Sunday, July 18, 2010
For centuries, maniacal and clinically disturbed people have been committing murders. Finding peace and solace in drowning a young child, enjoying dining on the tender meat of a human thigh, or simply falling asleep next to a rotting corpse; these are all things that satisfy and complete a murderer, if only for several moments. These delightful feelings produced through the death of another human being calm and deeply enrich a killer’s psychosis. A killer will go to great lengths to find this cherished sensation, travelling great distances, stalking a victim for weeks, or indulging in sadomasochistic pleasures. Murdering becomes a romanticized thought, arousing the killer’s insatiable appetite as he or she imagines their fantasies coming to reality. The longer the wait for the next victim, the greater the appeal for killing slowly rises. The killer reaches his or her fanatical climax much like an orgasm when finally they end the life of their selected prey.
What the killer feels next is not ecstasy, but rather immediate disappointment. The killing could have been executed better, could have lasted longer, and could have solved the loneliness the killer might be suffering from. Trivial and small insignificant details rack the brain of the killer, leaving them with the belief that the next killing might be perfect. With each murder, the intricate standards are set higher and higher, the killer becoming madly obsessed by obtaining that indescribable ideal emotion of agile strength, fantastic glory, and terrific splendor attained from the very first murder they committed. People who must kill in multitudes are called serial killers. They often kill more than three people in a short span of time, have what is called a “cooling off” period, and then continue their search for more victims. A sexual element, though not always the case, is usually included in the killings.
America has had a remarkable number of serial killers, eighty-five percent of them currently dominating the nation according to the FBI. What seems to interest the innocent public is primarily why these killers do what they do. This is not an easy question to tackle, by far. Early childhood abuse usually plays a large part in the killer’s actions and deeds. Edmund Kemper was locked in a basement by his mother when he reached puberty, while Charles Manson was sent to school in girl’s clothing courtesy of his mother’s constant belittling. John Wayne Gacy was violently attacked regularly by his father, attempting to show his young son what a real man should be.
When a serial killer emerges from his shell, it is sometimes seen as a rebellion against what they have lived through. Not only are they scarred and badly traumatized by the events of their childhood, but they have the need to inflict the same or more pain that they once endured. This is where the argument begins: does childhood abuse always turn a person into a serial killer? No, for we see victims of this kind of cruelty every day, leading “normal” and civilized lives. A product of environment does not always affect a serial killer. What distinguishes a serial killer from the average person is simply the compulsion to murder. But the whys of this are infinitely impossible to pin down depending on each killer.
Serial killers begin their killings at a very young age, their victim’s notoriously small animals such as domestic cats, dogs, or birds. Reasons vary from killer to killer, but some want to torture these defenseless creatures as an act of dominance. After a brutal beating from a parent or relative, the killer might want to inflict the pain they feel on another living thing. Some killers dissect the animals because they are simply curious of what the vital organs and intestines look like. Finding a rat or a squirrel, other killers merely take pleasure in suffering and death, finding that blood on their hands interests them more than any childhood game on the playgrounds. Cannibals, in their early years might find satisfaction in eating the raw flesh of a mouse or cat. Furthermore, fledgling child serial killers often keep souvenirs of the animals, keeping parts of the carcasses in shallow graves they might later dig up later to relive their crimes. Skeletons of these animals are sometimes hidden in backyards or private sheds. Although hard to attain, some killers are even able to keep their animals in jars filled with formaldehyde.
The next stage for an adolescent serial killer is sometimes petty crime, including theft, arson, and rape. Before they are able to ultimately commit murder, they must test the waters, so to speak, to see what they can get away with. Many of these killers are not able to conceal their crimes as easily as they had hoped, and end up in juvenile detention centers or reform schools. Edmund Kemper, an exception in the “law” of serial killing, murdered his grandparents at age 15, earning him five years in a state hospital. Albert DeSalvo was taught by his own father at an early age how to burglarize homes and shops, which came in handy when he finally did begin his full crime spree at age 31. For teenage future serial killers, this is a time for them to learn skills for social manipulation and to successfully gain the trust of people they might later take advantage of.
By the time the killer reaches college age, he is beginning to understand that his fantasies of murder can become a reality if given the proper opportunity. The organized killer begins to plan elaborate schemes, dreaming in precise detail what he will do to his victim. The killer will attain all of his implements in advance; guns, knives, rope, or poison. He treasures his weapons lovingly, delighted that these will be his trophies once he is able to search out the perfect victim.
