Top Five Fictional Serial Killers

From the writer, producer, and actor best known as "Murr" on the hit television shows Impractical Jokers and The Misery Index, James S. Murray, and co-writer Darren Wearmouth comes The Stowaway, a suspenseful masterpiece that leaves a cruise ship stranded at sea with a serial killer hiding aboard.

Read on for James and Darren's list of their favorite fictional serial killers, and leave a comment on this post to enter for your chance to win 1 of 3 hardcover copies of The Stowaway!

It’s fair to say we’ve both read or watched the best thrillers during the last thirty years. In our opinion, obviously! And there’s one thing we always agree on: what scares us the most is serial killer with clear motives and a detailed plan. A relentless murderer who won’t stop until they’ve realized their grand vision. 

The scariest characters are always complex. A contradiction of barely understandable motives mixed with cold-blooded solutions to their problems. Mindless killing on a multiple scale is gruesome but doesn’t chill us to the core. When we created The Stowaway and the terrifying character of Wyatt Butler, we wanted our killer to match the most frightening of the last three decades. Here’s our top five fictional serial killer list:

  1. John Kramer – Saw (2004)

Everything in John Kramer’s life was good until a series of incidents pushed him in an alternative direction. His wife was pregnant and lost their child. He sunk into depression and his relationship fell apart. The final straw was being diagnosed with terminal cancer after the results had been mixed up. Kramer attempted suicide by driving off a cliff, but he survived. And at that moment, his renewed will to live meant he crawled free of the wreck. From then on, haunted by his past, Kramer decided to test other people’s will to live in terrifyingly designed life or death scenarios.  


  1. John Doe – Se7en (1994)

John Doe was the ultimate pessimist with an obsession with how immoral people were. He considered each of his victims worthy of death because they had breached one of the seven deadly sins. He clearly had a deep insight into human thought and reaction because of how his unnerving plan was executed, and how it eventually played out in the desert. Despite his revulsion with humanity, Doe always remained calm and confident. 


  1. Arthur Mitchell – Dexter (Season Four)

Nicknamed ‘The Trinity Killer’, Arthur Mitchell is uniquely different from everyone else on this list.  He was a surburbanite, and on the surface was happily married with two children. Beneath this pleasant veneer, he was mentally scared and abusive. When he was a child, his sister died in front of him after a tragic bathroom accident. His mother took it hard and committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. This left young  Arthur with his alcoholic father, who was eventually found bludgeoned to death in a back alley. Arthur began using the different building program locations to keep this kill cycle going every year, killing a woman in a bathtub, making a mother jump to her death, and bludgeoning a father. He also buried a child alive to symbolize his innocent self. Until he ran into Dexter Morgan… 


  1. Patrick Bateman – American Psycho (2000)

The investment banker yuppie makes the list for his obsessive nature. He has a rigorous fitness routine, spends a lot of time trying desperately to fit into corporate society, and often slips into long narratives about music. His drive for everything he desires makes him stress over business cards, restaurant bookings, and anyone who appears to be progressing above him. His casual sexual encounters usually end up in death for the prostitutes, and in work circles, Bateman killed anyone who made him feel inferior.  


  1. Jame Gumb – The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

No list would be complete without one of the two killers from this novel and movie. Jame Gumb felt like he’d been born a woman in a man’s body, but was refused sex-change surgery because of his violent past and mental instability. His answer? To capture overweight women, starve them in a basement well, then murder them for their skin to make a suit. His nickname ‘Buffalo Bill’ was crudely given to him by the Kansas City police because of the way he ‘liked to skin his humps’. Gumb inserted a Death’s-head moth into the throat of each victim as he was interested in the insect’s metamorphosis. Just like how he wants to transform into a woman.

Drawing inspiration from all our favorites, our character of Wyatt Butler is a watchmaker, obsessed with the correct and orderly flow of time. He applies the logic, perfection, and precision of a watch to life as a whole. And anyone who interrupts that precision needs to be dealt with, in terrifying ways. We hope The Stowaway becomes one of your favorites as well!

Enter the Sweepstakes!

Sign in and comment on this post for a chance to win 3 hardcover copies of The Stowaway by James Murray and Darren Wearmouth!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

The Stowaway Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) September 20, 2021. Sweepstakes ends at 8:59 a.m. ET October 4, 2021. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.

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  2. Emma Cazabonne

    Great post!
    The Stowaway sounds like a wonderful variation of the locked-room mystery. Thanks for your generous offer

  3. Interiorismo Castellana

    Gran post, muy buena clasificacción y muy bien argumentada, 10/10

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  5. Astrid Johnson

    Ooooh I am so ready for a story like this!

    • JJ

      me to take me away

  6. Christine

    Looking forward to reading this book.

  7. Ann Peters

    This looks super good!

  8. Don Ammer

    Thanks, dying to read and review this, so fingers crossed!

  9. Liana Rivas

    Excited to read this!

  10. Karl Stenger

    I have read numerous excellent reviews. Can’t wait to read the book.

