Can You Identify the Worst Criminals in American History?

Gavin Thagard

Image: Wiki Commons by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

About This Quiz

From violent serial killers to bank robbers and corrupt businessmen, America has a criminal history that rivals any other country in the world. In fact, the history of American criminals can be traced back to a well-known traitor in the Revolutionary War. Since then, American criminals have found countless ways to keep the populace mesmerized, constantly upping the ante with each new crime. 

For most, it's hard to understand exactly what makes someone commit these horrible acts on those around them, which is why there is such an obsession with these criminals for years and even decades after they have been locked away or executed. They never quite fade from the grander American story, as countless books and movies depict their lives while followers find new ways to replicate the actions of the criminals who came before them. 

Do you have an obsession with criminals and what drives their actions? How well do you know the worse criminals in American history, those from the Wild West to the modern day? Do you think you can identify most of those American criminals from an image? This quiz will give you a chance to find out. 

When you're ready, get started and see how far your criminal obsession will take you in the quiz! 

If you were joining a commune during the 1960s in California, this might've been your leader. Who is he?

Charles Manson was a rejected musician who became a cult​ leader of a group known as the Manson Family. After organizing several murders throughout California, Manson was arrested and charged in 1971, spending the rest of his life in prison where he died at the age of 83.

What's the name of this criminal known for the Columbine​ shooting?

Eric Harris and his friend, Dylan Klebold, entered their high school on April 20, 1999, killing twelve students and one teacher in a rage-filled shooting. The kids claimed the attack was due to prior bullying.

Do you know the name of this notorious bank robber?

John Dillinger was killed by Federal agents in the summer of 1934 when he was leaving a movie at the Biograph Theater in Chicago. Dillinger tried to flee as the agents approached him, and they shot him as he ran.

This murderer tried to convince a jury she did it in self-defense. What's her name?

Prior to her trial, Jodi Arias gave several different statements to police, which mostly contradicted each other. When her stories failed to line up, she tried to plead self-defense but was found guilty of first-degree murder.

A serial killer who went out on his own terms, who is this?

Paul John Knowles traveled around the United States in the 1970s killing upwards of 20 people. When he was finally arrested and being transported by police, he tried to escape the police cruiser and was shot to death, ending his reign of terror.

Do you recognize this caretaker who killed the elderly?

Donald Harvey called himself the "Angel of Death," as he supposedly helped dozens of elderly people reach the afterlife. However, the jury didn't see it that way, and Harvey was sentenced to 28 consecutive life sentences.

What's the name of this outlaw who is a legend of the Wild West?

Jesse James was the leader of the James-Younger Gang who robbed banks throughout the mid-west from around 1868 until the 1880s. In 1882, James was shot by Robert Ford: a new member of his very own gang.

This murderer forever changed the face of what an American serial killer could look like. Who is he?

Known as the "BTK Strangler," Dennis Rader had a method of murder where he would bind, torture, then kill his victims. Despite moving away from his murdering ways after 1991, he was discovered after sending letters taunting police in 2004 and 2005.

Known for robbery during the Great Depression with her lover, Clyde, do you know who this notorious criminal is?

Bonnie and Clyde have moved beyond being simple American criminals as they now hold a place in American folklore. There have been several movies and books detailing their journey as star-crossed lovers.

You wouldn't want to be on the bad side of this crime boss in the 1980s. What's his name?

"Whitey" Bulger fled police in 1994 remained in hiding for nearly two decades, until 2011. He was finally discovered after a domestic dispute led police to his apartment in California.

Do you know the name of Abraham Lincoln's murderer?

Abraham Lincoln led the country through the most brutal war in its history, the American Civil War, only to be assassinated near the war's end at Ford's Theatre by John Wilkes Booth. Booth was an actor, which gave him access to the president that night.

This businessman proved that companies don't always play fair. Who is he?

Former CEO of Petters Group Worldwide, Tom Petters committed major business fraud during his time with the company. His main method of fraud was the Ponzi scheme where he used money from new investors to pay off old investors.

What's the name of this man known for organizing the murders of three civil rights activists?

Edgar Ray Killen was a high-ranking KKK member in Mississippi when he organized the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in 1964. However, he wouldn't actually be convicted of the murders until 2005.

Do you know this domestic terrorist who wanted to slow down the progress of civilization?

Ted Kaczynski is best known as the "Unabomber," a name he got for sending bombs to university and airport personnel. Kaczynski believed his actions were justified as the world desperately needed to slow down the progress of industrialization.

Who is this crime lord that was shot to death by his own bosses?

"Bugsy" Siegel was instrumental in turning Las Vegas, particularly the Strip, into what it is today. However, major financial losses after he opened the Flamingo Hotel caused his bosses to turn on him before he had the chance to turn a profit.

Known as America's first serial killer, who is this?

Though it's been said he killed upwards of 200 people, only nine of H.H. Holmes murders have been confirmed. He was executed by hanging in 1896.

This legendary outlaw was killed at the age of 21. Do you know who he is?

Billy the Kid's fame grew substantially after he took part in the Lincoln County War. He killed several people during the war and was forced to spend the remainder​ of his short life as a fugitive.

What's the name of this criminal who was murdered in prison?

Known as the "Milwaukee Cannibal," Jeffrey Dahmer committed heinous acts against his victims which included necrophilia and cannibalism. He was also known for keeping his victim's body parts as souvenirs.

