Why We Love Serial Killers

BOOK: Why We Love Serial Killers
3.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Praise for Scott Bonn’s

Why We Love Serial Killers

“Powerful and a must-read! Dr. Bonn examines the serial killer, as depicted in fact and fiction, as a timeless cultural imperative. . . . Insightful, compelling, and an excellent source of myth-busting information for laymen and professionals alike.”

—Burl Barer, award-winning crime author and radio host

“Considered one of the world’s top experts on criminal behavior, Scott Bonn has delivered a book which is so powerful and provocative, you cannot put it down. Indeed, through his diligent work and unparalleled access to these infamous killers who’ve committed some of the most horrific crimes of our day, he provides chilling and critical insight into these deviant and pathological criminal minds . . . and reveals the truth behind the headlines.”

—Rita Cosby, Emmy Award–winning television host and bestselling author

“Scott Bonn has taken on one of the most horrifying, disgusting, and chilling type of criminals—serial killers—and illustrates their enduring appeal. Using social constructionist and functionalist analyses, he delves into society’s strange attraction to these infamous murderers, provides insight into some of America’s most famous examples, and explains why we are so attracted to the nuances of these people’s lives and motivations. Squarely looking the news media in the face for sensationalizing and even romanticizing these criminals for the sake of ratings and raising the public’s fear, Bonn answers the questions about why we remain lured by these stories, our fascination with them, and why the serial killer will long endure in our consciousness as a repulsive yet captivating character in criminology.”

—Peter Adler, Ph.D. Professor of Sociology, University of Denver, and Patricia Adler, Ph.D. Professor of Sociology, University of Colorado

Why We Love Serial Killers
, Drew University criminology professor Scott Bonn, PhD, simultaneously examines the public’s and media’s fascination with the monsters among us and the ways in which that attention impacts them. He writes about serial killers’ behaviors and the research—from the FBI’s original work to more recent models—that informs the law enforcement professionals charged with profiling, catching, and studying
them. A real bonus: Dr. Bonn’s correspondence with Dennis Rader (BTK or “Bind, Torture, Kill”) for its insight into the mind of an especially chilling murderous psychopath. As such, it is a stark reminder that, irrespective of any deceptively benign appearances to the contrary, ‘they’ are never like ‘us.’”

—Sue Russell, award-winning journalist and author of
Lethal Intent
, a biography of Aileen Wuornos

“Scott Bonn’s book,
Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World’s Most Savage Murderers
, makes a significant contribution to our knowledge of a subject that seems to fascinate many Americans. Interest in serial killers, Bonn reminds us, far outstrips their murderous activities that make up only a small portion of murders committed in the US. In addition to dispelling myths about serial murder and murderers, he gives an in-depth profile of some of the most notorious killers, including fascinating insight on Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer who has become Bonn’s pen pal and confidant. Bonn uses a constructionist perspective to help us understand this fascination with these psychopathic murderers, showing how their creation satisfies the needs of a broad segment of society. All in all, Bonn provides a noteworthy contribution to the literature of the field, one that opens new doors for understanding the inner drives that propel these killers into committing their ‘savage acts.’”

—Larry Siegel, professor of Criminology and Justice Studies, UMass-Lowell

“Many of us are fascinated by serial killers but have little understanding of why that is so. In
Why We Love Serial Killers
, Dr. Scott Bonn delves into intriguing social-psychological issues that surround our curiosity and even obsession with the world’s most ruthless killers. He carefully and vividly explains our fascination with evil and shows powerful evidence that the news and entertainment media glorify serial killers and turn them into what he calls “celebrity monsters.” Along the way, he defines serial killers, explains how their often psychopathic minds operate, identifies their varied and complex motivations, and offers new and unique insights into two infamous serial killers—the “Son of Sam” and “Bind, Torture, Kill”—based on his personal contact with them. Dr. Bonn delivers a brilliant examination of the most dangerous and unremorseful humans on the planet. This book is thought-provoking and it debunks popular stereotypes about serial killers such as they are all young white males. Dr. Bonn has
authored a must-read for both the amateur and professional or academic enthusiast of crime.

—RJ Parker, bestselling true crime author of
Top Cases of the FBI

“For those of you that are interested in serial killers—why they do what they do—and want to go the extra mile and delve into their disturbed minds, this book is a must-read! Author Scott Bonn explains how their evil minds work and also takes on the challenge of debunking myths that go along with them. He explains their twisted fantasies and motives by getting it straight from the horse’s mouth—the killers themselves. He also discusses the members of our society who collect the belongings of serial killers, including hair, clothing and even dirt from their crime scenes. There isn’t a stone left unturned in this book, that is, if you want to learn about the worst killers on the planet.”

—Victoria Redstall, author and investigative journalist

Copyright © 2014 by Scott Bonn

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Skyhorse Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018.

