Serial Killer Calling Cards

Serial killers, for better or for worse, are some of the more infamous characters in history. As fascination mixes with fear, the gruesome and torturous killings become the stuff of nightmares. We don't want to see, but we can't look away.

Often, the killers revel in the spotlight — it's what drives them. Some even go so far as to taunt the police, the media, and the public with “calling cards” left at the scene to “mark” their kill.

And after reading Spencer Kope's Collecting the Dead, this got us thinking about all these other notorious characters, both real and fictitious, and their calling cards. We've detailed the most gruesome below.

The Zodiac Killer

 The Zodiac Killer, whose identity remains unknown, terrorized northern California in the late 60s and early 70s. Claiming to have killed 37 people, Zodiac frequently taunted police and media with cryptic messages (often hiding them with ciphers) confessing to past crimes and outlining future ones.

The killer’s calling card was a cross-circle symbol that he signed most of his messages with and sometimes left at the crime scene.

Next to his cross-circle signature, he’d often keep a running tally of victims and a taunting reminder of the failure of the San Francisco Police Department to bring him down.

=  37,  SFPD  =  0

Buffalo Bill

 Jame Gumb, most notably known as “Buffalo Bill” for the way he skinned his victims, is the primary antagonist in the Thomas Harris novel The Silence of the Lambs. His character is an amalgamation of several real-life serial killers, taking qualities and personal backstory from each.

Orphaned until the age of 10, he long felt he was born the wrong sex but, do to his mental instability, was denied reassignment surgery. This led to his obsession with killing women and using their skin to make a woman suit to wear.

After killing and skinning his victims, Buffalo Bill would dump them in different rivers to get rid of the evidence. In one of his final victims before being caught, he stuffed a Death’s-Head moth down the victim’s throat—a calling card that eventually led to his capture.

The Night Stalker — Richard Ramirez

Richard Ramirez was dubbed The Night Stalker due to his reign of terror in California between June 1984 and August ’85 where he would break into homes late at night and brutally rape, torture, and kill its inhabitants.

An avowed Satanist, Ramirez would sometimes draw pentagrams on his victims and the walls of the houses he broke into—even tattooing a pentagram on his hand and famously flashing it during his trial.

Overall, Ramirez was convicted of 13 counts of murder and sentenced to death. He died from complications of B-cell lymphoma while awaiting execution.

The Joker

 The Joker is a comic supervillain and arch-nemesis of Batman in the DC Universe. He is a psychopath with a warped, sadistic sense of humor, often using “prop weapons” such as razor-tipped playing cards, deadly joy buzzers, and acid-spraying lapel flowers — even a gun that upon first firing shoots a “BANG” flag, which upon second firing lauches and skewers the target.

A criminal mastermind with no superpowers to speak of, the Joker’s calling card is quite literal — he leaves behind a Joker playing card.

The Beltway Snipers

The Beltway Snipers attacks were a series of coordinated shootings over three weeks in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. in October 2002. John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were the aforementioned Beltway Snipers.

Originally named the Beltway Snipers due to three week spree concentrated around the DC Beltway, or I-495, it was later connected to a spree starting in February of 2002 in Tacoma, WA that saw the killers traverse most of the country before landing in the DC area.

Overall, the killers claimed 27 victims—17 dead and 10 injured.

Left behind at several crime scenes were various tarot cards. At one, the Death card was left with the lines: “For you mr. Police.” “Code: ‘Call me God’.” “Do not release to the press.”

Sad Face Killer

The Sad Face Killer has been terrorizing the mid-western United States for years, but only recently has his pattern been discovered.

With a penchant for young brunette women, The Sad Face Killer chooses his victims based off photographs that appear in local newspapers. He then stalks these women for days, waiting for the perfect moment to capture and kill them. Some of the bodies are left on display, though many others remain hidden completely. The killer’s calling card is a classic frowning face, drawn in different spots at each crime scene. Sometimes it’s drawn on a car window. Other times, it’s made with rocks next to the body.






