What person has ended the most lives of other people?
This question usually leads to evil dictators, like Stalin and Mao and Hitler. But they only gave the orders; they didn't actually pull the trigger. Others bring up Noboru Kanai, the bombardier who destroyed the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, killing 1,177 American sailors, or Paul Tibbetts, who dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, which killed about 70,000 people. But they were members of aircraft crews, whose members share some of the responsibility, and dropping a bomb from high above isn't the same as killing someone at point-blank range.
So I've ranked the five individuals who directly killed the most people. A warning: This stuff gets pretty dark.
5. Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer - 71 murders
Ridgway was known as the Green River Killer because his first five victims were found there. In 2001, he confessed to raping and killing 71 women in and around Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. Many of the women were prostitutes; some were runaways. Ridgway picked them up in his truck and then strangled them at his home. First he used his bare hands, but his victims' struggles produced injuries on his arms that could raise questions, so he turned to rope or cords. He buried some of the bodies in forests and sometimes dug them up later to have sex with them.
Officially, Ridgway was convicted of the murder of 49 people, but several years later he confessed to killing a total of 71. Authorities suspect him in another 11 deaths. If all of these claims are confirmed, Ridgway would be responsible for the 82 deaths. As it stands now, he's already the most prolific serial killer in American history.
4. Thug Behram - 125 murders
Behram was a member of the Thuggee cult in India, a sort of criminal organization whose members would rob and murder innocent travelers. Active in the early 19th century, Behram would strangle his victims with a ceremonial handkerchief, which he wore as a cummerbund, perhaps the first time that type of clothing has been associated with death.
At his trial, Behram said, "I may have strangled with my own hands about 125 men, and I may have seen strangled 150 more." The British, who controlled India at the time, speculated he could have committed or been an accomplice to more than 930 murders. I'll give him credit only for his confession, which still puts him in the top five of all time. Behram was hanged for his crimes in 1840.
3. Luis Garavito, "The Beast" - 147 murders
In 1999, Garavito confessed to the rape, torture, and murder of 147 young boys in Colombia. Many of his victims were poor kids living on the street. After molesting them, he would cut their throats and dismember the bodies. He has unofficially confessed to another 150 or so murders, based on maps to bodies he drew for authorities while in jail.
Colombia has no sentences for life in prison and no capital punishment, so Garavito could be released after serving 22 years, which would put him back on the street in 2021. He could be out even earlier with good behavior. Officials are already considering other punishments or even changing the country's laws.
2. Simo Häyhä, "The White Death" - 505 kills
Two months after Germany invaded Poland and began World War Two, Russia invaded Finland. The Soviets had huge numerical advantages in soldiers, tanks, and aircraft. The Finns had Samo Häyhä.
He was a sniper and saw most of his action in just 100 days, during the Battle of Kollaa, which lasted from December 1939 into March 1940. Temperatures dropped as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. The Russian soldiers didn't have camouflage, so Häyhä picked them off, one by one. He used an iron sight because a telescopic sight's lens can reflect light, which would give away his position. He also packed snow around his rifle muzzle to reduce the amount of telltale smoke, and put snow in his mouth to reduce condensation from his breath.
All this ingenuity, along with deadly aim, earned him 505 confirmed kills, the most of any sniper in a major war. He was eventually wounded by an exploding bullet and removed from active duty, and Finland lost the war a few months later. But Häyhä would outlive the entire Soviet Union, dying in 2002.
1. Vasily Blokhin - 7,000 executions
Blokhin was one of the most vile human beings in history. He was a Soviet officer during World War Two. After Russia and Germany carved up Poland at the start of the war, about 10,000 Polish officers were sent to an internment camp in the Katyn forest. Blokhin then eliminated most of them. He not only gave the orders but also personally carried out the executions, every night for 28 consecutive days.
Prisoners were led to a basement chamber, where Blokhin waited for them. His leather executioner's gear: Long gloves, a butcher's apron, and a hat. Without a trial, a sentence, or any official procedure, guards held down each prisoner while Blokhin shot him in the back of the head. Guards then removed the body, hosed down the floor, and led in the next victim. Blokhin killed one POW every three minutes. It's the most prolific and efficient mass murder by a single person in world history.
Stalin decorated Blokhin for his work. He lived through the war into the 1950s, falling out of favor after Stalin's death. He suffered from depression and alcoholism, and died in 1955. The official cause was suicide. When the mass graves were discovered in the Katyn forest in 1943, Russia blamed the Nazis, only admitting guilt in 1990. Neither Blokhin nor anyone else was ever brought to trial for the massacre.