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By: Kent Brown

John Wayne Gacy

Ever wonder why we live in a society obsessed with murder and violence? I often do. Especially during the winter. It seems that whenever the gray months roll around, so do the interviews, documentaries, and specials chronicling the lives of serial murderers. I also have to admit being strangely fascinated with these deranged individuals and sucked into these programs on those bitter Sunday afternoons. So begs the question: is this just brilliant marketing on behalf of the television networks or is this indicative of human psyche during the colder months?

Let’s all be honest – one rarely sees the interviews with Jeffrey Dahmer or the in-depth analysis of Ed Gein aired during the spring or summer months. Granted, one or two specials will occasionally air during late October and Halloween, but they will quickly vanish in preparation for the Thanksgiving Day parade and the Peanuts Christmas cartoons. The Grinch is about as close as you will get to Ted Bundy in December. Once the Christmas gifts are opened and the New Year’s hysteria has dissipated, a darker side of humanity peers at us menacingly through our television lenses. I spent an entire Sunday afternoon in January listening to Dahmer discuss the hydrochloric acid solution that he inserted in his victims’ skulls while they were still alive, watching John Wayne Gacy being escorted from his house of horrors in suburban Chicago, and Charlize Theron explaining her motivations while portraying Aileen Wuornos in the movie “Monster”. Obviously, we have a creepy fascination with serial killers and I believe that we always have; from the unsolved mystery of Jack the Ripper to the frontier campfire stories involving the Harp Brothers to the 20th Century and the Golden Age of serial murder. But why during the winter months are these gruesome tales so marketable? Is it simply that being cold and depressed means that we must immerse ourselves with mutilation and abuse?

Please do not take this article as some sort of moralistic scolding of anyone in particular or “society as a whole”. Understand that I am just as guilty as the next bystander. Maybe not as guilty as the sadistic murderers that we obsess ourselves with, but guilty all the same. I guess that I cannot blame the networks for exploiting these dirty fascinations, but I can point them out.

Jeffrey Dahmer

As I am writing this to raise a question, I am also not attempting to provide any answers. I do, however, feel that our obsession with grizzly murder and unrepentant violence needs further examination. We certainly live in an unparalleled time of voyeuristic pleasure within our societal structure. Our desire for scripted realism and celebrity obsession has hit an all time high. While many of us rant against this seemingly disturbing phenomenon, most of us still have Facebook and MySpace profiles. The interest in serial murder hits a chord that goes far beyond basic voyeurism. We all read the books. We watch the interviews with great interest. We fix T.V. dinners and sit motionlessly while Hannibal Lecter licks his lips. So while our blood thickens during these chilly months, be sure to let the mind wander towards those cheery images of death, mutilation, and those ever-so-popular skin masks. I guess we really just can’t help ourselves, can we?



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