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Serial killing - a claim to fame?

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  • Serial killing - a claim to fame?

    A little something to chew on at the beginning of the new year:

    If you use the link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o..._United_States
    you will find a list of the serial killers of the United States, arguably the country richest in this phenomenon. Here, a couple of hundred killers are listed by name, many of them prolific killers most people have never heard of.

    And this is exactly what I´m aiming at in this thread: the reason why we never - or extremely rarely - hear of these killers before they write themselves into the darker chapters of history.

    Only very recently, Bruce Robinson launched Michael Maybrick as a new Ripper suspect. Papers and media cottoned on - Robinson knows which strings to pull to gain attention - and for a short while, the case was once again solved.

    My immediate reaction was that I could save my money and let others buy a book and a theory I was ready to ditch until further notice. If the theory had a lot going for itself, I gathered that I would hear that anyway - but until such a thing happened, I was perfectly happy to work from the assumption that Robinson was wrong.

    I have the exact same thoughts about a number of other suspects, like for example Walter Sickert, Lewis Carroll and William Gull.

    My reasoning goes along this line: People who have made a carreer for themselves and who have become famous and successfull in their lines of work, will not be serial killers. Serial killers are people who are more often than not people who seek recognition for what they do, both from within themselves, but also from the surrounding society. If they had had other carreers in which they excelled, they would not have needed to become serialists.

    Of course, this is a very rough reasoning - disorganized killers do not kill as a claim to fame, they answer to other calls. But they will not be famous artists, writers, politicians etcetera anyway.

    What I am after here is that I find that there is reason to believe that the more or less organized killers all seek an element of recognition alongside answering to an urge of killing.

    Are there any exceptions to the rule? That can of course always be discussed. Maybe Gilles de Rais is such a man, being a very succesful warlord in medieval days. But one must weigh in that he got to the pinnacles of society by birth, and that what he did was to organize socially condoned killings - war can sometimes be described in that fashion.

    Otherwise, I don´t find many successful men or women in the serial killing ranks. H H Holmes? Not really. Gacy? Only to a very modest degree. And let´s not forget that psychopathic people like to show off a succesful facade.

    Many serialists, like Alcala for example, have scored very high on the IQ scale, but they have not been able to convert that into much success in society anyway. It is easy to imagine how anticipation may have turned into frustration in many a case - and ensuing murder.

    I would be interested in any comments on this topic, not least examples of famous and succesful people who turned serial killers. If, that is, such examples exist. If they don´t, so much more reason for me to stay away from Robinson and Maybrick...
    "In these matters it is the little things that tell the tales" - Coroner Wynne Baxter during the Nichols inquest.

  • #2
    Christer:

    Without elaborating too much, I've noticed that for some time now....that men who have achieved success are not likely to become serial killers...in fact, I've never come across one. True, someone may kill someone and circumstances arise where they have to whack someone ( blackmailer ) after the first murder and then someone after the first two.......but a series not in the way we think of serial killers....otherwise we'd have hitmen and mass murdering Communists on the list.



    What I am after here is that I find that there is reason to believe that the more or less organized killers all seek an element of recognition alongside answering to an urge of killing.

    I agree. They've got to be the best at something, in their mind. Bundy would be a very good example of a man like that, IMHO
    But they succumb to the pleasures of the flesh. From what I've gathered over the years is a combination of warped sexuality and an urge for power/control ...is what drives organized serial killers.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Howard Brown View Post
      Christer:

      Without elaborating too much, I've noticed that for some time now....that men who have achieved success are not likely to become serial killers...in fact, I've never come across one. True, someone may kill someone and circumstances arise where they have to whack someone ( blackmailer ) after the first murder and then someone after the first two.......but a series not in the way we think of serial killers....otherwise we'd have hitmen and mass murdering Communists on the list.



      What I am after here is that I find that there is reason to believe that the more or less organized killers all seek an element of recognition alongside answering to an urge of killing.

      I agree. They've got to be the best at something, in their mind. Bundy would be a very good example of a man like that, IMHO
      But they succumb to the pleasures of the flesh. From what I've gathered over the years is a combination of warped sexuality and an urge for power/control ...is what drives organized serial killers.
      Howard!

