America’s most notorious, and prolific, murderers enjoyed music, just like the rest of us. However, the bands and artists they chose to like can potentially give us a window inside their heads reveal the methods behind their cold-blooded madness.
Here are eight of America’s most wicked killers and the music they loved to listen to as they brought tragedy after tragedy to this country.
Jeffrey Dahmer – Black Sabbath
Throughout his reign of terror, which lasted a horrific 13 years, Dahmer raped and murdered 17 men and boys. The Milwaukee native also performed sex acts with his victim’s corpses and even committed cannibalism, thus tying him to fictional serial killer Hannibal Lector after his 1991 capture.
Before starting his serial killing spree, however, he worked in a chocolate factory and even enlisted in the Army. Jeffrey Dahmer also listened to music, heavy metal as a matter of fact. The rapist and killer often got blackout drunk on weekends off from the chocolate factory, blasting his favorite band Black Sabbath. Incidentally, many heavy metal bands have written songs about the killer, including Slayer and Macabre.
After facing numerous convictions, Dahmer was killed by a fellow prison inmate in 1994.
Charles Manson – The Beatles (and The Beach Boys)
Manson is perhaps the most notorious personality on this list, if only for giving the order that killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate, wife of controversial film director Roman Polanksi. All told, Manson and his cult followers committed nine murders in the summer of 1969 and, since that time, the wild-eyed killer has propagated his cult of personality by conducting a series of incendiary interviews.
The infamous cult leader actually pinned the motive for his numerous murders on pop music. Manson claimed society was on the cusp of a race war, which he dubbed “Helter Skelter,” a term he co-opted from the Beatles song of the same name. Being a mass murderer, he wanted that race war to occur, and hoped to pin the slaying of Sharon Tate on the nascent Black Panthers movement.
Manson was actually a failed musician himself and managed to befriend another of the biggest groups of the 1960s, The Beach Boys. The killer wormed his way into the inner circle of drummer Dennis Wilson after Wilson picked up two female hitchhikers, who were already members of Manson’s cult.
“[The women] told me they too had a guru, a guy named Charlie who’d recently come out of jail after 12 years. He drifted into crime, but when I met him I found he had great musical ideas,” Wilson told Record Mirror in 1968. “We’re writing together now. He’s dumb, in some ways, but I accept his approach and have learnt from him.”
Wilson introduced Manson to record producer Terry Melcher, who eventually refused to work with the killer. The home where Sharon Tate was murdered was previously occupied by Melcher and many think that the record producer and his family were the real targets, with Manson having not known that he had moved.
The Beach Boys singer Mike Love told PEOPLE that his cousin Dennis Wilson, who died in 1983, was wracked with guilt after the murders, saying that he “carried that guilt with him for the last 14 years of his life.”
Manson is still in prison, serving out several life sentences.
Richard Ramirez AKA “The Night Stalker” – AC/DC
Richard Ramirez terrorized California residents during the mid 1980s. The killer was dubbed “The Night Stalker” by the press, due to his propensity to invade homes at night before committing his gruesome crimes. All told, the avowed satanist killed 13 people and sexually assaulted 11 of his victims.
At his sentencing hearing in 1989, Ramirez said, “I am beyond good and evil. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells in us all.”
So, one would think his preferred music would have been heavy metal of the darkest variety. However, Ramirez actually preferred Australian rock band AC/DC, who sang hits such as “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”
Despite their seeming innocuousness, however, police think AC/DC may have inspired the killer with his methodology. Authorities have stated that the song “Night Prowler” acted as a sort of template for Ramirez and his nighttime home invasions.
“The Night Stalker” died in prison in 2013, from lymphoma, as he sat on death row.
Aileen Wuornos – Natalie Merchant
Aileen Wuornos killed seven men in Florida during the late 1980s, claiming that each of her victims were attempting to sexually assault her and that was she acted in self defense. The court, however, did not accept her line of reasoning and she was found guilty, eventually being sentenced to death.
While on death row, Wuornos requested that Natalie Merchant’s 1995 hit “Carnival” be played at her funeral, a request that was granted. It is unknown how the convicted killer became interested in the former 10,000 Maniacs singer.
Wuornos was killed by lethal injection in 2002, with her story eventually becoming a critically acclaimed film.
David Berkowitz AKA “The Son of Sam” – Peter, Paul and Mary
Richard Berkowitz menaced New York City during the summer of 1977, killing six people with his infamous .44 caliber revolver and wounding seven others. He also set the template for decades of serial killers in film and television by repeatedly sending police mocking letters in which he promised he would take more victims.
His favorite band was folk act Peter, Paul and Mary, who are known for non-threatening songs like “Puff the Magic Dragon” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind.” Also on his murderous playlist? Fellow folk acts such as Carole King and James Taylor.
Berkowitz was captured by NYC police on August 10, 1977 and pleaded guilty to all of the crimes, claiming he was just following orders issued by a demon named “Harvey” who had taken the form of his neighbor’s dog, named “Sam.” He is currently behind bars, serving six consecutive life sentences.
John Wayne Gacy – REO Speedwagon
John Wayne Gacy sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenagers and young men in Illinois throughout the 1970s. Even more horrific? Gacy would often dress up as a character he created called “Pogo the Clown” and attend children’s parties and fundraising events. Yeah, an actual killer clown.
While sitting on death row, the convicted killer responded to a letter and said that his favorite band was REO Speedwagon, soft rock composers of “Keep on Loving You” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” He also stated in the letter that he looked up to President Kennedy and was an avid fan of author William S. Burroughs.
Gacy was convicted of 33 murders and was sentenced to death in 1980. He was killed by lethal injection in 1994.
Wayne Williams – B.B. King
Wayne Williams is probably the most notorious alleged child killer in American history, with police saying that he murdered at least 23 children in Atlanta during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Dubbed the perpetrator of the “Atlanta Child Murders,” Williams was arrested when a surveillance team spotted his car exiting a bridge mere moments after the dead body of a child had been dropped in the water. Additionally, he failed multiple lie detector tests throughout the investigation.
Williams worked as a music promoter and, as such, was a fan of many acts. His favorite, however, seemed to be blues legend B.B. King. Someone sent him a letter as he sat in prison, asking him if he wanted to be sent any gifts. He responded that he would like a B.B. King cassette tape.
Williams was convicted of killing two adult men in 1982 and was sentenced to life behind bars. Georgia police never managed to convict him of any of the child murders and Williams claims innocence to this day, alleging that authorities removed evidence that implicated members of the KKK in the horrific crimes.
Roy Norris – Bee Gees and Mariah Carey
Roy Norris is one half of the notorious serial killing duo known as the “Tool Box Killers.” Along with his partner, Lawrence Bittaker, Norris kidnapped, tortured, sexually assault and killed five teenage girls in 1979. The crimes took place in Southern California, with the pair being dubbed the “Tool Box Killers” because of the manner in which they sexually tortured their victims, with items they had purchased at the hardware store.
While Bittaker’s musical tastes remain unknown, Norris has been noted by various sources of being a huge fan of the Bee Gees and songstress Mariah Carey. He must have discovered the latter in prison, as Carey rose to fame in 1990.
Norris copped a plea deal and testified against his murderous partner. As such, he received 30 years to life behind bars, instead of a death sentence. Norris was denied parole in 2009 and will be once again eligible in 2019. Bittaker was sentenced to death and is currently in death row.