I am not an expert on serial killers. To be an expert requires 10,000 hours of study. I don’t have that… yet. I may at some point. I’m 34 and I research serial killers a lot (more than any other topic actually… I need a life), so it is possible that I might get there. However, expert or not, I still have opinions. Here are some serial killer pet peeves:
10. The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run has almost completely disappeared from history. You want to talk about brutal?!? The kills were originally titled “Cleveland Torso Murders”… The head was always taken and more often than not, the body was dismembered. There are at least 12 known murders and there was little in the way of victimology (a staple of modern serial killer investigations). The Butcher killed men and women, the only real requirement seemed to be breathing. It is accepted that all the victims were first victimized by the Great Depression, but the truth is, few of them were identified, so we can’t be 100% sure about that. And yes, I did name Patterson, The Butcher, after this serial killer.
9. H. H. Holmes would have been given a ship and a crew if he had worked 300 years earlier. Holmes was a profiteer, that was the motivator for his murderous rampage. He probably would have made a damn fine pirate, if he could have figured out battle strategy. He definitely had the motivation.
8. By definition, Charles Manson is not a serial killer. He’s a mass murderer and cult leader, more Jim Jones than Ted Bundy. This delicately fine point is honed by the existence of The Family and the fact that Manson did not physically participate in all the murders.
7. I don’t believe Jack the Ripper committed suicide or died. We are led to believe that death or capture is the only way to stop a serial killer. However, recent serial killers have started to disprove this. Some serial killers do go dormant for long periods of time. The frenzy around the Whitechapel Murders would have fed his ego for quite some time, he had caused an entire part of London to become paralyzed with fear… What a trip!
6. Female serial killers do exist, in all forms. Just because they’re girls, doesn’t mean they have to poison their victims. Several haven’t, preferring more bloody and gruesome means. And besides, poisoning people is pretty nasty business. Have you ever seen someone die of arsenic or cyanide? Yuck!
5. Henry Lee Lucas was once believed to be the most prolific serial killer to ever work inside the US. However, Lucas was mostly a good storyteller. He was a serial killer, but it is unlikely he killed the estimated 350 victims he claimed. This makes Gary Ridgway, better known as the Green River Killer, the most prolific serial killer in the US.
4. Jeffrey Dahmer is just one in a long string of cannibal serial killers and he wasn’t even that good at it. Albert Fish and Ed Gein were both better, as far as getting away with it for a longer period of time. Dahmer was caught when he lost a victim and they ran into the streets, naked, to flag down a cop. Oddly, while the US has its fair share of cannibals, there are a lot more in the annals of history in Germany and Russia. I get it in Russia, but not Germany (Russia is prone to famine).
3. I find it really hard to believe that Albert DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler. He might have been a serial killer, but if the Boston Strangler was a single serial killer, the man had some unusual traits. First, he didn’t leave a signature at all the scenes. A signature is either something a killer has or doesn’t have. He doesn’t just decide randomly to mark some kills and not others. The ages of the victims range from very young (19) to very old (85). There is DNA evidence that DeSalvo was responsible for at least one murder, but I agree with the experts, so many cases were cobbled together and put under that banner that just don’t fit the pattern, that I think there were multiple killers at work. Also, there were victims after the arrest of DeSalvo that were attributed to “copycats.” However, the copycats were very good at replicating the multiple signatures.
2. The Smiley Face Murder Theory is exactly that… a theory. I completely believe serial killers are mobile. I completely believe they travel long distances to kill victims or dump their bodies. I do not buy into the theory that a bunch of drownings are related because of the omnipresent “Smiley Face.” Since the mid-1990’s, the smiley emoticon has become a staple of modern culture (much like Kilroy was here), the other day, I noticed it on a wall near my dentists’ office. While the deaths are tragic, it seems unlikely that a serial killer is hanging around swimming holes in college towns in the Midwest waiting for drunk 20-something guys to get in the water so they can drown them. Even serial killers have things to do. Plus, if it was a serial killer or group of serial killers, they would have bragged about it by now… serial killers are fairly vain.
1. We are just never going to know. We have to accept that some serial killers will never be identified, including The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run, Jack the Ripper, The Zodiac, and The Axeman of New Orleans. While we can all speculate on their identities and postulate theories, we are going to colonize Saturn long before something exists that will positively identify these infamous names. But have fun speculating!