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Crime News Serial Killers

13 Serial Killers Who Turned Their Homes Into Torture Chambers

Serial killers like John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer turned their unassuming homes into the stuff of nightmares. 

By Benjamin H. Smith

For some serial killers, the ultimate thrill is not the stalking, catching and killing of their victims — it is the torturing and enslaving of them. Inspiring an entire sub-genre of horror movies known as “torture porn," these real-life sickos built torture chambers in their homes to prolong their victims' pain and suffering until their sickening bloodlust was quenched. Whether motivated by misanthropy, misogyny or sadomasochistic sexual fantasies, these are 13 serial killers who turned their unassuming homes into the stuff of nightmares. Scroll below to read about the twisted murders of serial killers like John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Ng.

1. H. H. Holmes

Often referred to as “America’s first serial killer,” Holmes built a so-called “Murder Castle” in Chicago, replete with trap doors, soundproof rooms and secret passageways where it was rumored he tortured and killed untold numbers of victims. In fact, he was an itinerant conman, born Herman Webster Mudgett, who sold his story to the highest bidder after his arrest for the murder of a former grifting partner and his children. Though he claimed to have murdered 27 people, authorities believe the actual number to be around nine. He was hanged to death in 1896.

2. Dean Corll

The worst serial killer of his era, Corll murdered at least 28 teenage boys in the early 1970s in what came to be known as “The Houston Mass Murders.” Nicknamed “The Candyman,“ for giving kids free candy from his family business, Corll was often aided by two teenage boys, David Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley. The boys were paid to help ensnare victims, who would then be manacled to a “torture board” inside Corll’s home, then raped and tortured, sometimes for days, before being murdered. Henley later shot and killed Corll during another attempted rape and murder, and both he and Brooks were later sentenced to life in prison.

3. John Wayne Gacy

One of America’s most prolific serial killers, from 1972 to 1978, Gacy killed 33 teenage boys and young men in his suburban Chicago home, burying most of his victims in a crawlspace beneath it. Gacy lured his victims inside with drink, drugs and money, before handcuffing them and brutally raping them for hours, culminating in what he called “the rope trick” — strangling them to death with a tourniquet knot. He spent his spare time working as a precinct captain for the local Democratic Party and performing for children as “Pogo The Clown,” hence being dubbed “The Killer Clown.” Gacy was put to death by lethal injection 1994.

4. Jeffrey Dahmer

“The Milwaukee Cannibal” preyed on young men, luring them inside his apartment, where they would be raped, tortured, then murdered and dismembered. Dahmer sometimes drilled holes into his victims' skulls while they were still alive, later injecting hydrochloric acid or boiling water into their brains. Dahmer often ate the vital organs of his victims' bodies and kept their body parts as trophies. He was arrested in 1991 after one potential victim escaped his apartment. Dahmer was later sentenced to life in prison, where he was bludgeoned to death by a fellow inmate in 1994.   

5. Fred and Rosemary West

Over the course of 20 years, this killer couple raped and murdered at least 12 women, mostly in their home in Gloucester, England, which the UK press dubbed the “House of Horrors.” Fans of bondage and S&M, the West’s killed both willing and unwilling sex partners, and horrifically abused their own children, many of whom they also sexually molested. While early victims included Fred’s first wife and stepdaughter, both killed in 1971, the Wests weren’t arrested until the early ‘90s, initially for the 1987 murder of their 16-year-old daughter Heather West, who had told friends about the sexual and physical abuse she suffered at home. Her remains were among nine bodies found buried underneath the Wests' back patio. Fred West later hanged himself in his jail cell, while Rosemary was sentenced to life in prison. 

6. Robert Berdella

In the mid-‘80s, “The Butcher Of Kansas City” held young men captive in his home, repeatedly raping and torturing them, in some cases for up to six weeks, until they would die from their injuries. A former chef, he would then cut their bodies into small pieces, which were put out with the trash. Berdella ran a booth selling oddities at a local flea market called Bob’s Bizarre Bazaar, and took in borders, some of whom later became his victims. After his seventh and final victim escaped his home following a week of abuse, police searched his home and discovered hundreds of photographs of his victims, bones and a diary, which detailed his methods of torture. In 1988, he pleaded guilty in order to avoid the death penalty and died in prison from a heart attack in prison in 1992.

7. Robert Ben Rhoades

For those who make their living as interstate truckers, home is behind the wheel. It’s fitting then that the man known as “The Truck Stop Killer” converted the back of his sleeper cab into a traveling torture chamber, where he would keep women he picked up hitchhiking as sex slaves before ultimately killing them. Rhoades was apprehended in 1990, after police searched his cab in Arizona and found a hysterical teenage victim inside. He was soon connected to the murder of 14-year old Regina Kay Walters, whose terrifying final moments he photographed. He later pleaded guilty to the murder of a Texas couple, though police fear he may have been kidnapping, raping and murdering hitchhikers since the 1970s.

8. Leonard Lake and Charles Ng

In the early ‘80s, these two former US Marines and sexual sadists murdered 11 and possibly as many as 25, including men, women and children. While the men and children were quickly killed, women were held in a cabin in a remote part of Northern California where they were raped and tortured for extended periods of time, before being murdered or dying from their injuries, with the assaults often filmed by Lake, an amateur pornographer. After being apprehended, Lake committed suicide by swallowing hidden cyanide pills, while Ng was eventually sentenced to death. He is currently on death row. 


Named after the “toy box,” a soundproof trailer on his New Mexico property filled with restraint and torture devices, “The Toy Box Killer” kidnapped, raped and tortured an unknown number of women until his 1999 arrest. Police caught up with him after his final victim escaped the trailer wearing nothing but a dog collar and a chain, and according to Ray’s own diaries, his victims may reach into the 40s, with many of them presumed murdered. Ray was eventually sentenced to 224 years in prison for the sexual assaults of three women, and he died in custody at the age of 62. The FBI continues to search for information on any other possible victims. 


In 1985, a nude 19-year-old women was found shackled at the feet and hands along the road in Florida, saying she had been kidnapped by a man who tied her down, repeatedly raped her over the course of 22 hours and drained her blood, drinking it and telling her he was a vampire. Police arrested Crutchley, and during a search of his home they found dog collars, chains, intravenous needles and bags of different colored hair clippings. It was later discovered he was also the suspect in his girlfriend’s 1977 murder. Police fear “The Vampire Rapist” was guilty of more crimes, but they could only convict him for the single rape and abduction. After serving 11 years in prison for the rape and kidnapping, he was released on parole. Crutchley, however, smoked marijuana while on probation and was sentenced to life in prison for the slip-up. He committed suicide in prison in 2002.

11. Maury Travis

Code-named “The Street Walker Strangler” by police, it is believed Travis was behind the deaths of 17 sex workers in the St. Louis area — if not more — during the early 2000s. After bragging about his exploits to a local newspaper and sending a map downloaded from the Internet, police tracked him down through his IP address and arrested him. In the basement of his home, they found a blood-stained torture chamber with restraints, a stun gun and videos of him brutalizing and murdering victims. Before they could definitely pin all the murders on him, however, he committed suicide in his cell.  

[Photo: Getty Images]