The Hidden Life of a Serial Killer
Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Mark Allen Smith, Richard Chase, and Ted Bundy-the list goes on and on. These five men alone have been responsible for at least ninety deaths, and many suspect that their victims may total twice that number. They are serial killers, the most feared and hated of criminals. What deep, hidden secret makes them lust for blood? What can possibly motivate a person to kill over and over again with no guilt, no remorse, and no hint of human compassion? What makes a serial killer? I have asked myself these same questions a thousand times. The answer to these questions may seem easy to figure out based on our society’s perception of a serial killer. However, most serial killers do not fall into the same categories that our society perceives them as. We do not know what triggers a person into killing another person. But, there are a couple theories available to further understand the possible reasons that a person might become a serial killer.
Serial Killings are not a new phenomenon. In 1798, for example, “Micajah and Wiley Harpe traveled the backwoods of Kentucky and Tennessee in a violent, year-long killing spree that left at least twenty-and possibly as many as thirty-eight-men, women, and children dead. Their crimes were especially chilling as they seemed particularly to enjoy grabbing small children by the ankles and smashing their heads against trees” (Holmes and DeBurger 28). In modern society, however, serial killings have grown to near epidemic proportions. “Ann Rule, a respected author and expert on serial murders, stated in a seminar on serial murder at the University of Louisville that between 3,500 and 5,000 people become victims of serial murder each year in the United States alone (qtd. in Holmes and DeBurger 21). Many others estimate that there are close to 350 serial killers currently at large in our society” (Holmes and DeBurger 22).
Fascination with murder and murderers is not new, but researchers in recent years have made great strides in determining the characteristics of criminals. Looking back, we can see how naïve early experts were in their evaluations; in 1911, for example, “Italian criminologist Cesare Lombrosco concluded that ‘murderers as a group [are] biologically degenerate [with] bloodshot eyes, aquiline noses, curly black hair, strong jaws, big ears, thin lips, and menacing grins’” (qtd. in Lunde 84). “Today, however, we don't expect killers to have fangs that drip human blood, and many realize that the boy-next-door may be doing more than woodworking in his basement. While there are no specific physical characteristics shared by all serial killers, they are almost always male and 92 percent are white. Most are between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five and often physically attractive. While they may hold a job, many switch employment frequently as they become easily frustrated when advancement...