The “perfect victim” is sought by the killer in an exact manner, for the victim must fit the superlative image of whomever the killer has desired since first deciding to kill. Once the victim has been chosen, the killer usually stalks the home looking for dates and times that the victim will be alone for long spans of time. Dennis Rader was an avid stalker and spent weeks surveying the homes of young single women he would eventually “bind, torture, and kill.”The longer the killer stalks, the more ravenous he becomes for blood, suffering, and agony. Much like a rollercoaster, the killer slowly and gradually climbs to the top, believing the excitement he will feel as he descends will be the thrill of his life.
The unorganized killer, sometimes known as a mentally insane person, does not search out a “perfect victim,” nor does the killer plan out exactly how he will devise the murder. An example might be that of Jack the Ripper, who found prostitutes on the streets of London and tore them to shreds in plain sight. At the same time, though, Jack was reportedly incredibly accurate when slitting open his victim’s chest cavities. Another spontaneous serial killer was Andrei Chikatilo, a Russian citizen with a keen interest in young children. After meeting them at a train station, he lured them to a secluded area in the woods where he tortured, killed, and ate them. David Berkowitz, suffering from severe schizophrenia, mercilessly murdered six young people in the mid 1970’s simply by walking by their parked cars in Brooklyn, NY.
The sexual deviant is well known among America’s roster of serial killers. Many killers demand sex to prove their dominance, raping and sodomizing the victim in a tremendously violent fashion. Some killers who are normally impotent in their marriages find that they can maintain an erection when they are face to face with their chosen victim. The forbidden act of raping someone gives the killer enormous gratification, fulfilling their sexual urgency in colossal measures.
Ed Gein, reportedly impotent, realized that he could have sex with corpses without a laughable comment from his dead lovers. Other killers are over-enthusiastic about sex, commanding their spouse to perform intercourse six or seven times a day. When their spouses refuse, the killers simply turn to their victims, who are unable to reject the killers while bound and gagged. Albert DeSalvo, so tortured by his sex addiction, sought out the elderly, the least likely to fight back. Raping and then strangling them with their own stockings, he left the police to find a cheerfully loopy bow around the necks of his thirteen victims.
Simple violence without sex is another form of serial killing. Bashing in the heads of their victims, beating them to death, and torturing them to the point of unrecognizable human features, serial killers are enamored with certain sadism and bloodshed. At first, this general operation is a vision of beauty to the common serial killer, but some later find it revolting, becoming sick and terrified of what they have done. This is the remorseful serial killer; one who can distinguish right from wrong and understands what he has done is not normal and absolutely horrendous. However, once the serial killers have begun killing, the addiction of slaying innocent people devours their conscious and they are unable and unwilling to end their vicious cycle. Jeffrey Dahmer admitted to his family and the court how enthusiastically sorry he was about the deaths of 17 young boys. Dahmer was genuinely sickened and vociferously disgusted about his crimes, volunteering for the death penalty. He sincerely believed that he should die for what he had done to so many innocent adolescent boys.
The remorseless serial killer does not see his crimes as erroneous, somehow believing that taking lives is his calling in life. Often, the remorseless killer has some kind of mental defect, perhaps brought on by a severe head trauma or hereditary traits that warrant him able to commit violence without guilt. Henry Lee Lucas, among many others, was brilliantly pleased with his murders, boasting nearly five hundred victims had died at his hands. Nannie Doss immediately admitted every detail of her murders, claiming she had killed simply because she was bored with her many husbands. Another female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, originally maintained that she was assaulted by her victims and had no choice but to kill them. She later confessed that in cold blood, she had murdered willfully and happily seven innocent men. America’s Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez reportedly had his skull crushed as a child by a dresser and later had a history of brain damage. His methods of killing varied, but were all impossibly and indisputably atrocious. By slitting their throats, beating them to death with a hammer, or shooting them in the face, all can be seen as the work of an extremely mentally ill person.
Some serial killers find that they possess enough charm and appeal to lure anyone they chose to their victim’s ultimate demise. Theodore Bundy was a perfect example of this kind of trickery, using only one line to attract his victims, “Hi. I’m Ted.” The monstrosities he committed are almost nauseating, but spoke volumes about the way he was able to operate so easily with women. Bundy had never been a victim of childhood abuse, nor had he been molested as a youngster, but he had a sexual addiction that was unprecedented.
