The darkest aspects of human nature are reflected in the entity of a killer. It is the part of humanity that most of the world is least familiar with, which makes it all the more interesting to learn about. The spectacle of the serial killer brings out a natural curiosity. We live in a culture that glorifies this deadly phenomenon. When these types of inconceivable horrors occur in our reality, our culture is immediately fascinated. It can be seen from the plethora of movies, television shows and books that focus on murders and the chase to discover the culprit. Our lure to these terrors is obvious. It can also be seen in the media’s excessive and in-depth reporting of disastrous events, from murders to mass shootings to trial coverage.
It is somewhat understandable for us to have this attraction to such an unknown and terrifying side of humanity, but it comes with a price. When these events occur, we create celebrities out of these people and their stories.
Whether fictional or not, it can create a troubling perspective. Copycat killers and obsessed followers desire the same type of celebrity status and look up to the killers that plague our society. This has been a dangerous consequence of glorification in the past and still poses a direct danger to our future.
One example of an infamous killer is Jack the Ripper, a serial killer active in London in the late nineteenth century who killed prostitutes in the most gruesome ways possible. Self-proclaimed "armchair detective" Russell Edwards recently published a book claiming to have discovered the identity of the notorious killer using DNA from a shawl discovered at one of the crime scenes. His name is Aaron Kosminski, a Polish immigrant who was actually a suspect in 1888 when the crimes were committed.
Kosminski was considered mentally ill and was put into an asylum later in life, where he died. Many are skeptical of this discovery due to the questionable origin of the shawl. The author claims that the shawl was unwashed for two centuries until it was bought and tested. The DNA was also determined to be “inconclusive,” but the DNA did match that of Aaron Kosminski’s living relatives.
The spectacle remains with the publishing of Edwards’ book and the idea of Jack the Ripper has pervaded society since the horrible actions took place. Jack the Ripper is an attraction in books, movies and television shows as we continue to discuss and debate the mystery two centuries later.
Even the well-known term “copycat killer” is believed to have originated after several imitation killings caused by media coverage of the Jack the Ripper killings.
The obsession with murder is an understandable one. It is the most terrifying aspect of humanity and perplexes us more than anything. Moreover, we are fascinated with it because we do not understand it.
But the extreme consequences of this fascination cannot be taken lightly. If we are not careful of our culture’s portrayal and interest in serial killers, extremists and copycat killers in our society will continue taking the interest in it one step too far.