Define normal.

Last night, just as I was ready to go to bed, I stumbled on this website from Life Magazine: The Many Faces of Serial Killers. I suppose I should be embarrassed to admit that this website had me up until 4a reading every detail I could on those listed—gotta love Wikipedia.

[And I suppose I probably shouldn’t even admit my fascination for serial killers, only the second week into the semester but yeah, it is what it is.]

So there it is: serial killers tap into my curiosity something fierce.

Really. Because you know what? A true psychopath is so normal.

Well, what we define as ideologically normal. They could be anyone—your cousin, brother, your neighbor. Especially your neighbor.

The whole serial killer persona peaks my interest for several reasons. First of all, because I am from Ohio. Do you know how many serial killers are from Ohio? Almost all of them. No, really. Ohio has the highest connection of any US state to serial killers either by crimes committed or where they were born or once lived. (OK. I have no citation for that. But if you Google Ohio and serial killers, you will be totally surprised how many come up with the Ohio connection).

The second thing that makes me stand on alert is the lack of female serial killers. In fact, if you look at the list provided by Life magazine above, there is only one female serial killer listed: Aileen Wuornos.

And we pretty much know who she is because of the film with Charlize Theron.

There is no way there are that few female serial killers. If there were, how can you explain shows like Oxygen’s Snapped or We TV’s Women Behind Bars?

I am also intrigued that the statistics on serial killers are changing. In the past, the average serial killer was a Caucasian male in his mid-thirties. Yet the biggest shocker in the serial killer fan community (of which I am not a member, really) is the discovery of Anthony Sowell, an African-American male.

He, allegedly, killed eleven women before the police caught him. And hey—shocker:

He’s from Ohio.

I think this is why I like CSI. And SVU. And watching truTV. (Not Reality. Actuality.) Because the more I learn about serial killers, the more normal they make me look.

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18 thoughts on “Define normal.

  1. JoJo Vinick says:

    Is it bad that it doesn’t surprise about the correlation between serial killers and Ohio? Speaking from experience, I can say the largest indicator of trouble brewing in the Buckeye state would be the temperament. From what I can tell, and this applies to most people I met from the midwest (Chicago not included), people from this part of the country are more easy-going. They understand what it really means to “go with the flow” and they rarely “worry before it’s time” (both things my mother has to tell my Bostonian-mind on a daily basis) – for the most part, Ohioans are pretty even-tempered. When I spoke to my friends in Ohio about family issues, I remember being incredibly passive about everything – even if something got truly worrisome, they would just brush it off, admittedly too scared to do anything. If my Social Psychology Professor taught me anything, it’s that when people keep emotions tucked in they tend to get more upset and more unsteady. This is the case or serial killers, I presume. While I haven’t been on the Lifetime Magazine website, I can say that I’ve studied my share of serial killers and the like on shows like CSI:Miami, Law and Order: SVU, Law and Order and CSI: Crime Scene Investigators and in each episode (well maybe not in CSI: Miami) there are killers and there are killer profiles and there are motives. These shows present to viewers the somewhat “based-on-true-life” stories that impact our own REAL world. I’m not saying that Dr. Huang (psychologist from SVU) is supposed to take over for actual research and psychology classes, but there is definitely some insight in the writing.
    Serial killers kill because of something – some had horrible childhoods, some had horrible relationships. So why do I think this is tied to Ohio? I suppose I worry that if people, especially Ohioans, don’t share what they are feeling, worried about, and what consumes their mind, then one day they will snap. That doesn’t mean all of them will become serial killers, but it means that someday something will happen to make everything come out, and that may be for good or it may be for the worse.

    • Michele says:

      JoJo, I think the connection has everything to do with the mid-west and the weather. I am serious. There is a reason that so many mid-westerners are born in the summer…cuz there is nothing to do in the cold winter months but have sex so all the babies are born in the summer. Really. Same idea here….all that cooped up darkness for 4-5 months a year has to breed something in those heads of serial killers.

      of course, by this logic I suppose, every serial killer should be from Alaska.

  2. stephen raulli says:

    I’m obsessed myself; I have read Helter Skelter for so many reasons–the tragic way they died, the fact that the victims were completely random, the manipulation of the family by Manson. It’s fascinating to me; I will watch any special there is on it. My mother and I get into debates about the culpability of the girls–my mom blames drugs, but I cite Linda Kasabian. Why didn’t she commit the murders, as well? She had a conscience.

    Read “A Father’s Story.” It’s by Jeffrey Dahmer’s father; quite disturbing. He never says his son his misunderstood–quite the contrary he didn’t quite understand his son himself. The father wrote the book before Jeffrey died. It’s a very difficult read as he recounts the murders–but definitely worth the read. The scariest part is that it actually humanizes the man we’ve seen as a villain for so long. I still don’t condone what he did–obviously.

