Crime occurs everywhere around us. There are those run-of-the-mill crimes, which see a long sought legal battle between the attorney and the criminal lawyer. And then there are other crimes with much larger magnitudes.
Some crimes, simply put, are bigger than others. They may have a big cultural impact, they may affect sizeable amounts of people, or they may be present over a large geographic area. These crimes are momentous and have gone down in history for their atrocious or peculiar natures.
There are many ways to define what the worst crimes in history are. We’ve given attention to more recent crimes with a few nods to the long forsaken past. Below are the ten worst crimes in history and the infamous legacies that they left behind:
Crime #1: Bernie Madoff’s investment scheme – 2008
One of the worst crimes in history involves Bernie Madoff. He oversaw the largest case of investment fraud in the United States ever. In 2008, Madoff was betrayed by his sons who turned him into the authorities. Evidence of a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme was evident. After defrauding his clients of more than $19 billion, Madoff is now serving a 150-year life sentence.
Crime #2: Abraham Lincoln’s assassination – 1865
The first time a US President was shot down in cold blood, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in April, 1865. Just a month after his second inauguration and days following the end of the American Civil War, former actor and Confederate radical John Wilkes Booth fired a gunshot into the back of Lincoln’s head. The president would die the next morning.
Crime #3: JonBenet Ramsey’s murder – 1996
JonBenet Ramsey went to bed on Christmas night and the 6-year old child beauty pageant queen was never seen from again. The case has never been solved, with much tabloid publicity and rumor stoking accusations towards the parents. In 2008, the DNA of an unknown male was found at the scene. The case has been plagued by many details that don’t add up. For many parents, there’s nothing more horrifying than the thought of this happening to a child.
Crime #4: Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre – 1929
At the height of organized crime in the US, on Valentine’s Day in 1929, six mobsters and a civilian were gunned down over the course of a single day in Chicago. Rival gangs were at war. The massacre sent Chicago into a tailspin, authorities not knowing how to react. At the time, the sudden rise in violence became a call to action for new planning against gangs and organized crime in the US northeast.
Crime #5: Jeffrey Dahmer serial killing – 1978 to 1991
For over a decade, Jeffrey Dahmer victimized 17 males – some men and other boys. He killed, tortured, dismembered, and sometimes ate his victims. One of the most notorious serial killers in history, the crimes committed by Dahmer are near unspeakable. He would lure people back to his home and lock them in his apartment. There, he would drug them and then, have his way usually leading towards fatal consequences.
Crime #6: John F. Kennedy’s assassination – 1963
Nearly a full century after Abraham Lincoln’s death, another US president was murdered. A lot about the assassination of John F. Kennedy is debated to this day, regarding who, where, when, and why. What’s certain though is that this was the first death in several in the 1960s and 1970s that communicated if a person had a certain political opinion in North America, they were potentially at risk of being hurt or killed.
Crime #7: Charles Manson murders – 1969
A lot of folklore exists surrounding Charles Manson’s cult killings across LA in the last year of the 1960s. With multiple murders associated with Manson and his cult teachings, this crime demonstrates the power of psychology and seduction of thought, and the impact this can have on a person’s willingness to commit criminal acts in favor of a cause.
Crime #8: Watergate break-in – 1972
The Watergate break-in and the discovery that the President of the United States was going to criminal lengths to maintain power is something that rocked how we thought of politics in North America. It exposed a level of corruption in government that has forever tainted the seat of President and how we see our political leaders. The result of the speculation, media hassle, and discovery of facts to come out was the stepping down of President Richard Nixon in 1974.
Crime #9: Mao Zedong’s mass murders – 1958 to 1962
Through his Great Leap Forward policy, China’s then-leader Mao Zedong is found by historians responsible for the deaths of more than 45 million people – more than Hitler or Stalin. Millions tortured and/or killed for not following Zedong’s rule, the precise number of victims may be greater. Although controversial, many consider this to be the worst mass murder in history.
Crime #10: The Gardner Museum Heist – 1990
This may seem like child’s play compared to the other criminal acts on this list but the Gardner Museum Heist marks the largest private property theft in US history. Two thieves dressed as police officers went into this Boston museum and stole 13 works of art valued at a cumulative $300 million. Surprisingly so, the two men were never caught and none of the artwork has ever turned up anywhere. This remains one of Boston’s greatest mysteries.