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  • A question . . . I can't wrap my head around.

    The JTR question I find myself unable to get a handle on is the relationship with the supposed Ripper communicates and subsequent serial killer missives.

    Do serial killers send taunting messages to the police and society because it is an innate trait common to serial killers, or are serial killers mimicking the (supposed) Ripper behavior because he is some kind of unwitting mentor they believe they must emulate?

    If it is the former then I guess we have to take the Ripper missives more seriously, while if the latter, then we need be amazed at the power of the Ripper mystique.

  • #2
    Originally posted by APerno View Post
    The JTR question I find myself unable to get a handle on is the relationship with the supposed Ripper communicates and subsequent serial killer missives.

    Do serial killers send taunting messages to the police and society because it is an innate trait common to serial killers, or are serial killers mimicking the (supposed) Ripper behavior because he is some kind of unwitting mentor they believe they must emulate?

    If it is the former then I guess we have to take the Ripper missives more seriously, while if the latter, then we need be amazed at the power of the Ripper mystique.
    Hi APerno,

    It's very rare, but highly publicized so seems more frequent, for serial killers to write letters and communicate. I'll leave out terrorist related types, like the Unabomber, as that's a different situation. Three that I can think of, though, would be Zodiac (unsolved), Son of Sam (Berkowitz), and BTK (Rader). Zodiac, being unsolved we'll have to leave aside as we can only speculate on his motives. Berkowitz seems to have been trying to lay the goundwork for an insanity plea should he get caught, and Rader seems obsessed with being "famous". Rader, particularly in interviews, talks about SKs as some sort of group or club "SKs are like this, we do this, etc", and so I think in his case, yes, in part I think he was copying JtR (and Zodiac, and Son of Sam) by doing what he thinks SKs do - write letters to police and newspapers, because that's how they become famous for their crimes. He even insisted he have a "name" and suggested BTK.

    So, while I suspect to some extent the idea of writing letters as something to do probably could be traced back to JtR being well known to have done this, so it's an idea that was "out there", the underlying reason for doing so would probably be best viewed as very individualistic. Rader is probably the best example of "doing it because others did", but even then, that seems to be in part because Rader did what he thought a "proper SK" would do, and he was desperate to be known as a proper "SK'.

    - Jeff

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    • #3
      The Ripper was, I think, the first infamous, uncaught criminal who lived in an age in which the common man was literate, and newspapers were common. He was effectively the first to have the opportunity to taunt the police in public. It's worth noting that later villains, such as the Midwest Axe Murderer of 1911 / 1912, and the contemporaneous Texas / Louisiana Axe Murderer, never made the least effort to communicate.
      - Ginger

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      • #4
        Originally posted by JeffHamm View Post
        Rader is probably the best example of "doing it because others did", but even then, that seems to be in part because Rader did what he thought a "proper SK" would do, and he was desperate to be known as a proper "SK'.
        That's a rather... remarkable... ambition.
        - Ginger

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Ginger View Post

          That's a rather... remarkable... ambition.
          Rader, really is one of the "not like the others" set.

          - Jeff

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          • #6
            Originally posted by APerno View Post

            Do serial killers send taunting messages to the police and society because it is an innate trait common to serial killers, or are serial killers mimicking the (supposed) Ripper behavior because he is some kind of unwitting mentor they believe they must emulate?

            If it is the former then I guess we have to take the Ripper missives more seriously, while if the latter, then we need be amazed at the power of the Ripper mystique.
            Serial killers do not have innate traits, they’re human beings shaped and influenced by the society they live in.
            As Jeffhamm has mentioned, some try to live up to a serial killer “persona”, by for instance sending letters.

            the industry surrounding serial killers is influential enough that cultural stereotypes have emerged that shape how serial killers are supposed to behave. E.g. behaving differently when interviewed, or pretending to read lots of books to appear more Hannibal Lecterish.

            One of those influential cultural stereotypes is sending letters, a custom which was first elevated to global prominence during the ripper murders.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Kattrup View Post
              Serial killers do not have innate traits, they’re human beings shaped and influenced by the society they live in.
              As Jeffhamm has mentioned, some try to live up to a serial killer “persona”, by for instance sending letters.

              the industry surrounding serial killers is influential enough that cultural stereotypes have emerged that shape how serial killers are supposed to behave. E.g. behaving differently when interviewed, or pretending to read lots of books to appear more Hannibal Lecterish.

              One of those influential cultural stereotypes is sending letters, a custom which was first elevated to global prominence during the ripper murders.
              Yes, exactly. I think Rader's image of a "proper SK" is, in many ways, shaped by a false stereotype that has arise form a few highly publicized cases, and fictional presentations. He was trying to be the epitome of something that is actually a poor representation of the real thing. Like people, SK are very individualistic, and have their own individual and private motivations and drives. There are generalizations that can be made, but they do not apply universally, and the variation is wide so a general "average" is not hugely informative.