    • Michele says:

      I have read excerpts from the Dahmer book written by his father. I also watched an interview with the two of them…the son supported the father in marketing the text. I thought that was rather interesting.

  3. ghawk65 says:

    I really find this response interesting because out of the people i know from Ohio there seems to be a general sense of keeping to one’s self. Now i admittedly I don’t know a lot of people from there however there seems to be a general sense of keeping one’s problems to themselves. Personally at first i saw this as a strong trait. With consideration however, it is easy to see how something can just eat away at someone and turn them toward madness.

  4. Although I don’t stumble upon websites like “The Many Faces of Serial Killers” too often, I have to admit, I do watch my fair share of serial killer stories on TV. Whether they are produced by Lifetime or E! or TLC, they definitely cater to a specific audience. (Me in this case.) I’ve also read several articles in magazines like “Cosmopolitan” and “Seventeen” that feature one individual who either survived an attack from a serial killer and or put up a fight and tragically lost. And again, this brings up the importance of the audience. I’m not sure of the statistics, but I’m willing to bet most victims of a serial killer are female, specifically young females. With this in mind, these publications are able to use their popularity and influence to alert members of a similar demographic of these attacks.

    I think JoJo brings up a valid point – what happened to these individuals before they became serial killers? Bad childhoods, abusive partners, other traumatizing events . . . people just aren’t born killers.

    When I first read the blog entry, I thought of the movie “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” Trivial, I know. And although Kirstie Alley’s character – Becky, Becca, I can’t remember – doesn’t fit the mold of the “normal” killer, she’s still actively planning on “eliminating” (if you will) her daughter’s competition in the beauty pageant. Oh, and the movie takes place in Minnesota. Not quite Ohio, but it’s gotta be close.

    • Michele says:

      Carrie, I Love Drop Dead Gorgeous! I think you have something here about the victims. I know the serial killer that was just nabbed in Cleveland with eleven victims, they were all female.

  5. Cassie says:

    I find it really intriguing that there is a lack of female serial killers-not that I want there to be more or anything. I think that maybe women who commit murders are not labeled “serial killers” as quickly as men are because we seem to say that women are “driven” to commit the murders they commit-whether it’s sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. Society doesn’t typically portray men as victims of abuse, so when men commit murders they are labeled instinctive “killers.”
    I also find it strange that there has been an emergence of TV shows whose central characters are serial killers. For example Showtime’s Dexter follows a character who is secretly a serial killer in his spare time-killing those who “deserve it.” I think “deserve it” is kind of funny because I’m sure most serial killers believe their victims deserve it for one reason or another. Also, James Franco is/was on General Hospital also playing a deranged killer. In this case, James Franco is a “copy-cat”-copying the murders based on another character’s murders. He is a self-proclaimed “artist,” making sure every detail is correct.
    In real-life though-Jeffrey Dahmer also considered himself an artist. He would dismember his victims and take pictures of each body part. It is said that it is hard to distinguish his pictures from a work of art. He also tried to create theatrical zombies from his victims as he was an avid zombie movie fan. (I studied serial killers briefly in a class last semester.) The point that I’m trying to make is: in class on Monday we said that all artists steal from other artists. Most serial killers steal from other serial killers or try to mirror other images they have seen because they considered themselves artists or agents of a higher intellect.

    • Michele says:

      Cassie, I just started watching Dexter…I know I am totally behind four seasons but this whole idea you note of “deserving it” intrigues me. I hope it’s as good as everyone says.

  6. ae5341 says:

    I think that is why i am obsessed with the shows CSI and criminal minds. Although i don’t enjoy scary movies, but for some reason i love to watch serial killers and murderers just like you do. I just love the mystery of finding out who killed who even though that sounds really bad. I find it weird that there are not that many women serial killers also. In the shows i watch they always assume that the killer is a male and never a female, which i guess is usually true, but i find that interesting. I guess its maybe because females don’t have the strength to actually hurt someone and face the consequences. I find the shows even more interesting when it is a female killer because it makes you think more about why she is doing what she is doing. There was this one episode of criminal minds where the murderer is a female who lures men into a dark alley and kills them. At the end you find out that she was doing this because when she was 16 she went out to a bar and was raped by 2 guys and no one did anything about it. She hated men after that and wanted revenge. So they usually hurt other people because someone hurt them.