  11. Pam Walrath

    This book sounds like a great read! Can’t wait!

  12. Anita Sue Hamilton

    Will read and review

  13. Ken Ohl

    This sounds like a great read

  14. Michelle

    I would love to read these

  15. Susan Craig

    The serial killer I most love to hate killed Sweet on the tv show Bones. I cried like a baby.

  16. glister

    This looks very interesting.

  17. Tabitha White Olson

    The Stowaway sounds very interesting. I must admit that I didn’t think Murr would be into writing a serious book, let alone a thriller. However, I look forward to buying it and reading the reviews!

  18. amy marantino

    Sounds good

  19. Barry T Reinitz

    great list to pay homage to

  20. jane

    always happy to try a new author

  21. Maria Kiguthi

    I love thrillers. Thanks for the chance.

  22. Kerry Kleiber

    Generally, I stick with mysteries, but The Stowaway sounds great.

  23. Janice Milliken

    Sounds like a good “spine tingler”!

  24. Kerry Kleiber

    I’m really intrigued with The Stowaway.

  25. Erin Nash

    When I saw that “Murr” co-authored a book, I was like, sign me up! I’ve watched Impractical Jokers since it began, and know how intelligent James is, so this is awesome!

  26. anne

    Captivating and fascinating thriller.

  27. Laini

    Intriguing and enthralling mystery.

  28. Connie Minutolo

    I look forward to reading tgis. Thank you for the opportunity.

  29. lcorbett

    Would love to win this book! Thank you for the chance.

  30. john f papp

    An avid reader of cop procedurals, spy/espionage, and mystery/thrillers, I enjoy reading new to me authors. Time to add “The Stowaway” to the list.

  31. Richard Dominguez

    Sounds like a great read for my Goodreads review page

  32. KateT16

    Would LOVE to win!!

  33. Tricia Guest

    Can’t wait to read this book!!

  34. Teresa L Henry

    Stowaway is definitely on my must read list.

  35. Teresa Warner

    I’ve been hearing a lot about this one, sounds good!

  36. Pete Salisbury

    I’m glad that serial killers are mostly fiction.

  37. Julie Parrish

    Would love to add these to my winter reading stack!

  38. AnnetteO

    Thank you so much for the opportunity to win a copy of THE STOWAWAY! This book looks really intriguing and definitely one to add to my TBR list.


    This sounds so good! can’t wait to read it.

  40. JM Evans

    I definitely didn’t see #1 coming. Fun list!

  41. MaryC

    Sounds like a great thriller.

  42. Ronald Kundinger

    Sounds exciting!

  43. Susan Coster

    I have become enthralled witb thrillers & would love to read & subsequently add to my LITTLE FREE LIBRARY!

  44. Nicole Seabolt

    Sounds good

  45. CarolinaGirl12

    The Stowaway sounds like my kind of book. The main character seems to be very intriguing!

  46. Karen Mikusak

    Looks like a great read! Would love to win.

  47. Katy Carter

    Definitely excited to read this!


    This would be a good book to take on my cruise in Dec.

  49. paul Klumbach

    on my to read list-would be great to win this fantastic sounding book.

  50. Sherri Riegel

    I have enjoyed all your books so far and got my family hooked on them as well – keep writing please!

  51. Jo Ann Riggs

    I can’t wait to read this!

  52. Tiffany

    This sounds great

  53. Susan Smith

    Sounds like a great thriller! Thanks for sharing!

  54. book-chick-annie

    This book is on my wishlist. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  55. Charles Hauser

    Been waiting for this one.

  56. Caryl Kane

    The Stowaway sounds like a page-turner! Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.


    Thank you for this chance to win 3 copy’s of your book that sounds exciting 📖😊

  58. Anita

    This book sounds great. Would love to win

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    Soo excited to read this book! Looks really good!

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  61. Greg Mattia

    Would be very interested to read this.

  62. Stephanie L Nelson

    This sounds like a great read! Thank you for this opportunity!

  63. ravensfan

    I would love to win this book!

  64. Desmond Warzel

    Sounds like a fascinating read to me.

  65. jamezcamf

    Go Murr!

  66. Diana Prat

    I woulld love to read this book!

  67. June Galindo

    The Stowaway sounds wonderful. I love Murr, I didn’t know he wrote a book. Awesome.

  68. Shannon Capelle

    This book sounds really interesting!

  69. Linda Cunningham

    Sounds like a unique and fascinating version of the classic Locked Room Mystery which Agatha Christie introduced.

    • BobbysGirl

      I think you missed a couple of better #1 candidates, The Tooth Fairy and, of course, Hannibal Lector. Interesting the they are all from the mind of Thomas Harris.

  70. Robin Weatherington

    Can’t wait.

  71. RockabillyMom

    Murr is an author?! Very cool, I’m excited to read this!

  72. Koby Scrivner

    Sounds like a great read, I’d love to win a copy, and signed too!

  73. Emily Cheang Catan

    Love that these top five fictional serial killers are the inspiration and the secret ingredients to this enthralling STOWAWAY, and would love to read this thriller! Thank you for the giveaway!

