Writers, esp those writing true-crime books, are often drawn to serial killer stories. And so are everyday people since these stories both horrify and fascinate us frequently.
As a service to my fellow writers, I’m providing another tutorial. This one deals with the facts and the myths of serial killers. Hopefully, writers will find them useful for their writing. And other readers may just find them interesting.
Serial killings account for very few of all murders committed in the U.S.
Based on recent FBI crime statistics, there are approximately 15,000 murders annually. However, the statistics reveal that serial homicide is quite rare. There are about 150 victims of serial murder in the U.S. in any given year.
Serial killers are always present in society.The FBI estimates that there are between 25-50 serial killers operating throughout the U.S. at any given time. If this is true, then each serial killer is responsible for an average of three murders per year. While many define serial killings as three or more, the FBI and others say two is all that’s needed, as long as there’s a temporal or geographic difference between ’em. The serial killer in my forthcoming book killed two and tried to kill two others.
Persistent misinformation, stereotypes and hyperbole presented in the media have combined with the relative rarity of serial murder cases to foster a number of popular myths about serial murder. The most common myths about serial killers encompass such factors as their race and living situations.
I was reminded of an exception which disproves the rule—really myth—that serial killers are white. An orthopedic surgeon I know said recently that he’d repaired Charles Ng’s leg back in the day, thus allowing him to escape from a se secure facility later on. Fellow doctors keep ribbing my friend about this. Ng was convicted—in a long $20 milion trial- of murdering 11 people at his accomplice, Leonard Lake ‘s cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills, 60 miles from Sacramento during 1984-5.
Myth – All Serial Killers Are Caucasian.
“Reality: Contrary to popular mythology, not all serial killers are white. Serial killers span all racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. The racial diversity of serial killers generally mirrors that of the overall U.S. population. There are well documented cases of African-American, Latino and Asian-American serial killers. African-Americans comprise the largest racial minority group among serial killers, representing approximately 20 percent of the total. Significantly, however, only white, and normally male, serial killers such as Ted Bundy become popular culture icons.
Although they are not household names like their infamous white counterparts, examples of prolific racial minority serial killers are Coral Eugene Watts, a black man from Michigan, known as the “Sunday Morning Slasher,” who murdered at least seventeen women in Michigan and Texas; Anthony Edward Sowell, a black man known as the “Cleveland Strangler” who kidnapped, raped and murdered eleven women in Ohio; and Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, a Mexican national known as the “Railroad Killer,” who killed as many as fifteen men and women in Kentucky, Texas, and Illinois.*”
Myth — All Serial Killers Are Isolated and Dysfunctional Loners.
“Reality: The majority of serial killers are not reclusive social misfits who live alone, despite pervasive depictions of them as such in the news and entertainment media, including the socially challenged “Tooth Fairy” serial killer in the film Red Dragon. Real-life serial killers are not the isolated monsters of fiction and, frequently, they do not appear to be strange or stand out from the public in any meaningful way.
Many serial killers are able to successfully hide out in plain sight for extended periods of time. Those who successfully blend in are typically also employed, have families and homes and outwardly appear to be non-threatening, normal members of society. Because serial killers can appear to be so innocuous, they are often overlooked by law enforcement officials, as well as their own families and peers.
In some rare cases, an unidentified serial killer will even socialize and become friendly with the unsuspecting police detectives who are tracking him. The incredible tale of Ed Kemper (the “Co-ed Killer”) provides an example of this phenomenon.
Serial killers who hide out in plain sight are able to do so precisely because they look just like everyone else. It is their ability to blend in that makes them very dangerous, frightening and yet very compelling to the general public.”
Do you have any connection to a killer.?
I know another author who claims Ted Bundy tried to connect with her. I also have a dear friend who lost sorority sisters at Florida State in one of Bundy’s killing sprees.
A blog about other serial killer myths – Attention mystery and thriller authors as well as those who write true crime.
And a blog about The Beauty Queen Killer, a little known serial killer.
*Excerpted from Scott Bonn‘s Scientific American article.
To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.