Serial killers and sadism go hand in hand. That isn’t to say you can’t be a serial killer and not be a sadist. It also doesn’t mean you can’t be a sadist without being a serial killer. Not surprisingly, a little pain during our most intimate acts can be pleasurable.
Zodiac wasn’t a sadist. He wasn’t into the physical torture part. His attempted to kill quickly, every time. In many ways, he was as much a terrorist as serial killer. His goal was to inflict psychological terror with his taunts and rants.
H.H. Holmes was also not really a sadist. He was an opportunist. Basically, Holmes seemed to be killing for what he could gain. Along with being a very efficient serial killer, his Murder Castle is evidence of that, he was a con man. He might have enjoyed gassing his guests and dumping them in the basement to be dissolved in lye, but it really was more about the money.
However, there are a whole slew of serial killers that are sadists; BTK (Dennis Rader), The Hillside Strangler (Ken Bianchi & Angelo Buono), The Moors Murders (Myra Hindley & Ian Brady), and Andrei Chikatilo instantly come to mind.
One serial killer may have been among the most sadistic of them all: Jack the Ripper. The reason his status is elevated above other serial killers that mutilated victims is not because he went uncaught, but because of how fast he did it. In most instances, he mutilated and stole his victims’ organs in a matter of minutes. Let me really paint that picture for you:
You engage your victim with a ploy; they are prostitutes, so you are probably asking about the price of services. Now, you have convinced her to come with you. As she leads the way to a spot for your tryst, you grab her from behind, and slit her throat. Blood is spraying everywhere, because both the carotid artery and jugular vein pump a huge amount of blood. She is going to bleed out in a minute, maybe two. Yet you lay her down on her back, despite the spraying blood, and stab her abdomen with a decent sized knife. You cut either top to bottom or bottom to top, stick your hands inside and yank out her reproductive organs or kidneys or both, in a matter of moments. You secret these stolen organs away or put them next to the body for display, and then you disappear into the night.
Despite the fact that your victims are bleeding out on the streets, chances are very high that they are still alive and semi-aware when the butchering begins. That is the true horror of Jack the Ripper. After having their throat slits, his victims probably lived long enough to understand that he was cutting them open, because of how fast everything happened.
Why do I bring this up? History Channel is about to air a new show trying to link HH Holmes and Jack the Ripper. In many instances, it makes some sense. Holmes did have some opportunity to be Jack. He was known to travel between the US and England, especially while hiding out from law enforcement and families looking for their missing relatives.
The big difference is that Jack the Ripper was one of the most notorious sadist serial killers of the previous two hundred years and HH Holmes wasn’t. Nothing a serial killer does is set in stone; not MO, signature, victimology, and not even the method in which they kill. They are part of a ritual, but they can be altered to fit moods. However, that doesn’t explain why Holmes would get to London and start butchering prostitutes in the street, especially since there is no mention of robbery of the victims. Then he returns to the US and resumes his stint as con man and opportunistic serial killer.
Even in the annals of weird crimes, it doesn’t make sense for Holmes to be Jack. It would be the same as Zodiac being either Ken Bianchi or Angelo Buono.