      Many thanks for taking an interest in this and offering a reply. It´s good to see that we agree on the issue; it has saved me a lot of useless reading over the years.

      The one factor I didn´t mention in my initital post is that reasonably, the game has changed somewhat over time - today, any serial killer will have had the opportunity to read up on his predecessors and their exploits, and so some sort of weird record hunting has been added to the game. This factor would in all probability not have been in play back in 1888 (although there had of course been serial killings before that date).

      Anyway, I think it is a piece of good advice to any student of the Ripper case: if a suspect is pointed out, who was a famed author, a celebrated painter or a bigwig politician or medico - be very, very sceptical!

      Sadly, this does not rule out van Gogh, who only sold two paintings in his lifetime - to his brother Theo...
      "In these matters it is the little things that tell the tales" - Coroner Wynne Baxter during the Nichols inquest.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Howard Brown View Post
        I agree. They've got to be the best at something, in their mind.
        Either that, or they're genuine nobodies and happy to be that way, e.g. Fred West, Peter Sutcliffe, Ian Brady, John Bunting, Gary Ridgway. I don't see much in the way of frustrated ambition or wasted talent in their biographies. Their motivation seems to revolve around twisted sexual gratification, hatred or the desire to dominate another person. I see the "desire to control" in these cases as being rather distinct from "desire to be the best" in the Gacy or Bundy sense.

        Apropos genuine "celebrity" SK's of Michael Maybrick's ilk, they're as rare as hens' teeth. Indeed, about the only one I can think of is Jack Unterweger, but then he became a celebrity only because he was an (allegedly) reformed killer in the first place!
        Kind regards, Sam Flynn

        "Suche Nullen"
        (F. Nietzsche)

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        • #5
          I'd say all the serial killers have a screw loose. Robert Durst has recently been convicted here for murder and likely has killed enough people to be a serial killer. He inherited wealth, etc. He's also wacko.

          Ted Bundy was successful in his pursuits. (So was John Wayne Gacy.) Both men were active in party politics. Bundy was Republican, Gacy was Democrat. Bundy knew governors, Gacy posed for a picture with First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Both men initially succeeded and could have continued to succeed, but both had a serious mental issue.

          I think unederlying all serial killing and other interpersonal predatory crime, is a selfish need. I have had friends who worked in the criminal justice system and it never fails to shock me that certain offenders can always blame the victims. Women deserve killing because of where they are, what they wear, a look they supposedly gave to the killer. Tiny babies actually "want" sexual intercourse with grown men. These creeps will use these defenses in court if their lawyers allow it. (If I was a defense attorney I would encourage them to testify in their own defense.)

          My husband the businessman always wondered how anyone had enough TIME to spend time killing people. That is a more profound statement than it first appears and goes to the original question here. Many times, perhaps always, these serial killers end up disintegrating. As noted Bundy and Gacy were succeeding in careers but both succumbed to their obsessions. Bundy especially was living like an animal.

          Maybe another question is how many serial killers started out on a road to success only to be destroyed by their perversions? A semi-intelligent employed person like Gary Ridgway (Green River Killer) seems to be able to plod along and enjoy killing in his off hours without too much stress. The more successful self destroy IMO.

          Serial Killing is a young man's hobby. Men don't have a successful career and take up serial killing in retirement. So whatever the background, the more successful must reach a fork in the road where the career suffers or the hobby suffers. How does a successful person find enough TIME to be a serial killer? If the hobby is more important the career suffers and the killer appears unsuccessful in the regular world.
          Last edited by Anna Morris; January 3, 2016, 11:16 PM. Reason: correct spelling
          The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

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          • #6
            Thanks for the reply, Gareth.....you are, of course, absolutely correct about those men you mentioned. They were organized...and yet didn't seem to seek out notoriety....rather the shadows.

            A more complex issue than I gave it credit for.

            Thanks, Anna.
            FYI, its Gacy, not Gayce.
            Good point about it being a younger man's avocation.
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            • #7
              Fish, we can test your view by looking at the serial killers that we do know of, and examining their behaviour. How many of them took increasing risks in order to kill? And how many were eventually caught because they wrote one letter too many, or made one too many phone calls?

