Serial Killer: Humanity’s Ugly Little Secret

There was a time before the availability of technology and weapons such as bombs and semiautomatic assault rifles, but mass murderers seem to have been a part of human history long before such conveniences arose. Though history books focus on the genocide by powerful leaders and certain extreme acts of violence such as terrorism that may have led to political activism, yet there still remains a small illusive group of murderers known as a serial killer that make no impression on textbooks and historical timelines. For some reason, we choose to either hide or avoid discussing these matters with young scholars. It seems much more comforting to educate our children about the story of the Holocaust in all the gory details of gas chambers and mass graves. There are vivid descriptions by enthusiastic history teachers of the guillotine and the French revolution. Yet no mention of the horror created by H.H. Holmes (1861-1896) even in most university texts. It does make some sense that topics such as rape and perversion should not be included in primary or secondary schools, but even universities do not include mass murder events in their scope and sequence of required topics in general historical studies programs. Why does there seem to be a deliberate avoidance of this particular topic in our discussion of human events?

The guide lines for defining a Serial Killer are defined by the U.S. Department of Justice and the F.B.I. These parameters were designed to distinguish serial killers from mass murderers. A serial killer can have as little as two victims. The difference between a serial killer and a double homicide is the time in between the murders. The serial killer has time to cool off and separate temporally and emotionally between victims, unlike the crime of passion or opportunity that result in the majority of murders worldwide. Perhaps it is this discrepancy between the two types of killings that most bothers us as a society. It seems more acceptable to have a motive of political power, social activism, financial gain or a broken heart to be the cause of an atrocity than matters such as sexual deviancy or cult followings. Perhaps we have decided that it is too rare an event to mention it in mainstream education. Maybe we fear it as a contagion, and worry that it may lead to inspire rather than inform, so much so that it becomes a subject of macabre fascination fit for a blockbuster film or a captivating novel. Or maybe we are just too afraid to talk about any possible similarities we may have with these monsters.