“If the guy’s behind bars, it’s always exciting,” Sheila Isenberg, author of the book “Women Who Love Men Who Kill” explained in a 2013 Salon interview.
While the majority of us would vehemently disagree with this statement –replace “behind bars” with “behind the microphone” and maybe we’d reconsider– a subset of women are suckers for men who murder.
Isenberg likens serial killer worship to celebrity worship, but with increased accessibility. “It’s easier to get a date or get attention from [serial killers] than, say, Brad Pitt,” says Isenberg. “Pitt is going to ignore your letter, he’s not going to boast about your letter — but this guy is. He’s probably reading his letters and responding to them, because it puffs him up and raises his status in his own eyes.”
There are a number of serial killers who bask in the glow of that sort of attention. For instance, Ted Bundy, who confessed to murdering more than 35 women, reportedly received 200 letters a day on death row. And Jeffrey Dahmer, who murdered and dismembered 17 men, had dedicated fans who sent him money to buy cigarettes, stamps and envelopes — over $12,000 to be exact.
“We make heroes out of our shooter — whether the shooter is a good guy or a bad guy,” says Isenberg. “And women are turned on by heroes.”
More specifically, some women are turned on by anti-heroes. In fact, there’s a clinical term for it. Sometimes referred to as Bonnie and Clyde syndrome, hybristophilia is a fetish in which a person becomes sexually aroused by a partner who’s committed a crime.
In the same Salon interview, author, Dr. Katherine Ramsland dug deeper into the psychology behind the serial killer groupies saying, “Serial killer groupies may be equating this sort of violence with masculine strength and then seeking it as a way to bring such a male into their lives, for protection and for producing offspring with a good chance for survival. Thus, they’re responding to a biological drive that they may not even be aware of.”
According to website TheRichest, the phenomenon is hardly a new thing. William Henry Theodore Durrant, a handsome San Francisco medical student who brutally sexually attacked and murdered two women in 1895, allegedly had a following of young females who flocked to his trial. One in particular reportedly showed up to court every day carrying a bouquet of sweet peas.The weirdest part? Durrant’s number one female fan also had a husband.
Below, we explore a few of the most notorious serial killers and their most dedicated fans.
1. “The Night Stalker,” Richard Ramirez
His crimes: From 1984 to 1985, Richard Ramirez killed 13 people. He was was dubbed “The Night Stalker” because he killed his victims in their beds.
His groupies: According to the San Francisco Gate, the known Satanist received “bags of mail” each year while he was alive — mostly from women.
During his trial, a following of women in black showed up to worship Ramirez (see the video below). Bizarrely, one of the jurors, Cindy Haden, claimed to have fallen for Ramirez during the trial. On Valentine’s Day, she him a cupcake with the message, “I love you.” Ramirez might have thought her love was enough to earn him an innocent vote. Not so much. Haden found him guilty (reluctantly), but later showed up to visit him in jail…with her parents.
Meeting the parents must not have gone so well, because Ramirez ended up marrying another of his notorious fangirls in 1996. His lady love was freelance teen magazine editor and self-described “Catholic virgin from San Rafael,” Doreen Lioy.
How romantic. Or not.
2. Charles Manson
His Crimes: Manson is best known for being the leader of ’60s cult, “The Manson Family.” Manson was found guilty of conspiracy to commit the murders of seven people, including actress Sharon Tate and four other people at Tate’s home, and a married couple, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Even though the murders were committed by members of Manson’s “family” Manson himself influenced members to commit the crimes, thus being guilty of joint-responsibility.
His Groupies: It’s no longer the ’60s, but Manson’s “family” is still alive and well and being looked after by Afton Elaine Burton (who goes by the name of “Star”). The 26-year-old started writing Manson when she was 19 years old, and in 2007 she moved to Corcoran, CA to be closer to him, spending up to five hours at a time every Saturday and Sunday at Corcoran State Prison. In a show of solidarity? Love? Insanity? She carved an “X” into her forehead to match Manson’s infamous swastika. In addition to the body mod, Star spent the last nine years trying to help exonerate Manson and blogging about his innocence.
Last year, Star announced the couples’ intention to in an interview with Rolling Stone:
“I’ll tell you straight up, Charlie and I are going to get married…When that will be, we don’t know. But I take it very seriously. Charlie is my husband. Charlie told me to tell you this. We haven’t told anybody about that.”
To which Charles Manson replied:
“That’s a bunch of garbage. You know that, man. That’s trash. We’re just playing that for public consumption.”
As of today, the lovebirds have not tied the knot. Recently, a rumor surfaced that Star only wanted to marry Manson for his corpse.
3. “The Hillside Strangler,” Kenneth Bianchi
His Crimes: One half of the duo known as “The Hillside Stranglers,” Bianchi took the lives of 12 women.
His Groupies: Having fans is one thing, having them kill on your behalf is another. Such is the case with Hillside Strangler superfan, Veronica Compton. The actress and writer had a bit of serial killer obsession, which led her to pen a screenplay about a female serial killer. Allegedly, she met Kenneth Bianchi when she asked him to read her script for feedback and the rest, as they say, is history.
For these two, their love was non-traditional, and consisted of them sharing murderous fantasies — including coming up with a plot to make authorities think the real Hillside Strangler was still at large. Compton went so far as to smuggle Bianchi’s semen out of jail in a plastic glove, commit a copycat murder and plant Bianchi’s semen inside the victim.
Long story short: she went to jail for the man she loved, then promptly ditched him for another serial killer, Douglas Daniel Clark. Love’s a b**ch.
No word who Compton’s been shacking up with she was released from prison in 2003.
Shudder to think.