Which State has Produced the Most Serial Killers?


One of the most compelling sources of contemporary horror is the phenomenon of serial killers. From true crime to horror fiction, as a nation, we obsess over these terrifying, fascinating figures.
Just look at some of the most iconic horror movie franchise villains – Halloween’s Michael Myers, Anthony Hopkins’ unforgettable Hannibal Lecter, or the true crime-inspired Leatherface. These sorts of human monsters appear everywhere in our cultural fiction.
It’s not just this genre of movies that captures our imagination. Our fascination also embraces the real thing. Whether we want to learn about the details of their crimes, delve into the bleak question of their psychological makeup, determine how so many go unnoticed and uncaught, or puzzle at the strange cases of killers who become ghoulish media spectacles, we can’t get enough of them.
Even a figure as frightening, mysterious, and frankly bizarre as a serial killer has an origin story. Although serial killers have existed in most countries around the globe, a great many of them come from the United States. Here, we explore the states that have produced the highest number of these criminals throughout history and explore any commonalities and contributing factors.

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Despite the stereotypes perpetuated in movies, serial murderers do not have a great deal in common with each other. Their preferred victims, motives for killing, modus operandi, and the locations all vary greatly. In fact, the only thing serial killers really have in common is that their propensity for aberrant behavior.

A photo showing criminal mugshots of a man.

Intelligence also doesn’t seem to be a factor. Intelligence quotients of a sample of 252 serial murderers ranged from 54 to 186. The IQ of a typical serial killer is slightly below average at 86.

While financial gain accounts for approximately one-third of all serial murders, the victims come from all walks of life. Prostitutes and hitchhikers are the most vulnerable because of their frequent interactions with strangers. Interestingly enough, home invasion is the most common circumstance surrounding the crime patterns. 

According to FBI data, serial murderers happen more frequently in certain states. They define a serial killing as at least two murders committed on separate occasions. Based on their research, the following states have produced the highest number of real-life serial killers.

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1. Alaska

Proportional to its population, Alaska is, without a doubt, the most popular state among serial killers, with 15.65 serial killings per one million inhabitants. A total of 51 serial murders took place in Alaska between 1900 and 2014, with more than half of those occurring between 1980 and 1990.
The activities of serial killers spiked in the 1980s, and Alaska led the nation in serial killer murders during this decade. Experts have suggested a number of theories to account for why Alaska produces and houses so many serial killers.

Some experts point to environmental factors as a major influence. Extended winter nights for much of the year have a profound psychological impact on many people, although the most frequent symptom of seasonal affective disorder is severe depression.

A quote related to Alaskan murders: "he size and isolation of the Alaskan wilderness may also be an appealing factor. The seclusion provides opportunities to prey on vulnerable individuals and offers many remote locations to dispose of evidence."

Of course, for a serial murderer, the cover of darkness also provides a perfect opportunity to target a victim. The size and isolation of the Alaskan wilderness may also be an appealing factor. The seclusion provides opportunities to prey on vulnerable individuals and offers many remote locations to dispose of evidence.

Experts highlight the nature of the workforce as another important factor. The logging, construction, and oil industries that drive Alaska’s economy results in a high number of seasonal workers. The largely male population, in turn, contributes to a high number of sex workers in the state. Serial killers often target sex workers, both in Alaska and elsewhere in America.

The total number of sex worker victims by serial killers surpasses 850 nationwide. Experts suggest isolation and frequent interactions with strangers make them more susceptible. In a similar vein, around 325 serial murders have been linked to hitchhiking.

Alaska also has one of the highest rates of violent crimes in the country. In 2015, FBI statistics reported that Alaska had 730.2 violent crimes per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 372.6 per 100,000. The environmental factors in Alaska play some part in this, however many experts believe the lack of law enforcement services in isolated regions of the state also drive up this statistic.

A Washington Post study claims at least 75 Native American-Alaskan villages have no law enforcement at all. In the case of a crime, they must rely on Alaska State Troopers, who may take hours to respond to the call. Sometimes, evidence becomes lost or removed, and solving crimes becomes much more difficult when the scene isn’t documented properly. Many serial killers remain at large due to compromised police work.

2. Nevada

After Alaska, Nevada has the second highest rate of serial killings in the United States – among its 12.19 per million inhabitants. There have been 98 serial murders since 1900, with 33 committed in the 1980s.

Like Alaska, Nevada has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country according to FBI statistics. Many believe that the historic ties to organized crime contribute to the excessive levels of violent crime. The rise of Nevada as a gambling destination could explain the jump in serial killings in the 1980s.

Finally, the high numbers of tourists – in many cases, desperate individuals down on their luck– create a pool of ideal victims for anyone looking to commit a nefarious act. 


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3. Florida

A photo of a person walking through a misty tunnel of trees.

Showtime’s Dexter – the popular long-running TV series about a serial killer who hunts other serial killers – portrayed Miami as a hotbed of serial predators. Florida actually does seem to attract serial killers with a rate of 9.92 serial murders per million inhabitants.