  7. sth2391 says:

    Is it bad to say this kind of stuff interests me as well? I wish I could tap into the minds of these people and see how their brains function. There has to be some explanation for this unbelievable behavior- one of the main things I believe to be a bad family history. One of my favorite books about a tragic murder is The Lovely Bones. The book is so overwhelming sad and painful to read at times. I watched the movie recently and fell in love. A calm, friendly, and kind neighbor turns out to be a raging murderer. In my opinion, this book wins the prize for the phrase “curiosity killed the cat.” This murderer caught Susie Salmon in such a clever trap. A child simply can’t resist the urge to discover different things. It just goes to show you how sneaky and manipulative serial killers can be. I’d really like to learn more about this stuff, but sometimes I really have to stop myself because it truly gives me the chills.

  8. Sandra says:

    Wow! A fascination for serial killers, that a first for me. No one I know has admitted to me something like this. A new fun fact that I learned from reading this blog was: “Ohio has the highest connection of any US state to serial killers either by crimes committed or where they were born or once lived.” For me, I like listening to accounts of serial killers. Even though at the same time it freaks me out. Just thinking about how there may be a possibility that my next door neighbor, who is always quiet, walking with his head down and makes me feel awkward can be a serial killer. I hope not.
    On Saturdays night around 9 pm America’s Most Wanted would come on, back when I was about 12 or 13 years old. My younger sisters, with and age difference of one and two, would completely freak out when they heard Josh Walsh’s voice. They immediately knew what channel I was watching. It would be funny how they would beg me to change it, covering their ears and eyes. But I had sympathy for them; I would give it 2 or 3 minutes then change the channel. Not to seem I’m mean I just like messing with them most of the time and because I was a bit frightened. HaHa. 
    I’ve been pondering about what you wrote about there being very few female serial killers. It’s true, I don’t ever recall hearing about that, except if there were an accomplice. I think the reason for this can be since most women are sentimental they are more likely to keep their anger and other emotions to themselves most of the time. Males tend to go into violence to alleviate their anger and females can fall into depression. This is what I have come up with, could be true? Who knows?

  9. samgerken says:

    Serial killers also intrigue me, as they are very interesting and mysterious. It is their hidden personality unseen to their surroundings and relationships that cause serial killers to be so entertaining. While serial killers are obviously dangerous and wrong to society, they still provide a great subject for the cinema and news. A serial killer based film that comes to mind is Zodiac. I really enjoyed the film’s serial killer because he left cryptic letters and messages that intensified the plot and made it much more suspenseful. I used to watch a great amount of Law and Order with my parents and this move felt quite similar. After many weeks of watching various seasons I became very accustomed to the “dun dun” sound between commercials. In fact, it could have been the reasoning behind enjoying Zodiac so much. The three Law and Order shows were quite entertaining until the episodes seemed to “repeat” themselves. Every now and again an episode about a serial killer would appear but too many re-runs and similar story lines ultimately steered myself away from the show. After Law and Order I quickly became obsessed with The Wire. The show contained a rich story line supported by a very unique set of characters. However, it is difficult to categorize the two shows together because Law and Order contained a new story each episode while the episodes of The Wire were all connected. Before reading your entry, I never really thought about how many serial killers were from Ohio. I am also from Ohio and Jeffrey Dahmer’s killing spree seems to be the most horrific and disturbed to come out of Ohio. However, this isn’t something us “Ohioans” should be proud of. I guess that’s what Lebron is for after all. Living in Ohio doesn’t necessarily make me more defensive or ashamed about the state’s serial killer history but shocked and somewhat interested in what makes the state such a commonplace for serial killers.

  10. Antonia Rutter says:

    I couldnt beleive it when I saw this blog because I also have an odd fascination with serial killers, especially Charles Manson. About a week or two ago I picked up a really old US Weekly of sorts from November, at the gym and there was an article about a DJ from LA, Matthew Roberts, who after finding out he was adopted, tracked down his birthmother and after several letters back and forth, she admitted to him that Charles Manson was his father. While I felt nervous about reading this article in such a public place, I found it so interesting. Manson does appear to be so “normal” and clearly has this amazing power that can take over people. I remember watching an interview with him that was done a few years after he was incarcerated and even the power he had over the person interviewing him was amazing. He wasnt this raving lunatic screaming about how the walls are talking to him, like you might usually expect a crazy person to act. He sat their calmly talking to this woman, and while he did not always make sense, there were some things he said which were scary how on point he was, like talking about problems with the government and how we are going to destroy the earth with our ways. He also kept making coments to the interviewer, about her weight and if she was on tv, didnt she feel bad looking the way she did?
    I think this fascination/ terror that we have of these people boils down to fear of the unknown. We dont understand why someone would want to kill so many people, and we also dont understand how they got so many others to follow in his footsteps. It kind of makes you wonder if you would or could fall victim to his mind games if he was able to do it to so many others.
    If nothing else, this interest in serial killers has taught me that if you dont want to be bothered at the beach, bring Helter Skelter as a beach read. No one will put their towel within 5 feet of you.

