Joseph Vacher (November 16, 1869 – December 31, 1898) was a French serial killer, sometimes known as “The French Ripper” or “L’éventreur du Sud-Est” (“The South-East Ripper”) due to comparisons to the more famous Jack the Ripper murderer of London, England in 1888. His scarred face, accordion, and plain, white, handmade rabbit-fur hat became his trademark appearance.
During a three-year period beginning in 1894, Vacher murdered and mutilated at least 11 people (one woman, five teenage girls, and five teenage boys). Many of them were shepherds watching their flocks in isolated fields. The victims were stabbed repeatedly, often disemboweled, raped, and sodomized.
After his arrest, Vacher claimed he was insane and attempted to prove it in a variety of ways. He claimed that a rabid dog’s bite had poisoned his blood, causing madness, but later blamed the quack cure he received for the bite. He also claimed he was sent by God, comparing himself to Joan of Arc. Despite his protestations, he was pronounced sane after a lengthy investigations by a team of doctors [and] was sentenced to death on October 28, 1898. Vacher was executed by guillotine two months later, at dawn on December 31, 1898. Reluctant if not insane, he refused to walk to the scaffold under his own power and was dragged to the guillotine by the executioners.