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Serial killer is a term generally used to describe someone who commits three or more murders at different times, and usually also in different places.
The term is used in this sense in the Supernatural franchise in relation to humans, although many Vengeful Spirits and demons would also fit this definition. In fact, Bela Talbot even refers to Sam and Dean as serial killers. According to the Men of Letters files in Clip Show, infamous serial killer Lizzie Borden murdered her family while possessed by a demon. In Thin Lizzie, Amara showed a belief that it was Lizzie and not her uncle who was the killer due to the look in Lizzie's eyes in her portraits.
Though Sam and Dean typically face monsters or humans otherwise connected to the supernatural such as witches, on a few occasions they have faced serial killers who are completely human and whose actions simply mimic that of some form of monster. In particular, in Thinman, the Winchesters thought they were facing Thinman some sort of teleporting monster, only to learn that Thinman was a made-up legend used by two serial killers to kill people who had pissed them off. Neither man had any connection to the supernatural at all and they pretended to be Thinman simply as a way to cover up their murder spree. The legend of Black Bill in The Memory Remains was similar, but in this case, the killers were feeding their victims to the god Moloch in exchange for riches. Agent Terrance Clegg and the Harvester in Breakdown would be considered both serial killers and serial abductors, as they kidnapped and butchered numerous people over a twelve year period, although their actions were done to sell their victims' parts to monsters. Nick became a budding serial killer in an attempt to find his family's murderer, the demon Abraxas. At first he only targeted people with special knowledge of the murders, but he eventually developed a taste for the act. Blunt force trauma to the skull was Nick's modus operandi. In Ouroboros, Castiel suggests that they might simply be hunting a deranged serial killer instead of a monster when they can't figure out what they are hunting. Jack Kline states a belief that anyone who could commit such horrific murders is a monster, human or not.
Sam Winchester is fascinated with serial killers. In The Executioner's Song, Dean quizzes him on the murder statistics of different serial killers. In Thin Lizzie, when Sam finds a case in the Lizzie Borden House and is keen to investigate, Dean says "this has something to do with your freaky fetish for serial killers." In Lebanon, Dean is highly amused when they face the ghost of John Wayne Gacy as it combines Sam's love for serial killers with his hatred for clowns. Sam is less than amused by the experience, for once not displaying his usual level of enthusiasm when dealing with a famous serial killer.
In Faith, David Berkowitz is the name on the credit card that Sam gives to the nurse in the hospital to pay for Dean's treatment. There is an extremely famous person with the same name -- the serial killer also known as "Son of Sam."
In The Benders, the Bender family were hillbilly serial killers that kidnapped Sam. When Dean is attempting to rescue Sam, he discovers cars and trophy photographs that show that the family has killed many people over the years. Pa Bender also states that they kill "only one or two a year."
In Simon Said, Dean comments when examining Andy's van "not exactly a serial killer's lair, though. There's no... clown paintings on the walls, or scissors stuck in victims' photos. I like the tiger." Dean mentioning clown paintings is a reference to John Wayne Gacy, who was known to paint portraits of his alter ego "Pogo the Clown" while incarcerated.
In No Exit, Henry H. Holmes is often called America's first serial killer. The number of his victims has typically been estimated between 20 to 100, and even as high as 230, however, the only verified number is 2. In 1893 he opened a hotel for the Chicago World's Fair and used it to trap, torture, and kill his victims. It became known as the Holmes Murder Castle. In the present, his ghost is haunting the apartment building which was erected over the site where he was hung. When the Winchesters are researching people killed at Moyamensing Prison, it is Sam who recognizes that Herman Webster Mudgett was H.H. Holmes' real name. Unable to destroy the ghost as his bones are buried in concrete, the Winchesters permanently trap him in his lair with the help of Jo Harvelle.
In Folsom Prison Blues, after learning from their father's old friend Deacon of a ghost haunting a prison, the Winchesters believe it to be the spirit of Mark Moody, an insane Satanic serial killer who died of a heart attack in the prison. Sam later learns from Randall that Moody was actually beaten to death in his cell and salts and burns the blood left behind in order to put Moody to rest. However, Moody turns out not to be the culprit with the ghost of Nurse Glockner being the killer instead. Though not identified as such, Glockner herself could be considered a serial killer as Randall told Sam and Dean tales of her euthanizing inmates who went to her infirmary when they weren't terribly sick.
In Time Is on My Side, after Doc Benton found the secret to immortality, over many years he would kill people for their body parts to keep himself alive. Sam and Dean are able to stop him by burying him alive.
In Sam, Interrupted, after seeing Martin Creaser's clown drawings, Dean asks if they are "original Gacy's," referencing the infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy who liked to paint portraits of his alter-ego "Pogo the Clown" while incarcerated.
