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Who Were America’s First Serial Killers

The story of Big and Little Harpe, who terrorized Kentucky and Tennesse after the revolutionary War.

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America’s recent history is filled with the horrors committed on society by those people we brand as “serial killers.”  Names such as Ted Bundy, Jeffy Dahmer, and Ed Gein are commonplace and even school children recognize the names of recent killers.  Others are only known by the names given to them by the media such as The Zodiac Killer and BTK.  Many modern horror movies are at least partially based on the stories of these killers  and several killers have had movies made based on their lives and crimes.

While at lot of people think that the phenomenon of serial killers is new it is really not.  Albert Fish is well known as a cannibalistic serial killer who operated in New York in the early 1900’s.  Fish is known to have killed at least three children and suspected of three others.  He was convicted and died in the electric chair in 1935 at the ripe old age of 65.  Before Fish, H. H. Holmes was known to have murdered at least nine people.  He had confessed to killing 27 but many think the actual number is much higher.  He killed his victims in his “castle” home and sold the skeletons and organs to medical schools.  Holmes was executed by hanging in 1896.

While not as well known in popular culture as Albert Fish. Holmes is considered by many to be the first American serial killer.  While it is true that he was one of America’s first, a lot of authorities consider the true first killers to have operated long before Homes.  It was not  a single person but actually a pair of killers who operated in the years just after the Revolutionary War.  In the late 1700’s the Harpe brothers Wiley and Micajah, known better as Big and Little Harpe, terrorized a section of America that ran from Virginia to Illinois.  The Harpes are believed to be cousins but were known during their spree as brothers.  there is a lot of debate about their early life but they are believed to have immigrated to America from Scotland with their parents.  Both Harpes fought as British Loyalists during the American Revolutionary War.  After the war the brothers lived with the Cherokee Indians and other renegade bands of Indians in the area of what is now East Tennessee.  The Cherokees were allies of the British and the Harpes probably found a warmer welcome there than with the patriots they had fought against during the war.

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