11 Most Famous Criminals: Criminal Minds In History


This Article was Reviewed by The Chief Editor, Godfrey

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Famous criminals are those people whose criminal habits have gained widespread recognition for their unscrupulous deeds. Violence and crime have marred contemporary history several years ago, and tragically, they will likely continue to do so in the years to come.

Gangsters, serial murderers, cult leaders, and bank robbers are just a few examples of criminals having a reputation for being notorious.

There isn’t a single positive element that puts these criminals among the most infamous. In fact, they are among the most horrible and talked-about evil guys the world has ever seen.

This article highlights a compilation of the most notorious criminals in contemporary history, a list of vicious baddies, and, most importantly, a list of dangerous individuals, from drug lords to mafia bosses, who continued to have an impact on society long after they passed away.

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Top 11 infamous criminals in history

1. Pablo Escobar (crime Lord/drug baron)

Pablo Escobar is one of the world's most famous criminals

Popularly called the “king of cocaine,” this crimelord was the leader of the Medellin cartel, a notorious group that dominated the cocaine business in the 1970s- ’90s.

Pablo Escobar was birthed on the 1st of December, 1949, in Rio Negro, a small town in Colombia, to a Farmer father and a teacher mother. His rebellion began in his teens when he was known as a gangster and bully.

In 1966, Pablo began his career in crime by engaging in theft and street fraud. He later graduated to kidnapping, and in the mid-1970s, when the cocaine trade became increasingly popular, Pablo hijacked the business of drug dealer Fabio Restrepo whom he assassinated and took over as a drug trafficker.

Pablo Escobar flourished in the illegal business of drug trafficking, and he soon became a threat to law enforcement, whom he often bribed and killed to have his way. He monopolized the cocaine business and was soon in charge of smuggling cocaine to the united states and many parts of the world.

Escobar became so powerful that he contested for political offices and killed anyone who stood in his way, including judges and government officials despite his life of crime. He was said to have killed about 4000 people, including judges and police officers.

He was worth over $30 billion and performed lots of philanthropic gestures throughout his life. He died a day after his 44th birthday after he was shot by the police. Debates have, however, arisen as to whether he was really killed or whether he committed suicide.

2. Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy

With a good-looking and attractive demeanor, it is hard to believe that such vileness could come from someone so charming. Ted was also quite smart and likable and found it easy to navigate his way into the hearts of elites.

After high school, he proceeded to study law but soon dropped out; however, he held up an appearance of a normal life by having relationships despite a dark side to him which he kept away from his loved ones.

The criminal activities of Ted Bundy came to light in the 1970s after he was arrested for suspicious activity. He escaped from prison and continued attacking young women and killing them.

Ted did have a culture of escaping. He was arrested again and escaped a second time; however, he got arrested the third time over a traffic violation. By then, there was evidence against him, and he was charged with murder.

Ted Bundy continued to deny and plead not guilty but soon started to give hints about his criminal activities in interviews. He was notorious and gained the attention of females who were attracted to his charm.

He confessed to killing at least 30 women even though it was believed that he had killed more. He mutilated his victims and kept some of their body parts. He also confessed to engaging in necrophilic activities with his victims’ bodies.

Bundy was executed on January 24th, 1989, in the Raiford electric chair and was cremated based on his will. His ashes were scattered at a secret location.

3. Al Capone

Al Capone

You can’t make a list of well-known criminals in history without having the notorious AL Capone appear on the list.

Al Capone, who was birthed in Brooklyn, New York, into an immigrant family in January 1899, dropped out after the sixth grade and joined an infamous street gang, where he was welcomed as a member by Johnny Torrio, the gang’s leader at the time.

Capone joined Torrio in Chicago around 1920 at his invitation after rising to prominence as a Colosimo gang lieutenant.

Alcapone was engaged in crime in and around Chicago and other parts of the United States. Gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging were some of the crimes that he and his gang members engaged in.

His reign lasted only 7 years and he was arrested at the age of 33 where he was charged with carrying deadly weapons and tax evasion.