In Repo Man, Jeffrey was a postal worker with psychopathic tendencies, who was possessed by a demon who started killing people. After the demon was exorcised, Jeffrey began killing on his own. Eventually he hoped to be reunited with his demon after performing a special ritual to summon exorcised demons. The demon, would, however, refuse to possess Jeffrey, revealing it is only a "recruiter" and has already unleashed Jeffery's potential. Dean later kills Jeffrey while Nora Havelock exorcises the demon.
In Of Grave Importance, Whitman Van Ness killed his fiancé, and a number of other women. He died at the age of 40, and continued to haunt the Van Ness House, killing many people over the decades all the while using the other trapped ghosts in the house to feed off of and become stronger.
In Clip Show, while looking through the Men of Letters files, Dean finds one that mentions Lizzie Borden, a famous serial killer who hacked her family to death with a hatchet and got away with it. The file reveals that Lizzie was possessed by a demon at the time.
In Thinman, taking advantage of the Thinman legend that was created by Ed Zeddmore, Roger and Deputy Tom Norwood become serial killers targeting those they hate such as Casey Miles, who rejected Roger, and their bosses. Sam and Dean are drawn in by the apparently teleporting monster, only to learn the truth about Thinman being fake from Ed. In a final confrontation, Roger is killed by Dean while Harry Spangler kills Tom to save Ed's life. Dean then stages the scene to make it look like the two had killed each other.
In The Executioner's Song, Cain teleports to death row to visit one of his descendants, Tommy Tolliver. Before he was arrested, Tolliver killed nine people, but the state only arrested him for seven. Cain kills him and teleports away with his body.
While Sam and Dean visit death row to investigate Tolliver's disappearance, Sam comments on how he collects serial killer stats from watching movies from the true crime genre, including murders committed by the Zodiac and Dahmer.
Castiel discovers that Cain is committing genocide by killing off his descendants, "culling one in ten of everyone." He kills people of varying ages and genders and buries their corpses in a plot somewhere in Illinois. Before he can kill Tommy's estranged son Austin Reynolds, he is captured by Sam and Crowley, and Dean kills Cain with the First Blade.
In Thin Lizzie, Sam and Dean visit the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum, much to Dean's dismay due to his aversion to Sam's fetish for serial killers. Lizzie Borden was committed for hacking her father and stepmom to death with a hatchet in 1892. She ended up getting acquitted and spent the rest of her life persecuted by the townspeople.
Len Fletcher talks about how he and Amara were discussing Lizzie Borden. He stated that her uncle had stronger motive and opportunity to kill them, but Amara tells Len that she can tell that Lizzie definitely killed her victims.
After being rendered soulless by Amara, Sydney becomes a serial killer, targeting those who she feels have screwed her over. Before she can kill the Winchesters, Sydney is killed by Len, who decides to confess to her murder spree so he will be safely locked up as Len, too, is soulless.
In The Memory Remains, while investigating a series of disappearances connected to Black Bill, the Winchesters learn that Black Bill is really various members of the Bishop Family going back generations. The family members would kidnap and murder people every year as sacrifices to the god Moloch in exchange for riches. The current killer proves to be Pete Garfinkle, who has been kidnapping and murdering locals to feed Moloch and get his own riches. Pete and Moloch are both killed by Sam, ending the murder spree for good.
In Breakdown, after Sheriff Donna Hanscum's niece Wendy disappears, she calls in the Winchesters for help despite all signs pointing to a human abductor. Agent Terrance Clegg informs the Winchesters, Donna, and Doug Stover about a man he calls The Butterfly who has been kidnapping people for twelve years who are never seen again. The Butterfly and his associate The Harvester are revealed to be auctioning off the parts of their victims to monsters and then brutally cutting them apart. Donna kills the Carver while rescuing her niece and Dean kills the Butterfly, in reality Clegg, moments before he can murder Sam.
In Gods and Monsters, Nick goes back to Pike Creek, Delaware, to visit his old neighbor Arty Nielson and ask him about the murders. Arty reported seeing someone leaving Nick's house at the time of the murders, but he later changed his story. Arty denies seeing anyone, but Nick soon becomes agitated and lashes out at Arty. He later beats him to death with a hammer, the modus operandi matching his family's deaths.
In The Scar, Sam shows off his knowledge of serial killers by mentioning Robert Leroy Anderson, who was a killer in South Dakota who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1999.
In Unhuman Nature, Nick visits a priest whom Arty visited to receive confession. He wanted the priest to reveal what Arty told him about that night, but he was uncooperative as the nature of confession is confidential. Nick then slits his throat and nails him to the door frame.
After he finds out about Frank Kellogg, Nick heads over to Montauk to see him. On the way, he sees a young woman walking out into an alley from a club, and contemplates whether to leave his car, ultimately deciding to walk up to her. He takes out his knife and hides it behind his back. She invites Nick to come inside and party with her and her friends, but he tells her to leave.
