Sunday, July 18, 2010
Carrying a bright yellow bag featuring Jeffrey Dahmer, donning a pin showing a picture of Leopold and Loeb, and wearing a tee shirt baring the evil face of Andrei Chikatilo, the very first thing I hear from people who recognize one if not all of these killers is “Why the hell are you supporting those fuckers?”
And how to answer that question? It’s easy to sit down and calmly explain that I’m not supporting them, I am raising awareness towards what everyone else is trying to hide under the rug. I am simply promoting prevention, a little bit of understanding that these killers are human beings with mental instabilities that should be studied, not executed. It’s not so easy to make my point when others are throwing rocks and beer bottles at me. Without a sign that announces my personal opinion, I am stuck in a world that cannot and will not listen to me.
Why serial killers? My father's wife asks me. Why not? They haunt us, terrify us, and always leave us wondering why they did what they did, and of course, if they are innocent. When you have serial killers on the brain every day, it doesn’t change the way you think. I have no homicidal issues, no deep-seeded plans to destroy a building full of people, and I certainly don’t believe myself capable of hurting or killing another human being. However, I do understand how someone could be driven to serial killing. After studying serial killers for the better part of my life, I have found that there are distinct and legitimate reasons each person commits a murder.
Just like a snowflake, every single serial killer is absolutely different. They have all led lives that somehow bring them to murder. Most of them have had unbelievably horrific childhoods, leaving them scarred and sometimes vengeful. When hearing about a brutal attack or abuse imposed on a child in the news, we might be meeting a new serial killer, years before he or she commits any crime. After knowing what has happened to this child, we are shocked, saddened, and blame the abuser for what they have done. When years later, this child becomes an adult and begins their own crime spree, we are somehow surprised. Why are we surprised? We ought not to be. This adult has been given the recipe and taste of true pain and now must inflict their own torture on others. Can this be understood by society?
When it was discovered that I was writing serial killer biographies, I was actually asked if I had been molested as a child. The connection between interest in the macabre or crime does not necessarily make me or anyone else a disturbed individual, a victim of molestation, or a possible serial killer. What draws me to serial killers is the psychology of why and how they could commit murder without conscious. Or even if they do have a guilty conscious, what compels them to continue murdering? I subscribe to the idea that most serial killers have very little ability to end what they have started. The compulsion to kill is never ending for a serial killer. This is shown over and over as more killers emerge from the underbelly of society.
And why can’t I focus on a cheerier subject like home décor or popular fashion? The answer is simple. I have a passion for an often taboo and forbidden topic. But luckily, I can stomach the horrors of heinous crimes, deriving pleasure in finding the human being in each serial killer. I see no monster in Aileen Wuornos or Jeffrey Dahmer, rather lonely and discarded individuals pleading to be loved and cherished in any way. I do not condone nor do I believe their crimes were warranted, but I do hold fast to the idea that they should be seen as human beings that deserved more in life than what was given to them.
It’s a hard job to convince people that I am not a weirdo or privy to criminal behavior myself, but I cannot apologize for my work. After completing a biography of a serial killer, I cannot get even my own family or friends to read what I’ve worked so hard on. After advertising my work endlessly, I have found that literally no one has interest in how I make my living. But someone, somewhere, might possibly read my work someday, and that is my only comfort and the only reason I continue to write.
By learning about hundreds of serial killers, I have given myself a gift. I am vigilant and cautious in my day to day life, locking my doors, keeping a weapon nearby, and never answering to a man in a cast introducing himself, “Hi, I’m Ted.” Call it paranoia or excessive suspicion; I can claim that I will hopefully never become a victim myself. This I cannot say for others, but I look forward to the day when the world is a little more careful around strangers they don’t know. Prevention is the key to survival, and though we will certainly never fully be rid of serial killers, we might someday finally learn how to avoid them.