Check out Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope and watch the hunt for Sad Face unfold.




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  1. Todd Henson

    The Starling: Kills young actors/actresses on the verge of stardom. Leaves behind the feather of a starling tucked behind the victim’s ear.

  2. Debra Nicholson

    picture of a smashed wood bee – Trying to kill all wood bees because they are eating my garage and I think they are smarter than me because they never land when I get out the killer spray.

  3. Barbara Rogan

    The Ladybug: a consumer of plant sucking aphids and other ” unworthy” bugs.

  4. Barbara Rogan

    The Ladybug: a consumer of plant sucking aphids and other ” unworthy” bugs.

  5. Norma Newcomb

    Crossbones with a broken heart instead of a skull – pirate style!

  6. Knight99

    you would need a calling card the would strike terror in the minds of the public and attract the attention of the media. in this day and age if you took a body part of the victim and take a symbolic flag such as the rainbow flag or the confederate flag or the mexican flag you would have a complete uproar in the media and the public and law enforcement would have so much pressure on them to get the killer. like holmes would say the games is on the killer is saying come and get me

  7. Lawrence Lundigan


    The victims would be murdered in supposedly very secure locations. I would ‘use my imagination’ to gain access.

  8. Gordon Bingham

    An opossum. Beneath it:

    “When all else fails, play dead…”

  9. Martin Richmond

    TRAPDOOR, seals his victims in his own cellar in a graveyard with only the dead for company. If ever discovered it will be an open and shut case!

  10. Sally Schmidt

    Benign grandma, reader of cozies, murderous intent hidden under the cookies and milk. Think Jessica Fletcher on a rampage.

  11. Char

    The Queen of Spades:
    Stalking the night and hating men, she finds those let free of charges against women, and kills them with her signature use of a garrot made of a bass string. In their dying moments she slices of their tongue and leaves her card, the queen of spades, sticking out of their mouth.

  12. Charlene Pate

    The Queen of Spades: Stalking the night and hating men, she finds those let free of charges against women, and kills them with her signature use of a garrot made of a bass string. In their dying moments she slices of their tongue and leaves her card, the queen of spades, sticking out of their mouth.

  13. Chris Teel

    The empty cartridge, devoid of fingerprints, placed in the victims hand, causing forensic and ballistic experts to invest man-hours needlessly trying to match it with it’s purchase as well as the weapon used. This would be made more difficult as the weapon’s barrel would be smooth, eliminating the rifling grooves that ballisticians rely on for a match, leaving only the firing pin and ejector marks as possible signatures.

  14. Deb Philippon

    The Red-Eyed Gnome. Skulks around gardens at night handing out retribution to thieves of garden ornaments. Card: Garden gnome with red eyes and pointy teeth.

  15. Faye Gates

    The Happy Face Killer. Draw smiley faces on your victims.

  16. Kevin McKernan

    Night Stalker

  17. tracy reed

    I would have to do something weird. Like sticking a marble up the victim’s nose or something. making the detectives scratch their heads would be amusing.

  18. Peter W. Horton Jr.

    The face of my enemy! Yes!

  19. peter gladue

    “Sad Eyes”, singing a song of “Blues”

  20. P J Coldren

    I have calling cards – the only change would be up to the designer . . .I’m always willing to let an artist go where her/his talent takes him/her.

  21. P.J. Coldren

    I have calling cards – the only change would be up to the designer . . .I’m always willing to let an artist go where her/his talent takes him/her. I knit, bake, read voraciously, and I’m a Taurus. What can you do with that?

  22. Cathy Sparks

    I’d be “The St. Pete Killer”. I’d leave a small print of Michelangelo’s Crucifixion of St. Peter, and position the victim with arms outstretched, legs together, resembling a person on an inverted cross. This would likely befuddle profilers, and throw them off, as I am not Catholic. [url=][/url]

  23. Marissa Culp

    I like to think I’d do something ultra-intelligent and quizzical but I’d probably do something stupid like leave a hair.

