First things first, this isn’t a case of “The lady doth protest too much”. You only have to ask the number of women who escaped…I mean, broke up with me to be told that although an arsehole at times, I’m not a serial killer.
I am however fascinated by them, the fucked-up psychology, the warped world view, and detachment from reality can keep me pondering for days after watching a documentary. The human mind can have an incredible yet scarily messed up imagination and perception of surroundings.
If I had to nail where this interest began it would be in 2006. I was 14 years old and living in a village just outside of Ipswich. Put two and two together right here and you’ll see that my local town at this time had become the stomping ground for Steve Wright. Steve Wright was convicted of murdering 5 prostitutes in the winter of 2006, Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell gaining him the nickname the “Suffolk Strangler”.
This time in my life is etched into my memory, I can still to this day almost feel how cold a winter that was and can almost taste the tension that filled the air of my otherwise rather safe County. A number of times we passed police checkpoints, it was all anyone was speaking about on the streets, in cafes, pubs, bars, local shops and at school. There were news cameras everywhere, It gripped the local area. Suffolk county police at that time were used to dealing with on average around 6 murders a year. Now they were dealing with 5 in around a fortnight to a month.
I remember Ipswich shops used to stay open later on Thursday nights for the Christmas period and this was always an enjoyable time, really got you in the festive mood, but in 2006 the streets were noticeably quieter and the mood was as bitter and fridged as the weather. It really was such an unpleasant time to live there.
I’m pretty sure my Mother and I drove down the roads that the bodies were found next to, some of them merely 10 meters from the curb. It just sends a shiver down my spine still to think about it now, I also remember one thing that really spooked me was hearing how some of the bodies were posed in a crucifix position it really added an element of the occult to everything that was going on.
Again you gotta remember I was only 14 years old at this time, I’d never had anything like this go on in any of the places I’d lived before and I’m sure most people will never encounter anything like this in their local surroundings.
In the weeks following the discovery of the bodies all anyone could talk about was the suspects. They made an arrest of a 37-year-old supermarket worker, who had previously spoken on a number of radio shows in a rather incriminating way. Probably best you don’t say “Yeah it could have been me” when the police don’t have any other suspects, but hell, the ego is a weird thing. This turned out to be the wrong guy and the search continued. When they arrested 48-year-old Steve Wright there was a different energy in the conviction. I think people sort of knew they got their man this time. Too many coincidences, too much of a strange demeanour. I know there is the whole innocent until proven guilty thing but sometimes you just get a feeling. Obviously, that wouldn’t hold up in a court of law so the forensic case had to be solid, especially seeing as Steve Wright was about a million miles away from pleading guilty.
The Suffolk Strangler’s rampage is something that’s stuck with Suffolk up to the modern day. When I attended university in 2011, one of the first things people would say when I told them where I was from is “Ohhhh that’s where all those prostitutes were murdered right?”. Either that or “Didn’t you guys have bird-flu a few years back?” God remember bird-flu? The end of the world as we knew it according to that glorified toilet paper we call The Sun.
So that’s why I’ve got an interest in serial killers, but as previously mentioned not everyone will have such a personal connection to such morbid events.
The fascination can be formed in a number of different ways. The psychology of the murderer is a big one, the rise in interviews with convicted serial killers towards the late 80s and early 90s provided an inside scoop into how the killer thought. It presented an insight into the warped philosophies of many. Technically insane but not legally. They still knew the difference between right and wrong they just failed to stop themselves doing so.
Indeed one of the most infamous series killers Jeffrey Dahmer used to get black out drunk when dismembering bodies and often had little to no knowledge of the actual murders taking place. Often he awoke to find a dead body or partially mutilated corpse beside him. He did this because he knew what he felt was wrong and wanted to let his inhibitions go.
Another well know serial killer in Ted Bundy provides an almost calculated response in his final interview before execution. His heightened intelligence helped him blend into society throughout his killing spree and even try to manipulate those who interacted with him mere hours before his death. He’s almost trying to make people empathise with him, to in essence feel sorry for him, completely detaching himself from responsibility although suggesting he claims full responsibility. It truly is a fascinating watch:
The second major factor is the investigation itself. The police work that goes into catching the killer. Documentaries portray it as a real life action film, the net slowly surrounding the psychotic individual. The development of new investigative skills throughout the 20th-century was key in catching many of these serial killers. Character profiling that was introduced in the mid-century was almost disregarded by many ‘old school’ police forces, however, became integral to many cases in the later part of the century.
Forensic studies also are only getting more and more impressive on a scientific front. The technologies at the police disposal in the modern age really is a testament to research. Going back to the Suffolk Strangler one of the most incriminating pieces of evidence was the matching of fibres found in one of the victims hairs to the fibres on Steve Wright’s carpet in his Ford Mondeo.
I mean just look at one of the debated and infamous stories of English history, Jack The Ripper. The fact he was never caught means that theories upon theories of suspects and analysis of evidence and coincidence are still being studied 129 years after the 5 murders took place. People want to complete the story, they beg for closure, for resolution in a case. It’s what drives many peoples interest. The Jack The Ripper murders could arguably be credited with fueling the rise of tabloid news. There was such a mystery that surrounded the murders at the time. There was such a feeling of sensationalization within the local public that only went on to fuel the fires for the headline writers. The similarities to modern day coverage of serial killers can be seen in this early form of reporting.
There is one interest that does send alarm bells ringing and that is a morbid curiosity. As the old saying goes curiosity killed the cat, however, it’s something a lot of people have. With the rise of the internet, finding information on these atrocities is almost too easy. In research for this article, I found myself confronted with a number of horrific crime scene photos that made it hard for me to get to sleep last night. For me personally, the sight of a dead body freaks me out far too much, especially the state some of the victims are left in. However some, and most commonly those of a younger developing age could be misinterpreting their reactions to confrontation of such gruesome subject matter. It’s why I personally don’t really like the Mortal Kombat games. There is a weird sexualization and glorification in the gore of that series. It’s that feeling that someone somewhere is getting off on this, and that is deeply disturbing.
Saying all this, documentaries on serial killers are some of the most popular out there. Fiction and media involving serial killers is still a growing market so clearly it’s not just me that has this interest. Maybe it’s due to the extremities of human existence. It’s almost surreal to delve into the psyches of these individuals. Serial killer numbers in the developed world seem to be going down or at least they’re becoming nowhere near as infamous as those in the 20th century. The mass killer has now become a bigger fear. The guy who goes into a college, cinema, school, shopping mall and in an explosion of despicability takes the lives of many people at once has gained more prominence in the media than the secretive, calculated serial killer.
Having an interest in serial killers is healthy, having an obsession that could develop into glorification is not. I just don’t like the opinion that finding the actions of serial killers thought-provoking instantly comes with the attachment of being creepy. As mentioned previously this intrigue can form in a number of ways. You can’t tell me that the 3 million people who have watched Stone Phillips interview of Jeffrey Dahmer are all serial killers in waiting. There’d be no one left!
You can’t tell me that the 3 million people who have watched Stone Phillips interview of Jeffrey Dahmer are all serial killers in waiting. If that was the case there’d be no one left!