You’d think that putting together a list of the 8 worst mass murderers in American history would be a straightforward task. Unfortunately, it’s not, because there are quite a few “mass murders” that most Americans don’t consider to fit the definition.
For example, most people wouldn’t look at the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Tulsa Race Riot, or 80 Branch Davidians dying when Bill Clinton’s Department of Justice moved in on them to be “mass murders.”
So, as a definition, we’re talking about large killings on American soil, perpetrated by a single person or small group of people. What follows are the 7 worst mass murderers in American history.
8. Adam Lanza
Location: Newtown, Connecticut
Nickname: Sandy Hook Massacre
Method: Semi-automatic rifle, semi-automatic pistol
Adam Lanza had Asperger’s syndrome and was anorexic and mentally ill; he became increasingly isolated and dysfunctional. On Lanza’s 20th birthday, he shot his mother four times in the head with one of her guns while she slept. Then he drove her car to the Sandy Hook Elementary School where he killed 20 children between the ages of 5 and 10, along with 6 adults. After he finished his murderous rampage, Lanza shot himself in the head and died on the scene.
7. Seung-Hui Cho
Location: Blacksburg, Virginia
Nickname: Virginia Tech Massacre
Method: Two semi-automatic pistols
Cho was born in South Korea, but was a legal resident of the United States. He had depression and anxiety problems and seemed to have extreme difficulty talking with people. As with Adam Lanza, some of his teachers were alarmed at the violent stories he wrote. In fact one of them, Lucinda Roy, said she was concerned for her safety when she met with him one on one and said she reported him to school authorities. Unfortunately, nothing was done.
Cho spent months planning the attack, but it began in a bizarre fashion. Cho murdered Emily Jane Hilscher in her dorm room along with Ryan Clark, who apparently tried to help her. There has been some speculation that Cho had a crush on her, but there doesn’t seem to be definitive proof of that. After killing both of them, Cho managed to escape back to his dorm room without being detected. There he mailed an angry, rambling manifesto to NBC. Two and a half hours after the first killings, Cho went to another building on campus and killed an additional 25 students and 5 teachers. Afterwards, Cho committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
6. Name Unknown
Location: New York, New York
Nickname: Wall Street Bombing
Method: Dynamite (bomb)
In 1920, a horse-drawn carriage filled with 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of iron was parked outside the J.P. Morgan Bank in New York City. The bomb killed 38 people and wounded another 143. There was speculation that communists or anarchists were behind the bombing, but unfortunately, the perpetrator was never caught.
5. Marshall Applewhite
Location: Rancho Santa Fe, California
Nickname: Heaven’s Gate Suicide
Marshall Applewhite was the gay leader of the Heaven’s Gate Cult. Applewhite, who had such a hold over his followers that he convinced six of them to join him in being CASTRATED, told the cult members that they had to kill themselves in order to hitch a ride on a UFO hiding behind the Hale-Bopp comet. Over a THREE DAY LONG PERIOD, the cult members, including Marshall Applewhite, took phenobarbital and vodka, then put plastic bags over their heads and suffocated to death.
4. Andrew Philip Kehoe
Location: Bath Township, Michigan
Nickname: Bath School Disaster
Method: Dynamite/Pyrotol (bomb)
Kehoe was the elected treasurer of the Bath Consolidated School Board and was temporarily appointed as the Bath Township clerk. After losing an election for the position, Kehoe, who was also deep in debt, stopped maintaining his farm. Soon thereafter, his farm went into foreclosure. Adding to the pressure on Kehoe, his wife was ill with tuberculosis. Yet and still, Kehoe didn’t simply “snap.” He used his position as the school’s volunteer handyman to his advantage. It allowed him to spend MONTHS planting explosives near the Bath school.
Kehoe started by murdering his own wife and then set his farm on fire. From there, Kehoe went to the school and set off the explosives he’d planted. Thirty seven children, most of whom were between the ages of 6 and 8, died in the explosions. However, Kehoe wasn’t done yet. After rescue efforts began, Kehoe drove up to a group including the school superintendent and detonated his truck, which was filled with dynamite. Kehoe and 6 victims died in the blast. When his farm was searched afterward, a sign with the words “Criminals Are Made, Not Born” was found.
3. Omar Mateen
Location: Orlando, Florida
Nickname: Orlando nightclub shooting
Method: Semi-automatic rifle, Semi-automatic pistol
Omar Mateen was a radical Muslim whose father supported the Taliban. Mateen’s wife knew the attacks were coming and even helped him scope out the Pulse nightclub. Former classmates remembered Mateen cheering the 9/11 attacks.
There was rampant speculation that Mateen was actually gay and taking revenge for being rejected by men in the club, but FBI sources have commented that they’ve found no evidence that Mateen was “secretly gay.”
At 2:00 a.m., Mateen walked into the gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando and started shooting. By the time he was done, 49 people were dead. During his rampage, Mateen called 911 and News 13 of Orlando in order to let people know he was pledging allegiance to ISIS.
After the police arrived, Mateen took hostages. Eventually, SWAT stormed the building and Mateen was shot eight times and killed.
2. Stephen Paddock (Suspect)
Location: Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada
Method: Reportedly an Automatic Weapon
More than 50 people were killed and more than 500 injured when Stephen Paddock began firing on a country music concert from his hotel room at the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas.
1. Timothy McVeigh
Location: Oklahoma City
Nickname: Oklahoma City Bombing
Method: Ammonium Nitrate (bomb)
On April 19, 1995, which was the 2nd anniversary of the end of the Branch Davidian siege, a truck bomb was parked under the day care center in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. It contained more than 4000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and the explosion was enormous with 324 nearby buildings damaged or destroyed while 168 people died and 680 were injured.
Within an hour and a half of the bombing, Timothy McVeigh, the man who had driven the truck, was picked up on a traffic stop and quickly linked to the bombing. After searching the house of McVeigh’s father, evidence led the FBI to his co-conspirator, Terry Nichols. Nichols turned himself in. At the trial, it was revealed that Lori Fortier knew about the bombing, but did nothing to warn anyone. Her husband Michael actually helped scout the location.
Timothy McVeigh was a militia member who was angry about government abuses in Waco and at Ruby Ridge and took his revenge with the bombing. In May of 2001, McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection. Nichols is still serving 161 life sentences. Michael Fortier, who testified against McVeigh and Nichols in return for leniency for his wife and a reduced sentence, served 10 1/2 years while his wife was given immunity.