              Yes, they can sit at home thinking how clever they've been to outwit the police, but if they want other people to appreciate their cleverness, then they have to get caught. The urge to shout it from the rooftops will always be there.

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              • #8
                but if they want other people to appreciate their cleverness, then they have to get caught. The urge to shout it from the rooftops will always be there.

                Bob:
                Possibly the best example of that was Dennis Rader.
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                • #9
                  What I don't understand is why serial killers do stuff that gets them caught. Like Gacy (I corrected my spelling, thanks How) filling his crawl space with bodies, or Bundy going nuts in a sorority then kidnapping and killing a 12 year old.

                  Whether the penalty is death or life in prison, I would personally view those circumstances as the end of life. I'm a law abiding person, but if I wasn't and liked whatever area of crime I chose, I wouldn't want to get caught and I would do everything to evade capture, including suicide. I mean, whether the career is business or crime, if you enjoy what you do, don't you want to keep doing it? Kind of a crazy thought but I think it's valid.
                  The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

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                  • #10
                    Some very good input here; thanks everybody! I´d like to join Howard in acknowledging that the level of complexity built into this issue is seemingly higher than one normally realizes. If we really are to try and simplify matters in an effective way, then maybe Anna offers the best wording:
                    "I think underlying all serial killing and other interpersonal predatory crime, is a selfish need."
                    Maybe this is as close as we get to nailing the drive that produces these persons. To some extent, I think I touched on that myself when I wrote that "serial killers are people who are more often than not people who seek recognition for what they do, both from within themselves, but also from the surrounding society." Maybe I should have told these driving forces more apart. Maybe to some of them, the recognition of society is not required. At the end of the day, though, the outcome is seemingly the same - their drive will consume the possibilitites to develop any other talents and predispositions they may (or may not) have, meaning that we are extremely unlikely to find any serialists among the ranks of people who have risen to the kind of celebrity status that Michael Maybrick - for example - enjoyed.
                    "In these matters it is the little things that tell the tales" - Coroner Wynne Baxter during the Nichols inquest.

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                    • #11
                      I think re the selfish need, it's worth considering the will to power. And the thing to notice is that the miserable abortions of human beings who get their sense of power from killing or torturing people are weaklings. If you want to see the will to power in action in the big boys club, have a look at the Elephant Man, or Albert Einstein. These are the true humans.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Robert Linford View Post
                        I think re the selfish need, it's worth considering the will to power. And the thing to notice is that the miserable abortions of human beings who get their sense of power from killing or torturing people are weaklings. If you want to see the will to power in action in the big boys club, have a look at the Elephant Man, or Albert Einstein. These are the true humans.
                        I very much agree about how Merrick and Einstein are truly praiseworthy people, Robert - no doubt about it. But I think that it may be oversimplifying to say that serial killers are weaklings. Miserable, yes, rotten, yes, good for nothing, yes - but I would not call Carl Panzram a weakling, for example. He was about as rough as they come, feared not hell or death and even encouraged his hangman to get a move on when he stood on the scaffold. A piece of genuine crap he was - but no weakling.
                        "In these matters it is the little things that tell the tales" - Coroner Wynne Baxter during the Nichols inquest.

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                        • #13
                          You say that, Fish, but power is power over oneself - the rest is for those who aren't up to it.

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                          • #14
                            It's possible too that successful people who serial kill are better able to hide their deeds. There is a famous case in Alaska where a wealthy big game hunter flew girls into the outback and hunted them. He got away with it for years but was finally caught.

                            Some of these creeps, when they are caught, claim their fame. "More than Bundy," Gary Ridgway said. But he did things not to be caught. He said serial killing was like a drug addiction.
                            The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

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                            • #15
                              Hi Anna

                              But wasn't the Alaskan man a baker? Hardly a 'successful' man in Fish's sense.

                              I know that 'successful' men will sometimes jeopardise their position by taking risks - kerb-crawling and picking up prostitutes, that sort of thing - but I'm guessing that not many top writers, artists, etc have committed strings of murders.

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