In the last decade or so, the unimaginable horrors committed by sick people in our society have become the dazzle of many imaginations. It is incredibly normalized for serial killers to be the keen interest or guilty pleasure for many of us as they have even been immortalized in Hollywood’s spotlight.
Since the 2000’s, shows, documentaries, movies and even books about serial killers are amassing in numbers high enough to be considered its own niche.
In 2005 CBS’s Criminal Minds aired for the first time, and 15 seasons later will be ending in 2020. The show depicted the Behavioral Analysis Unit in the FBI and their work with serial killers and mass murders, with some episodes being incredibly gruesome while unveiling true horrors about human nature. Storylines so extreme they make you wonder how any writer could come up with something so cruel. Yet still, the show had sometimes 13 million people tuning in Wednesday nights to watch this bizarre tale according to TV Line.
Former senior Daniella Diva is one of those 13 million people, being an avid fan of the show, Diva enjoys watching it. Diva insists the explicitness of some of the show’s content does not bother her.
“I like it because I get to see logical perspectives as well as compare how I’d do it differently,” Diva said.
Why are people so fascinated with serial killers? Almost everything about the concept of it, the disturbing psychology behind those suffering with murderous afflictions and the very real consequences caused by this, go against ingrained normal human behaviors. The instinct of procreation, self-preservation and just the notion that humans are generally kind and understanding toward one another are ideas that create a basic social and emotional structure for most people, a structure with no place for murder, torture or abuse that play a large role in serial killings.
BG’s security guard Bob Fitzgerald, actually has first-hand, face to face, experience with serial killers. Having worked on the police force for 28 years, one of his posts in the corrections department involved keeping an eye on John Wayne Gacy, a notorious serial killer who sexually assaulted, tortured and killed, around 33 people. Fitzgeralds job was guarding Gacy from the other inmates and keeping him occupied. Right up until 1978 when they tore up Gacy’s property to find the bodies, Fitzgerald believed Gacy hadn’t committed the alleged crimes against him, but after getting to know Gacy- Fitzgerald’s opinion swayed.
“I was impartial until I got to know him, he was normal- very much so,” Fitzgerald said. “You could talk to him like he was a substitute teacher at BG you would never know. He was not psychotic he was pretty much a sociopath, [sociopaths] can hide in society amongst everyone else and nobody would know who he really was. He was pretty much a normal person, you could carry on a really good conversation with him, a very intelligent guy. Just many conversations with him made me lean toward the fact that he did do it,”.
English teacher Jeff Grybash, also has a keen interest in the world of serial killers.
“I was at Brown’s chicken at 8:45 p.m. the night that seven people were murdered and both the murderers were my parents’ students,” Grybash said.
Grybash has actually sent communication [a letter] to Ted Kaczynski, better known as the “Unabomber” who terrorized America over the course of 20 years. Kaczynski planted bombs in universities, airports and other specific targets in an effort to share his anarchic anti-technology ideology with the rest of the world.
A noticed trend that might contribute to this haunting interest actually began around the same time as popular shows and books about these killers came to light. Efforts to battle negative stigmas about mental health have been on a dramatic rise. Around 1995,“Gen Z”’s grew up with experienced curriculums in school that actively taught about depression and anxiety among other mental issues, kids from that generation were not only given strategies to help cope with their mental health, they were given the power of acknowledgment, the power to realize that the way they were feeling wasn’t normal in the first place, something others in generations before were not awarded the luxury of.
But like with anything else in life, there are finite spectrums when it comes to mental health and this means understanding the drastic difference between garden variety anxiety to sociopath and psychotic tendencies sometimes displayed in serial killers.
“You can have someone that’s lived their life as a wonderful person and then something snaps 40 years later and you don’t know why,” Fitzgerald said. “The mind and mental illness is a big problem in the world today and I think mental illness definitely needs to be addressed and I think it is now being addressed especially in the jail system. People think everybody is responsible for their actions, but in some cases they’re not, I’m trying to draw a line between people that are mentally ill and people that are gang members.”
This degree of mental disorder is referred to as “abnormal psychology,” a unit that many BG students will cover in AP Psych. Our discovery and deeply applied knowledge of mental health cannot exclude even the most reeling side of the spectrum.
Our macabre interest in serial killers is similar in intent to how people can’t seem to turn away from bad car accidents, or the gutting urge to jump when looking over balconies or standing on tall structures. It is the extreme other side of the human condition that we might never be able to relate to, but knowing it exists can be a way of compulsively reasoning with our own behaviors.
“That is what got me interested in the whole thing, to me it was just shocking that one day someone could be here and then the next day they’re gone. Some people can go kill people and then go have Christmas dinner and sit with their family,” Grybash said.