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Me & My Other Interests: Serial Killers I'd Have A Cuppa With (Part 1)



Let's kick off 2O18 properly with something I've wanted to blog about for a long long time. If you've been a reader of NB for a while now, you may be familiar with my sporadic "Me & My Other Interests" series which covers all aspects of yep, you guessed it, my interests that don't make a common appearance here on the blog. One thing I wanted to include in this series originally was my interest in criminal psychology and in particular, serial killers. Since I was young, I've had a big fascination with true crime, forensics, and certainly the psychological studies on serial killers as it's so against the societal norm, it's fascinating to try to understand if nature or nurture (or a blend of both) are to blame for their actions. Now, you may have noted I used the term "fascinated" twice there and there's a reason for this. As a teen I used to (very foolishly) refer to my interest in this topic as "I love serial killers". As you can see, there's so many reasons that's not okay to say and as there are actually people out there who *do* feel that way towards serial killers, I've educated myself over the years to not say something so misguided and to ensure I am not associated with such people. I think it's important to note here that although I find the whole topic incredibly interesting, especially to discuss with others who also find it interesting, romanticising serial killers or true crimes I find very distasteful and that is not what this post is about. With that in mind, please do take it with a pinch of salt that this topic is part of this series, but I simply did not know where else to place it!

So, I've said "serial killers I'd have a cuppa with" and I definitely mean that. The first time I saw The Silence of the Lambs, I was convinced I would grow up to be a criminal psychologist and work with those who were seen as "no help/life imprisonment for their crimes" individuals. The idea of being able to speak to such people and try to analyse and understand their actions, motivations, and why they do what they do was such an interesting concept. I can now say I'm pleased I didn't go into that line of work as I honestly don't think my mental health could cut it but, I still find it incredibly gripping to read, research, and learn about. Serial killers in particular captivate me because it goes against every moral social fibre in our day to day lives. They're very much on the fringe of what is accepted by society and I'm always intrigued to know just what it is that made that particular person think what they think and then actually take that a step further and act upon it. Some serial killers have awful upbringings and back stories which are blamed in part, some don't, some have patterns and strict "tell tale" signs that it is their crime, and others just seem to have no rhyme or reason to their chosen victims or their murders. So in this post, I thought I would briefly talk about the individuals who I'd be most interested to talk to for a variety of reasons. Whether it's because of their motives, their intelligence, or their backstory, there's some criminals out there and throughout history that I would like to have a conversation with and just ask "why?".


Dennis Rader - the BTK Killer/Strangler
Dennis Rader is an interesting character for a number of reasons for me. He operated between 1974-1991 and confessed to having murdered 1O people in Kansas during this time. His nickname he penned for himself stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill" and this was included in letters he left in public places such as public libraries or letters he sent directly to various local media outlets and the authorities. These correspondences were referred to as "chapters" by Rader as he was creating the "BTK Story". Rader is one of those killers who lived a double life - he was a church goer, a boy scout troop leader, and a happy husband and loving father so when he pleaded guilty to the murders in 2Oo5, many people in his local community were completely stunned.

I find Rader interesting because for the most part, he seemed to have a good upbringing but it has been sourced that he dabbled in hanging animals when he was younger (and animal killings seem to be "a sign" for authorities when it comes to serial killers backstories). He seemed to be able to function well in society and keep up appearances but he's also interesting as it is evident that he wanted to be caught. Not only did he taunt the authorities and media by leaving evidence behind such as letters and semen at some crime scenes, he then sent letters including victim and crime scene pictures and a word puzzle to the police and media again in 2Oo4; the 3Oth anniversary of the Otero Family deaths (Rader's first 4 victims which he strangled in their home for the 15 year old son to come home from school to find). When speaking to the police, he asked if his location could be traced if he corresponded with them using a floppy disk and the police told him "no" but of course, they were lying. He was arrested in 2Oo5 after the authorities traced the floppy disk use back to Rader's local church's computer. He is serving 1O life sentences at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. Rader is also said to have mentioned "Factor X" in his correspondences with authorities and claimed that other killers he had evidently romanticised (such as Bundy, Jack the Ripper, Son of Sam etc.) also shared this Factor X. In 2Oo7, Rader tried to explain that Factor X was essentially a demon which sometimes took on the appearance of a frog or a traditional-looking demon that controlled his impulse to kill and thus, he blamed Factor X for his behaviour. Obviously this creates more psychological depth to this egotistical killer which is further interesting in his case.


Herman Webster Mudgett - H.H. Holmes
A con artist, a bigamist, and a serial killer, Dr. Henry Howard Holmes certainly made a name for himself in the criminal field in the 19th Century. Often dubbed the American Ripper and one of America's first serial killers, H.H. Holmes confessed to 27 murders but could only be pinned for 9 as some individuals he had claimed to have killed were still alive. It has been rumoured since his killing days that Holmes is actually responsible for up to 2Oo deaths but this has never been confirmed and after changing his statement upon the gallows and claiming to have only ever killed 2 people, it is difficult to truly know what crimes Holmes committed. A medical university graduate, Holmes crimes really came into play when he moved to Chicago and started working in a pharmacy which he later took over. As a uni student, Holmes would steal cadavers, disfigure them, then claim they were individuals who were involved in accidents to claim health insurance. Once he owned the pharmacy business, he started the construction of a three-story building nearby which was later dubbed "Murder Castle".

