In the 1970's, a group of ruthless Irish punks called the "Westies", managed to terrorize Hell's Kitchen in New York City. They had a penchant for violence and a desire to control the illegal activities on Manhattan's west side. Young Irish thug Jimmy Coonan teamed up with Mickey Featherstone, a Vietnam veteran with a reputation for being a ruthless killer. The "Westies" ruled the streets, protecting their various rackets, including drug dealing and extortion, through extreme violence. They were so powerful they were able to work as contract killers for the Gambino crime family.
Bowman, as international president of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, ordered kidnappings, firebombings, assaults and murders. He joined another exclusive club in 1997, the "FBI Ten Most Wanted" list. Bowman was brought to justice with the help of an informant on the inside of the Outlaw brotherhood.
Combine a charismatic personality with fringe beliefs and an appetite for violence, and you get some of history's most notorious cult leaders. Charles Manson terrorized frightened Americans in the late 1960s, convincing his followers to commit heinous murders in his name. David Koresh led the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, leading to a standoff with the federal government in 1993 that resulted in the death of Koresh and 75 of his believers. Learn about these leaders, and many more, who inspired hundreds to follow their unconventional philosophies—often with tragic results.
Ruthless, corrupt and crazy. Many of the world's dicators started out as charismatic young leaders, with a large measure of support from their countrymen—only to become bloated with power and abandon the principles they had pledged to uphold. These leaders held on to power by rigidly enforcing control, intimidating opposition and instilling fear among citizens. With access to unlimited power and riches, many developed secretive personal lives and bizarre habits. These dictators terrorized their people, and mesmerized the world, with their bizarre sayings, styles, and actions. Biography.com takes a look at some of the world's most erratic, and autocratic, leaders.
It's not just crazy loners who commit heinous crimes; many times, it's stars who are the most brazen killers, believing their notoriety and fortunes will get them off the hook for their violent behavior. Producer Phil Spector was one of the biggest names in the music industry in the 1960s before he was found guilty for murdering actress Lana Clarkson. O.J. Simpson was a star running-back before he stood trial for the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Follow the rise and fall of these individuals and many more, who were famous—long before they became infamous.
These individuals have etched their names into history by plotting and executing the murders of prominent people. Whether their motivations were political, obsessive, or just plain insane, their high-profile murders earn them fame, fear and revulsion from the public. John Wilkes Booth shocked the nation when he assassinated Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theater, James Earl Ray's assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. was a tragic chapter in the civil rights struggle. See our picks, along with full biographies, photo galleries and videos, of these and other infamous assassins, who changed the course of history in the most brutal of ways.
More than 30,000 gangs plague American streets, wreaking havoc from Los Angeles to New York. This violent subculture floods cities with drug traffic, extortion, and even weapons trading. But some members stand apart from others for their fearless attitudes and business savvy. From Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, one of Harlem's biggest drug king pins, to Kody "Monster" Scott, a member of L.A.'s Crips gang by the age of 13, these notorious gangsters have become legendary for rising to the top of their organizations by pushing the limits, no matter the cost.
Bootleggers, smugglers, drug dealers, hit men—all these occupations are the provenance of mobsters, who operate in ethnic, family and business networks. Mobsters' real life crimes, and Hollywood's fascination with them, has earned them a special place in the American imagination. From Al Capone's Chicago crime ring to Bugsy Siegel's Las Vegas racket, these mobsters have made their names notorious from coast to coast.
Many of the most horrifying acts of violence are committed by serial killers. Always looking for next victim, these murderers kill again and again, never fully satisfied by their bloody deeds. Their twisted motivations—and even more twisted techniques—land the people in this group among the most frightening criminals in history.
Across the globe, people commit crimes of murder, theft, drug dealing and more, often seeking refuge from the law in other countries. Pablo Escobar was the Columbian drug lord whose cartel set off much of the violence that still plagues the region. Nick Leeson's fraudulent trading caused the collapse of a British bank. These criminals, and many more, have manipulated their way across borders, earning themselves the label of international criminals.
When one lover attacks another in a moment of unbridled emotion—or tries to eliminate their romantic competition—it's traditionally been known as 'a crime of passion.' These days, fits of rage over lost love are often chalked up to 'temporary insanity.' Whatever you call them, crimes committed in the name of love have been part of our cultural history since ancient times. Here are some of the most famous examples of passion-gone-wrong, from those who couldn't bear to part with their true love to those who found themselves on the receiving end of an obsessive romance.
Armed and ruthless, spree killers become infamous for turning a flash of anger and resentment into a deadly rampage. Columbine killer Dylan Klebold introduced America to the horrors of school shootings when he killed 13 students and teachers in 1999, and in 2007 Seung-Hui Cho made us relive the nightmare when he murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech. In the end killers like these often become their own victims, when they turn their weapons on themselves.
Of the storied Five Families of New York City's mafia, the Genovese family is one of the most powerful. It's believed the Genovese family provided some of the inspiration for Mario Puzo's The Godfather—both had roots in Corleone, Sicily. "Lucky" Luciano of the Genovese family first organized the Five Families in New York City, and those who came after him maintained the Genovese family status as mafia royalty.