Sociology Are serial killers truly a 20th century bogeymen?

Discussion in 'Sociology' started by mscbkc070904, Mar 27, 2005.

  1. mscbkc070904

    mscbkc070904 Premium Member

    Is it our modern times that creates them, or have they been in operation before we classified them as a phenomenon? Although the term "serial killer" was coined in 1971, early fables of human/monsters reveals that there has always been danger in straying too far, or in accepting the help of strangers. The carnivorous characters in Grimm's Fairy tales become vivid metaphors of human bloodlust. Gruesome stories of Bluebeards and their bloody chambers, big bad wolves, trolls under the bridge and witches in the forest, all of whom make meals out of unsuspecting innocents, remind us of our contemporary monsters. These cautionary tales may represent an early, pre-psychological way of understanding the sadistic side of human nature.
  2. mscbkc070904

    mscbkc070904 Premium Member


    "Lycanthropy," a combination of the Greek words "wolf" and "man", was another early concept created to describe the horror of senseless sexual murder. In The A-Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers Harold Schechter and David Everitt describe the lycanthropic madman as sexual predators who terrorized 16th century peasant villages, so much that the authorities "regarded it as one of the most pressing social problems of the day." Among the most notorious of these medieval "wolfmen" was Gilles Garnier of France, and the German Peter Stubbe, both of whom attacked children, ripping them apart and cannibalizing them. Stubbe even went so far as to savagely mutilate his own son, gnawing at his brain.

    The wolfman myth is still popular today -- we still hear how a full moon can bring out the crazies. Albert Fish, the notorious cannibal killer of children, was called the "Werewolf of Wisteria," and enjoyed dancing naked in the full moon. Other lunar lunatics include Ed Gein, who also frolicking in the moonlight, dressed in his mothersuit made from the skin of women. Unlike Gein, Bobbie Jo Long did not appreciate being adorned in female body parts -- at puberty he had his abnormally enlarged breasts surgically removed. Even after the operation, Long claimed to be affected by the moon's cycles through his own bizarre "menstrual" cycle.
  3. mscbkc070904

    mscbkc070904 Premium Member

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydes

    The 19th century gave rise to another chilling predecessor to the serial killer's persona -- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Robert Louis Stevenson created a literary man/monster who embodied the Divided Self -- appearing civilized and rational on the outside, while inside a wretched brute struggled to break loose.

    One of the most intriguing peculiarities of serial killers is their benign, "Dr. Jekyll" appearance. They look and behave like everyman or any man -- "abnormally normal", as Mark Seltzer says. If they come across as potentially dangerous in any way, they will neutralize it in their behavior. The imposing 6'9'' Edmund Kemper cultivated a "gentle giant" routine, which helped him to lure female hitchhikers into his car. The charming Ted Bundy wore a cast, looking meekly pathetic, and asked for help. The young women who gave him a hand must have thought of it as a random act of kindness. What resulted was a senseless act of murder. The notorious Gacy entertained hospitalized children in his Pogo the Clown costume. "You know, clowns get away with murder," he once said. Gacy used rope tricks from his performance to strangle unsuspecting young men, who thought the worst they would have to endure would be some hokey entertainment. With many serial killers, the hidden Hyde comes out only after the victim is lulled into complacency.
  4. mscbkc070904

    mscbkc070904 Premium Member


    As a man obsessed with recreating a human being from dead body parts, Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein was seeking the same ultimate power of creation as God Himself. While Dr. Frankenstein attempted to compose a man, our modern day Dr. Frankensteins are more gifted in the decomposing arts. Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Nilsen both tried to create companionship in corpses. Dahmer operated on his victims, hoping for a own love-zombie who would never stray. In his own attempts to create the perfect companion, Nilsen said, "I think that in some cases I killed these men in order to create the best image of them. . . . . It was not really a bad but a perfect and peaceful state for them to be in" (As if he were doing them a favor!) "I remember being thrilled that I had full control and ownership of this beautiful body," he mused. Many believe that Ed Gein was attempting to reconstruct his mother by stealing body parts from a nearby cemetery.
  5. mscbkc070904

