7 blood-curdling facts about female serial killers

Okay, morbid murder stories might be our not-so-secret favorite guilty pleasure. From the new show Mindhunter, to our favorite murder podcasts, to good-old-fashioned word-of-mouth tales, we’re hooked. And if you’re as fascinated as we are by the macabre, then you may have noticed that when it comes to this particular area, it’s male serial killers who usually capture the public’s imagination. However, female serial killers definitely exist, and their M.O.’s are incredibly intriguing.

While in general, there is less information out there on the minds of these women, enough research has been done to isolate several distinct patterns — many of which show clear differences between female serial killers and their male counterparts.

So without further ado, here are some blood-curdling facts we’ve uncovered about female serial killers.

1Their most common method of killing is poison.

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It’s definitely a quieter and less gruesome way to commit the unspeakable act. It’s also harder to accidentally leave behind evidence, and can be used on anyone — even someone who may be physically much larger than yourself.

2Approximately 15% of all serial killers are women.

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And because women only commit 10% of all one-time, non-serial murders, there are more female serial killers than you might expect.

3They usually kill people with whom they have a close relationship.

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Like their husbands, children, or elderly relatives. Meanwhile, male serial killers are more likely to target strangers.

4They are less likely to have a prior criminal history than men.

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This one is most perplexing, because it’s hard to conceive of someone who has lived life on the straight and narrow suddenly committing the most brutal act of violence. These ladies are strategic, apparently.

5On average, they take way longer to get caught.

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A 2011 study found that because of their more subtle techniques and general lack of criminal history, women get away with their sprees for longer than their male counterparts. On average, a female serial killer’s “career” spans eight to 11 years, whereas men last an average of two.

6They’re often motivated by material gain.

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Marissa Harrison, an evolutionary psychologist at Penn State Harrisburg, conducted a study on female serial killers in 2014, and found that financial gain was the most common motive (whereas male serial killers are generally motivated by sex). Harrison acknowledges that people generally view women as being incapable of violent crime, but that’s a mistake.

"Contrary to preconceived notions about women being incapable of these extremes, the women in our study poisoned, smothered, burned, choked, bludgeoned and shot newborns, children, elderly and ill people as well as healthy adults; most often those who knew and likely trusted them," the study read.

7They’re less likely to torture their victims.

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This relates to how women are often driven to kill for money or material gain — they’re usually doing what’s “necessary” to get what they want, and so they’re less inclined to draw out the victim’s suffering. This is in stark contrast to many male serial killers, whose motives are often sexual and sadistic in nature.

Stay safe out there, people.