Most Dangerous Families in History
Plenty of terrible things run in families. Receding hairlines. High blood pressure. Bad taste in furniture. And ... murder? If you're going grey early or had to get glasses when you were only 10, consider yourself lucky. You could have been born into a family known for killing more than the standard childhood dreams.
Before you read on, be warned: The stories you're about to discover are dark, disturbing and — worst of all — true.
The Gang of Amazons
To start, let's travel to Stavropol, Russia. One would like to think that familial crime sprees are the stuff of legends and history books, but the murder fest led by Inessa Tarverdiyeva took place in the mid-2000s. Inessa, her husband Roman and her daughter Viktoria began conducting armed robberies in 2007. If it wasn't convenient to keep their victims alive, they were killed.
Together, they robbed and killed at least 30 people. They were caught on Sept. 8, 2013. Roman was killed during the capture, while Inessa and Viktoria were discovered hiding over 20 firearms at a hidden campsite. According to the police, Inessa showed no remorse, considering the years of violence her normal way of life.
In the early 1800s, the Zulu Clan wasn't particularly noteworthy. One member of the clan, Shaka Zulu, was responsible for making it the fearsome power we remember today. He instructed his warriors in remarkably effective battle tactics, easily taking out British colonists who were unfamiliar with the terrain.
He also required unquestioning obedience, speed and efficiency, and any soldier who fell short was harshly punished. They would go off to war and return to find their families dead and their homes wrecked, as defeat was not an option. Most of his people, many of whom were his direct relatives, still celebrated him as a hero despite the abuse. A few weren't so fond of him, however, including his two half-brothers, who killed him in 1828.
The Harpe Brothers
The Micajah and Wiley Harpe, later known as the Harpe brothers, lurked in the territory west of the Appalachian Mountains in the years following the American Revolution. The two had been loyal followers of the crown, and it would seem the pair developed quite the vendetta against the now-American settlers inhabiting the region.
It was sparsely populated, so the Harpe brothers got by for quite some time by robbing and murdering passing settlers. Reportedly, they took pleasure in the attacks, and locals decided to take matters into their own hands and take the evil duo down. Micajah succumbed to his injuries after an altercation with them in 1799, but Wiley wasn't captured until five years later. He was hung by the authorities in 1804.
The Staffleback Family
In the 1890s, Nancy Staffleback moved to Kansas with her children — and that's where the normalcy ended. She turned their new house into a brothel, in which her kids were put to work. When a miner named Frank Galbraith tried to see Nancy's daughter, Emma, he was rejected.
In the wee hours of the morning, he returned, heavily intoxicated. During the tense confrontation that followed, Nancy's son, Ed, fatally shot him. The brothel was raided by the police, and every member of the operation was arrested. Nancy's daughter-in-law, Cora, and another prostitute working there admitted that it wasn't the first murder that had taken place there. To this day, no one knows how many lives the Stafflebacks took, nor the location of their remains.
Genghis Khan’s Clan
The empire of Genghis Khan was well known for being unusually brutal. The Mongols weren't massive in numbers, but their tactics were disturbingly violent and psychological. It was far from a one-man operation. Khan's sons and grandsons pledged to continue his dark conquests.
If a town gave in peacefully, they were welcomed into the empire with little aggression. If they resisted, they were swiftly destroyed. The Mongolian empire had its upsides, offering freedom of worship and other basic rights to its loyal subjects, but that doesn't erase the fact that Khan and his descendants killed about 11 percent of the world's population in their quest for expansion.
The Kray Twins
We'd be mad, too, if we were named Ronald and Reginald, but Ronnie and Reggie Kray took rage to a whole different level. The identical twins were born in London in 1933. Due to the rarity of twins surviving to adulthood at the time, they were spoiled and doted upon by their mother. They behaved like a disturbingly close trio, and family members claimed that something about them always seemed off.
The twins became malignantly narcissistic and got involved in amateur boxing driven by aggressive sibling rivalry. Both twins went AWOL during World War II and attacked the constable who attempted to arrest them. Their run-ins with the law escalated until they opened a run-down nightclub when they were eventually released from prison. It evolved into a powerful gang that punished anyone who defied them, resorting to arson, assault or murder if they were disrespected.
They were careful, however, and those on the outside viewed the Kray twins as charming celebrities of London's social scene. It wasn't until 1968 that their empire was taken down by the police. They remained in a high-security psychiatric facility for the rest of their lives.
The Kelly Family
Back in the 1860s, the Kelly Family moved from Pennsylvania to Kansas and founded a tavern. Road-weary travelers stopped for a rest, yet many of them never arrived at their destinations. They mysteriously disappeared along the way. This went on for nearly two decades until the family spontaneously abandoned the tavern.
