The Serial Killer Files : The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World's Most Terrifying Murderers
THE DEFINITIVE DOSSIER ON HISTORY'S MOST HEINOUS!Hollywood's make-believe maniacs like Jason, Freddy, and Hannibal Lecter can't hold a candle to real life monsters like John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and scores of others who have terrorized, tortured, and terminated their way across civilization throughout the ages. Now, from the much-acclaimed author of Deviant, Deranged, and Depraved, comes the ultimate resource on the serial killer phenomenon.Rigorously researched and packed with the most terrifying, up-to-date information, this innovative and highly compelling compendium covers every aspect of multiple murderers-from psychology to cinema, fetishism to fan clubs, "trophies" to trading cards. Discover.
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from The Serial Killer Files by Harold Schechter
WHAT IT MEANS
ORIGIN OF THE TERM
One reason people tend to think that serial murder is a frighteningly new phenomenon is that, until about twenty years ago, no one ever heard of such a thing. For most of the twentieth century, the news media never referred to serial killers. But that isn't because homicidal psychos didn't exist in the past.
Indeed, one of the most infamous American serial killers of all time, Albert Fish, committed his atrocities around the time of the Great Depression. After his arrest, his unspeakable crimes were covered extensively by the newspapers. Nowhere, however, is Fish described as a serial killer. The reason is simple. The phrase hadn't been invented yet. Back then, the type of crime we now define as serial murder was simply lumped together under the general rubric of "mass murder."
Credit for coining the phrase "serial killer" is commonly given to former FBI Special Agent Robert Ressler, one of the founding members of the Bureau's elite Behavioral Science Unit (aka the "Mind Hunters" or the "Psyche Squad"). Along with his colleague John Douglas, Ressler served as a model for the character Jack Crawford in Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter trilogy.
In his 1992 memoir, Whoever Fights Monsters, Ressler writes that, in the early 1970s, while attending a weeklong conference at the British police academy, he heard a fellow participant refer to "crimes in series," meaning "a series of rapes, burglaries, arsons, or murders." Ressler was so impressed by the phrase that, upon returning to Quantico, he began to use the term "serial killer" in his own lectures to describe "the killing of those who do one murder, then another and another in a fairly repetitive way."
In thinking up the term, Ressler also says he had in mind the movie-matinee adventure serials of his boyhood: Spy Smasher, Flash Gordon, The Masked Marvel, etc. Like a child looking forward to the latest installment of his favorite cliffhanger, the serial killer can't wait to commit his next atrocity.