Alcapone was later released after serving over 7 years in prison and paying his fines. He suffered from paresis and experienced mental deterioration. He died on January 24, 1947, around his loved ones after suffering a stroke and pneumonia.

4. John Wayne Gacy

 John Wayne Gacy is one of the worlds most infamous criminals

Gacy was viewed by many as a warm individual who enjoyed amusing little children. By 1978, the general public’s opinion of Gacy had completely changed, and he had acquired the sinister moniker “the Killer Clown” for his notorious crimes.

When Gacy was found guilty of sodomizing two young boys, it was the first indication that something was wrong with him. Gacy was detained and imprisoned for 18 months. By the time of his release, Gacy had obtained a divorce and made the decision to go to Chicago, where he established a construction company.

One of Gacy’s adolescent employees vanished in July 1975. Although his parents begged Chicago police to look into the case, they never did.

Gacy started raping and murdering young guys. He murdered 33 people within a short period of time, 29 of whose bodies were discovered beneath Gacy’s house—26 in the crawlspace and 3 more in different locations.

In 1977, a young man claimed to have been kidnapped and molested by Gacy, and he reported the incident to Chicago police.

A year after, a 15-year-old boy who had visited Gacy’s house to inquire about a job with his construction company was killed by Gacy. This prompted the police to finally begin an investigation. They found clothing and suspicious items and later found the bodies of his victims.

After he was arrested, Gacy pleaded “not guilty by reason of insanity” so that he wouldn’t be found guilty of his crime. The trick failed as he was found guilty. The infamous criminal John Wayne Gacy was put to death by lethal injection on May 10, 1994.

5. Jim Jones

Jim Jones

The Peoples Temple Church’s spiritual leader, Jim Jones, brought his followers to a segregated commune in Jonestown, Guyana. However, Jonestown sounded less like a religious institution and more like a slave camp.

There were discussions of beatings, forced work, incarceration, the use of medications to regulate behavior, strange deaths, and even mass suicide drills.

Congressman Leo Ryan made the decision to travel to Guyana in the fall of 1978 to learn what was happening to the more than 900 Jonestown residents, many of whom were residents of the San Francisco region.

Ryan spoke with Jones there and spoke with many of his supporters. Unsurprisingly, a few groups of people and families asked.

Ryan wished for everyone to depart on the same flight. On the afternoon of the 18th, the group finally came together at a nearby airport. However, just as Ryan’s jet was about to take off, a dump truck from Jonestown pulled up with six armed men inside.

On one plane, they started firing, and on the other, a cultist named Larry Layton drew a gun and started shooting.

Back in the facility, Jones was putting together an absurd scheme. He gathered his followers and effectively told them to down a fruit cocktail that was cyanide-laced, according to reports.

A few people seemed to protest, but eventually, more than 900 members of the cult, including more than 200 children, were found dead on the ground.

Jones had also been shot in the head and died. Up until September 11, 2001, the tragedy represented the single-largest loss of civilian life in an American non-natural disaster.

6. Jeffrey Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer

One of America’s most prolific serial killers, Jeffrey Dahmer, is known for both his sexual offenses and the killing of 17 men between 1978 and 1991. In addition to drugging and strangling his victims, Dahmer is infamous for eating their skin after dismembering some of them.

According to most accounts, Dahmer had a typical upbringing; nevertheless, as he grew older, he withdrew and stopped communicating. As he neared puberty, he started to show little to no interest in hobbies or social interaction, instead turning to explore animal carcasses and binge drinking.

He continued to drink throughout high school, but it did not prevent him from earning his 1978 diploma. The 18-year-old committed his first murder just three weeks later.

After a guy was discovered strolling the streets with handcuffs dangling from his wrist, Dahmer was ultimately apprehended in 1991. This man was Tracy Edwards, Dahmer’s chosen victim, and as a result, body parts and Polaroids of his previous victims were found in his refrigerator.

