Top 20 Evil Women in History – Sinister Tales of Real Crimes

woman serial killers

History is a grand tapestry woven with threads of triumph, innovation, conflict, and at times, extreme malevolence. It’s essential to remember, though, that evil is not an exclusive preserve of men. Throughout the ages, there have been women whose actions have earned them a spot on the pages of infamy, leaving indelible marks on the timeline of human civilization. Today, we have prepared a list of the top 20 evil women in history. Let us begin.

1. Marquise de Brinvilliers (1630-1676)

Marquise de Brinvilliers

Known for her charm and beauty, Marquise de Brinvilliers was a fixture in the French aristocracy. Yet behind this facade lurked a cold-blooded murderess. She was known to test her toxic concoctions on hospital patients and eventually used them to kill her father and two brothers, seeking to inherit their wealth.

De Brinvilliers managed to elude the authorities for a while, fleeing to England, the Netherlands, and finally, a convent in Liège. But the law caught up with her in 1676, and after a quick trial, she was executed. Her death marked the beginning of the “Affair of the Poisons,” a scandal that rocked the French court to its core.

2. Elizabeth Báthory (1560-1614)

Elizabeth Báthory

Countess Elizabeth Báthory, also known as “The Blood Countess,” ranks among history’s most notorious female killers. Born into Hungarian nobility, Báthory allegedly tortured and killed hundreds of young girls, with the number rumored to be as high as 650.

Her gruesome practices, shrouded in legend, suggest she believed bathing in the blood of virgins kept her youthful. Eventually, her monstrous deeds were exposed, and Báthory was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment. She spent her last years walled up in a castle, a fittingly dark end for such a sadistic figure.

3. Mary I of England (1516-1558)

Mary I of England

Mary I of England, commonly known as “Bloody Mary,” was the first woman to successfully claim the English throne. Known for her intense Catholicism, she sought to reverse England’s Protestant Reformation initiated by her father, King Henry VIII.

Mary’s five-year reign was marked by the burning at the stake of over 280 religious dissenters, earning her the grim moniker “Bloody Mary.” Despite her ruthless efforts, her death saw England return to Protestantism, and her legacy reduced to a reign of terror.

4. Jiang Qing (1914-1991)

Jiang Qing, known to the world as Madame Mao, was the last wife of Mao Zedong, China’s communist leader. She played a crucial role in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), a period marked by ideological purges, violence, and social upheaval.

During the Cultural Revolution, Jiang leveraged her influence to persecute rivals, leading to countless purges and executions. In the aftermath of Mao’s death, she was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death – a sentence later commuted to life imprisonment. Her actions during this tumultuous period left an indelible mark on China’s history.

5. Myra Hindley (1942-2002)

Myra Hindley, known as “The Moors Murderer,” committed unthinkable crimes alongside her partner, Ian Brady, in England during the 1960s. The duo lured children and teenagers under the pretext of offering lifts or seeking help, only to torture and murder them later.

Hindley and Brady’s reign of terror ended in 1965 with their arrest and subsequent life sentences. The Moors murders still haunt the British psyche, and Hindley, who died in prison in 2002, remains one of the country’s most reviled figures.

6. Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar (1778-1861)

Ranavalona I, often referred to as the “Mad Queen of Madagascar,” reigned with an iron fist from 1828 to 1861. Known for her brutal tactics to keep colonial interests at bay, she’s believed to have reduced the island’s population from around 5 million to 2.5 million.

Ranavalona implemented a strict policy of isolationism, instituting harsh measures to quash Christianity, seen as a colonial influence. Her reign saw frequent purges, public executions, and forced labor, making her one of history’s most feared female rulers.

7. Isabella of Castile (1451-1504)

Isabella of Castile

Isabella I, the queen of Castile, known for sponsoring Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World, also had a dark side. Alongside her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, she established the Spanish Inquisition, a draconic religious court infamous for its brutal methods.

Isabella’s reign witnessed the persecution of Jews, Muslims, and other religious minorities, with thousands tortured and executed. The Inquisition became a symbol of religious intolerance, and Isabella’s role in it cannot be ignored.

8. Ilse Koch (1906-1967)

Ilse Koch, dubbed “The Witch of Buchenwald,” was the wife of Buchenwald concentration camp commandant Karl-Otto Koch. She was infamous for her sadistic cruelty towards the prisoners, often selecting inmates with unique tattoos for execution and allegedly keeping their skin as souvenirs.

Convicted of war crimes after World War II, Koch received a life sentence. Her actions personified the horrors of the Holocaust, serving as a stark reminder of the inhumanity bred by such atrocities.

9. Belle Gunness (1859-1908)

Norwegian-born Belle Gunness, one of America’s most notorious female serial killers, lured numerous men to her Indiana farm with the promise of marriage, only to murder them and rob them of their possessions.

Investigators discovered the remains of over a dozen victims on her property in 1908, though the actual count might be much higher. Gunness’s apparent demise in a house fire leaves many aspects of her life shrouded in mystery, adding to her chilling legend.

10. Irma Grese (1923-1945)

Known as “Hyena of Auschwitz” Irma Grese was an SS guard at the Nazi concentration camps of Ravensbrück and Auschwitz and later the warden of the women’s section of Bergen-Belsen. She was infamous for her brutal treatment of prisoners, taking pleasure in their torture and suffering.

