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Serial killers; A Cultural Phenomenon of the US?


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#1 Fishteacher73

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 11:19 AM

In the wake of the BTK arrest I was think about the phenomenon of serial killers. This seems to be predominantly an American past-time (Aside from Jack the Ripper and Andrei Chickatilo). Is this an American cultural phenomenon or just another sympom of America being blind to the rest of the world? If it is particularly an American crime, why? Any ideas or suggestions?

#2 C1ay

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 11:29 AM

I think I read somewhere that up to 85% of the world's serial killers are in America. It seems that most of them are also caucasian men. The only woman I can think of is Aileen Wournos. I wonder if science should begin to catalogue the genomes of these individuals so that future generations might understand them better.

#3 Queso

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 11:30 AM

let's put ourselves in their shoes...if they have any.
i would have a lot of free time, and this would give me wayy too much thought about how, when, why, where, who, and what.
in a nutshell, if we were all struggling to survive, there would be no one that would stalk the grounds at night and sever the hands of his victems along with carving glyphics into their chest with toothpicks.

#4 Queso

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 11:31 AM

also, since 85% of them are american, as c1ay pointed out, maybe they all influence each other in the nation, and they start by getting ideas from the past. and the media here is all over the place. everybody knows the news all of the time no matter what, it's everywhere.

it probably has something to do with the way every single thing is.

#5 pgrmdave

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 11:49 AM

Where are the studies that show that it is a mostly american phenomenon? I think it may be more that our media glorifies them, while most other culture's media do not.

#6 Killean

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 11:50 AM

Interesting that you would bring up the topic on serial killers. I actualy have a book called Encyclopedia of Serial Killers with information on 86 different killers. It gives details on what they did, how many they killed, and where it had been done. A majority of the book covers killers in the US, most of them the cause of their abhorant behavior is from morbid facinations or cracked under the pressure of their rotten lives.

Of all the men and women in this book, the most grotesque one would be the crimes of Albert Fish. His cause was reported to be a family history of mental illness. I doubt that I could go into any details of what they have done, but I'm sure if I re-read over it I can report some of the causes. Stay tuned.

#7 Queso

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 11:54 AM

Where there's billionaires, there's serial killers. that's what i (don't really) always say.

#8 Fishteacher73

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 01:08 PM

in a nutshell, if we were all struggling to survive, there would be no one that would stalk the grounds at night and sever the hands of his victems along with carving glyphics into their chest with toothpicks.



Sort of along the grounds of the requirements for art and science to flourish.....

#9 Queso

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 01:12 PM

Sort of along the grounds of the requirements for art and science to flourish.....


i suppose in tribes there always at least one who was the "medicine man" and one who sort of didn't belong and painted with berry juice in caves. either i'm close to what you are thinking...or so far off i look like an idiot. :hihi: :naughty:

#10 Fishteacher73

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 01:33 PM

To a degree. What I was speaking of is a anthropological concept that for things like art and science (things that are great, but not really absolute for survival) are usually put rather low on "the list of thigs to develop" whan you are spending your time stuggling for survival. If you are hungry and cold, you tend to want to get warm and eat, not write haiku.

What I was thinkng was that in the US the available "free time" is at pretty much a high(I know that many European countries actually have shorter work weeks) this allows for the "mental expansion/experiment time" with a volitile mixture of our idolization of media and fame that provides very fertile gound for this development.

Perhaps it is just the hype provided by american media that exploits this form of "entertainment" for ratings that labels these things as "serial killings". Perhaps the "text book" definition of serial killers are everywhere, but in other media markets they are treated as criminals and not sensationalized or "named".

#11 Killean

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 09:52 PM

After bringing my encyclopedia to the attention of my Father, we had a three hour conversation trying to categorize the serial killers. These results might not be considered accurate; it has taken many years with the best criminal investigators trying to profile these people. But it's a good place to start from. All percentage results are taken from 80 different serial killers in this book.

Categorization of Serial Killer Causes
Mercy Killings: 2 cases -> 2.5%
These have been done because the individual does not wish to see their victims suffer.

Greed: 21 cases -> 26.2%
This category can range from wanting more power, money, women etc.

Power: 26 cases -> 32.5%
This section refers to individuals who sought domination of their victims. When they killed it made them feel more powerful then everyone, or they believed that by killing they would gain more power.

Jealousy: 4 cases -> 5%
This one could be fairly obvious. Cheating husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends. Or it could mean being envious of others.

Sexual Inadequacies: 9 cases -> 11.2%
This category can be tricky. The killers felt as though normal sexual activities did not get the results they required, so they killed because of the frustration.