He was sentenced to 957 years in prison; however, he was killed by Christopher Scarver, a fellow prisoner who was already serving a life sentence for murder in 1994.

7. Bonny and Clyde

 Bonny and Clyde

Clyde was famous for murder, robbery, and kidnapping-related state offenses. He was also suspected of several homicides making him and his partner one of the most notorious criminals in American history.

In January 1930, Bonnie and Clyde met in Texas. At the time, Clyde was 21 and single, while Bonnie was 19 and married to a murderer who was incarcerated. He was promptly detained for burglary and taken to jail.

He was captured and returned to prison after making his getaway with a gun Bonnie had smuggled to him. In February 1932, Clyde received parole, reunited with Bonnie, and returned to a life of crime.

There were numerous sightings that connected this pair to car thefts and bank robberies. According to reports, Clyde killed a guy in Hillsboro, Texas, conducted robberies in Lufkin and Dallas, Texas, killed one sheriff in Stringtown, Oklahoma, and injured another with a host of other allegations.

Later in 1932, a teenage gunman named Raymond Hamilton joined Bonnie and Clyde on their journey. Hamilton left them months later, and Daniel Jones joined them shortly after.

After Clyde’s brother was released from prison, he and his wife joined the group making them five. The gang of five terrorized the vicinity committing crimes that made headlines; however, two of them got arrested, and Clyde’s brother was killed in a shootout. Bonny and Clyde, however, escaped and continued their criminal activities.

In an ambush at Sailes, Bienville Parish, Louisiana, on May 23, 1934, officers fatally shot Clyde Champion Barrow and his companion, Bonnie Parker, ending one of the most colorful and spectacular manhunts the country had ever seen.

8. Pedro Alonso Lopez

Pedro Alonso Lopez is an infamous criminal

Pedro Alonso López, often known as “The Monster of the Andes,” is a notorious Colombian serial killer, rapist, stalker, and kidnapper who is suspected of killing over 300 young girls throughout Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

Young López started robbing automobiles and selling them to neighborhood chop shops for cash. He was detained in 1969 for the car burglaries and given a seven-year prison term in Bogota.

While in prison, he was violently gang-raped by three other prisoners two days into his term, an incident that left him severely scarred. After that, Lopez fashioned a shiv for himself and went in search of his rapists, killing them all.

The local Colombian court policy viewed the killings as acts of self-defense. Only two years were added to his prior sentence as a result. After being released from prison in 1978, López started kidnapping, raping, and killing three young girls on average every week.

After kidnapping a 9-year-old, he was caught, beaten, and buried halfway by a mob, but an American missionary asked that he be taken to the police instead. She drove him to the Colombian border and released him rather than take him to the police.

When López tried to kidnap 12-year-old Mara Poveda from a market in Ambato, her mother and several women managed to catch him in the act, nearly leading to his execution. López was apprehended by law enforcement while claiming to be a “nice guy” and to have “a pure heart.”

When he realized he was going to be charged with murder, he stopped cooperating and claimed his innocence. He started providing information after a police officer patiently interviewed him, and he helped authorities find more than 30 shallow graves.

Lopez was quoted to have said, “Over two hundred in Ecuador, some tens in Peru, and many more in Colombia” when asked how many girls he had killed.

Lopez was released from prison in 1994 with several conditions, like reporting to the police monthly, but he disappeared, and his location has since remained unknown to this day.

9. Harold Shipman


Born in Nottingham, England, on January 14, 1946, Shipman is considered one of the most odious serial killers who hid behind their profession to commit heinous crimes. According to an official investigation into his misdeeds, the British doctor was a serial killer who killed roughly 250 of his patients.

In 1977, he found work as a general practitioner in the Greater Manchester town of Hyde after being forced out of practice in 1975 and ordered to receive rehabilitation due to writing dishonest prescriptions and a drug habit. Over time, he gained respect and established a successful practice there.

Only hours after Shipman visited one of his patients, an 81-year-old woman, in 1998, in her home, she was found dead.