  24. pearl berger

    A card with a sun, moon and stars designating the unknown and the forlorn.

  25. tracey byram

    My calling card would be a poison dum dum sucker

  26. ellie lewis

    A card which depicts the raging ocean since the fierce anger is uncontrolled.

  27. Susan P.

    Calling card with a broken pottery bowl since this is what would be used to crack open their heads.

  28. Vernon Luckert

    A card with a knife stuck into an apple and blood coming from the apple instead of juice.

  29. Susan Pertierra

    My calling card would have a broken pottery bowl since this is what would be used to crack open their heads.

    (Ignore the other – I fogot to log in first)

  30. bill norris

    i got a nickname of Chilly as a kid so it would be a pic of an evil looking Chilly Willy

  31. Barbara Bibel

    I would use a skeletal hand sticking out of a bound medieval manuscript.

  32. Chuck Aeschbacher Jr

    I’d wash the dishes and tidy up a bit, maybe plant some flowers in the garden and of couse leave a mint on their pillow.

  33. lasvegasnv

    an arrow

  34. Mary Ann Woods

    I think I’d go with “the grandma killer.” I’d lure them in with the offer of milk and cookies and then surprise them with anything but!

  35. Lana Hood

    My calling card would be a faux pearl placed gently in the hollow of their neck. I would be known as the PrairiePearl killer.

  36. susan beamon

    Since my victims would be men, I’d have to use a praying mantis for the base of my card.I would use a psycotropic drug to render my targets easier to handle. They would likely die with a smile on their faces. I like the colors purple and raspberry. I would carve a number on their necks, reflecting the order in which I killed them.

  37. Richard Derus

    This sounds exciting!

  38. Kicha Riva

    I believe mine would be a hand with a wagging finger as in ‘naughty naughty’ didn’t your mommy every teach you right from wrong? Or perhaps it would be a ruler … ‘teaching’ my victims the golden rule according to me. I would be an avenger … kill the nasties the justice system fails to keep locked up.

  39. Cairine Stade

    My calling card would be a bracelet with “I Warned You” on it.

  40. Sharon Shumway

    Mine would be “The Man in the Moon”

  41. Megan Mariner

    A card with a cat eating a tongue. Can’t rat out your killer when the cat’s got your tongue!

  42. Jackie Wisherd

    A wolf in sheep’s clothing

  43. Peggy Carpenter

    I couldn’t think of something so I asked my husband. Because all good spouses should be able to describe the other’s serial killer calling card. 😉 Also, it keeps them on their toes and gets the laundry IN the basket for once.

    He said a Fruit Loop necklace around the victim’s neck. Or, you know, a generic non-trademark version of the cereal. 🙂

  44. Paulette

    Calling card: The End

  45. Paulette

    Calling card: The End

  46. Kris Kaminski

    lollipop..who loves ya baby!

  47. Lucinda Larson

    A smiling frog.

  48. Tim Milloff

    My calling card would be a yellow happy face with a bullet hole in the head. [img][/img]

  49. Robin Cresci

    I had to think about what would represent me. I decided on an upside down bleeding heart. Like torn apart and dripping blood.

  50. Micheal Noe

    My calling card would be a silver dollar. And fear, can’t forget the fear.

  51. Steven Wilber

    A dragon, drawn in blood

  52. Andrew Gordon

    mine would be blank

  53. Joy Isley

    My calling card would be a dead raven and it would say “Evermore, evermore…..”

  54. DAM

    General Mayhem

  55. Clydia DeFreese

    My calling card would be an old lady sitting in a rocking chair(with a huge question mark over her head.). I do all my solving in one of the 10 rockers in my home or the two on the patio. So many sweepstakes; so little time!!!

  56. Saundra K. Warren

    Lot’s of imagination here, sadly I have none!