              - Jeff

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              • #8
                There was a killer - I cannot remember his name - who killed two people and then a third because - according to his claim - he wouldn't go down as a SK unless he killed a minimum of three.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Robert View Post
                  There was a killer - I cannot remember his name - who killed two people and then a third because - according to his claim - he wouldn't go down as a SK unless he killed a minimum of three.
                  Yes, that sounds familiar, but I can't recall who it was either. I have a vague, possibly incorrect, feeling there's more than one who have done that.

                  - Jeff

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by JeffHamm View Post
                    It's very rare, but highly publicized so seems more frequent, for serial killers to write letters and communicate. I'll leave out terrorist related types, like the Unabomber, as that's a different situation. Three that I can think of, though, would be Zodiac (unsolved), Son of Sam (Berkowitz), and BTK (Rader). Zodiac, being unsolved we'll have to leave aside as we can only speculate on his motives.
                    I think the Zodiac was a serial killer LARPING as a terrorist. He made threats about planting bombs & sniping schoolchildren but it was all hot air. He derived more satisfaction from taunting the police & press than he did from killing. At one point he said he was going to conceal his MO so the police wouldn't know which murders were his and which weren't. I think he lost the thrill in killing or got spooked and hoped the authorities would attribute murders to him without having to dirty his own hands.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Harry D View Post

                      I think the Zodiac was a serial killer LARPING as a terrorist. He made threats about planting bombs & sniping schoolchildren but it was all hot air. He derived more satisfaction from taunting the police & press than he did from killing. At one point he said he was going to conceal his MO so the police wouldn't know which murders were his and which weren't. I think he lost the thrill in killing or got spooked and hoped the authorities would attribute murders to him without having to dirty his own hands.
                      Hi Harry D,

                      Possibily. I think one could build that argument, that the thrill he got from killing, giving him power and control over a couple, paled in comparison to the thrill he got from having control and power over the entire region. And, as you say, less risky. But it's hard to say, the motives are often bizarre in their specifics, though often boil down to gaining a sense of power and control that they lack in other parts of the lives, or venting anger and rage over some injustice (real or imagined), or some link between sexual fantasies and violence, domination, and such. Of course, it's often hard to know the workings of how they think because, well, they aren't known to be an exactly truthful bunch.

                      - Jeff

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Harry D View Post

                        I think the Zodiac was a serial killer LARPING as a terrorist. He made threats about planting bombs & sniping schoolchildren but it was all hot air. He derived more satisfaction from taunting the police & press than he did from killing. At one point he said he was going to conceal his MO so the police wouldn't know which murders were his and which weren't. I think he lost the thrill in killing or got spooked and hoped the authorities would attribute murders to him without having to dirty his own hands.
                        If you are familiar with Robert Smith's work Zodiac, that's pretty much his assessment.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by APerno View Post

                          If you are familiar with Robert Smith's work Zodiac, that's pretty much his assessment.
                          Interesting. No, I wasn't aware of that. Never read any books on the Zodiac. It's just my interpretation based on the communications and case evidence.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Harry D View Post

                            Interesting. No, I wasn't aware of that. Never read any books on the Zodiac. It's just my interpretation based on the communications and case evidence.
                            ive read smith and not sure if that's his assessment-Im pretty sure his take (well its mine anyway) is that the zodiac was a serial killer first and foremost(enjoyed the thrill of killing) and the "terrorist" part was secondary (taunting police/public).

                            I would term the Zodiac as a Thrill killer type serial killer, like son of sam, maybe monster of Florence. mainly-that they enjoy killing for the thrill of it-and that since these three mainly targeted couples/lovers lane-that a deep seated hatred and anger/jealosy of women and couples lie at the heart of it since they were losers that had issues with any kind of relationship. my view anyway
                            "Is all that we see or seem
                            but a dream within a dream?"

                            -Edgar Allan Poe


                            "...the man and the peaked cap he is said to have worn
                            quite tallies with the descriptions I got of him."

                            -Frederick G. Abberline

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                            • #15
                              I am not sure where we are disagreeing? -- Of course he was a serial killer, the issue I was replying to was the suggestion that he got a bigger kick out of taunting the cops then killing, which I agree and I believe Smith recognized.

                              When they got close he had no difficultly shutting down operations and never killed again.That is something few can do.

                              I agree he seems to hold a strong jealousy of couples but his style of murder, with a gun has less a psychopathic tint to it than most serial killers who use knifes or garrote, and who like to dominate/humiliate their victims. There seems to be less of that in Zodiac; his killing seemed less personal, more of a swing at the world at large, thus more joy from taunting.

                              Guess we took away different opinions from the read.

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