During my final year in university, I remember we were given four topics to choose from to write an essay. Out of the four topics, I think half of the class (including me) opted to write an essay on ‘Dark Tourism’.
What is dark tourism? It refers to tourists visiting places where horrific events had occurred in human history. These horrific events can be in the form of genocide, assassination, incarceration, ethnic cleansing, war and natural disasters. It is seen that the number of tourists visiting places related to death and suffering is increasing and one may ask, ‘Why are tourists drawn to places where it smells of death?’. Apart from obvious reasons such as to understand the events that had occurred, for learning purposes, and for religion and pilgrim purposes, many are also fascinated by the death in these destinations.
So when there’s a new documentary on one of the most notorious serial killers, that’s the next thing you would binge watch. Why is it that we are so interested in knowing the horrific killings and murders that serial killers have committed? Only 1% of all murders in America are committed by serial killers each year. It’s similar to the reason that many people like visiting destinations where some form of death has occurred. People are fascinated by death.
This increasing interest towards serial killers have many reasons which I have briefly explained in my previous article (check it out!). One of the main reasons is that people are curious to understand why these killers have done what they did. It is also a way of being very close to death; to experience it without actually being a victim of it. Scott A. Bonn, a criminology professor, TV news commentator, public speaker and author says that these serial killers are like “ a catharsis for the worst of us, a lightning rod for our darkest thoughts”. When we are able to understand the serial killer’s mind and behavior, it gives an opportunity to be close to death without actually suffering it.
Most people (including me) won’t accept it right away that we would like to experience what death looks like or being a victim of such heinous crime. Why would a person want to experience death or be a victim of it? We all know that it causes unimaginable suffering and pain, so then why? I’m not sure how to reframe this sentence in such a way that you readers would understand, but just let me tell it out in plain cold words. When there’s a new documentary/TV show about a serial killer or media talking about serial killers or even googling ‘The Most Notorious Serial Killers’ to learn more about their gruesome crimes, we do possess some kind of fascination towards them or we do possess some very dark thoughts deep inside us. Even while typing this, I still am denying that I would have some darkest thoughts about death. I like learning about serial killers because it fascinates me to understand what they did and what their mental state was before doing it, while doing it and after doing it. I can’t imagine that I would even want to experience death in any way possible.
Some people are so fascinated with serial killers that they collect things that once belonged to serial killers such as John Schwenk who had collected a portrait by John Wayn Gacy (“The Killer Clown”), a drawing of a skull by Richard Ramirez (“Night Stalker”), letters from other serial killers, locks of hair and even a set of false teeth. In 2005, the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit had come to a conclusion that we are most drawn to serial killers because of their humanness. We expect serial killers to be literal monsters when in fact they have families and homes. They have normal jobs like us and even appear completely normal in front of the society. Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert Fish, John Wayn Gacy and Peter Sutcliffe had been confronted by the police from one meeting to multiple meetings and they still regarded these individuals not a threat the society. From the outside they look completely normal, little did we know these individuals were one of the most notorious serial killers.
Our interest towards serial killers? Because we want to experience death from a far distance without actually experiencing it or we possess deep, dark thoughts about death or merely to understand how these individuals minds’. Why are you interested in serial killers? Why do you binge watch Netflix shows/documentaries about them even when it’s so horrific? Let me know.