The 10 Most Evil People In History
True evil is a tricky thing to define. Evil can manifest itself in different ways—by being blatant or covert, intentional or unintentional, and violent or nonviolent. In this list we’ll look at some of the more blatantly and outwardly evil people in history, whose thirst for death and destruction puts them in a category all of their own.
1. Vlad Dracula
There are relatively few people in history who enjoyed murder and overall chaos as much as the first man on this list. Known by most as being the primary inspiration for the famous Dracula stories that take his name, Vlad Dracula was most feared and detested for the way in which he would murder his unfortunate victims while ruling as the Prince of Wallachia between the years 1448 and 1476.
Those unlucky enough to face his wrath were likely to be impaled (his most preferred method of murder by far), which he somehow managed to make even more terrible than it already sounds. The victim would often have a horse attached to each of his legs, while a dull stake was slowly driven into his body from the power of the horses’ pull. On certain occasions the stake would make its way from the person’s rear through their mouth. Other times it was plunged through the abdomen—it really seemed to depend on Dracula’s deranged mood that particular day.
All evidence points to Dracula choosing his victims less by their insubordinate behavior and more by their inherent weaknesses. He had no patience for the sick, disabled, or poor, and would often trick these unfortunate souls into attending “parties” that were hosted purely to bring them to their deaths.
He was even known to boil children alive before forcing their parents to eat their cooked bodies.
And Dracula’s bloodlust wasn’t limited to humans. Animals who happened to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time could also find themselves being impaled, decapitated or skinned by Dracula for absolutely no reason.
It is safe to say that the world is a better place without Vlad.
2. Joseph Stalin
Although one could argue that Vlad Dracula makes our next character look like a Boy Scout by comparison, he most certainly was not. Joseph Stalin presided over some of the worst humanitarian crimes in the 20th century while acting as dictator of the Soviet Union between the years 1922 and 1953, and before he seized control of the government he spent much of his time acting as a robber and assassin.
Once he sized power his paranoia was legendary, and he routinely had people who were seen as a challenge to his ruthless authority expelled to Siberia, where many of them were forced to work in labor camps until they died.
Those who were lucky enough to avoid expulsion were often imprisoned, tortured, or killed—with estimations of the total number of non-war related deaths reaching 49 million during his tenure.
World War II, which, along with the Cold War that immediately followed, defined the era of Stalin’s rule and also allowed him to work with relatively little consequence, as he desperately tried to expand the USSR’s industrial capabilities while eliminating those who were either unwilling or unable to comply.
3. Adolf Hitler
Another character whose evil and power was ultimately characterized by World War II was Adolf Hitler, perhaps the most notoriously evil man of the modern era. Hitler was the Chancellor or Germany and leader of the Nazi Party from 1933 until 1945, until he committed suicide in order to escape persecution for numerous war crimes.
Although there are innumerable elements and manifestations of Hitler’s evil, he was best known for instigating and overseeing the “Final Solution” which took place during World War II and whose ultimate goal was the extermination of the entire Jewish population in Europe.
Hitler’s rage and hatred towards the Jews stemmed mainly from his incredibly misguided belief that they had been responsible for Germany’s defeat in World War I, which plunged Germany into a long period of shame and economic collapse.
In order to reach his genocidal goals, Hitler sent roughly six million Jews—or two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe—to concentration camps, where most were gassed to death. This constituted one of the deadliest genocides in human history and was made possible by the efforts of roughly 200,000 German soldiers and administrators—showing how easily evil can spread from the mind of a deranged dictator to the minds of a massive population.
4. Pol Pot
Shifting location from the west slightly to the east, we find Pol Pot, whose overarching goal in life was the complete destruction of Cambodian civilization in the mid 20th century—the goal being to “reset” Cambodia under a new and brutal communist regime. Unlike Hitler, Pol Pot was not only concerned with the complete annihilation of a specific group of people—he wanted the entire population eliminated through a combination of forced labor and murder. This led to Pot presiding over a genocide that killed the greatest percentage of a country’s population in history.
Also unlike Hitler, Pot was very indiscriminate when it came to the methods used for execution, with tactics that ranged from hanging, biological warfare, malnutrition, torture, and burying the victim alive. Pregnant women, children, and the elderly were not immune to his wrath, and Pot was known to keep a collection of his victims’ skulls as souvenirs.
Victims were also occasionally forced to drink their own urine while in captivity, and conditions were so terrible than it wasn’t uncommon to see people eating the bodies of the dead, having dug them up from poorly constructed mass graves.
The combined results of his methods to rid Cambodia of its population led to the deaths of roughly one to three million people, or 25 percent of the entire Cambodian population.
5. Idi Amin
Moving our focus across the globe once again we find Idi Amin, who was the dictator of Uganda between the years 1971 to 1979. Amin rose to power by making a series of enticing promises to the Ugandan people—many of which involved an improved economy and import structure. However it became immediately clear that Amin had other changes in mind.
After seizing power, Amin turned Uganda into an economically depressed and torturous police state—patrolled routinely by “death squads” that would kill citizens indiscriminately—and he was known to favor broadcasting the executions of his enemies on live television. Four thousand unlucky souls were also killed by being thrown into crocodile-infested waters, after which their discarded heads were fed back to the crocodiles for desert. At one point the rate of deaths caused by crocodile consumption alone reached a point where the remains of the chewed up and discarded bodies clogged the intake ducts of a major hydroelectric plant nearby.
An estimated 500,000 people were ultimately killed under Amin’s rule, and reports state that Uganda was “littered with bodies,” while a lack of proper body disposal led to ample amounts of disease.
