Day jobs can be particularly handy for a serial killer. Believe it or not, living on the dark side of the human condition doesn’t exactly pay well. Besides, it’s always helpful to have a virtuous occupation that throws the public off your scent before roaming around on your next night prowl. That being said, here’s a list of killers who took their masquerade to the very edge of absurdity with the most outrageously inappropriate (and in some cases borderline-ironic) day jobs.
10 Ted Bundy
Suicide Hotline Worker
“Ted Bundy took lives, he also saved lives,” wrote novelist Ann Rule in one of the world’s most startling true crime books. Here, she described her encounters with infamous killer Ted Bundy, whose modus operandi (MO) involved luring victims (young, white, middle-class females) to his vehicle under the guise of some form of disability.
As if it weren’t shocking enough that the crime writer was later hired to write a book on the unsolved murders perpetrated by her longtime friend, it just so happens that she met Ted while volunteering at a suicide hotline center. At the time, he was a 24-year-old college student. It is unknown whether he had begun killing.
He later confessed to taking as many as 30 lives, after which he often committed acts of necrophilia. Creepy, right? Especially when you start wondering how many he actually saved.
9 Fred West
Ice Cream Truck Driver
One-half of one of England’s most gruesome killer couples, family man Fred West committed at least 12 murders with the help of his wife, Rosemary, between 1967 and 1987. These murders were sexually motivated, and their victims were most often between the ages of 15 and 21.
In fact, one of the first sexual assaults committed by Fred and his wife was suffered by their daughter, Anne Marie, when she was only eight years old. The couple continued to molest and prostitute the girl to other men throughout her childhood.
It seems, however, that Fred was somehow able to subvert these perverted and pedophilic urges during daylight hours when he operated an ice cream truck.
8 John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy enjoyed performing at fundraisers and children’s parties as “Pogo the Clown.” In his free time, however, he engaged in far less jolly activities.
Going on to gain more notoriety for his killings than for his party performances, Gacy would later be convicted of 33 murders. His preferred victims were teenage boys, whom he sexually assaulted, tortured, and strangled after conning them into putting on handcuffs (at times as part of a clown act).
Eventually, Gacy confessed his crimes to his lawyer, Sam Amirante. Later, Gacy was placed on death row, where he remained incarcerated for 14 years and began making paintings of himself as “Pogo.” Upon execution, he uttered the last words, “Kiss my ass.”
7 Jeffrey Dahmer
Jeffrey Dahmer was a bit of a foodie. Some may be aware of his time spent working the night shift at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory. However, one of his many side employers also included a delicatessen during his time in Florida.
The most disturbing part is that Dahmer’s tastes also extended to a rather macabre palate—human flesh. He earned the title of “Milwaukee Cannibal” after drugging and murdering at least 17 young men, sexually assaulting the bodies, and eating the meat. He even kept skulls and genitals as souvenirs.
Unfortunately for Dahmer, it’s dog-eat-dog in jail and he was eventually beaten to death by a fellow inmate.
6 Richard Ramirez (“The Night Stalker”)
Holiday Inn Employee
An eager freshman by the name of Richard Ramirez took a job at his local Holiday Inn. So what if he swiped a few things here and there or sometimes spied on the guests in the shower? Wait, hold up—that’s a bit odd, right?
Well, one night, the now-infamous killer took this hobby from bizarre to downright evil when he raped one of the hotel’s female guests. Luckily, he was caught in the act by the woman’s husband. Unfortunately, the charge was ultimately dropped.
Ramirez was free to become the maniacal drug addict, Satanist, and brutally indiscriminate “night stalker” who would most often break into his victims’ homes. Fittingly, the people eventually garnered some form of revenge when a group of locals held him down upon seeing him flee from police capture.
Regrettably, all love was not lost. Ramirez grew to generate a cult following of female fans, one of whom he actually married while incarcerated.
5 Dennis Nilsen
Upstanding law enforcer Dennis Nilsen (aka the “Muswell Hill Murderer” or the “Kindly Killer“) murdered at least 12 young men between 1978 and 1983. Most of his victims were either homeless or homosexual men, whom he would lure to his residence by offering shelter or alcohol.
