I was sitting in a coffee shop in Hollywood waiting on an actor that was running late thanks to a bout with food poisoning (it’s a dangerous thing having breakfast at Denny’s) and it struck me that America could do with a new serial killer. What began as a crass thought while eavesdropping on the conversation of a group of very fit solipsists turned into something very real and nostalgic. As of this writing there are two Americans fighting for their lives against Ebola, the Earth’s temperature is rising at an alarming rate, and the NSA is recording everything we say for use at a later date. Not coincidentally, the rough draft of this article was written on a series of napkins as to avoid the documentation of any missed apostrophes or commas.
To keep it blunt, the above-mentioned atrocities are lacking the sex appeal of a hatchet wielding nut job posing as a roller-skating children’s party performer. If there are any nervous sadomasochists reading that have been searching for the perfect moniker to begin their reign of terror, I have some suggestions for you:
· The Onion Bulb Killer
· The Rubber Boot Phantom
· The Cell Phone Slayer
· The Kosher Killer
· The Midsummer Night’s Maniac
I’m not sure what The Onion Bulb Killer, or Rubber Boot Phantom would do but I have no doubt that it would be a pleasant (if not folksy) distraction from the horrors of modern day life.
The most recent serial killer in American history may also be the blandest. Not only did BTK have the appearance of a manager at Barnes and Noble but he lacked the imagination to use the skin of his victims as upholstery, solder antlers to their skeletons, or give any cinematic joie de vivre to his work. He simply B’d, T’d, and K’d. I don’t deny that what he did was gruesome and horrific, but it was severely absent of the “WOW” factor of so many other killers.
Take Jack the Ripper as an example; no other maniac has gripped our thoughts like the leather strap butcher. Imagined as a time traveling dandy, a hermaphroditic mutating monster, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll; The Ripper was truly a cool ghoul who knew how to grab our imagination.
The lack of thorough investigative procedures and a slew of copycat murders allowed the Whitechapel Murderer to take on a folkloric quality, putting his oeuvre in the same pantheon as Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers.
In a similar vein, the early to mid 20th century is plentiful with serial murdering boogeymen. One only has to do a cursory search of the Internet to discover the grisly acts of Albert Fish, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, etc. As a child I spent entire evenings scaring myself to tears with an out of date book from the Brownwood Public Library that contained a run down of serial killers up until about 1989 (Dahmer was listed as still serving life in prison). When not nerding out about horror films over lunch I would compare notes on Bundy and Richard Ramirez with Will Rivard and Andrew Guthrie, normal ten-year-old boy stuff. We would speculate on where the next swathe of murders would take place, most likely Florida or the Mid West (even at 10 we knew where the weird manifested).
In a post 9/11 world it may be impossible to go back to the day when boogeymen only stalked the night, searching for unlucky victims like couches in alleys. Terror is a concept now grasped at an early age, instilled by entertainment, news; everywhere you look the nightmare is all around. Something is coming but we don’t know when. The next Ed Gein is not scheming alone in his one room shack, he is a drone floating above Afghanistan, he is a contractor on the ground in Iraq, he is a melting polar ice cap - the call is coming from inside the house.
After moving on from the coffee shop and the egoists contained within (I can’t be expected to day dream about death hungry fiends all day, I do have a life) my thoughts continued to drift to 1995 Texas and the concerns of a 10 year old only child. Against the background noise of my first televised war, all that consumed me was the horror of teenage body snatchers from Milwaukee, and paintings of Pogo the Clown. I don’t know if what I truly desire is for another unhinged maniac to take across the Mid West, carving satanic symbols into torsos as the nation adds extra dead bolts to its doors or to be truly gripped by something, no matter what it is. Gripped in the way that I could be when I was 10, when the boogeyman was hiding in a butterfly bush in the side yard, scratching at my window.
Jacob Shelton is a death obsessed, Los Angeles based writer. Help count down his last remaining days alive on Twitter.