the inmates because of her sadistic cruelty and lasciviousness toward prisoners. In 1937 she came to Buchenwald not as a guard, but as the wife of the commandant. There, influenced by her husband and her power, she began torturing the inmates of the camp. In 1940 she built an indoor sports arena, which cost over 250,000 marks, most of which were taken from the inmates. In 1941 Ilse became an Oberaufseherin (”chief overseer”) over the few female guards who served at the camp. She committed suicide by hanging herself at Aichach women’s prison on September 1, 1967.
3. Irma Grese Born: 1923; Died: 1945
Geese “worked” at the Nazi concentration camps of Ravensbrück, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Dubbed the “Bitch of Belsen” by camp inmates for her cruel and perverse behavior, she is one of the most notorious of the female Nazi war criminals. In March 1943, Grese was transferred as a female guard to Auschwitz, and by the end of that year she was Senior Supervisor, the second highest-ranking woman at the camp, in charge of around 30,000 Jewish female prisoners. In January 1945, Grese briefly returned to Ravensbrück before ending her wartime career at Bergen-Belsen as a Work Service Manager from March to April, being captured by the British April 17, 1945. The accusations against her centered on her ill treatment and murder of those imprisoned at the camps, including setting dogs on inmates, shootings and sadistic beatings with a whip. Survivors provided extensive details of murders, tortures, cruelties and sexual excesses engaged in by Grese during her years at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. They testified to her acts of sadism, beatings and arbitrary shooting of prisoners, savaging of prisoners by her trained and half starved dogs, and her selecting prisoners for the gas chambers. Grese was reported to have habitually worn heavy boots and carried a whip and a pistol. She used both physical and emotional methods to torture the camp’s inmates and allegedly enjoyed shooting prisoners in cold blood. She beat some women to death and whipped others using a plaited whip.
2. Katherine Knight Born: 1956
Katherine Knight is the first Australian woman to be jailed for the term of her natural life. She was convicted in October 2001 of the murder of her de facto husband, John Charles Thomas Price. According to the Apprehended Violence Order that Price had filed against Knight, she had a previous history of violence in relationships; she had smashed the dentures of one of her ex-husbands, and slashed the throat of another husband’s eight-week-old puppy before his eyes. Price had also received death threats from her on previous occasions. On or about 29 February 2000, Knight stabbed Price to death with a butcher’s knife while chasing him around their home. The autopsy revealed that Price had been stabbed at least 37 times, in both the front and back of his body. Many of the wounds were deep and extended into vital organs. After Price was killed, Knight skinned him and hung his skin from a meat hook on the architrave of a door in their living room. She then decapitated him and placed the head in a pot on the stove, baked flesh from his buttocks, and prepared vegetables and gravy to serve as a meal to his children, which was accompanied by vindictive notes from Knight. Police found the meal before the children arrived home.
1. Elizabeth Bathory Born: 1560; Died: 1614
Bathory was a Hungarian countess. She is considered the most infamous serial killer in Hungarian and Slovak history and is remembered as the Bloody Lady of ?achtice (Csejte), after the castle near Tren?ín (Trencsén), in Royal Hungary, in present-day Slovakia, where she spent most of her life. After her husband’s death, she and her four alleged collaborators were accused of torturing and killing dozens of girls and young women. In 1610, she was imprisoned in ?achtice Castle, where she remained until her death three years later. Her nobility allowed her to avoid trial and execution. In 1610, King Matthias (spurred on by rumors) sent men to investigate Bathory. The men reportedly found one girl dead and one dying. Another woman was found wounded and others locked up. Her initial victims were local peasant girls, many of whom were lured to ?achtice by offers of well-paid work as maidservants in the castle. Later she may have begun to kill daughters of lower gentry, who were sent to her gynaeceum by their parents to learn courtly etiquette. Abductions seem to have occurred as well. The most consistently described atrocities collected from testimony of witnesses are: severe beatings over extended periods of time, often leading to death, burning or mutilation of hands, sometimes also of faces and genitalia, biting the flesh off the faces, arms and other bodily parts, starving of victims. The use of needles was also described. The number of young women tortured and killed by Elizabeth Báthory is unknown, though it is often cited as being in the hundreds, between the years 1585 and 1610. The idea that Countess Bathory bathed in the blood of her victims is folklore. Elizabeth was never brought to trial but remained under house arrest in a single room until her death.
Note: In order to clear one point up, Lizzie Borden is not on this list because she was found innocent of the murder of her parents.