The Curious Fascination with Serial Killers

With the recent release of the Quentin Tarantino movie Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, as well as Netflix’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile and Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes – we, as humans, have an obvious fascination with serial killers, both in fact and fiction.

Serial killers have been a part of our popular culture since the 1970s; when charismatic Ted Bundy successfully escaped authorities twice, bringing him to the forefront of the media’s attention. Bundy was handsome and jovial with a wide circle of friends. He was an honor student, well-regarded by his university professors, and the women he dated said he never exhibited any disturbing behaviors. During this same time, Dennis Rader was beginning his 17-year murder spree. By the time he was arrested in 2005, he was married with two children, served as a Cub Scout leader and was president of his church council. At his sentencing hearing, he described the murders he committed in the same indifference that most people would display when describing what they ate for breakfast.

Both Bundy and Rader’s ability to compartmentalize their lives, in a way most people cannot imagine, is what initiated our fascination in the macabre. The ability to peer into the depths of what humanity is capable of is what sustains this fascination.

I know for me; I enjoy learning everything that’s available about some of the most despicable individuals in our society (like Hitler’s fear of body odors or how Albert Fish would stick needles into his pelvis when he was masturbating).

This is not in any way to humanize these individuals but to understand what contributes to some people’s ability to carry out such grisly murders, without a hint of regret. 

Specifically, I’m interested in the abnormal psychology of some of the most notable criminals and serial killers around the world; and how other individuals with the same circumstances (such as, having a history of mental illness, childhood trauma and sexual abuse) don’t develop psychopathic tendencies.

During this month (and next) I will be posting various information on the abnormal psychology of various deviant members of society. Though not all of these individuals are murderers or serial killers, I will not be posting many details of their notorious acts of violence as there are still people suffering from some of the crimes these people have committed. Instead, the aim of my posts are to examine the links between mental disorders and criminal activity.