Her untimely passing (she had appeared to be in good condition) and the fact that her will had been modified to favor Shipman (bequeathing to him her whole fortune, estimated to be worth £400,000), as well as Shipman’s insistence that no autopsy was required, left her family bewildered.

He was found guilty of 15 charges of murder and one count of forgery in 2000, and he was given a life sentence. Shipman hanged himself in his cell when he was incarcerated.

After he passed away, more inquiries into his case revealed that he had committed additional crimes. According to a 2005 official study, he is believed to have killed 250 individuals between 1971 and 2005 in the UK.

Shipman typically administered a fatal dose of the analgesic diamorphine to the victim before signing a death certificate attributing the incident to natural causes.

To this day, it has not been established what his motives were, although various assumptions exist.

10. H.H. Holmes

H.H. Holmes

An American con artist and confidence trickster Herman Mudget known as H.H. Holmes is regarded as the first American serial killer. He was intelligent and from an affluent family. He received his medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1884.

Mudgett relocated to Chicago in 1886, where he secured a pharmacy job under the name “Dr. H.H. Holmes.” He allegedly started killing people shortly after to steal their possessions.

He created “Murder Castle,” a home for himself that featured soundproof rooms, trapdoors, secret passages, and doors that could be closed from the outside. Gas jets were also installed to asphyxiate victims, and a kiln was used to burn the bodies.

During the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, when he is said to have been at the height of his power, he allegedly seduced and murdered a number of women, usually by being engaged to them and killing them after taking possession of their life savings.

Mudgett also mandated that his staff members carry life insurance policies with him listed as the beneficiary so that he might get the proceeds after killing them. Many of his victims’ bodies were sold to nearby medical colleges by him.

Mudgett engaged in insurance crime and killings and was arrested in 1894 in Boston, Massachusetts after insurance investigators were alerted of Midgets crimes.

Although some experts believe that the actual number was more than 200, Mudgett admitted to 27 murders (he later boosted the amount to more than 130).

Mudgett received $10,000 from Hearst Corporation in exchange for his story. He was sentenced to death by hanging.

11. Theodore John Kaczynski (Unabomber)

Theodore John Kaczynski (Unabomber)

Kaczynski was a bright child who became a Mathematics professor at the University of California; however, things took an ugly turn when he left Berkley and purchased a piece of land with his brother David in Montana where he lived a life of privacy and performed notorious acts.

Kaczynski had directed a campaign of random terror for two decades, using bombs sent in untraceable packages to kill and maim innocent people. The FBI task force tasked with identifying the killer of these heinous acts grew to 150 persons; however, his identity remained a perplexing mystery.

In 1995, the Unabomber released a manifesto in the New York Times and Washington Post, which sparked a wave of tips that included the one that solved the case.

When David Kaczynski saw parts of the manifesto that he thought were similar to his brother’s writings, he alerted federal officials to his concern that his brother may be the Unabomber.

Ted Kaczynski was caught at the Montana cabin on April 3, 1996, after a tip led an investigator there. During their investigation of the cabin, they found a lot of evidence linking Kaczynski to the Unabomber attacks. This included bomb parts, journal entries about the victims, and handwritten drafts of the manifesto.

Kaczynski was charged in connection with his three deadly explosions in California and New Jersey, and on January 22, 1998, he pled guilty to the crime in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release.

Final words on famous criminal minds

Every country experiences crimes and the morbidly fascinating criminals who commit them on a regular basis. The most notorious criminals in history and their chilling stories continue to attract the most intrigue, despite the fact that true crime has only grown in prominence in recent years.

Which other infamous criminals do you think deserved a spot on our list? Let us know in the comment section.


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About the Chief Editor

Godfrey Ogbo, the Chief Editor and CEO of AtlanticRide, merges his environmental management expertise with extensive business experience, including in real estate. With a master's degree and a knack for engaging writing, he adeptly covers complex growth and business topics. His analytical approach and business insights enrich the blog, making it a go-to source for readers seeking thoughtful and informed content.

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