Serial Killers


Emilee Garn, Reporter

According to former chief of the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, John Douglas, there are twenty-five to fifty serial killers on the loose in the United States at any given time. However,

serial killers only kill about one-hundred fifty people every year. This makes up less than one percent of the fifteen thousand annual murders in the U.S..

In an article written by Scott A. Bonn PH.D., a criminology professor, he suggests that people should be captivated by the idea of serial killers and other morbid scenes. There is no single reason why people are drawn to macabre murder or why they cannot look away from repulsive images.

According to the Healthline website, the brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters when people get scared. The neurotransmitters are still released even if the threat isn’t real. One of the chemicals is dopamine. Dopamine is commonly known as the feel-good hormone, as it controls the reward and pleasure centers in the brain.

The release of dopamine when viewing disturbing sights does not necessarily mean you like it or find pleasure in viewing it. The chemical makes you more attentive and curious; therefore, it is more difficult to look away.

However, the brain’s natural work is not the only reason people are attracted to the idea of serial killers.

Nikki Donado, a Taylorsville High School alumni, says, “I think they are compelling because of their humanness. You realize that they are more like you than you’d like to admit.”

Others, like Eric G. Wilson Ph.D., suggest that hearing about morbid things is a way to get close to our mortal fear without experiencing it. For example, people want to know what it may be like to be kidnapped; however, they rightfully don’t want to go through it so instead, they read about a kidnapping victim. Some think that undergoing dark emotions from a comfortable distance will purge them from our system.

In an article written by Kavita Varma-White, psychiatrist Gail Saltz says, “It’s normal sadomasochistic urges and fantasies that everyone has a certain degree of- the desire to think about or imagine hurting or being hurt.”

Saltz also explains that even though the thrill or risk is not actually happening to them, some people crave the adrenaline rush and heightened emotional states.

Adrenaline is what makes people feel very alive, even if they feel guilty for looking. However, some say guilt fuels the desire for people to look.

If the urges are normal, the question still remains, why do people feel this way? How does someone in their right mind desire to hurt others? The need for self-dominance may be the answer that dates back centuries.  

Theodor W. Adorno, a German philosopher, has the thesis that the fear of the unknown in everyone drives dark impulses of domination. Learning about serial killers can give people the sense of dominance that they crave and enjoy. This helps them exercise their demons of negative emotion without acting on it.

Senior, Madison Taylor, has a straightforward answer “Every aspect is fascinating because [killers] aren’t like us, it’s just abnormal.” Taylor continues on to say, “It’s interesting because you could easily be a victim or a killer.”

This brings up the next factor, the thrill that these monsters walk among us and are indistinguishable in a lineup. Nothing indicates who they are on the inside and this creates a permanent fear.

Taylor says, “The taboo against seeing these unsettling things inevitably makes them more interesting.” The idea of someone not wanting someone to do something only feeds their need and want to do it more. Madison goes on to say, “It’s like when your mom covers your eyes with her hand during a movie, it just makes you that much more intrigued about what is on the screen.”

Amusing one’s own dark side can be therapeutic and helps scrub their dark emotions away. But has anyone ever thought that maybe curiosity doesn’t only kill cats?