true crime stories songs
[Photos via Nirvana, Marilyn Manson, Slayer/Spotify; Alkaline Trio/Epitaph Records]

Curiosity about the human mind has led to a mass interest from people about why some decide to become murderers. Countless musicians have used the gripping stories of well-known serial killers for their songs. Whether they’re based on the infamous true crime accounts of notorious killers such as John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer or lesser-known stories found in local newspapers, the motives behind murder fascinate us and inspire some of the best songs. Take a look below for 15 songs based on true crime stories

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Nirvana – “Polly”

Nirvana’s “Polly” is based on a dark story involving the abduction of a teenager in Washington. The account involved a girl leaving a concert when she was abducted and later raped and tortured with a blowtorch before escaping and having her assailant arrested and convicted. 

The Killers – “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine”

While it wasn’t a single, “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine” is one of the Killers’ biggest songs and contains a horrifying story. Convicted killer Robert Chambers, otherwise known as the Preppy Killer, strangled an 18-year-old Jennifer Levin. However, he claimed it was caused by rough sex gone wrong. He later ended up pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter at trial.

Sonic Youth – “Death Valley ’69”

Noise-rock legends Sonic Youth created a horrifying video with “Death Valley ’69,” and it’s pretty obvious what the song is about if you know the history of infamous serial killers. The Manson family lived in the Death Valley area around 1969 when committing their killings, and the video’s depictions of the members in various states of dismemberment throughout is equally fitting. 

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Slayer – “213”

Much of Slayer’s music focuses on topics of murder, wars and various human atrocities. However, “213” goes for a more pointed take on Jeffrey Dahmer. The notorious cannibalistic killer lived in apartment 213, where many of his crimes ended up taking place. 

The Dillinger Escape Plan – “Three For Flinching (Revenge Of The Porno Clowns)”

John Wayne Gacy will go down as one of the most evil serial killers. He was oddly acting in the public eye as a clown working children’s events throughout his crime spree. The Dillinger Escape Plan took his job as a clown and spun it along with his weird tendency to taunt people for a scary track worth diving into. 

Alkaline Trio – “Sadie”

Laced with references to Manson family member Susan Atkins, aka Sadie Glutz, Alkaline Trio’s “Sadie” is a prime telling of an aspect of one of the most notorious cults of all time. They pull off some interesting flourishes with the song by using spoken lyrics, offering Atkins’ words throughout the track. 

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Ghost – “Elizabeth”

Throwing it back a few hundred years ago, Ghost take on one of the most historically known killers with “Elizabeth.” The song’s haunting tones capture a weird aesthetic perfectly suited for Countess Bathory. She’s been labeled as the most prolific female killer of all time with potentially hundreds of murders under her belt. 

The Acacia Strain – “Bay Of Pigs”

The Acacia Strain have written songs about serial killers before, but “Bay Of Pigs” is arguably their best while tackling lyrics about the Son Of Sam. David Berkowitz managed to lead the biggest police manhunt in New York City history while taunting them with letters, gripping the public with a need to know who was murdering people in the city. 

Tyler, The Creator – “Blow”

Tyler, The Creator has never been one to shy away from controversial topics, and his song “Blow” takes on infamous killer Ted Bundy’s mindset while he was taking out his victims. In fact, the rapper wrote another song about a serial killer, “Fish,” which addresses notorious rapist, cannibal and killer Albert Fish. 

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Marilyn Manson – “Choklit Factory”

Prior to releasing a debut full-length, Marilyn Manson put out a cassette titled After School Special, which contains the Dahmer-based song “Choklit Factory.” Dahmer formerly worked at a chocolate factory, which happened to be tied to him exploring his sexuality further and eventually lead to increasingly violent acts.

The Number Twelve Looks Like You – “Document: Grace Budd”

The Number Twelve Looks Like You put out a terrifying album with Put On Your Rosy Red Glasses, which details Fish’s murders from his own perspective. “Document: Grace Budd” tackles a letter written to one of his victims with a completely spoken section of a letter the killer wrote detailing the murder. 

Judas Priest – “The Ripper”

Jack The Ripper is one of the most well-known names among true crime enthusiasts and has inspired tons of metal groups over the years. His killings around the Whitechapel area of London have been extensively referenced by bands (most obviously deathcore act Whitechapel), and Judas Priest put together a killer track with as much aggression as the Ripper likely had while committing crimes. 

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Suffocation – “Bind Torture Kill”

It’s no surprise that a death-metal band write about serial killers. But Suffocation brought a truly scary song together with “Bind Torture Kill” based on the BTK Killer. Serving as one of the long forgotten serial killers who evaded police for years until the early 2000s, he got too cocky and brought his terror back, eventually leading police to his identity all on his own. 

King Diamond – “Killer”

King Diamond’s spooky heavy-metal shredding is a perfect match for serial killer stories, and “Killer” mixes fiction and real-life spectacularly. The song takes on a story based on Richard Ramirez, who terrorized people in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the ’80s while murdering and executing burglaries. 

Melvins – “Zodiac”

The Zodiac Killer is one of the most elusive stories in criminal history. The killer’s identity is still unknown after decades of people trying to crack his notes he sent to police. Melvins offer up a fantastic take on the killer with their pointedly titled track “Zodiac.”