Skyhorse Publishing books may be purchased in bulk at special discounts for sales promotion, corporate gifts, fund-raising, or educational purposes. Special editions can also be created to specifications. For details, contact the Special Sales Department, Skyhorse Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018 or
[email protected]

Skyhorse® and Skyhorse Publishing® are registered trademarks of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.®, a Delaware corporation.

Visit our website at

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available on file.

Cover design by Anthony Morais

Cover photo credit AP Images

Print ISBN: 978-1-62914-432-0

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-63220-189-8

Printed in the United States

This book is dedicated to the victims and their families.


Foreword by Diane Dimond


Part 1:   Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Serial Killers (But Were Afraid to Ask)
Chapter 1:     The Strange Allure of Those Who Kill and Kill Again
Chapter 2:     Debunking Popular Myths about Serial Killers
Chapter 3:     Is Criminal Profiling a Science, Art, or Magic?
Chapter 4:     Inside the Pathological Mind of the Serial Killer
Chapter 5:     The Motives, Rituals, and Fantasies of Serial Killers
Part 2:   Up Close and Personal with Two Infamous Serial Killers
Chapter 6:     From Son of Sam to Son of Hope: The Strange Journey of David Berkowitz
Chapter 7:     The Unrepentant Sexual Psychopath Known as “Bind, Torture, Kill”
Part 3:   The Sociology of Serial Murder
Chapter 8:     The Profound Impact of Serial Murder on Society
Chapter 9:     Subjective Reality, Moral Panic, and Atrocity Tales
Chapter 10:   The Making of Celebrity Monsters
Chapter 11:   Collectors of Murderabilia and the Son of Sam Laws
Chapter 12:   What We Can Learn from the Monsters We Make


About the Author


There is a bible story about the circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus that resonates today.

When Pontius Pilate gave the gathered Passover crowd its annual choice of which prisoner to crucify and which to spare—Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, or Barabbas, the notorious murderer—the crowd instantly chose to exercise benevolence for Barabbas. As depicted in mounds of scholarly biblical studies and in the film,
The Passion of the Christ
, Barabbas is portrayed as a psychotic or sociopathic serial killer. Yet the crowd that day in Judea chose to spare him.

Indeed, our fascination with serial killers can be traced back to biblical times. But why are we so captivated by these monsters who commit the most unforgivable crimes? Are we spellbound by their sheer wanton disregard for human life or do we fear there is something in each of us that could also explode into fits of multiple murder?

We readily remember these killers’ names: Albert DeSalvo, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Aileen Wuornos, John Wayne Gacy, David Berkowitz. Their hapless and innocent victims go unremembered, except by their loved ones.

Serial killers are mostly male but a shocking number of women have also earned the designation over the last few decades. Besides the Lone Wolf actor there have been couples, brothers, cousins, and entire families that have joined together in bloody and sometimes lust-filled acts of multiple murders.

Through the news media these serial killers are often romanticized with nicknames such as “Angel of Death,” “The Killer Clown,” or “Jolly Black Widow.” Uncaptured perpetrators get monikers as well: “Zodiac Killer” (based in northern California, Zodiac killed five but taunted
police with claims of murdering as many as thirty-seven victims); “The Babysitter” (who abducted and murdered at least four children in southeastern Michigan); or “The Doodler” (a San Francisco serial killer of gay men who sketched his prey before stabbing to death fourteen of them). Cute nicknames, but they have little to do with the real-life ghastly actions of someone who kills over and over and over again.

Hollywood has also glamorized these fiends and their stories for years. Charlize Theron’s chilling portrayal of Aileen Wuornos in
resulted in no fewer than seventeen awards, including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actress. Angelina Jolie starred in
The Changeling
as a victimized mother who loses her son to a serial killer modeled after Gordon Northcott, who, when he was caught in 1928, was dubbed the “Wineville Chicken Coop Killer” by the media. The bizarre actions of one serial killer, Ed Gein, who both murdered and dug up corpses to fashion their bones and skin into trophies, was the catalyst for several movies including
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
, and
Silence of the Lambs.

All the publicity and public interest in these repeat murderers has created a mom-and-pop group of Internet-based memorabilia dealers. Selling everything from serial killers’ clothing, letters, locks of hair, and artwork to autographs, action figures, or even soil from the scenes of their crimes, these macabre vendors make considerable money exploiting the bloody deeds of these notorious criminals. That they make a living selling these items speaks volumes about our collective fascination with serial killers. But take a moment to imagine what the families of the victims feel when they realize the callous “murderabilia” being offered for sale came at the price of their loved one’s life.

Indeed, the public can’t seem to get enough details about these fiends. And on some level I can relate. As a veteran crime and justice reporter, I have referred to myself as a “serial killer freak” for my intense interest in the subject. Sadly, I’ve often noticed that the information disseminated to the public is more sensational than sensible.

BOOK: Why We Love Serial Killers
3.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Devil's Garden by Debi Marshall
Ask Again Later by Jill A. Davis
Fighting Silence by Aly Martinez
Rose of Tralee by Katie Flynn
Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federle
La Reina del Sur by Arturo Pérez-Reverte