The Way I Fear ItSerial Killers

It has been said, rightly, that dread is the strongest form of fear to the imaginative; the threats conjured by the dark recesses of the mind hold deeper mysteries than, say, a knife or a gun. However, there are those who inspire fear which is not subtle or invisible but rather stark and salient. Be they charmers or psychopaths, they are feared and reviled: serial killers. Perhaps the most twisted, if one of the least refined, is David Berkowitz, better known as “Son of Sam”, who killed between 3 and 6 people and wounded others in a series of shootings in New York City. What makes Berkowitz a frightening figure is not necessarily the deeds themselves – murder isn’t seen as a big deal so much anymore – but the warped and psyche and lurid delusions that spurred him to act, including an imagined demonic hierarchy by which his neighbor’s dog was ostensibly possessed and a series of taunting letters to police. Berkowitz, however, has since converted to Christianity, begged for forgiveness, and implicated members of a cult, which dulls the impact of his murders. Less famous but more chilling is John Wayne Gacy. Convicted of the rape and murder of 33 young boys and men, his death total is dwarfed only by his day job – a clown. Long before It, Gacy turned the (already rather off-putting) garb of a fool into a cloak of deception and death; other points in which Gacy is unique is that he had no overt psychological defects, save sociopathic tendencies, and that he buried 31 of his victims in the crawl space beneath his house; perhaps most jarring, he once managed a KFC restaurant in Waterloo, Iowa. Ted Bundy is distinct from the other two, one a weak-willed cult tool and the other a sociopath; he was intelligent, charismatic, and shrewd. Beginning as an intrepid Asian Studies major (and Suicide Hot Line Worker) and campaign worker for Nelson Rockefeller, Bundy moved on to both a degree in Psychology form the University of Washington and as many as one hundred murders. Convicted and executed on an impressive and fortuitous array of forensic evidence, Bundy retained his Rasputinesque charm (which was integral in setting up his brutal killings), proposing to a witness on the stand at his murder trial – and being married shortly after. Jeffrey Dahmer is known best not for his murders or rapes but for his cannibalism and his death, and how justice seemed to hate or love him. One of his victims, who was initially drugged and molested by him, was released, by the police, into Dahmer’s custody, over the 14-year-old’s protests; the officers were fired but later reinstated with back pay and named “officers of the year”. After Dahmer’s incarceration (for that boy’s subsequent murder and fourteen others) he was killed by an inmate who was rather less sympathetic than the officers had been. Regardless, Dahmer’s gruesome legacy remains one of the most grotesque ones of any serial killer to date. All told, serial killers are, objectively, less frightening than biological warfare, economic collapse, or, statistically speaking, driving. Regardless, the warped mind that drives someone to take the life of others, for pleasure, catharsis, or something even more sinister is perhaps more horrific than death itself – perhaps there is something dark, lurking beneath the veneer of a well-adjusted, stable mind; who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Always remember: It’s the quiet ones you have to watch.