A sex addict feels the same way as someone who finds that food tastes good. Once the euphoria of sex is discovered, the addict cannot stop. Although Bundy suffered from a severe case of sex addiction, he was indelibly violent about it. Perhaps the most astonishing case was that of the Chi Omega murders. In one night, Bundy broke into the sorority house of several co-eds, raped and beat two young women and bludgeoned three others to death. Bundy has been famously known as a psychopath, portraying himself as a well-meaning and charismatic man, while still holding the opinion that women were merely people to be raped and murdered.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing was the name given to the practically ancient man named Albert Fish. Seen as a kind and grandfatherly type, nobody could guess that Fish was actually a child molester and cannibal. Bringing ten-year-old Grace Budd to an abandoned house, Fish stripped the young girl nude and strangled her. He dined on her body for the next several days until she began to decompose. Fish sent a letter to the Budd home shortly thereafter explaining in great detail what he had done to Grace. The one assurance he gave the appalled Budd family was that Grace had died a virgin. When Fish was apprehended, it was found that he was afflicted with an acute addiction to sadism. Whether beating himself with a nail-embedded paddle or exacting “punishment” on another, Fish could not control his overwhelming desire for pain. It is said that he even looked forward to his own execution, believing it to be the definitive aching pain he had been longing for his entire life.
Without sophistication and wit, other killers spend their time in the shadows, realizing that they are not part of normal society. By creeping shyly through the streets, they are all virtually unknown killers, keeping their lives private and waiting for the correct victim to find them. After all, some killers are just indiscriminate about who to abduct, torture, and murder. Cousins Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi victimized prostitutes in the late 1970’s, leaving dead bodies in open areas, earning them the title of The Hillside Stranglers. Not only did they strangle their victims, but they bizarrely found pleasure in injecting the women with various window cleaners, and even used electric shock as a torture method.
Other socially awkward serial killers haunt the streets. Jeffrey Dahmer was one of those killers, a lonely and disillusioned young man with a mean penchant for hard alcohol. Dahmer had a decent upbringing, never abused and never molested. He had also never had any history of early head trauma, suggesting he was a sane person who was aware of right and wrong. Alcohol seemed to have not only dominated his life, but had an unusual effect on him when it came to committing crimes. Frequenting local gay bars, Dahmer understood that the only way to get someone to come home with him was to drug their drinks. In the privacy of his home, he mercifully drugged them to the point of passing out. He then strangled them while they slept, finding his ultimate fulfillment at his disposal.
Believing that he was repulsive to any living person, Dahmer strangely attached himself to his corpses, sleeping next to them and lovingly stroking their cold bodies. When the stench of death permeated his home, he decided to keep some of his corpses with him forever- by eating them. Though Dahmer is one of America’s top known cannibals, it is a little known fact that Dahmer did not only and primarily eat every one of his victims. Eating some of them served two functions; one, he could dispose of them by eating them, and two, Dahmer wanted to keep his visitors with him as long as possible, in his own stomach.
The truth about Jeffrey Dahmer is not that he murdered innocent victims without a thought in his mind. Dahmer was truly repentant about his crimes, and admitted that he knew what he had done was wrong. His belief, during his trial, was that he should die for his crimes, for there was no use for his damnable actions in life. His wish came true, in the form of a mop handle and a jealous fist in prison. Dahmer was beaten to death by another inmate after serving two years in prison.
It is indeed repulsive what these serial killers have done. By raping, strangling, bludgeoning to death, or eating the contents of one’s vital organs, we see the distinction between each killer. We find that they are sinful and wicked killers devoid of “normal” emotions or thought processes. It is not fair what they have done, the pain they have inflicted on others, the undeserved violence imposed on innocent citizens. By showing us the awful nature and rule of true evil, we learn that everyone can be a victim if not guarded by reason and a degree of caution. This is not to say that any person is at fault for their own peril. Serial killers are discrete and usually trustful individuals, and that is why they are so often able to capture people quite literally.
Serial killers are startlingly frightening in any capacity, leaving society haunted by the killer’s absolute lack of concern and accountability. But the fact that killers lack this kind of sincere apologetic responsibility has to show America- the entire world- that something is deeply wrong with these killers. A sick person is sent to a doctor, not an executioner. To stop these terrible things from happening, we have to realize that these killers are not another species. They are human beings with damaged mental disorders.
Humanizing a serial killer is difficult, but it must be done to prevent another future Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, or Jeffrey Dahmer. With profound and relentless psychological testing, a myriad of reasoning and understanding can come from these human beings we tend to call “monsters.” If every man in America is to be judged fairly, then the same should be done for serial killers. If compassion and truth must be shown to every man in court, the same respect should be shown to serial killers. Instead of the typical response to serial killing being that of great horror and repulsion, a shred of general empathy could be regarded, for isn’t a serial killer also a victim of their own tragically diseased mind?