Top 10 Real-Life Serial Killer Calling Cards



Top 10 Real-Life Serial Killer Calling Cards

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
These killers weren't above taunting the police, the public, or their victims. For this list, we'll be ranking the most infamous, unique, or creepy behaviors from serial killers that went on to become closely associated with their crimes. Our countdown includes Jack the Ripper, The Son of Sam, The Zodiac Killer, and more!

Top 10 Serial Killer Calling Cards

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Serial Killer Calling Cards.

For this list, we'll be ranking the most infamous, unique, or creepy behaviors from serial killers that went on to become closely associated with their crimes.

Did we leave any out? Sound off in the comments.

#10: Happy Faces

Keith Hunter Jesperson
Serial killer calling cards are creepy, there's no doubt about it. It's even more unsettling when the criminal in question uses something so other innocuous during his crimes. Keith Hunter Jesperson was known as "The Happy Face Killer," thanks to his penchant for including little smiley faces on crime scenes, as well as on letters he wrote to the media. The habit stands in stark contrast to the brutality of his crimes, which involved strangling unknown strangers from 1990 to 1995. Jesperson was a murderer who demanded notoriety, and - for better or worse - he certainly received it.

#9: Stockings

The Boston Strangler
The case of The Boston Strangler may never be understood fully, as there are those who still maintain that the man charged with the crimes, Albert DeSalvo, might not have acted alone. Still, this doesn't change the chilling calling cards associated with the killings that plagued the Boston area during the 1960s. The Strangler was often able to gain access to the homes of victims without force, posing as a repairman or some other trustworthy stranger. He would then strangle women with their own stockings, or other similar items in the home, and leave them behind as some perverse tableau. Another victim, Mary Sullivan, even received a New Year's card for her trouble, left behind by the Strangler after he was finished.

#8: Tarot Cards

The Beltway Snipers
Serial killer crimes can often be gruesome, but there's something profoundly eerie about the cold and detached method of a long-distance sniper rifle. The Beltway Snipers terrorized multiple states throughout 2002, but focused their destructive energies largely on the Washington, D.C. area. Although John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo didn't utilize the same calling card for every crime, news outlets picked up on the October 7th shooting of young Iran Brown, thanks to one creepy coda. The pair left the Tarot Card for death at the crime scene, inscribed with the phrases "Call me God," "For you mr. Police," and "Do not release to the press."

#7: Giggling

Kenneth Harrison [aka. The Giggler]
Some serial killers feel guilt-ridden about their crimes and leave behind clues to assist in their capture by authorities. Others, meanwhile, contact the police for another reason: to brag. Kenneth Harrison gave himself the nickname of "The Giggler" when tipping off Boston PD about the locations of his victims, laughing about it the whole time. Harrison's methods would change, sometimes tossing people off bridges, other times meeting folks down in Boston's notorious "Combat Zone" red light district and attacking them in a dark alley. One thing's for sure, The Giggler seemed to take great pride in taunting police.

#6: Lipstick Messages

William Heirens
William Heirens may have been apologetic about his crimes, but that didn't make them any less heinous. This serial offender was known as The Lipstick Killer, thanks to one chilling message painted on a victim's apartment wall. The message read, "For heavens Sake catch me Before I kill more I cannot control myself." The prosecution and police investigation behind Heirens’ case was, in a word, a mess, filled with inconsistencies, illegalities, and shoddy procedure. Still, this didn't prevent The Lipstick Killer from being sentenced to life in prison (with the possibility of parole) for three separate murders.

#5: Notes

The Son of Sam
Call him The Son of Sam, call him the .44 Caliber Killer, or simply David Berkowitz: New York City was in absolute fear of this serial killer during the summer of 1977. Berkowitz would usually target couples parked in cars, sneaking up and shooting them with a .44 caliber pistol. He would also leave taunting letters for the police, notes that were comparatively more in-depth than others on our list. The pages of rambling included the "Son of Sam" moniker, detailing how Berkowitz allegedly took his orders to kill from a Satanic dog owned by his next-door neighbor. They were a disturbing reminder of just how unpredictable the world of real-life crime can be.

#4: Poetry

The BTK Killer
Dennis Rader was a husband and father, but he was also one of the most infamous American serial killers in history. Known as The BTK Killer due to his methodology, Rader also seemed to have a more sensitive side… at least when it came to his communication with police and the media. BTK sent multiple letters to local news outlets, but one in particular possessed a twist: Dennis Rader's own perverse poetry. The ABC affiliate KAKE in Wichita, Kansas received two letters from Rader, the latter of which adapted the folk song "O Death" with a poem that took the song's lyrics and shifted them into a poem about one of Rader's victims, Nancy Fox.
Dennis Rader:

#3: Body Parts

Jack the Ripper
We'll probably never discover the true identity of the man behind the Whitechapel Murders in Victorian England, the infamous Jack the Ripper. However, we do know that The Ripper's crimes were disgusting, and came with their own, equally gross calling cards: human remains. There were rumors that Bloody Jack had some sort of advanced medical knowledge since organs were often removed from the victims' bodies with precise surgical skill. These body parts were sometimes taken, but usually left somewhere at the scene of the crime, placed near or on top of the victim's corpse. The "Dear Boss" letter, sent to police, even arrived with a special gift to authorities: a victim's severed ear.

#2: Inverted Pentagrams

The Night Stalker
Close your windows and lock your doors, because you never know when The Night Stalker is going to strike. This was advice given to California homeowners during the early 1980s because Richard Ramirez was officially on the loose. Ramirez was the product of tremendous childhood trauma that would eventually lead to a life of crime and devotion to Satanism. The Night Stalker was known for drawing inverted pentagrams on his hands for attention while on trial, but Ramirez also left the symbols as a calling card during his murders. He even demanded one victim, "swear to Satan" that he wasn't holding out on any valuables within the home.

#1: Cryptograms

The Zodiac Killer
We've discussed a lot of calling cards thus far on our list, but none of them were as complex or mysterious as the cryptograms constructed by The Zodiac Killer. A cryptogram is a word puzzle that demands decoding in order to uncover its meaning. The Zodiac sent bold and taunting letters to newspapers and police along with these cryptograms, claiming that they would hold the secret to where he would strike next. Four cryptograms in total were sent, with only one being deciphered prior to December of 2020, when the "340 Cipher" was finally solved by a team of individuals from the United States, Belgium, and Australia.