Things people get wrong and serial killers myths


There are many things out there about serial killers this leading to many serial killers myths. People were always, well almost always, fascinated with the idea of a serial killer, but this is not actually a new concept.

They were noticed and studied since many centuries ago and  of course some names became widely famous crossing borders, triggering the mind of so many others.

When we talk about serial killers, we tend to believe it is mostly American, but that is far from the truth. Serial killers activated in many countries. But there is a larger “collection” of data and information on the American continent, therefore leading people to believe that this is the place “it all started”.

If you think that the public’s fascination with serial killers is relatively new and/or American, you are wrong.


When did the fascination start?

One of the first books ever written, describing case studies of sexual homicide and serial murders was in 1886. That’s right, 19th Century. It was written and documented in Europe by Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing and the textbook is called “Psychopathia Sexualis”. Here is the book if you are interested Psychopathia_Sexualis_1000006945 


First famous serial killer

Public fascination with serial killers started somewhere in 1880, with one of the most known and never caught serial killers: Jack The Ripper. 

Jack The Ripper

Jack The Ripper

He also sent letters to the police, taunting them.

Dear Boss

I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police offi cers just for jolly wouldn’t you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good luck.

Yours truly

Jack the Ripper


Modern Times

In modern times, this fascination sparkled again with serial killers like BTK, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and many others. Hollywood intensified this fascination with movies about serial killers, often getting things wrong, andedia played in as well, which didn’t really help. People started getting the wrong theories about serial killers, often consuming opinions, “documentaries” and interviews with so called specialists, which appear on television speculating around the killer and/or his/her motives. This media frenzy was leading to many myths surrounding serial killers. 

But the truth is, there is more to the definition of a serial killer and to the dynamics of such crimes.

What the public often gets wrong is the motivation driving a serial killer. Hollywood made it look like the sole motivation is sexual. But that is false. Not all serial killers are sexually driven. Another thing people get wrong is that serial killers can’t stop killing. Again that is false. BTK stopped killing in 1995. He was captured in 2001. Also there seems to be a misconception around their intelligence. Often considered geniuses or at least smart. Again, that is not always true.

Misconceptions affect law enforcement professionals as well. Contrary to the popular belief, serial killers represent a very small percentage, somewhere up the 1%, of the crimes in a given period of time. Many law enforcement specialists may have had only one case as experience. The tendency of extrapolating information is enormous, perpetuating stereotypes.

There seems to be a certain confusion around the definition of a serial killer as well. For example Charles Joseph Whitman, known as the  infamous as the “Texas Tower Sniper.” from August 1, 1966. I have seen at least one “documentary” where it was implied he was a serial killer. But was he? He did kill 16 people, including law enforcement. But does that alone defines a serial killer? He is now more commonly referred to as a “mass shooter”.


Serial Killer Definition

During the  Serial Murder Symposium, experts have agreed on a definition regarding serial killers with a couple of characteristics:

Serial Murder Symposium

Serial Murder Symposium

• one or more offenders

• two or more murdered victims

• incidents should be occurring in separate events, at different times

• the time period between murders separates serial murder from mass murder

Serial Murder: The unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events.

As you can see, fascination in most cases leads to misconceptions. It is a difficult and I might add an impossible process to put the idea of a serial killer in a box. What we know is that a serial killer is formed in and by his/her surroundings and/or medical condition. We also know that often both playing a role in a serial killer’s actions and sometimes none of these two factors determine the motive of a serial killer.

Not knowing what exactly triggers them, why, when and how, builds up this fascination people have.


Speaking of which, how many of you liked Dexter? 🙂