Serial Killers and Their Fandom

https://www.crimemuseum.org/crime-library/serial-killers/ted-bundy/

The more you know, the more you want to know. This is a common phenomenon among people who long for something interesting in their lives to happen. That is where a lot of romanticized ideas about serial killers come into play.

Ted Bundy was an American serial killer who committed gruesome crimes against over 30 women in the 1970s. He is perhaps one of the most notorious and notable serial killers of all time, acclaimed for his charisma and stubborn stance on his innocence. “Experts say people are attracted to serial killers like Bundy because they want to understand their horrible acts.” Fear is the driving force in wanting to understand the reasons why anyone would do such horrible things. “If we understand them and understand the motivation and why they’re doing this… it’s no longer this unquantifiable horror. Once it makes sense, it becomes a little less frightening to us” (NY Daily News). On the other hand, “people might follow a serial killer because they are complex puzzles that they want to figure out” (New Statesman).

But why are women more prone to serial killer fandom? As Scott Bonn, a criminologist, professor, and author of the new serial killer novel “Evil Guardian,” understood it as women are more sympathetic and understating. Their heigyence of empathy becomes a desire for understanding the serial killers. Almost as if it becomes an attraction, or sometimes an obsession. With the obsession, however, a split between the killer and their acts becomes more common.

Sometimes women become obsessed with and even attracted to serial killers when they hear about them — to the point of professing their love in the form of letters or marriage proposals” (NY Daily News). For example, Bundy got a huge number of marriage proposals when he was in prison. This shift from seeking to understand to obsession and romantic attraction might come from a desire to “fix” others which is something a lot of women struggle within their own relationships. The wish to fix others’ “unacceptable” tendencies represents what is referred to as codependence. A lot of women seek validation by helping those who they believe need them. Perhaps it stems from a certain maternal instinct or seeking affirmation from others to boost low self-esteem. As Bonn said, “the person in love or attracted to the serial killer may believe they can make them into a better person.” Ultimately, this is a project for a fixer (Daily News).

Some women are seeking so-called “husband material” behind bars. “Many brides of Death Row inmates hail from dark, turbulent pasts, abused by parents and earlier boyfriends and husbands, and relish the ability to enact a more old-fashioned courtship through letters and formal prison visits.” (crimeandinvestigation) Any reason why?

There is a danger, though, in the more recent, growing fandom surrounding serial killers. In the past, this following, although not always small, was usually contained to a specific group of people, usually young women anywhere from 20 to 40. In the last few decades, however, “documentaries, films, and books have given attention to serial killers over the years with more and more people becoming ‘obsessed’ with creating these celebrities out of monsters” (NY Daily News). Ted Bundy and others have become almost pop culture figures in today’s media, becoming almost “separated from their crimes” (NY Daily News). Serial killers like Bundy are commonly known as “attention seekers.” They often crave media attention and get satisfaction from knowing their name is out in the public. As they become “sensationalized” by the media, their crimes become disconnected from their celebrity status, and people almost forget about the crimes they committed and begin to see them as pop culture figures separate from their crimes.

It’s not just Ted Bundy; there are other serial killer fan bases all across the world. Richard Ramirez, also known as the “Night Stalker,” is another prime example of a romanticized killer. “Even one of the female jurors in his trial, Cynthia Haden, fell in love with him while the grotesque details of his crimes were laid out for the court. Afterward, Haden made talk show appearances to openly defend Ramirez from critics, calling him a “caring guy” who hadn’t had a “fair trial.” On top of that, Ramirez married one of his fans, a woman named Doreen Lioy, who flooded him with letters during his incarceration and was giddy with excitement when they finally tied the knot at San Quentin” (crimeandinvestigation).

The reasons why serial killer fandoms are so large are versatile, however, not uncommon. So, although it can be very interesting to learn about the evil in this world, there is also a fine line between interest and obsession.

Works Cited

“Relationships and The Need to Fix Others: Are You A Fixer?” Mental Help Relationships and The Need to Fix Others Are You A Fixer Comments, www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/relationships-and-the-need-to-fix-others-are-you-a-fixer/.

“Ted Bundy.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 6 Apr. 2020, www.biography.com/crime-figure/ted-bundy.

Thomas Hobbs Follow @@thobbsjourno !function(d, et al. From Ted Bundy to Jeffrey Dahmer, What It’s like to Be Part of a Serial Killer Fandom, 16 Oct. 2018, www.newstatesman.com/2018/10/ted-bundy-jeffrey-dahmer-what-it-s-be-part-serial-killer-fandom.

Vavra, Kassidy. “Why People Love to Romanticize Serial Killers like Ted Bundy.” Nydailynews.com, 10 Apr. 2019, www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/ny-news-ted-bundy-romanticized-serial-killers-20190214-story.html.

“Why Do Serial Killers Have Fans?” Crime+Investigation UK, 5 Nov. 2018, www.crimeandinvestigation.co.uk/article/why-do-serial-killers-have-fans.

Mollie Sysler

Mollie Sysler is a four-year senior. She is an editor of the Oracle and is looking forward to continuing writing and editing for her remaining time at Blair.