Our Obsession with Serial Killers
The atmosphere of old-fashioned serenity and security drew me to the small town in which I reside. Yet only a few weeks after I first moved here in the early 1990s, news spread that a young girl was missing. Ten year-old Ronnie Eichstedt disappeared while riding her bicycle on an autumn Sunday afternoon. Immediately police and hundreds of volunteers combed the countryside in search of the little girl. As the days wore on and we all resigned ourselves to the reality that Ronnie had been abducted, one of my teaching colleagues commented, “Sometimes I am embarrassed to be human.” That line—“sometimes I am embarrassed to be human”—echoed through my mind months later when I heard the local radio announcer report that Ronnie's body had been found.
No crimes inspire our rage and our terror like the patterned murder sprees known as serial killings. Like animals in the wild, serial killers stalk their victims. Like demons, serial killers subject their victims to hellish ritual torments. Yet serial killers are neither animals nor demons: they are humans. Serial killers are of “us” no matter how rigorously we deny them. Serial killers are of “us” no matter if we lock them away for life or put them to death. Serial killers are of “us” and that intimate and