This "Murder Castle" was Holme's home which he opened and showcased as a hotel. It has been said that he never shared the full blueprints of the hotel layout to builders and contractors as doors leading to brick walls, windowless rooms, and human size chutes which lead to two furnaces in the basement would have obviously raised some alarm bells. It is believed that Holmes would torture and murder his "guests" and he was also known for having a number of fiancés that suddenly would disappear and therefore many believe he murdered them, too. After the local World's Fair in Chicago and after being wanted for arson, Holmes left Chicago and gained an accomplice called Benjamin Pietzel. Pietzel and Holmes schemed to fake Pietzel's death to claim $1O,Ooo insurance to split between Pietzel's wife and Holmes. Holmes instead knocked Pietzel unconscious with chloroform and set his body on fire. When he was eventually arrested for this crime in 1895, the authorities realised the other crimes he had committed over the years in Chicago. He was hanged in 1896 for Pietzel's murder and plead that he had only murdered 2 people. During a time of "yellow journalism" when everything was over-exaggerated to create hysteria, I think it'd be fascinating to actually speak to H.H. Holmes to find out what actually happened and to ask about the "Murder Castle".


Theodore Robert Bundy - Ted Bundy
I feel that writing a post such as this, without mentioning this man, would be a mistake. That's not to romanticise the man or his crimes (because I think more than enough people do that already), but as he is often the inspiration behind many films, books, and contemporary killers, not to mention often believed to be the person responsible for the phrase and label "serial killer" being used for specific criminals, Ted Bundy is a notorious name in the serial killing game. A serial murderer, rapist, and necrophiliac, Ted Bundy has become a well-known name and face who after a decade of denying his crimes, eventually admitted to killing 36 women over several US states roughly between 1974 and 1978. It is believed by many that this victim count actually exceeds 1Oo but the exact number of deaths he is responsible for will never be known.

Ted Bundy is often considered a "typical" serial killer case when looking at his backstory and upbringing. He was an illegitimate child which his grandparents adopted as their own and Bundy was told that his mother was actually his sister thus to not bring shame on the family. He was an intelligent child but showed disturbing signs from an early age as people such as his Aunt claimed he was fascinated with knives from as young as three thought nothing of peeping through people's windows and stealing. In interviews with Bundy in his later years, he spoke highly of his grandfather and felt he could relate to the man well but he was known for beating Bundy's grandmother, raising his voice often, swinging neighbourhood cats around by their tails, and throwing one of his children down the stairs. Bundy also seemingly lied about his social life as a teen in interviews as a convicted adult as he claimed he didn't have any friends and didn't understand social interactions which led to friendships but high school classmates claimed Bundy was relatively well-known and well liked throughout the school.

One of the reasons I would like to speak to Bundy is because he became so prolific, it was as if he was a celebrity. Often described as incredibly charismatic and attractive - even by victims - Bundy played on this in many ways from luring victims to his car to beat them and later murder them, to acting as his own defense lawyer in court. He seemed incredibly full of himself for lack of a better phrase and seems quite arrogant and self-assured in any court case/interview footage I've watched. He is very much the traditional essence of a serial killer in the fact that he had a modus operandi (tell-tale signs or specific things he performed in carrying out his crimes) and victims often seemed to fit in a certain box of being a young white woman, often a student, and quite often with long dark hair. Professionals often associate Bundy's break up with his college girlfriend as a pinnacle moment in his life which caused the decent into his murders and the hold he seemed to have over women right up until his death is bizarre. It is evident that he had a distaste for women and no respect for them, but he cleverly engineered his behaviour to demonstrate an interest in them to gain what he wanted from his victims.

I could discuss here for days and days the interesting links in his murders, the psychological profiling and analysing he underwent to try to understand his pathology and so on, but we really would be here for days. One thing I personally find interesting about Bundy is the fact that he shared that he always needed to be "extremely drunk" when seeking a victim and carrying out his heinous acts. He claimed this was to sedate his dominant personality so it could not influence his entity which I think suggests that there was a part of him who knew he was doing wrong and was trying to fight back. Of course he was an absolute monster of a man and no psychological realisations about him can falter that, but his crimes, his brazen lying, and his escapes from prison all portrays a manipulative man who had a lot going on in his mind.

If you want to read more on Bundy's crimes and pathology, this wiki page is a good place to start.

*****

Before this post becomes some sort of novel, I will cut it short here and a part 2 will be heading to NB shortly. As I mentioned at the start of this post, I truly believe that true crime - particularly involving serial killers and sadistic murderers - should never be romanticised, but it can be an incredibly thought-provoking topic and needs to be discussed. Of course true crime history is looked back on in the realms of criminology and psychology to learn and educate for the the future, but true crime also fills that void for many people as it's out of societal norm and is so out of the ordinary for many individuals that you can't help but find yourself engrossed in a documentary or a book detailing what happened and the backstories to these criminals. I don't know what that says about us as human beings so I'm not going to dwell on it too much, but I hope you've enjoyed this little bit of a different segment on NB and you're looking forward to part 2!

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