To Work in Fire
More commonly, however acts of serial murder in pre-modern times were linked to folk monsters, such as vampires or werewolves. It is interesting to consider whether serial killings were simply not understood at the time, or purposely ignored. Bram Stoker gave serial killer attributes both to the “crimes” committed by Count Dracula (which contained brutal and, arguably, sexual undertones), as well as the character itself:
He deliberately set himself down to prepare for the task. He find in patience just how is his strength, and what are his powers. His glimpse that he have had, whet his appetite only and enkeen his desire. Nay, it help him to grow as to his brain. For it all prove to him how right he was at the first in his surmises. He have done this alone, all alone! (Stoker 377)
This reference is almost a near perfect example of the modern day “organized killer” (which will be discussed later). As an interesting side note, it should be mentioned that the character of Dracula was modeled by Stoker after Vlad Dracula.
The BSS, in 1984, conducted a study of thirty-six convicted sex murderers, twenty-nine of which were serial killers. Their intent was to create a practical system with which to “profile” criminals and classify their behaviors into recognizable types. They conducted detailed interviews with the killers, their families, their friends and surviving victims. Information was also gathered about the deceased victims: their occupations, lifestyles, vital statistics, autopsy reports, the condition their bodies were found in, etc. After processing the information, BSS officials determined: forty-two percent of the interviewed subjects reported physical abuse as a child. Forty-seven percent of serial killers reported their father leaving before the age of twelve, sixty-nine percent reported alcohol abuse in their family. Half of all interviewed killers had at least one parent with a criminal record. Troublingly, thirty-five percent reported witnessing at least one disturbing, parental sex act. In addition, seventy-one percent felt isolated in childhood, eighty-one began stealing as a teen, and thirty-six tortured or killed animals. To play the devil’s advocate, hundreds of children suffer emotionally traumatizing childhoods and turn out to lead, at the very least, normal lives. What makes the situation different for a serial killer?It has been suggested that in addition to the aforementioned traumatizing events, serial killing is rooted in the subject’s ability to fight for, and win, his masculine freedom from his mother. This theory accounts for the large presence of male killers, as this is not a problem facing young girls.