Nick arrives at the home of Frank Kellogg and asks him about what happened to his family. Frank tries to slam the door on Nick, but Nick catches him and ties him to a chair. Nick tells Kellogg what Arty told him before he died: He saw a cop leaving Nick's house that night. Frank later reveals that he went to Nick's house to respond to a call made by Sarah about a possible prowler. Outside the house, he met someone named Abraxas, but he doesn't remember anything else before he woke up in his car covered in blood. Nick recognizes the name and realizes that Lucifer knew that name. Nick realizes that Abraxas is a demon who possessed Frank and used his vessel to kill his family. When the cops discovered what happened, they covered up the murders to prevent Frank from going to prison. Although Nick acknowledges that Frank is innocent, the demon still used him to kill his family. He then proceeds to beat Frank to death with a hammer.
In Damaged Goods, Nick continues his murder spree by capturing and torturing demons for information on Abraxas. After learning that Mary Winchester captured Abraxas, Nick heads to Hibbing, Minnesota, to confront Mary, but is stopped driving a stolen van by Sheriff Donna Hanscum, who learns of Nick's killing spree after running his fingerprints. Nick knocks Donna out with a stun gun and learns Mary's location from Donna's phone, but chooses not to harm her further. Instead, Nick leaves Donna unconscious in the driver's seat of her police car.
Nick then kidnaps Mary and forces her to lead him to Mary's Lock-Up where Abraxas is trapped in an Enochian Puzzle Box. Nick promises to release Mary once they are done there. After finding the puzzle box, Nick goes so far as to kidnap a security guard named Jeff to act as Abraxas' vessel so that he can talk to the demon for answers. After Abraxas offers answers in exchange for Mary's death, Nick tries to kill her, but is interrupted by Sam, Dean, and Donna. Nick releases Abraxas, who attacks them and reveals that he killed Nick's family under the orders of Lucifer. Nick then completes his revenge and killing spree by killing both Abraxas and Jeff with an angel blade.
After Abraxas' death, Nick is surrounded by the Winchesters and tries to attack Mary. However, Donna shoots him in the leg and Mary knocks Nick unconscious. Nick is subsequently arrested for his murders by Donna and shows no remorse for them, feeling that they were necessary to avenge his family.
In Prophet and Loss, Nick remains in custody for his murder spree for which at least four jurisdictions want to prosecute him. Nick claims that his murders were due to Lucifer's influence on him, which no one buys. However, Nick is able to overpower his police guard and escape from the hospital where he was being treated for his leg injury.
At the same time, malformed prophet Tony Alvarez hears what he believes to be God instructing him to commit divine retributions. Tony drowns a young woman in bloody salt water and slits the throat of his friend Alan, a first born, to reenact two divine retributions. Tony is stopped from burning a man alive by the Winchesters and commits suicide. Due to worries of future activated Prophets ending up like Tony, the Winchesters and Castiel decide to remove Donatello Redfield from life support, only to learn that Tony was actually hearing Donatello's mutterings as his mind attempted to rebuild itself.
In Lebanon, amongst the occult items retrieved from a pawn shop is the cigar box of John Wayne Gacy, the "Killer Clown." After the box is revealed to hold the ghost of Gacy, Dean is amused as it combines both Sam's love for serial killers and his hatred of clowns. Gacy's spirit is laid to rest by Sam before he can kill anyone else.
In Ouroboros, while hunting an enemy who has six victims that they know of with ritualistic qualities to the kills and who keeps getting away, Castiel suggests that they might simply be dealing with a deranged serial killer who is getting lucky rather than a monster. Jack tells Castiel that anyone who could commit such horrific murders is a monster, human or not, which Dean agrees with. The discussion is interrupted by a phone call from Sam who, with Rowena's help, has determined that they are hunting a gorgon.
Known Serial Killers
There were a few known Serial Killers on the series:
- Francis Tumblety (trapped)
- Henry H. Holmes (deceased)
- Jeffrey (deceased)
- John Wayne Gacy (trapped)
- Nick (deceased)
- Tommy Tolliver (deceased)
- Unknown Shapeshifter (deceased)
- Unknown Musca (deceased)
- In No Exit and Lebanon, Sam and Dean face the ghosts of famous serial killers Henry H. Holmes and John Wayne Gacy, respectively, who continue their murder sprees after death. Both ghosts are defeated by the Winchesters and prevented from causing further harm.
- In the non-canon novel Supernatural: Nevermore, the main bad guy is a serial killer named Ross Vincent. In addition, in Supernatural: Night Terror, the deranged serial killer Kurt Machalek and the deranged and cannibalistic serial killer Ragnar Bartch appears. In Supernatural: Cold Fire, the pontianak, Riza Nodd, is the daughter of secret serial killer Calvin Nodd whose murder of her, her unborn child and her boyfriend turned Riza into a monster in the first place.
- The Winchesters have to deal the Vengeful Spirits of deceased serial killers George Drechler and Clive Gillmer in Supernatural: Fresh Meat and Supernatural: Night Terror respectively.