When a traveler stopped by to see what was amiss, there was a strange smell, and he discovered three corpses in the cellar. Authorities found several more. According to locals, the Kellys seemed entirely normal. Vigilantes eventually tracked down the family all the way in Texas.
The Truro Murderers
While most villainous families are known by their last name, the Truro murderers were named by the town in which they conducted their misdeeds. In the South Australian town of Truro, a group of mushroom hunters discovered the remains of Veronica Knight, a teen who had been missing for four months. A year later, 16-year-old Sylvia Pittman's body was found nearby.
The culprit turned out to be a laborer named James Miller with his romantic partner Christopher Worrell. The pair met in prison and continued their relationship after their release. They began a habit of luring young women into their car, usually to go on a drive. Worrell was the more violent of the pair. He was usually the one responsible for killing the women, but Miller helped him hide their remains.
The spree took place over the course of two months from 1976 to 1977. Seven women in total were found. While Worrell died in a car wreck in 1977, Miller was sentenced to six life sentences.
The Borgias, a Spanish family from the 15th century, dominated the political world at the time. They were hungry for power and stopped at nothing to achieve it. The infamous Lucrezia Borgias was used by her family to infiltrate other powerful families via arranged marriage and then take over.
One member of the Borgia clan, Alexander Borgia, became the pope, giving the family almost universal power over the region. During his papacy, he was accused of everything from bribery, incest, theft and murder. The accusations were never proven, but historians agree that the family was far from innocent.
The Briley Brothers
Usually, it's grown adults who are responsible for violent crime, but not in the case of the Briley brothers. In 1971, Linwood Briley shot and killed his 57-year-old neighbor. He was only 16 at the time, so he was sent to reform school instead of prison. Sadly, the incident was only the beginning.
In 1979, Linwood joined his brothers, James and Anthony, along with a friend named Duncan Meekins, in a violent crime spree throughout Richmond, Virginia. They robbed and murdered 11 people, and it's possible more were never found. They were caught and sentenced to death. Linwood and James were executed by electric chair, but Anthony and Duncan remain incarcerated.
The Bean Clan
In Scotland, few families were more infamous than the Bean Clan. The 45-member clan from the 16th century was led by Alexander Bean and his partner in crime, ‘Black’ Agnes Douglas. They supposedly made a home out of a hidden cave and had several children, who later produced over a dozen grandchildren via incest.
Because they were ill-suited for typical trades, they survived instead by resorting to robbing and killing travelers. Their victims were then dismembered and eaten, and any leftovers occasionally washed up on nearby shores. Several innocent people were hanged by locals who were desperate to end the string of disappearances until the Beans were eventually caught and brought to justice by James VI of Scotland.
This is one tale, however, that was so poorly recorded that the details are vague at best. Whether the full scope of the clan's crimes is true or just the stuff of legend is still unknown.
Fred and Rose West
While some murderers have a motive, others are just plain evil. They take pleasure in the risk of getting caught and even more in the act of killing itself. This was the case with a couple named Fred and Rose West. Between 1967 and 1987, they killed over a dozen young women. Fred was the killer, but Rose was considered an accomplice. She met Fred when she was just 15.
Rose worked as a prostitute and lured young women to their home, where they were assaulted and later killed by Fred. The details are too horrific to share in full, but the couple was responsible for ongoing domestic violence against their own children, murders of family members who grew suspicious and over a dozen women. Fred hanged himself in prison in 1995 before trial, while Rose remains imprisoned at HM Prison New Hall in Flockton, West Yorkshire, England.
The Gonzalez Sisters
From 1945 through 1964, four sisters in Mexico ran an illegal brothel that served as the center of a large prostitution network. The women who worked there weren't doing so of their own accord. They were either kidnapped by the Gonzalez sisters or hired under false pretenses. Their victims were then drugged and forced into prostitution. They were also required to steal from their clients, and those who tried to escape or refused were killed.
The police eventually raided the brothel and discovered the remains of over 150 bodies. They were, shockingly, only sentenced to 40 years in prison. Guinness World Records once described them as "the most prolific murder partnership."
The Bloody Benders
Then, there's the infamous Bender family, better known as the Bloody Benders. They lived in a cabin in Lebec County, Kansas, in the 1870s. They seemed like a normal family of settlers from the outside, but a string of disappearances began to occur. In 1871, a man's body was found in a nearby creek with a crushed skull. Two more bodies with similar injuries were found the following year.
As the number of reports mounted, travelers began avoiding the route entirely. As suspicion grew, the Benders fled. A total of eight bodies were found buried under a trap door beneath the foundation of the cabin, all mutilated. Their motives were never discovered, but most suspect they stole from their victims and were amused by the murders. Including recovered body parts and victims found nearby, at least 20 victims were killed by the family. Terrifyingly, the Benders were never caught, which means their descendants could still be lurking among us.