  57. Coby Scott

    The Machinist – Of course there would be a picture of CNC machine with blood splattered on the inside window!

  58. David

    A page of a crime novel. I would leave one page at the scene of each murder, all from the same book. The hard part would be to decide which book to choose from.

  59. Cynthia Mercado

    My calling card would be a nice little old granny with her hands behind her back and smiling.

  60. leftyonkey

    Broadway Belter, dresses up as various characters from Broadway musicals and crime spree hits all the cities with top theaters for musicals. Bodies are found in and around the theater districts. Clues are playbills, musical scores, and pages torm from scripts.

  61. rickel barth

    picture of a sword through Cap’n Crunch!

  62. Richard Hicks

    Mine might be of a werewolf

  63. JULES M.

    mine would be a muffin.

  64. vicki wurgler

    a dark red rose-I’d leave one at each crime scene


    SHAMROCK with protruding SPEARS.

  66. Peg Nitskoff

    Most Def Beltway Sniper…Very appropo card!

  67. Kelly Rodriguez

    My calling card would be a red lipstick kiss left on a piece of paper next to the body.

  68. Janis Milford

    My calling card would be “The Fool” from the tarot cards – it will represent all the potential the victem no longer has.



  70. Melissa Keith

    [b]Numbers. And by the time I got to 113 you’d be frustrated as hell because you would not find me. Ever! Victim 13 would be very gruesome. 13 is my favorite number…..[/b]

  71. Jim Belcher

    I’d tell you, but then I would have to KILL you.

  72. washington librarian

    I would leave a U.S. dime coin at the scene of each crime.

  73. Mary Gilles

    I would leave a U.S. dime coin at the scene of each crime.

  74. kathy pease

    Mine would probably be The Joker

  75. vickie dailey

    AAA88 (aces & eights) deadman’s hand

  76. Denise Sachs

    My card would be a housewife with a frying pan.

  77. Linda Peters

    Mine would the mad woman with the hair dryer. lol

  78. L

    I would leave a burnt generic wooden match, maybe over their heart, to represent the life snuffed out. Imagine the headlines: “Matchstick Killer Strikes Again!”, “Police Are No Match for the Matchstick Killer!”, “Killer Sticks It to Police!”, “Another Life Snuffed Out by the Matchstick Killer!”, “The Matchstick Killer Burns Police Again!” Hahaha. Got to love the puns!

  79. april

    Sounds like a very interesting idea for a novel

  80. Kimberly Dull

    I would leave a page from a book, with the killing mimicking something in the book.

  81. marie johnson

    White card with DEATH in script.

  82. Susan Smoaks

    thank you for the chance to win

  83. Ed Nemmers

    I am a Frosted Flakes Cereal Killer!

  84. azgarfan

    The Black Widow, a black widow spider dripping blood.

  85. Jane Wright

    The Black Widow, a black widow spider dripping blood.

  86. Chris Noe

    Mine would be a pig snout.

  87. Tammy Z Evans

    a rabid dog, but a little one, like a yorkie

  88. Buddy Garrett@

    My card would simply have a ? on it. I would hope that I could keep the authorites guessing. You shouldn’t make it difficult to submit an entry-having to use a different name evry time.

  89. Jerry Marquardt

    I would love to thank you so much for featuring the Serial Killer Calling Cards by Crime HQ giveaway. I look forward to reading the book real soon.

  90. Jaime Cummings

    My card would have a skull candy type of skull on it, really colorful yet disturbing.

  91. Lily

    a unicorn with a bloody horn and hooves

  92. Timothy Anderson

    I would be the lone wolf.

  93. Philip Lawrence

    The Ace of Spades!

  94. Tim Moss

    Good deal, count me in!

  95. Daniel Vice

    I would be a frowning face

  96. Beth Talmage

    As a quilter, mine would be a quilt block design–a Sisters Choice, probably, as it is one of my favorite blocks, and the irony of “Sisters Choice/Sister’s Choice” would be my idea of black humor.

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