I found out that the Unabomber attended the University of Michigan shortly after transferring there in 2006. There was no avoiding the revelation. Ted Kaczynski’s memoirs were housed in the Hatcher Graduate Library, after all. He’d donated them in 1999.
It was only this year that I learned of another unpalatable U of M alumnus: infamous grifter, serial killer, and Murder House proprietor H.H. Holmes. It was then that I began to feel uneasy.
Logically, I had no reason to be self-conscious. A certain proportion of American murderers are bound to go to college, which means a certain proportion of American colleges are bound to have hosted serial killers. Still, though–Kaczynski and Holmes? You can understand why it gave me a bit of a complex.
In the interest of remedying said complex, I decided to make this list of the alma maters of every American serial killer from the last two hundred years. Along the way, I had to wade through a lot of whack jobs who either dropped out of high school, were kicked out of the military, or just plain didn’t have the chops to make it to university. Some of the academic failure prevalent in the serial killer community appears to be the result of socioeconomic factors. Some of it, though, is related to the fact that–contrary to popular believe–the majority of murderers are really, really stupid.
Did your school make the cut? Find out below!
#1: Claremont College
Randy Steven Kraft, aka the Scorecard Killer, aka the Freeway Killer
Convicted of murdering 16 young men and suspected of actually murdering up to 51, Randy Steven Kraft pursued a BA in economics at Claremont. He later became a staunch Republican and got super into Barry Goldwater. I don’t know what conclusions we can draw from that.
#2: Cornell University
Michael Bruce Ross
Studied agriculture in the early 1980’s. It was during that time that he began to stalk, assault, and murder women.
#3: Dickinson College
Former abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell got his bachelor’s degree from Dickinson in the 1960’s. Gosnell was all over the news a few years back, but if you haven’t read about his crimes yet–eurgh, I suggest you keep it that way.
#4: Eastern Michigan University
John Norman Collins, aka the Ypsilanti Ripper
This one hits close to home. Not only does my mother live less than a mile away from one of the Ripper’s kill sites, but both my sister and my husband graduated from EMU. Fortunately, we didn’t move into the area until decades after Collins went on a spree, killing up to seven girls in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area.
#5: Harvard University
It’s our pal the Unabomber again! Kaczynski got his bachelor’s degree from Harvard, to which he was admitted at the tender age of 16. People like him and Ted Bundy are probably the source of the misconception that serial killers are all perverse geniuses. In reality, they tend to cluster at both the high and the low ends of the intellectual spectrum–and there are far more of them at the low end than the high.
#6: Indiana University
Alleged killer Herb Baumeister (he committed suicide before he could be brought to trial) only lasted one semester at Indiana University. That’s common among serial killers. Either they drop out of college, or they drop out of the military, or both.
#7: Lane College
Carl Eugene Watts, aka the Sunday Morning Slasher
Despite being extraordinarily dumb, Watts was accepted to Lane College on a football scholarship. He was kicked out after three months for stalking and assaulting women.
#8: New York University
Slayer of up to 50 women, Alcala studied film at NYU under Roman Polanski–himself a rather unsavory character.
#9: North Texas University
Albright killed one woman and is suspected of killing two others, though no conclusive proof was ever found. He flirted with pre-med at NTU but evidently found murder much more rewarding.
#10: Northwestern College
John Wayne Gacy
Yep, that John Wayne Gacy. I would have expected him to attend clown college, if anything. In actuality, he obtained a degree in business from Northwestern in 1963.
#11: Ohio State University
Jeffrey Dahmer, aka the Milwaukee Cannibal
As a U of M grad, I suppose I should be gloating over this. Somehow I can’t bring myself to do it, though. With Jeffrey Dahmer on their alum list (he dropped out after one semester), OSU’s got big enough problems.
#12: Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Prior to killing over nine women in three states, Krajcir earned a degree in administrative justice with a minor in psychology. Please look up the man’s mugshot. It must be seen to be believed.
#13: Southern Illinois University School of Medicine
An SIU two-fer! Swango graduated with a degree in medicine in the early 1980’s. He then proceeded to poison around 60 of his patients and colleagues.
#14: State University of New York Brockport
Rifkin killed up to 17 women in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s–most, if not all of them prostitutes. Before that, though, he studied political science at SUNY Brockport. While there, he got arrested for shoplifting a bottle of Kikkoman Soy Sauce. Could there be a lamer start to a crime spree?
#15: Temple University
Temple was one of three schools Bundy attended before finally graduating with a degree in psychology and matriculating to law school. He kept getting distracted, I guess. It’s hard for a young necrophile to focus on his studies when he’s surrounded by so many soon-to-be-cold bodies.
#16: Thomas Jefferson University Sidney Kimmel Medical College
This is the school that gave Gosnell his medical degree. You didn’t look him up, did you? Don’t do it. Trust me.
#17: University of California Berkeley
After playing defensive end on UC Berkeley’s football team, Robert Rozier was drafted by the NFL. Things only got rocky after he left the league. Rozier joined a doomsday cult led by the dubiously named Yahweh ben Yahweh. Admission into Yahweh’s “Brotherhood” apparently required his murdering seven white people, which he did. He was released from prison in 1996, then promptly re-arrested for writing a bad check for $65. Which, you have to admit, is a pretty lame coda to his story.
#18: University of California Los Angeles
Before studying under Polanski, Alcala studied fine arts at UCLA.
#19: University of Chicago
William Heirens, aka the Lipstick Killer
As a teenager, Heirens was so precocious that he attended U of C at the age of 16 as part of a special program. According to classmate, Heirens was also handsome and a terrific dancer. Perhaps that charisma is what enabled him to get women to let their guard down, as he eventually murdered three of them.
Aw, man, don’t make me say it again. Yes, both Kacyznski and Holmes attended my alma mater. The former received his Ph.D in mathematics in the 1960’s, while the latter obtained his medical degree in 1884. Neither put his education to good use.
#21: University of Pennsylvania
Gary M. Heidnik
A six-time murderer, Heidnik dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania after only one semester. He also once shouted at an elementary school classmate that she wasn’t “worthy enough” to talk to him after she asked whether he’d done his homework. Just an all-around turd.
#22: University of Puget Sound
UPS was the first college Bundy attended. He transferred to the University of Washington a year later, but returned to UPS in 1973 to study law.
#23: University of Vermont
How would you like to be the school H.H. Holmes found unsatisfactory? The University of Vermont carries that distinction. Though, given what kind of person Holmes was, I’m guessing they don’t mind.
#24: University of Washington
Surprise! It’s Ted again. Having attended UPS for one year, Bundy transferred to the University of Washington in 1966 to study, of all things, Chinese.
#25: Wichita State University
Dennis Rader, aka the BTK Strangler
Between 1974 and 1991, Rader murdered 10 people in slow, horrific fashion. It was quite the 180 for a man who once graduated with a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice.