Soap operas have featured a lot of scary storylines over the years, from devil possessions and people being buried alive on Days of our Lives, to vampires roaming the streets on Port Charles, to experiments that brought people back from the dead on All My Children, to a mannequin advocating for murder on The Bold and the Beautiful.
However, many viewers would agree that the scariest soap moments of all time involved serial killers who tortured, butchered, slaughtered, stabbed, strangled, drowned, and/or just plain annihilated characters in storylines that were the stuff of nightmares. Not all of the storylines were popular with fans (some were downright hated), but they all left a pile of bodies -- and seriously creeped-out viewers -- in their wake.
Check out the case files of ten brutal soap opera serial killers below, and don't forget to let us know which daytime monster made you shiver the most!
Body Count: Four
Days of our Lives has done several serial killer storylines over the years, but the NBC soap really managed to gut viewers when a creepy criminal nicknamed the Salem Strangler murdered four women -- including who the audience thought was leading lady Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall).
It all began in 1982, when the Strangler snuffed out Salemites Lorie Masters, Denise Peterson, and Mary Anderson. He then targeted Marlena, and when the fictional doctor was found dead in her house, viewers freaked out -- some even going as far as picketing outside the soaps' studio! As it turned out, the killer had actually strangled the character's twin sister, Samantha Evans, who he had mistaken as Marlena.
As for the Strangler, it turned out to be Jake Kositchek (Jack Coleman), who had fallen in love with Angel, the alternate personality of Jessica Blake (Jean Bruce Scott). When Jessica sought psychiatric treatment with Dr. Marlena Evans to rid herself of dissociative identity disorder (and thus, her alternative personality, Angel), he snapped.
DAYS' Salem Strangler storyline was so head-turning, the series has recycled it on multiple occasions: the Salem Slasher, the Riverfront Knifer, the Salem Stalker, and the Necktie Killer storylines all walk in the shadows of the original.
Body Count: Three
Guiding Light fans watched a super psycho storyline play out in 1995, when seemingly harmless Brent Lawrence (Frank Beaty) arrived in Springfield. As is the case with many serial killers, Brent's crimes started out small but grew in intensity...
Viewers initially warmed to Brent when he started dating Lucy (Sonia Satra), but he revealed his true personality when, after Lucy hadn't slept with him after a few dates, he drugged her and raped her. Alan-Michael (Rick Hearst) eventually learned the truth, and during an ensuing struggle between the men, Brent was shot and presumed dead.
Many viewers thought that was the end of Brent's story, but it was actually just the beginning of the twisted tale. The character wasn't actually dead, as everyone had believed, and he came back to torment Lucy -- only this time, he was disguised as a woman named Marion! "Marion" befriended Lucy and sealed their bond with a sickening fake rape story. Marion also switched Lucy's HIV test results, making her falsely believe that she had contracted the disease after Brent had raped her.
The more time Brent spent in Marion's shoes, the more he lost touch with reality. It wasn't long before he became extremely dangerous and murdered three people: a stranger named Lucky Fowler who, ironically, tried to rape Marion; Nadine Cooper (Jean Carol), who he beat with a candlestick after catching her snooping through his belongings; and Detective Patrick Cutter (Scott Hoxby).
Brent tried to claim a fourth victim in Susan Bates (Nancy Bell), but he failed, which ultimately drove him to kidnap Lucy and reveal the whole shocking truth to the gobsmacked girl. When Lucy discovered that Brent's psychotic treatment of women stemmed from having a verbally and physically abusive mother, she tried to break him by pretending she was his mother. Fortunately, Lucy was saved before Brent permanently silenced her. As for Brent, he reverted back to his Marion persona and was sent to a mental asylum.
Body Count: Six
When ABC decided to cancel Loving and reboot the soap opera as a more modern and urban drama called The City, the series' writers came up with a brilliant way to end Loving's run: they had a serial killer go on a murderous rampage that decimated several core characters and caused many others to get the hell out of town for fear of being killed next.
The devilish storyline started when a mysterious someone used super strange murder weapons such as poisoned body powder, poisoned candles, and a bucket of plaster to take out a slew of Corinth residents, including Stacey (Lauren-Marie Taylor), Clay (Dennis Parlato), Cabot (Wesley Addy), Curtis (Michael Lord), Isabelle (Meg Mundy), and Jeremy Hunter (Jean LeClerc).
Suspects abounded, but the truth was much darker and more twisted than anyone imagined: Gwyneth Alden (Christine Tudor-Newman) had developed dissociative identity disorder, and her alter ego, Trisha, had committed the slayings! Gwyn hadn't wanted people like Stacey and Clay to feel pain any longer, so Trisha emerged to end their misery -- for good! The storyline played out over Halloween and managed to scare up a huge ratings boost. Alas, Loving still went to the grave -- as did Gwyn, who convinced Stephanie (Amelia Heinle) to kill her with a lethal injection of poison after she realized she had bumped off everyone that she loved.
Body Count: Two
David Kimble (Michael Corbett) is considered one of Y&R's most evil villains, and it's easy to see why: he was a psychotic killer who thrilled at the prospect of torturing and butchering women. Though he only managed to snuff out two victims during his reign of terror, he most definitely would have killed again -- and again and again -- if given the chance.
When David arrived on the scene as Jill Abbott's (Jess Walton) hot new assistant in 1986, it didn't take long for viewers to realize that he was a seriously disturbed individual. The first taste of David's creepy nature came when he got upset with Christine (Lauralee Bell) for digging into his personal life and threatened to cut up her face so she could never model again! David's gruesome behavior escalated when he became aware that people in town were beginning to (correctly) suspect that he'd murdered heiress Rebecca Harper. When Rebecca's friend, Vivian, set out to prove that David was the killer, she was found electrocuted in her bathtub.
A string of events led David to fake his own death by stealing a body from the morgue, planting it in his hospital bed, and lighting it on fire while he made his escape. He underwent plastic surgery so he could keep up his ruse, but the surgeon instead carved the word "KILLER" on his forehead!
Wearing makeup to cover his face slashings, David returned to Genoa City with plans to kill several more people in his orbit. He was unsuccessful, however, and ended up being killed in what goes down in history as one of the weirdest soap opera deaths of all time: while being pursued by the police, he ducked into a garbage chute and was crushed to death by the trash compactor.
Body Count: 16
The residents of Port Charles have been terrorized a whopping 29 years by serial killer Ryan Chamberlain (Jon Lindstrom), who is currently incarcerated but could strike again at any moment. After all, much like Ted Bundy, he's never let a few restraints stop him from what he really loves: killing.
Ryan's twisted journey started when he was quite young -- his first kill was actually his own mother, who had long been abusive to him. A mentally unstable Ryan then went on to murder seven people -- including his wife, Gloria (Julia Ambrose) -- before he arrived in Port Charles in 1992. At that time, he conned his twin brother, Kevin (also played by Lindstrom), into thinking he was rehabilitated, but Ryan went on to kill three more people -- his counselor, Connie (Amy Benedict); his former neighbor, Michelle Blake (Alicia Brandt); and a woman named Jessica Holmes (Starr Andreeff) that he mistook as his intended victim, Felicia Jones (Kristina Wagner) -- before supposedly dying in a funhouse explosion.
Everyone thought Ryan's reign of terror had ended, but he popped back onto the scene in 2018, when it was revealed that Kevin had been secretly keeping his brother at Ferncliff Asylum. That ended up being a huge mistake because Ryan escaped, stole his brother's identity, and went on a murder spree that took the lives of four more people. These kills showed the true depravity that Ryan was capable of; after stabbing nurse Mary Pat Ingles (Patricia Bethune), he placed her decapitated head into an apple bobbing barrel and the rest of her corpse in an art gallery with a jack-o'-lantern as its head, and after stabbing Kiki Jerome (Hayley Erin), he began a sick relationship with her grieving mother, Ava (Maura West).
When people began suspecting Ryan of the crimes, he disappeared and even went so far as to cut off his own hand to trick people into believing he was dead. He was eventually caught, however, and has been in prison ever since. However, though Ryan remains behind bars, he has killed at least one person in prison (that we know of!), and he still occasionally torments the citizens of Port Charles with nefarious gifts and blackmail schemes.
Body Count: Eight
As the World Turns took a page from teen horror classics like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer when it kicked off an eerie serial killer storyline in 2006 that culminated into what's now known as the Raven Lake Massacre.
It all began when a masked slasher began brutally slaying the teens of Oakdale. Maddie Coleman (Alexandra Chando) was thought to be the original suspect, as she had been acting strangely and had even slashed a friend's car tires. What people didn't know was that Maddie had been raped, and her erratic behavior stemmed from the traumatic experience.
As the bodies began to pile up -- including those of Lia McDermott (Deja Kreutzberg) and Nate Bradley (Robert Gorrie) -- Maddie's sister, Eve (Bonnie Root), voiced concerns that perhaps Maddie really was the Oakdale Slasher. Even Maddie believed it could be true, which made her decision to follow her boyfriend, Casey (Zach Roerig), and their large group of friends to a party at Raven Lake a suspicious one. The trip was going great, until suddenly -- one by one ---the teens started dying at the hands of the Slasher! Zach Harding, Ann Lynch, Alex Hoffman, Geneva Samuelson, and Ian Black all found themselves at the mercy of the killer, as did Eve's husband, Louis (Robert Maschio).
A devastated Maddie finally got the chance to unmask the killer and was stunned to find that it was her sister, Eve! The twisted woman blamed her murderous rampage on the jealousy she felt after learning Louis had fallen in love with Maddie.
Body Count: Four
The small town of Pine Valley was rocked when a sinister killer began targeting the beautiful women of Fusion Cosmetics just before Christmas 2006. The first victim was Simone Torres (Terri Ivens), who was found dead in the Fusion office with a white ribbon in her hand. The second victim was Erin Lavery (Connie Fletcher), whose body was discovered on the rooftop deck of Fusion just one day later.
The Satin Slayer's third victim was Dixie Cooney (Cady McClain), who ingested poisoned pancakes that were meant for Fusion employee Babe. And not long after that, the Satin Slayer struck for the fourth time, this time bringing down his intended victim, Babe (Alexa Havins). Except, neither of those deaths was actually as it seemed...
A double funeral was held for both Dixie and Babe, but it was later revealed that Babe had staged her death in order to help capture the Satin Slayer -- who turned out to be Zach Slater's (Thosten Kaye) dad, Alexander Cambias, Sr. (Ronald Guttman). Alexander confessed to the murders of Simone and Erin, but he claimed that he had not killed Dixie, which, as AMC fans know, is true, because Dixie returned to the soap four years later, alive and well. So, who were the Satin Slayer's other two victims? Babe's bodyguard, Max, and a woman who looked like Alexander's wife, Amelia.
Body Count: Three
One Life to Live dug into its vaults in 2009 for a serial killer storyline that brought one of the ABC soap's most shocking moments back to the forefront. When a series of stabbings occurred in Llanview, clues left on the victim's bodies led former police detective John McBain (Michael Easton) to link the killings to the Kappa Alpha Delta fraternity. Unfortunately, Janet Ketring (Janet Zarish), Wes Granger (Justin Paul Kahn), and Talia Sahid (BethAnn Bonner) all lost their lives before it was revealed that the killer was none other than Powell Lord III (Sean Moynihan), who was infamously one of the men who helped Todd (Roger Howarth) gang rape Marty (Susan Haskell) in the KAD house during the Spring Fling Dance of 1993.
A disturbed Powell felt that Todd had forced him into raping Marty, and he had already tried exacting his revenge by raping a series of nurses in 1994 and trying to frame Todd for the crimes. He also believed that he was Todd at that time, so he was locked in a mental institution rather than sent to prison for the setup. And then the terror of 2009 came...
Powell was able to convince an old lover to pose as a doctor and occasionally sign him out of the asylum, which had given him the freedom to go on his stabbing spree. His hatred toward Todd had grown deeper and deeper, and this time, his revenge included kidnapping Todd, sending out poisoned Spring Fling Dance invitations to some of the women Todd had wronged over the years, and gathering everyone in a room made to look exactly like the place where he and Todd had raped Marty all those years before. Powell hoped that he could convince one of the women from Todd's past to kill him as payback for all his crimes -- but he failed to understand that women like Blair (Kassie DePaiva), Téa (Florencia Lozano), and Marty would always love Todd, despite his evil past. John eventually burst onto the scene and shot Powell dead, bringing his long-drawn-out revenge on Todd to a brutal close.
Body Count: Nine+
In 1987, a series of murders rocked the fictional world of Bay City to its core, leaving residents cowering in fear and suspicious of everything in the shadows. The first victims were unknowns, but the killer quickly began targeting beloved characters like Maisie Watkins (Patricia Hodges) and Quinn Harding (Petronia Paley), who he brutally butchered before moving on to slaughter Greg Houston (Christopher Cousins) and a belly dancer named Josie.
The audience was clued in to the killer's identity before the Bay City PD figured it out, but it was eventually revealed to all that Dr. Alan Glaser (David O'Brien) was the culprit of the current crimes as well as the murders of Lisa's parents in the early 80s. Before Alan was carted off to jail, the disturbed doc revealed the twisted reason he had carried out his crimes: he was just following his dead mother's orders to purge the world of "filthy," sinful women.
Body Count: Unknown
The General Hospital spin-off Port Charles was known for a lot of strange shenanigans, including the presence of angels and vampires. But one of the darker storylines on the ABC soap was the unforgettable General Homicide storyline.
It all started in 1997, when Kevin Collins (Jon Lindstrom) wrote a fictional murder mystery with characters based on the nurses and doctors who worked at General Hospital. The book was a bestseller, but Kevin's success was quickly eclipsed by a string of grisly murders. All of the killings took place at the hospital, and the more the victims started piling up, the more it became clear that the psychotic killer was modeling his homicides after the deaths in Kevin's book!
Julie Devlin (Lisa Ann Hadley) was the prime suspect, as the first victim was her father, Bennet Devlin (Edward Albert), with whom she'd had a vicious argument. As the murders became more and more gruesome -- Jake Marshak (Rib Hillis) was found hanging from the rafters, and an especially creepy killing took place at a circus-themed children's party, where a nurse was strangled in her clown costume -- Julie finally admitted the nasty truth: she was the General Homicide killer. Except... that wasn't true!
The real killer, as it turned out, was Greg Cooper (David Holcomb), a disgruntled former doctor who was upset about being let go from his GH internship and wanted everyone at the hospital to die. He had brainwashed Julie into thinking she had committed the horrible crimes when it had been him doing the devilish deeds all along.
Which of the above soap opera serial killers creeped you out the most? Are there any fictional serial murderers you think deserve to be added to the list? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.