I’ve always had a fascination with crime and serial killers. As morbid as this sounds, my guess is so have you, and so does the rest of the population because the proof is in the pudding.
The old newsroom saying “If it bleeds, it leads” is still a mantra, and ratings show if the story is about a fire, accident, or murder the story is usually the most popular one.
Recently the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer is on everyone’s radar. People are loosing their minds over the ten episode documentary. In fact, the documentary has generated so much buzz a change.org petition was created and currently has 330,929 supporters.
But my fascination with crime didn’t start with Steven Avery and Making A Murderer. It’s been a long standing guilty pleasure of mine to research everything from famous serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Jack the Ripper, to organized crime and infamous mobsters, to mass murderers.
I believe my reason for sheer fascination is the same reason for most, we simply just can’t wrap our brains around the crimes of a serial killer. The mind of a serial killer is one we will never understand, and that drives us crazy.
Why do they do it? What made them become the killers we know them to be today? How did they develop their method of operation? All questions only the killers themselves hold the answers to.
Scott Bonn is a sociology and criminology professor at Drew University and author of the book Why We Love Serial Killers. In a Huffpost Live interview Bonn explains why society has such an intense fascination with serial killers, and most recently mass murderers.
Bonn says it’s the fact these humans act in a very inhumane manner by kidnapping, torturing and killing their victims. The notion that a human could do something so horrendous to another human boggles our minds.
Another factor as to why we love learning about serial killers steams from how the risks we may take amount to nothing when compared to the risks a serial killer is willing to take. Our idea of pushing the boundaries doesn’t come close to theirs, and they live on the outside perimeter of human existence boundless. It’s a life we would never choose to live, and the fact they can so voluntarily, so easily, is insane to the normal psyche.
But with all the fascination comes glory and a sense of sensationalizing their crimes. This, says Bonn, is where the intrigue teeters on dangerous because it’s important to remember at the end of the day, no matter how fascinated we may be, these humans are still killers, and not horror movie stars.
Bonn points out how he notices many people confuse the reality of Dahmer with the movie monster Hannibal Lecter. One is a character portrayed by an actor but the other is a very real serial killer who happened to engage in cannibalism. We must not forget innocent lives were taken against their will, and for the families of the victims this is anything but fascinating.
Take the serial killer Dennis Rader, better known as the BTK killer. Upset with the lack of media attention his kills were receiving Rader wrote in to a local news station demanding more coverage, and to be addressed at the BTK killer, an acronym for bind, torture, kill. He craved attention and wanted to show off his work.
Does attention and celebrity-like recognition drive someone to become a serial killer? No, says Bonn, but not separating them from movie stars is still important nevertheless. And recently various media organizations have contemplated not releasing the name of a mass murderer for fear the media frenzy that follows will entice others who are contemplating carrying out a violent act.
Whether it’s looking at the mind of a psychopath, delving into the intense existence of a serial killer or mass murderer, or reading about famous hits carried out by the mob all true crime stories hold a level of fascination due to the sheer magnitude of how surreal the stories are.
The victims, the motive, the actions; they all shock us and make us ask why? And it’s the uncertainty, the level of fear and the unknown, that keeps us coming back for more.