The total number of serial murders committed in the state is 778, with 247 of those murders taking place in the 1980s. As in other states, the ‘80s marked the deadliest period in Florida’s history for serial killings. In fact, Florida has the third highest number of total individual serial cases in the country, with 112 separate cases.
It’s not clear exactly why Florida is such an active state for serial murderers. Like Alaska and Nevada, Florida is an extremely violent state in general, with 5.8 murders per 100,000 reported by the FBI in 2014.

Florida also stands out in the popular imagination due to its so-called “celebrity” serial killers. Ted Bundy, one of the most famous American serial predators of the 20th century, was sentenced to the death penalty for the murder of several women in the state in 1978. Ted had also killed many others in several different states. In addition, Aileen Wuornos – the subject of the 2003 film Monster – killed seven men in Florida from 1989-1990.

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4. California

Although it doesn’t have the same proportion of serial killers per capita as some of the other states on the list, California earned a place among the most lethal states associated with serial killings.

During the “serial killer decade” of the 1980s, the chilling criminals in the State of California committed roughly a fifth of the 2,670 serial murders nationwide. Today, the total number of serial killings stands at 1,507 or 7.81 deaths per million inhabitants. Overall, California has seen a total of 128 cases of serial killing – the second highest number in the country.

A graphic about California's "Serial Killer Decade," where California accounted for 1/5 of all serial murders nationwide.

California also stands out in terms of the notoriety of its murderers and the individual cases associated with the killers. Many books and movies have chronicled the terrifying activities of Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker. Patrick Kearney, William Bonin and Randy Steven Kraft – three separate murderers who were all classed together as the Freeway Killer –  became media sensations when the grisly details of their actions came to light.

The infamous Manson Family conducted their reign of terror in the Golden State. The Zodiac Killer murders, one of the most famous unsolved serial murder cases in American history, also took place in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Even today, his identity remains unknown.

Read More: “What Happens When The Dead Begin To Speak?: Cracking the Tina Faelz Cold Case”

View Books on California Crime


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5. Washington

A photo of a person's hands behind glass.

The data reveals a total of 277 known serial killings took place in Washington State, with 95 individual serial cases.

Like other states on this list, a number of notorious serial killers caught the attention of the nation. Robert Lee Yates, a former prison guard and later a helicopter pilot for the United States Army, murdered 16 women between 1975-1988.

Another particularly infamous case in Washington State is Gary Ridgway, aka the Green River Killer. His conviction for the murders of 49 women in the 1980s and 1990s gives him the chilling distinction of having the most confirmed murders of any American serial killer.

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6. Oregon

Compared to other states, Oregon has a relatively low rate of violent crime per capita. In fact, with 232 violent incidents reported per year for every 100,000 citizens, it is overall one of the least violent states in the country.

However, while statistics show Oregon as a generally peaceful place to live, serial killings occur with more frequency per capita in this state than almost anywhere else in the nation. Serial killings occur in Oregon at the rate of 7.36 serial murders per million residents.

There’s another distinction for murders committed in Oregon. While a great majority of serial murderers use firearms, there is a high rate of strangulations in this state, with a total of 52 people who died in this manner.


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7. Louisiana

Louisiana is known for many things: food, Mardi Gras, jazz music – and serial killers. The total number of serial killings in the state stands at 276 or 7.35 per million inhabitants.

From 1989 to 2014, Louisiana averaged 13.7 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, more than double the national average of 6.6. A number of factors combined to result in this rate of homicide. Louisiana has some interesting tales that fit well with the city’s traditions of witchcraft, voodoo, and general paranormal activity.

A photo of willow trees hanging over the Louisiana Bayou.

The Axeman of New Orleans, as named by the press in the early 20th century, terrorized the city from 1910-1919, breaking into houses and murdering people in their sleep with an axe.

The series of attacks culminated in a letter to Louisiana newspapers, supposedly from the Axeman himself, claiming he was of otherworldly origin — a “spirit and a demon from the hottest hell.”

The letter also stated that another victim would be murdered at 12:15 A.M on the night of March 19th, 1919 but provided the caveat that the murderer would pass by any home where the residents played jazz.

On the night of the 19th, the residents of New Orleans packed every home and dance hall with jazz bands, and the night passed with no murders. He committed his final murder in October, 1919 before disappearing into the night. No one ever learned the terrifying Axeman’s true identity.  


It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why people find serial killers so fascinating, but there is a strange allure in exploring the dark pathologies of the human mind. It’s similar to the reason why we enjoy tales of true crime.

The United States has produced a large number of serial killers, ranging from the brutal to the prolific. Though you can pinpoint certain regions as having a higher instance of serial murderers, they seem to happen all over the country.

Even today, the mystery and horror surrounding serial killers remains extremely powerful for many people. From sunny Florida to the rainy pacific northwest, it’s fascinating to study the places they committed their crimes and the towns that had no idea that a killer was among them.

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