    mscbkc070904 Premium Member


    And of course, one of the most popular monster monikers for serial killers is "vampire." In Gothic drama, vampires represented the repressed sexuality of straitlaced Victorian society, creatures of the night driven by beastly desires. The vampire motif is so frequent that we see localized vampires ("The Vampire of Dusseldorf" Peter Kurten; "The Vampire of Hanover" Fritz Haarmann; "The Vampire of Sacramento" Richard Chase.) Kurten claimed that his "chief satisfaction in killing was to catch the blood spurting from a victim's wounds in his mouth and swallow it." Another deeply demented vampire killer, John Haigh, claimed that disturbing dreams created his unquenchable thirst for human blood: "I saw before me a forest of crucifixes, which gradually turned into trees. . . Suddenly the whole forest began to writhe and the trees, stark and erect, to ooze blood. . . . A man went to each tree catching the blood. . . . 'Drink,' he said.
  6. bodebliss

    bodebliss The Zoc-La of Kromm-B Premium Member

    No they are not. The REAL boogeyman is governments and government policies which kill more people than anything else, but of course is rarely thought about and if we get close to a cure for all disease(aging being one) and governments don't aid it, their take in the culling of your fellow humans will increase astronomically.

    Governments are killers!
    Corporations are killers!

    And are rarely pointed out, oh no not my gov, not my corporation

    Foreign Correspondent
  7. mscbkc070904

    mscbkc070904 Premium Member

    Sorry Bode, but that response was sort of way off. Please keep this ID, not conspiracy related. Thank You.
  8. minky

    minky New Member

    While I would agree that the 20th centry media has brought the horror of serial killing to light. It's hardly a 20th century phenonmenon. One needs to look no further than Jack the Ripper to acertain that. The media played a huge role in that case as well. Some lesser known serial killers are Belle Gunnes (1800's) Lydia Sherman ((1825-1879) boogeywomen ??? And good old Sweeny Todd. It's only lately in the past 100 years that an acutal study has begun to understand and classify these monsters. Of course modern psycology is a fairly new science. But these monsters have been among us and horrifying people in the media for at least 300 years.
  9. popscythe

    popscythe New Member

    I think Bode's problem was much more just a lack of ability to say what he means. Fear = control. That's not a buzzword, from Satan to Santa it's a tried and true technique.

    "Boogymen" are classic examples in that they are something you get threatened with in order to make you conform. "Eat your veggies or the boogyman is gonna get you". This, in our modern times as much as in ancient times, is applied not just in childhood but as adults too. Only there isn't much that scares adults. In our search to both find ways to enforce overwhelming "security" laws and also to just give ourselves to heebiejeebies like we love to do, we manufacture this image of the monsterous killer lurking in every neighborhood, and the only thing that can save us is duct tape, oprah's advice, and and ADT security system. "ADT. We prey on your worst fears." I'm in insurance. I'm fully aware of how the "Scare people into paying for things" game works.

    Edit: the max levels of mdk2 were the only ones worth playing. The kurt levels were okay, like mdk1 and all, but the doc levels were horrible. At least you didn't put the doc as your avatar, I'd have pissed myself in grief.
  10. tana

    tana New Member

    i am impressed with the interesting posts. i feel that of course there were "serial killers" before they were named that. humans will never change. we can surround ourselves with technology and different styles in clothing, etc. but our inner self has, nor will ever change.
    there will always be a bad element in every society. but lets not forget there is also a great element in every society.
  11. TheWidowGarret

    TheWidowGarret Premium Member

    The lust to kill goes back farther than the profession of The Ripper's victims... I think with today's psychology we understand them and identify them better, but also, today's forensics and pathology help us identify whether or not someone has been killed by a random killer or a serial killer... I think serial killers were just a prevalent in Grimm's times as they are now, we just have better technology and evidence gathering to identify these cases as serial killers.
  12. Serial Killers have certainly existed for thousands of years. The behaviour and disconnect from reality and compassion of certain monarchs clearly marks them as serial killers. Especially the more hands on ones such as Ghengis Khan and Ivan the terrible. As for random murderers, the tale of the "Pied Piper of Hamlin" was based on a real life pedaphile and serial killer. Someones already mentioned a few good ones above, then there are the scores of murderous bandits and pirates who slaughtered their way across Europe and Asia throughout history. Of course a major difference now is that its a lot harder to go around killing people and then hiding away from the authorities. Hence many killers adopt what we think of as the "Serial killer" persona, calm and collected and often well thought off (Harold Shipman for instance, beloved family doctor and possibly the most prolific serial killer of recent memory with over 200 suspected kills), while secretly hiding their secret with great care. Of course there are famous historical killers such as the Countess of Blood (Elisabeth Bathory) and others of here macabre ilk.