Why am I obsessed with serial killers?

The cult of killers | “We'll find it
Death fascinating "

Berlin / New York - Charles Manson photos are on T-shirts and baby rompers, in London you can follow in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper and cold-blooded killers like Hannibal Lecter and Dexter Morgan shock millions of viewers in TV series. Their crimes are so repulsive that it's hard to believe - but we're still fascinated by serial killers.

Why do they sometimes murder innocents hundreds of times over? How do normal people become mass murderers? Why are there collectors who spend huge sums on killer souvenirs?

The US criminal psychologist Dr. Scott A. Bonn tries to find answers to these and other questions about the cult of the killer, talking to some notorious mass murderers, among others. "I compare them to the great white shark: Both are very rare, exotic - and extremely deadly," says Bonn.

Serial killers are rare

The fact is: both sharks and serial killers fascinate people. "We find death fascinating," said Bonn. This is one of the reasons why people are so interested in serial killers. Another: They are rare.

Example USA: “We have a high crime rate. There are 15,000 murders in the United States - every year. Less than one percent of the crimes are committed by serial killers. One would think there would be a lot more because they get such a high level of attention, ”says Bonn.

In his opinion, it creates an imbalance when a serial killer strikes within a community. The harmony will be destroyed - and this fact must be straightened out again.

Battle between good and evil

"How do we do it? We demonize the killers, we make monsters out of them. That doesn't make it necessary to understand why they committed their deeds, to understand the complexity of their actions, ”says Bonn. Evil personified emerges from the killers.

Serial Killers: Myth and Reality

  • Serial killers are either geniuses or insane

    Hannibal Lecter is considered the prototype of the evil genius, an educated killer who is always one step ahead of the police. Most murderers do not. According to Bonn, they are of average intelligence - and not insane.

    In the United States, if you didn't know you were doing something wrong after committing a crime, you are considered insane. However, reports show that most killers know that their actions are wrong.

    Bonn: "You may be psychopath - but that is not a form of mental illness."

  • Do serial killers have to keep killing until they're caught?

    No. One example is this Zodiac killer. He terrorized the San Francisco region in the late 1960s - until he suddenly disappeared.

    The serial killer sent several letters to newspapers and television stations, some of which he encrypted. There are different theories about what happened to the perpetrator. The fact is: at some point he stopped killing.

    Another example is the so-called Long Island Killer: Ten bodies were found on the island in New York in the mid-1990s. At some point he too simply disappeared, no more corpses were found, no clues.

The deeds are often so terrible that one can hardly understand them. Another reason why they fascinate people so much.

Bonn: “We ask ourselves: 'What am I capable of?‘,' Could I also commit such acts? That is why we dehumanize them. This means that we no longer have to ask ourselves these questions. The hunt for the perpetrators turns into a battle between good and evil. This makes it unnecessary to understand the motivations of the perpetrators - even though they have many different reasons for their actions. Sometimes they are of a sexual nature, sometimes it's about revenge - others it's about attention, ”says Bonn.

Like David Berkowitz, who called himself the "Son of Sam" (in German, "Son of Sam"). The New Yorker killed six people and wounded seven more within a year. Bonn spoke to him in prison.

“For Berkowitz the whole thing was a game. It was part of the thrill to always be one step ahead of the police, to read your name in the newspaper, ”reports Bonn.

Thousands of dollars for "Murderabilia"

Attention and fascination are one thing - but for some the interest goes much further: “There are websites on which so-called murderabilia are posted (A suitcase word from Murder and Memorabilia, editor's note) offered. These are objects that have to do with murderers: pictures or poems. "

Even their clothing finds buyers - for sometimes unbelievable prices. After his death, thousands of dollars were paid for the clothes of Richard Ramirez, known as "Night Stalker".

“People who buy these things are obsessed with the killers - some have groupies! Ramirez even married one of his "fans". The woman now sells his Murderabilia with a certificate of authenticity, ”says Bonn.

For the sellers it's all about the money, they make a living from it. Some of them, according to Bonn, first get the condemned to paint or write poems. In the US, convicted criminals are not allowed to benefit financially from their crimes. This is regulated in the “Son of Sam” law. On the other hand, those not involved in the acts may cash in with the morbid collectibles.

“Talisman effect” through serial killer souvenirs

“It's more complicated with buyers: the thrill of holding something that has belonged to Richard Ramirez or Ted Bundy means, for some people, being close to danger. There is also a 'talisman effect'. It is about the idea that objects that have been worn by these people at some point have magical powers and protect against misfortune, ”explains Bonn.

At the end of the day, it's simply about an adrenaline rush. Bonn: “We love that - when we are small, we visit amusement parks. As we get older, serial killers take care of that for us. It's about experiencing fear in a safe area. Because we know: nothing can happen to us. At least we hope so. "

Some of the cruelest serial killers of all time

  • Fritz Haarmann

    Wait, just wait a while ...

    This is what it says in a song about the mass murderer Fritz Haarmann (1879-1925) from Hanover. Review: the gloomy old town streets of the early 20s in Hanover. Young men keep disappearing, the police are puzzled. In the early summer of 1924, five severed skulls were found on the leash.

    Lengthy investigations lead to Fritz Haarmann, a petty criminal and police spy who lives in an attic on the Rote Reihe.

    He is arrested and confesses to the worst crime in Hanover's criminal history: He lured at least 24 young men into his apartment, killed them with a throat bite in a sex frenzy, and dismembered them. It is said that the meat of his victims was made into sausages and sold in the old town.

    On April 15, 1925, Fritz Haarmann was executed with the sword by the executioner in the former court prison on Raschplatz.

  • Charles Manson

    His hair has turned gray and his face is wrinkled. The swastika tattoo between the eyebrows has remained, as has his fixed stare. We see Charles Manson (77), one of the craziest serial killers in history!

    Manson sits in California's Corcoran jail for multiple murders until his death. In California he had founded a sect-like commune, the Manson Family. He got his followers to commit bestial murders.

    On an August night in 1969, the disciples of cult leader Charles Manson penetrated the Hollywood estate of director Roman Polanski and massacred five people. Among the victims was the heavily pregnant actress Sharon Tate († 26), Polanski's friend. The next day, Manson's supporters slaughtered a shopkeeper couple.

  • Jack the Ripper

    London in 1888. In the dark alleys of Whitechapel's slum, Jack the Ripper kills prostitutes. At least five victims are assigned to the mysterious perpetrator.

    The murderer is never caught - and so today ensures that speculation about his true identity is rampant.

  • Luis Garavito

    The Colombian migrant worker Luis Garavito confessed to raping, murdering and dismembering at least 140 boys and girls between 1992 and 1999. The police found most of the children's bodies.

    He was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1999 - Colombia's police chief demanded that the death penalty be introduced for Garavito.

    Garavito is said to have been a pedophile and homosexual, according to the newspaper "El Tiempo" he was abused in his childhood and wanted to take revenge with his deeds.

  • Ted Bundy

    He admitted 23 murders - he probably committed at least twice as many: Ted Bundy killed his victims, then dismembered them. He is said to have even taken individual body parts into the forest and played with them.

    Investigators and trial observers call him a highly intelligent man. Bundy was a former law student and a member of the campaign team for the then governor of Washington.

    Many women fell in love with his charm even after his conviction: administrative clerk Carol Ann Boone fell in love with the imprisoned killer and was married to him for eight years.

    Ted Bundy was executed on the electric chair in 1989, eleven years after his arrest.

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