Grese was tried and hanged for her war crimes after the defeat of Nazi Germany. Her heinous acts underscore the cruelty and inhumanity that can arise amidst the chaos of war.

11. Leonarda Cianciulli (1894-1970)

Leonarda Cianciulli, known as the “Soap-Maker of Correggio,” was an Italian serial killer with a grim method. She turned her victims into soap and teacakes, believing human sacrifice could protect her children during World War II.

After her arrest in 1946, Cianciulli confessed to her crimes, detailing her gruesome process with chilling detachment. Her story serves as a grim reminder of how superstition and paranoia can lead to unimaginable horror.

12. Griselda Blanco (1943-2012)

Griselda Blanco, known as “The Godmother of Cocaine,” was a major figure in the Medellín Cartel during the 1970s and 80s. She was responsible for up to 200 murders while transporting cocaine from Colombia to the United States.

Blanco’s reign ended when she was arrested in 1985 and served nearly two decades in jail. Despite her release, she could not escape her past and was assassinated in 2012. Her ruthless tactics and violent lifestyle played a significant role in the destructive drug wars of the era.

13. Aileen Wuornos (1956-2002)

Aileen Wuornos, often labeled as America’s first female serial killer, had a tragic and complicated life. A victim of severe abuse and hardship, Wuornos killed seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990, claiming they had either raped or attempted to rape her.

Wuornos was arrested in 1991 and, after a highly publicized trial, was executed in 2002. Her story has been the subject of numerous books and films, contributing to the ongoing discourse about mental health, abuse, and the criminal justice system.

14. Phoolan Devi (1963-2001)

Phoolan Devi

Phoolan Devi, also known as “The Bandit Queen,” was a notorious female bandit in India. Born into a low caste, she faced poverty, child marriage, and abuse. Her thirst for vengeance led her to form a gang of bandits that carried out a series of violent robberies and murders.

Devi’s most infamous act was the Behmai massacre, where she allegedly killed 22 men from the higher caste, supposedly to avenge her rape. She later surrendered, served 11 years in jail, and remarkably became a Member of Parliament. Her life, marked by violence and retribution, highlights the vast socio-economic disparities in Indian society.

15. Katherine Knight (1955-Present)

Katherine Knight is the first Australian woman to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. She was convicted for the murder of her partner, John Price, in 2001. The crime scene was so gruesome that it left hardened crime scene investigators traumatized.

Knight’s crime stands out due to the post-murder acts, which included skinning Price and cooking parts of his body with the intention of serving them to his children. Her story is a chilling reminder of the darkness that can lurk beneath the surface of everyday life.

16. Beverley Allitt (1968-Present)

Beverley Allitt, known as “The Angel of Death,” was a British pediatric nurse who murdered four children and attempted to murder three others while working at a hospital in Lincolnshire, England, in the early 1990s.

Allitt’s method involved injecting her victims with lethal doses of insulin or air. She was eventually caught and sentenced to thirteen life sentences. Her case sparked a national scandal, leading to widespread changes in the pediatric nursing system in the UK.

17. Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova (1730-1801)

Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova

Darya Saltykova, also known as Saltychikha, was a Russian noblewoman who became infamous for torturing and killing her serfs, particularly young girls. Her reign of terror lasted for over two decades before she was finally brought to justice.

Convicted of killing 38 serfs, she was sentenced to life imprisonment in a windowless room in Ivanovsky Convent in Moscow. Her case exposed the harsh conditions of serfdom and the cruel power dynamics in 18th century Russian society.

18. Delphine LaLaurie (1787-1849)

Delphine LaLaurie

Madame Delphine LaLaurie, a New Orleans socialite in the early 19th century, was known for her grand parties. However, behind the facade of luxury and wealth, LaLaurie hid a horrifying secret. She was extremely cruel to her slaves, often torturing and killing them.

Her atrocities came to light in 1834 during a fire at her mansion. The firemen discovered a torture chamber with several starved and maimed slaves. LaLaurie fled the city amid public outrage, but her horrific deeds remain a dark chapter in New Orleans’ history.

19. Rosemary West (1953-Present)

Rosemary West, along with her husband Fred West, committed a series of horrifying murders in the UK between 1967 and 1987. Their victims, which included their own children, were subjected to sexual abuse, torture, and, ultimately, murder.

Rosemary was found guilty of ten murders in 1995 and is currently serving a life sentence. Her case, one of the most notorious in British criminal history, serves as a terrifying reminder of the depths of human depravity.

20. Gertrude Baniszewski (1929-1990)

Gertrude Baniszewski, an Indiana housewife, orchestrated one of the most heinous crimes in American history. In 1965, she was responsible for the prolonged torture and eventual murder of 16-year-old Sylvia Likens, who was left in her care.

Baniszewski, along with her children and a few neighborhood kids, subjected Sylvia to unimaginable abuse for several months before she died. She was convicted of murder in 1966 and served 20 years in prison. Her crime left an indelible mark on the American psyche, raising unsettling questions about the nature of evil and the responsibility of society to protect its vulnerable members.

Final Words

These women, cloaked in their infamy, tell us much about the human condition, power dynamics, and the societal contexts in which they operated. Yet, their stories are cautionary tales, stark reminders of the monstrosities that humans can perpetrate. As a historian, I hope that by understanding our past, no matter how dark some pages may be, we can strive for a future where such acts of malevolence are nothing but distant memories.

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