It should come as no surprise that one of Amin’s biggest influences and inspirations was the third man on this list: Adolf Hitler. Amin was known to praise the dead dictator on many occasions, saying that he had been “right to burn six million Jews.”
Evil clearly loves company.
6. Ivan the Terrible
Occasionally throughout history, someone will come along who is so supremely evil that their name has to be amended to reflect the true extent of their wickedness. Such was the case for Ivan the Terrible, who ruled Russia as Tsar from 1533 to 1584.
Showing a predilection for cruelty and evil even as a small child (he was known to torture and kill animals on a regular basis for fun), he soon graduated to killing humans when he reached his teenage years. After he became Tsar it became quite clear that a victim’s past or actions had very little to do with their violent fate, and that Ivan simply enjoyed the sport of murder and torture.
In one event, known as the Novgorod Massacre, roughly 60 thousand were tortured to death, and Ivan found great joy in torturing people in his own private chamber, where parents were often forced to eat their newly murdered children. Another favorite activity for Ivan was to watch as peoples’ ribs were removed with blazing hot tongs, which would often cut through their skin like a warm knife through butter.
Although it’s not believed that he ever tortured members of his own family, he was not opposed to killing them—having murdered both his son and his wife no more than a day after their marriage.
7. Mao Zedong
Mao, who was dictator of China from 1943 to 1976, only had a single goal in life: to turn China into a world power that could compete economically with the USSR and United States. Unfortunately for the people of China, however, Mao’s attempts to reach his goal led to widespread famine and genocide.
Like most evil dictators of the day, Mao’s methods for altering the trajectory of a country involved murder, torture, forced labor, and starvation, with roughly 40 million Chinese citizens eventually dying from starvation alone. It’s believed that another roughly one million people committed suicide—knowing that a worse fate awaited them in the hands of Mao’s genocidal killing machine. A total of roughly fifty million Chinese ultimately died under Mao’s watch.
Much of the “reasoning” behind Mao’s obsessive quest to kill and torture so many Chinese was based on the need to instill in the entire population a sense of fear; fear that if they did not comply with the modernization of China by working to the bone they would be punished severely.
Of course this tactic ultimately failed, and China was plunged into an economic depression that set the country back for decades.
8. Leopold II of Belgium
During a time in world history that was plagued with an obsessive desire for African and South American colonization by European powers, Leopold II of Belgium presided over some of the worst treatment of colonized natives by far. Although practically all the colonizing powers such as Britain and Germany treated the native populations of their newly acquired territories incredibly poorly, Leopold II advocated specifically for brutal torture, disfigurement, and murder of the native population of the Congo, over which Belgium had control.
Leopold was very persuasive. He tricked a large portion of the modern world into believing that was he going to help the Congolese people through the implementation of the Congo Free State, which began as a private venture founded personally by Leopold.
It became immediately clear, however, that Leopold was completely uninterested in helping the people of the Congo, and instead only wanted to maximize the exploitation of its labor force to enrich both himself and Belgium—primarily through the ivory trade—and by forcing natives to harvest large amounts of rubber.
During this time, millions of Congolese were tortured, maimed and killed, with modern estimates putting the total number killed under his rule at roughly ten million. Those who weren’t killed often had their hands or other limbs cut off for failing to work hard enough, and were beaten with such severity that they became practically unrecognizable to those who knew them.
9. Genghis Khan
Although Hitler was arguably the most evil and powerful man of the 20th century, it could be argued that Genghis Khan claimed this title during the 13th century.
As the leader of the Mongolian Empire from the years 1206 to 1227, Khan exhibited behavior during his unquenchable thirst for territorial expansion that was brutal, unforgiving, and simply cruel.
During his conquest of most of China, Khan and his highly skilled army killed or destroyed anything in their paths that proved to be even a slight obstacle to their progress. Cities were burned to the ground, women and children were tortured and mutilated, and on one occasion over 600,000 people were killed in a matter of days. Recent estimates of the total number of people killed under Khan’s command range from 20 to 60 million, which at the time was roughly 20 percent of the world’s entire population.
Much like most of the people on this list, Khan wasn’t satisfied with “normal” killing methods, and relied heavily on fire, rape, and decapitation to instill in his enemies a sense of inescapable doom and terror.
He would use people as human shields, pour molten metals in peoples’ eyes, and if his men ran out of water they were ordered to drink the blood of their horses. And as with so many others on this list, Khan seemed to derive a carnal pleasure out of watching his enemies and their families be tortured.
10. Adolf Eichmann
Known in later years as the “architect of the Holocaust,” Adolf Eichmann was the man ultimately in charge of ensuring that millions of Jews were swiftly and effectively transported to the concentration camps in Europe during World War II, where they were almost surely to die.
One quality of Eichmann that made him especially frightening in hindsight was his “normalness”. His demeanor was calm and collected, and he seemed to have absolutely no issue knowing that he was sending millions of Jews—many of whom were women and children—to their deaths.
Meticulously organized and seemingly detached, Eichmann later fled to Austria after the war, until he moved to Argentina using false documents in 1950. He was eventually captured by a team of Shin Bet agents and brought to Israel, where he faced multiple war crime charges and was later executed.
Although the men listed here share a great number of similarities, they also have a vast number of differences—both inherent to their personalities and the historical time period in question. This should serve as a warning that evil can wear many different masks—from the most blatantly and outwardly cruel, as was the case with men like Genghis Khan and Ivan the Terrible—to more of a hidden and disconnected “behind the scenes” evil, as was the case with men like Adolf Eichmann and Leopold II. Stay vigilant.