10 Scare-inducing Moments in History

Washington, D.C., Sniper Attacks
A woman leaves flowers at a memorial for victims of the 2002 D.C. sniper. Stefan Zaklin/ Getty Images

Murder is one of the most heinous acts a person can commit, and unfortunately, it is all too common in our society. Usually, victims know the killer. But in some horrifying cases, murderers choose to kill people at random. That was the terrifying reality during the D.C. sniper attacks of 2002.

On Oct. 2, John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo climbed into a blue Chevrolet Caprice and headed toward an Aspen Hill, Maryland, craft store on a deadly mission. Their first shot shattered the window of the store but narrowly missed the cashier's head. Having failed at their first attempt, the duo moved on to a grocery store where they killed a man walking across the parking lot. The shootings continued for the next three weeks, claiming victims at a gas station, home improvement store, middle school and other ordinary public places [source: Philofsky].

As you can imagine, people were rattled. Kids stayed home from school, sporting events were canceled and people hid while pumping gas. Mercifully, police were able to identify Muhammed and Malvo as suspects and capture them at a rest stop, but not before they killed 10 people and injured three others. Their motives were unclear. Perhaps it was an elaborate plot to cover up the planned murder of Muhammed's ex-wife, or even part of a bigger plan to extort the federal government. Whatever the reason for the spree, it remains one of the scariest examples of serial killing in American history [source: White].