Nilsen’s MO included strangulation and drowning, after which he would bathe, clothe, and house the bodies in his home for weeks at a time before dismembering them. He would then remove the organs and burn the rest of the corpse but not before engaging in acts of necrophilia.
This particularly grotesque ritual earned him the description of the “British Jeffrey Dahmer.”
4 Andrei Chikatilo
Andrei Chikatilo killed over 50 people in the Soviet Union, most of whom were young females. He was often bullied during his childhood and adolescence, suffering from issues with bed-wetting and the inability to maintain an erection due to brain damage at birth.
He was apparently a very quiet boy, making for an ineffective defense against bullies, including, he claimed, the children to whom he taught Russian language and literature. In fact, one of his earliest sexual assaults was committed against a pupil, a 15-year-old girl whom he groped and ejaculated on.
Astoundingly, the teacher was not reprimanded until a string of similar complaints had been filed. Then he was allowed to voluntarily resign. Chikatilo went on to find jobs at a couple of other schools until moving to Rostov to become a supply clerk and begin a new career—as a murderer.
3 Harold Shipman
Like Ted Bundy, Dr. Harold Shipman saved lives in addition to taking them. While working as a GP in Britain, Shipman murdered over 200 patients. Most were elderly women to whom he administered lethal doses of diamorphine. He signed their death certificates and then falsified medical records.
Perhaps even more horrifying, Shipman had often been required to treat his mother with the same drug while she was battling cancer in his care. Although he had been previously investigated, it was not until the daughter of one of his victims discovered a will in which her mother had supposedly left her estate to the doctor that police were sufficiently alerted. A rigorous investigation ensued.
Shipman was charged with 15 counts of murder and went on to hang himself in his jail cell the day before his 58th birthday. That being said, the doctor did manage to revolutionize standard medical procedure in Britain. His crimes resulted in a series of alterations, which have been fittingly referred to as the “Shipman effect.”
2 Dennis Rader (“BTK Killer”)
ADT Alarm Installer
Who better to install your security alarm than a self-professed intruder?
Dennis Rader may have been a perfectly amiable and law-abiding husband and father during the day. By night, however, he often broke into homes (including those in which he had previously installed an alarm) and committed heinous murders under the pseudonym “BTK.”
Rader used this alias to garner recognition for his crimes. He left a letter of confession in a local library after his first murders of four members of the Otero family. The letter explained that he derived sexual pleasure from the act and that he wished to be referred to by the initials of the words “Bind,” “Torture,” “Kill,” his apparent MO.
Oddly enough, this desire for fame is what eventually led to Rader’s capture as he had actually stopped killing by that time. To commence the 13th anniversary of the Otero family killings, however, BTK began sending out letters and packages revealing incriminating clues as to his true identity. Kind of defeats the purpose of the pseudonym, doesn’t it?
1 Peter Sutcliffe (“Yorkshire Ripper”)
Admittedly this is the least inappropriate job on the list, but it is certainly creepy and weird enough to warrant inclusion here.
Some killers are actually haunted by voices from the grave. Peter Sutcliffe was a gravedigger during both light and dark hours. He claimed that he heard the voice of God emanating from a grave, instructing him to kill “bastard prostitutes who were littering the streets.” Apparently, this extended to female college students, whom Sutcliffe murdered toward the end. However, the majority of his victims were, in fact, prostitutes.
Sutcliffe’s first four victims escaped after attempts on his part to strike, bludgeon, or stab them. He then went on to murder women for the next six years, his MO continuing to consist of hammer strikes, stabbing, and mutilation.
This earned him the nickname of the “Yorkshire Ripper” due to the similarities in MO to that of the infamous “Jack the Ripper,” whose true identity is still a subject of speculation. Sutcliffe was investigated several times but was not convicted until he offered a confession in 1981.
I am a student in Amsterdam, studying Neuroscience and Psychology, with a passion for true-crime and creative writing.