People Who Have Had A Run-In With A Serial Killer Share Their Experiences
Fernando Aguilar on Unsplash

Serial killers capture the attention of the public.

"Serial killer" is recognized by the FBI as a distinct classification of murderer differing from a "mass murderer" or "spree killer" or "contract killer."

Documentaries, books, TV shows and films have all been made about the lives and crimes of these killers—many of their names are part of pop culture.

But what about the people who lived to tell about their encounter with a killer? What were these killers like day to day?


Redditor LiamTheGuyYaKnow asked:

"People who have encountered or saw a serial killer in their lives, how did it feel? What was the interaction like?"

Adam Strong

"I encountered Adam Strong."

"He used to work at the gas station right around the corner from my in-laws’ house. I saw him there once."

"I was sitting in the car while my (then boyfriend) husband went inside to pay for gas, and Strong came over and stood right by my window, he was just hanging around the gas pumps. I just felt an overwhelming feeling of fear and disgust, I thought he was the grossest thing I’d ever seen, he didn’t even seem human."

"When the news broke of him, my in-laws were shocked. He’d served my MIL at that gas station a million times."

"That gas station is in the same plaza as a Tim Hortons. My brother-in-law used to hang around that Tim Hortons, and smoke outside, and Strong would often join him, they got to know each other. They weren’t friends, but they took smoke breaks together semi often.

"Also, my husband and I were walking through the park/lakefront in Oshawa all day Sunday, right before they found the body of Rori Hache."

‐ di3tc0k3head

Lonnie David Franklin Jr.

"I lived down the street from the 'Grim Sleeper' when I was a child to my early teens (after his active years).

"Whenever I walked my dogs I used to walk past his house and talk to him whenever he was outside."

"I never received serial killer vibes from the guy who murdered 25+ people, he was really nice and always spoke when he saw me."

- SteezMeOut

Ivan Milat

"My sister-in-law encountered Ivan Milat, one of the two men that inspired the Wolf Creek horror movie series. She was travelling the east coast of Australia for a few weeks with her brother."

"One night, her and her brother were having jerky and beer by a campfire when Milat sat down at their campfire. When she first saw him, she thought he was park ranger because of his style of dress. She thought he was going to tell them that they built their campfire in a prohibited area, but instead he commented on what a beautiful evening it was and pointed out some of the notable stars in the sky."

"Ivan never properly introduced himself. He just sat down and started chatting. He asked my sister-in-law where she was from, and she told him Darwin."

"He said, 'What's a Darwin girl doing all the way out here?' My sister-in-law explained that she was on a road trip. She seemed to pique his interest when she told him that instead of doing the usual beach vacation, she wanted to do something a little more rugged, like explore caves, do a little rock climbing, and hike trails that were not popular with the tourists."

"My sister-in-law says that Ivan was friendly, and he had a lot of ideas about places she might like to go, including a cave that had a waterfall inside, which was a bit of a hidden gem not well-known to tourists."

"She felt comfortable talking with him, and when he invited her and her brother to join him at his campsite for some rabbit stew and beer, she would have said yes, but her brother instantly turned him down. Ivan's response to the rejection was a slight 'Well, I tried' shrug of the shoulders."

"He went back to his campsite, and her brother quickly packed their things in their rented Land Rover, and they wound up sleeping in the Rover outside a well-lit gas station that night."

"She said what was so scary about that night is that she felt almost immediately comfortable around Ivan, no red flags whatsoever. He reminded her of one of her uncles that worked construction—one of those rugged but worldly kind of guys, while her brother was immediately suspicious of the charming stranger."

"She kind of wonders what would have happened to her if her brother had not been there that night."

‐ Thorne628

How many?

"This whole thread makes me wonder how many serial killers I’ve met in my 50 years."

- portablebiscuit

FBI estimates are that between 25 to 50 active serial killers are currently in the United States.

But author, researcher and former detective Michael Arntfield believes the number active is as many as 4000 based on the definition of serial killer as a "person who has killed three or more people in a period of more than a month."

Angel Maturino Resendiz

"My cousin was killed by the Texas railroad killer in the 90s."

"I never knew her and I was really young, but my mom did. She had stayed with them recently when visiting Texas."

"Karen Sirnic was my first cousin once removed. She and her husband were bludgeoned to death in a church, where the husband was a pastor."

- CamaTatertots

Harry Edward Greenwell

"He was in our small town for 20 years, worked for the Railroad. Grew vegetables which he sold at the local farmers market. Frequented the local diner & liquor store."

"Known throughout the community as an odd guy, but no one expected what he had done. His step kids used to throw parties in high school.

"Just months ago DNA linked him to 3 murders, assaults & 2 attempted murders & assaults in the late 80's, & early 90s. Died of cancer ten years ago."

"Just a surreal crazy feeling for everyone to find out he did such horrible things. Was nice to neighbors & everyone in the community."

"Murders took place several states away. They dubbed him the I-65 killer."

- Ia_corncob-trying

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley

"My Auntie was nearly a victim of the 'Moors Murderers'."

"She was walking home from school one day, when a land rover pulled up next to her and rolled its window down. There was a lady driving, she told my Auntie to get in and she'd drive her home from school."

"My Auntie said she didn't get in cars with strangers. The woman said that she was a family friend and my Grandma had sent her to pick her up."

"My Auntie noticed that there was a motorbike parked just up the road and the rider was watching this go on. She had the good sense to run into a nearby shop and didn't come out til they left."

"Sure enough, a year or so later, she saw the woman's face all over the news. It was Myra Hindley. It also came out that while Myra was luring victims into the car, Ian Brady would follow behind on his motorbike.

"My Auntie says she just instinctively felt there was something very 'off' about the situation, and that the woman seemed 'too keen' to get her in the car."

- DendroNate

Bob Berdella

"I grew up about a block and a half from Bob Berdella. He was eventually caught for picking up teenage gay males and torturing and killing them. Prior to that he was, from what I remember, a pretty normal and fairly social person. He was actually part of the neighborhood watch group that my dad was on."

"He ran an 'oddities' shop at the flea market near our house called Bob's Bizarre Bazaar, which I guess is a little weird."

"I still remember the day he was caught. I was over playing at a friend's house whose father was a police sergeant. There was a frantic knocking at the front door and like thirty seconds later my friend's dad asked us to go play at my house for a while."

"One of Bob's would-be victims had escaped by shimmying out of a second-floor window while Bob was at work. The man, basically naked, ran across the street and started pounding on doors and the first people that answered were next door to the house I was playing at."

"They immediately came next door, knowing a cop lived there."

"So Bob lived across from a police sergeant for years, torturing, raping, killing, and burying his victims in dog food bags in his backyard, never being caught."

"This all happened just as school was getting out for the summer and my parents just let us stay home while they worked instead of doing daycare. Most days we'd hang out in the backyard behind Bob's which was slightly elevated above his, watching the cops dig up dead bodies."

"My mom claimed the number of cops in the neighborhood for the next two months was so large that we were probably safer there than at a daycare."

- wildwildwaste

The English term and idea of "serial killer" are generally attributed to FBI Special agent Robert Ressler, who is documented using the term "serial homicide" in 1974.

Credit for making the term official often goes to LAPD detective Pierce Brooks, who created the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) system in 1985.

While some law enforcement sets the threshold for serial killers at 4 or more murders, some require only 2.

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