  11. dnachbar says:

    Well, not to be constantly bringing up Dexter, that show completely plays on the notion of “normalcy” in serial killers. The second season especially, who knew the killer had gotten so close to the Morgans without Dexter realizing it? Ohio is an interesting state, and I can’t imagine why there are more serial killers coming out of Ohio, then say…Wyoming? (Everyone knows there’s absolutely nothing nice about Wyoming). Why aren’t there more serial killers coming out of Alaska? I know that question was asked earlier in the discussion, but I think it’s because there’s so much “normalcy” about Ohio, that it almost seems fitting in some bitter form of irony, that the state that appears the most normal, produces some of the most abnormal people. Now, I am not trying to generalize all “ohioans” as serial killers, I’m sure they’re all great people, but it does seem a bit ironic that their state has the most serial killers.

  12. Kat Copeland says:

    My whole dad’s side of the family is from Ohio and I talked to him about why he thought Ohio has the most serial killers and he said because the state is just so flat and boring! He hated living there so he isn’t surprised by the amount of serial killers. I remember when I was really young, my dad and his best friend told all of the kids about their horror story camping trip in ohio. They two men both went to camp somewhere in ohio and one weekend a bunch of their friends decided to take a trip and spend the night in what little woods there is in ohio. On the trip with them was this one really annoying guy who no one really liked, but they just put up with him because they were nice. While hiking, they past a penitentiary and shortly after, they saw these footprints that were really big and had a P imprinted in the mark. None of them really thought anything of it because shoes always have weird things on the bottom. The one really annoying guy kept making comments about how funny it would be to see someone who escaped and how he wanted to follow the footprints. No one paid much attention to him and just kept on walking. They finally got to the camp site and set up tent, had dinner and got ready to go to bed. While in bed, they all of a sudden heard screaming and yelling coming from the annoying guys tent. They raced out and found that he was just hiding in the bushes to scare the others into thinking that he had gotten attacked. They all went back to sleep and didn’t hear another peep out of him. The next morning they were getting ready to head back to the camp when they realized the annoying guy had disappeared, sleeping bag and all. They were frantically looking everywhere for him, but all they saw were drag marks. They ran back to camp to see that some of the kids had followed them and wanted to scare them as well. My dad thought it was a bad joke. Anyway, that evening a bulletin came across the news that a deadly prisoner had escaped from the penitentiary and was seen roaming around where they found the footprint and even where they camped. I think after that experience, my dad was pretty set on never camping in ohio again. You can only imagine how scared all of the kids were who were being told this story because we were in a house in the woods near a prison.

  13. The whole notion of serial killers STILL fascinates me!

    I think the reason it’s so fascinating is because it taps into our biggest fear–it can be anyone. How scary is it that we can not even take a walk at night without being afraid? Perhaps one of the most brilliant things ever captured on celluloid is the abduction scene from Silence of the Lambs. The good samaritan is the victim. It’s terrifying, because who wouldn’t offer help?

    The female serial killer is especially interesting, because, in a way, could it be seen as feminist? Like the wives killing the abusive husbands–were they driven to insanity? Although insane, are these women taking some sort of stand? Wuornos was abused her whole life, turning to prostitution in her teens. Her first victim–allegedly–raped her and she shot him. From there, her years of anger were unleashed. She saw every man as a threat. By killing them I believe she was trying to reclaim a part of herself lost years before.

    Also, what makes a female serial killer scarier–or more interesting–is we do not suspect women to do such a thing. And we even have a label–femme fatale. It’s easy to categorize men in killing. But women? We’ve stereotyped them as frail, emotional beings. Certainly they are not capable of murder?

    And if they are–it must be a man who did them wrong, right?

  14. Sheba Morgan says:

    I Love This Article. It is extremely different from so many of the other article and caught my attention right away. This article is both informational and interesting; I went to Wikipedia and typed in serial killers just to learn more about them. When an article influences me to want to learn more, you know it was an amazing article.
    I especially love the part about women serial killers. For some reason even when I think of serial killer only men comes to my mind. But I do watch all those amazing shows on oxygen and lifetime of crazy women killing their kids and/or husband. It is interesting and very scary to watch the way that serial killers think and process their information.
    I definitely want to know more about this subject. Like some of the characteristic of serial killers? Areas, other than Ohio, where there are a lot of serial killers? How to protect myself from a serial killer?
    Honestly, I am afraid right now after reading this article. I am wondering about all of those late nights I go home by myself, or the people that live around me. I live in a city where nobody notice anyone until it is too late. However, I am thinking about becoming a detective and from now on I will be keeping my eyes wide open for people that seem normal, but not.

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