Abuse (Physical, Mental, Sexual): 7 cases -> 8.7%
The three different forms of abuse have been merged into one category to reflect many kinds of abuse on an individual. These cases usually happen when the killers were young.

Abandonment Issues: 11 cases -> 13.7%
Because they were disowned, kicked out, left out, the killers got upset and killed because of abandonment.

Morbid Fascinations: 20 cases -> 25%
These can range from just the pure thrill of killing, to cannibalism, and anything else that falls under a morbid fascination.

Sexual Gratification: 26 cases -> 32.5%
These people just felt as though they had to have sexual intercourse all the time.

Mental Issues: 12 cases -> 15%
This section qualifies as the real nutcases who believed in the voices in their head telling them what to do, believing they are werewolves or pure mental breakdowns.

Psychotic: 8 cases -> 10%
This section is sort of the 'all of the above' choice. Those who have been declared as psychotic show signs from most if not all categories either in a major/minor way.


Countries of Serial Killer Reports
United States: 35 cases -> 43.75%
Australia: 1 case -> 1.25%
Canada: 2 cases -> 2.5%
Germany: 7 cases -> 8.75%
France: 5 cases -> 6.25%
England: 17 cases -> 21.25%
Russia: 2 cases -> 2.5%
Mexico: 1 case -> 1.25%
Scotland: 2 cases -> 2.5%
Poland: 2 cases -> 2.5%
India: 1 case -> 1.25%
Czechoslovakia: 1 case -> 1.25%
Holland: 1 case -> 1.25%
Hungary: 1 case -> 1.25%
Italy: 1 case -> 1.25%
Ecuador: 1 case -> 1.25%

Mind you there are tons more out there, but this is what my book had to say converted into a form of statistics. I need some sleep now, I hope you find this helpful. :naughty:

#12 pgrmdave

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 11:23 PM

Those statistics provide a good overview, though the breakdown by country fails in some ways - England has half as many cases, but the US has more than twice England's population. However, I was surprized to see so many kill for greed. I expected that most would kill more for the pleasure they receive. That's one of the difficulties with catching them - it isn't obvious who the targets will be, though they tend to share charecteristics.

#13 zadojla

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Posted 02 March 2005 - 12:08 AM

I think these statisitics may not be reliable, but it may also be related to the fact that the USA has amog the highest murder rates in general for first world countries. See http://www.nationmas...h-T/cri_mur_cap .
I would think it's a cultural thing, a sort of frontier-inspired willingness to take matters into one's own hands.

#14 Buffy

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Posted 02 March 2005 - 01:02 AM

It can also be argued that in the US there's actually a much lower *tolerance* for violence: in much of the 3rd world, there's lots of murder and mayhem and it *never* gets reported because its not recognized for what it is (a serial killer takes lots of evidence to identify among a bunch of dead bodies that just get buried without autopsies or investigations). Also a lot of it is just plain covered up: I'm *sure* the Chinese government would insist that there are *no* serial killers on record in China...

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#15 Tormod

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Posted 02 March 2005 - 02:27 AM

Countries of Serial Killer Reports


Norway gets off the hook again. :naughty:

#16 paultrr

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Posted 02 March 2005 - 05:03 AM

The first known Serial Killer in modern times was Jack the Ripper, which was in England, not here. America does seem to have a high number of them. However, I suspect its correct that we also tend to investigate such a lot better in the open than some other countries do. I do not think its actually a Cultural Phenomenon at all and that if history and investigation had been better before the turn of the last Century one would find such has been with us throughout history.

#17 C1ay

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Posted 02 March 2005 - 07:46 AM

in much of the 3rd world, there's lots of murder and mayhem and it *never* gets reported because its not recognized for what it is (a serial killer takes lots of evidence to identify among a bunch of dead bodies that just get buried without autopsies or investigations).


I think you've probably got a point there that many serial murders are not recognized or investigated as such in many parts of the world. Many countries do not have the forensic science that more advanced nations like the U.S. and England have. They have a series of dead bodies over a period of time and they just think they're all unrelated deaths. It takes a certain amount of science to tie murders together that may be seperated by weeks, months or years and many countries just don't have it.

It's probably also important to note that the killer's actions play a part in this indentification. Had Jack The Ripper not chosen the same kind of victims repeatedly and used the same method to kill all of them, he would never have been recognized as a serial killer. Many disorganized, unmethodical serial killers are probably never realized as such. Where their victims vary and their methods change from killing to killing, their individual killings are probably thought to be singular crimes unrelated to other murders on record. I wonder how many serial nurse or doctor killers there have been whose victims all appeared to die of natural causes, undetected as murders at all.