  74. Sandy Salivaras

    I’m a cruiser and this sounds exciting!

  75. Charlie Myers

    Can’t wait to be able to read this. Thank you!


    It sounds like a stay up all night reading book to me. I got the recliner a glass of wine and my 3 cats waiting for book night. Just need the book GLTA

  77. Lisa Wetzel

    Would love to read and review this awesome sounding book!

  78. Deborah D

    This sounds like an awesome book. I’ll ask my library to get your book.

  79. susan atkins

    The Stowaway sounds like just the book for me -thanks

  80. John Smith

    I found “Saw” very scary!

  81. lasvegasnv

    creepy list

  82. bmccoy11

    5 of my favorites also. Looking forward to diving into the Stowaway to get inside another tortured mind.

  83. Deb Philippon

    I’d find this an engrossing read.

  84. Cindi Hoppes

    It would be a thrill to win this thriller of the plot in this book… My favorite genre!
    Many thanks, Cindi

  85. Bob Erwin

    Don’t forget Robert Mitchum’s preacher with LOVE HATE tattooed on his clasped fingers

  86. Nancee Dahms-Stinson

    What an intriguing premise for a thriller!

  87. Alicia

    Sounds like a great book!

  88. Amber Bolser

    I’m excited to read this book. I love Impractical Jokers and Murrhas always been my favorite!!

  89. Bev Ward

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    I’d like to win a copy of this book.

  91. carloshmarlo

    Terrific list. Two characters are real standouts for me. Both John Doe and Jamie Gumb really caught my imagination. They’re terrific role models for any successful killer to emulate. Hope the book is another fabulous hit. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of the book.

  92. Robert Grieco

    Looks to be an incredible read. Fingers crossed!

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    This would be amazing to win. would love to read it.

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  95. Beth Lechman

    This sounds like my kind of book. Suspense and Mysteries love them. My favorite part is trying to figure out who the killer is before it is revealed.

  96. cee76

    This sounds good! Thak you for the chance to win a copy.

  97. SLeonard

    Please and Thank You!

  98. Karyn M. Newton

    I’d love to receive a copy!

  99. R0x@Nn

    Can’t wait to read it. Murr is my favorite Impractical Joker!

  100. Donna Park

    looking forward to reading this thriller

  101. Chad Crum

    I would enjoy this story.

  102. Nancy Wolfe

    This sounds like a great read! Thank you for the giveaway chance.

  103. Eileen Sharp

    This sounds so interesting. I am curious and would love to read how the Impractical Joker handles not-so-funny subject matter.

  104. Sheila Korman

    I would love to read The Stowaway—thanks for the chance to win a copy of the book!

  105. Beachbunny62

    I can’t wait to start reading!! Thank You!

  106. Caren Samuels

    I am excited to read this mystery book and figure out who did the crime on the boat. It offers a way to travel in these times of global pandemic

  107. Jeanne Burns

    Look forward to reading this!

  108. Sherry Brown

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  109. Ali Goff

    This sounds interesting. Looking forward to reading Murr’s novel.

  110. Cynthia A Lang

    Can’t wait to read – hope I win!

  111. takingmytime

    Book looks great! Looking forward to reading it! Thanks for the opportunity…

  112. Susan Morris

    The serial killers you listed are also some of my favorites. Insanely clever are they! Can’t wait to read The Stowaway!

  113. Erin Fahrer

    Sounds great!

  114. Kim Bakos

    I love reading novels from authors I haven’t read before 🙂

  115. Rhonda Stefani

    Great list! John Kramer is top of mine, so diabolical & sadistic. Really looking forward to The Stowaway, would love to win a copy! Thank you for the chance.

  116. LeMinou

    Sounds like a great book by a multi-talented young man.

  117. ashley M hufft

    This looks good!!

  118. Nicole

    Thanks for the opportunity. This looks really good. Also, Buffalo Bill is an excellent choice for number 1.

  119. Karen Minter

    Absolutely love the cover of this book! Looking forward to reading this exciting (and frightening) mystery!

  120. Becky Earp

    The Stowaway sounds like it will be a thrilling read. Can’t wait! By the way, American Psycho scared the mess out of me!

  121. Sabra Wilson

    would like to read this : )

  122. Jack DElia

    Follow him on Impractible Jokers would love to read book

  123. Patricia Nicklas

    Adding this to my to read list

  124. Jessica Brunhoefer

    Thank you for the chance to win!

  125. Laura L

    Thank you so much for the chance! Can’t wait to read this book…and to see Murr at Spooky Empire!!!

  126. HiroshiKonoya

    I enjoyed reading this post because I agreed that the scariest serial killers are complex characters who have a definite plan, a clear agenda and understandable logic. As I was reading this post, I remembered all the murder mystery novels I had read in the past and I remembered the ones I enjoyed reading the most. “The Stowaway” sounds like it’s going to be an excellent novel!

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    Serial killer books are fun!

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