A former military member, what's the name of the man who planned the bombing of Oklahoma City?

Timothy McVeigh was the domestic terrorist responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. The bombing occurred at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995, killing 168 people.

Know as "The Taco Bell Strangler," who is this killer?

Henry Louis Wallace was given the death penalty after being convicted of rape and murder. Despite several failed attempts to have his sentence overturned, Wallace awaits execution on death row.

This murderer decided to represent himself in court. Do you know who he is?

After Colin Ferguson made the decision to represent himself in court, his trial became highly publicized. A debate over Ferguson's mental capacity ensued, but a psychiatrist determined he was sane enough to stand trial.

What's the name of this mob boss known for founding the National Crime Syndicate?

Aside from the National Crime Syndicate, "Lucky" Luciano also founded the Commission, which replaced the title of "Boss of Bosses." The Commission united the Five Families of organized crime in New York and helped alleviate​ some of the bloodshed in the city.

Do you know the name of this German carpenter who kidnapped the infant son of Charles Lindbergh?

Bruno Hauptmann's kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh's son became a national affair since Lindbergh won the Orteig Prize for being the first person to fly non-stop from New York to Paris. The murder became known as "The Crime of the Century."

A product of the environment around him, what's the name of this bank robber from the 1930s?

"Pretty Boy" Floyd's crimes are considered a product of the Great Depression. With no money and little food, he and other men turned to robbing banks in the 1930s. Much of their early success was due to having weapons, such as the Tommy submachine gun, that officers didn't have at the time.

This preacher ripped off his followers in one of the biggest scams in American history. Who is he?

Jim Bakker rose to fame as a televangelist host on "The PTL Club." He returned to televangelism on "The Jim Bakker Show" after his release from prison.

Do you know this woman who was the first female executed by the U.S. government?

Mary Surratt owned a boarding house in Washington D.C. that was frequented by John Wilkes Booth before he murdered President Abraham Lincoln. She was accused of conspiring with Booth and others after the assassination and was hanged for her part in the crime.

Who is this killer known for the D.C. sniper attacks?

According to his adolescent partner, John Allen Muhammad wanted to organize a group of fighters that he would train to carry out attacks under his orders. He intended to accomplish this by recruiting young boys from orphanages on his way to Canada.

This criminal led a group of outlaws against Wyatt Earp in the Wild West. What's his name?

"Curly" Bill Brocius was one of the assassins responsible for the death of Morgan Earp, the brother of Wyatt Earp. Seeking retribution, Wyatt hunted Brocius down, eventually finding and killing him in 1882.

Nicknamed the "Son of Sam," do you know who this New York City killer is?

David Berkowitz committed murders across New York City from 1976 through 1977. As his confidence grew, he left letters to police to mock them for their efforts in catching him.

What's the name of this bootlegger from the Prohibition era?

"Machine Gun Kelly" got his nickname from his weapon of choice, the Thompson submachine gun. He reached a high level of notoriety across the United States after kidnapping Charles Urschel, an elite entrepreneur​ in the country.

Who is this murderer known for killing his parents with his brother, Lyle?

A wealthy family from Beverly Hills, California, the deaths of Jose and Mary Menendez surprised the nation. Even more surprising was the reactions from their two children, Lyle and Erik, who went on a spending spree after their murders.

Know for the assassination of John F. Kennedy, do you recognize this criminal?

John F. Kennedy was still in his first term as president when he was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald has been connected to various conspiracies since the assassination, but none of them have stuck.

This man confessed to being the "Boston Strangler." Who is he?

"The Boston Strangler" killed thirteen women in Boston between 1962 and 1964. Even though Albert DeSalvo confessed to all of the murders, only one of them has been connected to him through DNA.

Do you know the name of this woman who was ruled insane after killing her five children?

By the time Andrea Yates had her fourth child, she was showing signs of severe depression, even attempting suicide several times. Despite doctors telling her to avoid having further children, she had a fifth child which caused her condition to worsen.

A terror throughout California, can you recall the name of this serial killer?

Richard Ramirez died at the Marin General Hospital in 2013 from complications due to a history of B-cell lymphoma. He had been awaiting execution on death row since 1989.

Who is this crime boss that rose to prominence in New York during the 1970s and 1980s?

John Gotti gained significant power in the crime world after murdering Paul Castellano in 1985. Gotti took control of the Gambino crime family after the murder, though instability within the family grew under his rule.

Considered the first traitor in American history, what's the name of this criminal?

Benedict Arnold was an American military officer in the Continental Army before he saw the opportunity to switch sides. The commander at West Point, Arnold intended to give the fortification away to the British, but his plot was discovered, and he was forced to flee.

This sex worker went on a killing spree in Florida. Who is she?

The movie "Monster" starring Charlize Theron depicted the life of Aileen Wuornos. The movie won several awards, including Best Actress for Charlize Theron.

Do you know the name of this criminal who targeted young boys on his killing spree?

John Wayne Gacy, known as "The Killer Clown," dressed up regularly as a clown at fundraiser events around his community. He would often call himself either "Pogo the Clown" or "Patches the Clown" as he claimed he tried to escape adulthood.

It took income tax laws to take this criminal down. What's his name?

Al Capone is most known for his bootlegging operation in Chicago during Prohibition in the 1920s and early '30s. However, his violent ways eventually brought attention to his operations as Capone became known as "Public Enemy No. 1."

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