Seeing these serial killers attempt to justify, or in some cases, lie their way through their crimes, spotlights them in a shameful humility, caught up in their own stories and explanations of rationale. Some are convincing, entertaining, or just plain vile, but all of them allow a peek into the twisted minds of some of the most notorious cold blooded killers.
It's interesting to get a look inside the heads of the most notorious serial killers ever as an attempt to understand what made them take the lives of others, but just as their crimes are incomprehensible, their explanations are often just as baffling.
As chilling as these stories of murder, rape, dismemberment and much worse are, there is comfort that these convicted killers, if still alive, are locked away to never hurt anyone ever again.
Issei Sagawa became a notorious semi-celebrity in his native Japan in 1981 after killing and eating a Dutch exchange student named Renee Hartevelt. (After inviting Hartevelt to his apartment in Paris to read and study poetry, he shot her in the neck, had sex with her corpse and then spent two days carving up and eating her body.) Sagawa later said that he had hoped, by eating the beautiful Hartevelt, that he would absorb some of her healthy energy.
Initially imprisoned in France for the crime, he was later extradited in Japan, where his crime became a subject of intense public fascination. The above is a documentary film about Sagawa's that aired in Scandinavia in the 1980s called "Cannibal Superstar." The scariest bit? Sagawa is currently a free man, living in Tokyo and working as a writer, restaurant reviewer (!!!) and guest speaker. see more on Issei Sagawa
Convicted of the rape and murder of 33 men and teenage boys between 1972 and 1978, John Wayne Gacy was also known by his daytime career pseudonym of "Pogo the Clown."
Wayne was a father, a husband, a businessman and an active, well-liked member of the local community. That is, until 26 corpses were found buried in the crawlspace of his home in Chicago, Illinois. The rest of his victims were buried elsewhere on his property or discarded in a nearby river.
Gacy, a determined sociopath, claimed to have no remorse for his crimes, and until the end of his life remained in complete denial about them. In this clip, Gacy becomes confused by his own tangled web of lies, and in his determined attempt to keep his story straight, he makes a crucial slip-up that was now captured for posterity.
Fast forward to the 4:10 mark to see Gacy try to cover it up his blunder by telling the interviewer "Oh! Ok, I'm sorry if I led you to believe that. Strike it then. That is wrong." He's visibly seen realizing his mistake when the interviewer, Walter Jacobson, informs him of his slip up. Though he can probably "strike" out his own memories or truths for his own advantage, the memory and permanence of film does not change and Gacy was ultimately executed on orders of the Supreme Court by lethal injection.
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By far the most infamous serial cult leader of our time, Charles Manson's penchant for leadership is due in part to his persuasive, outrageous and street smart character. In the video, interviewer Heidi Schulman gets to the heart of who Manson believes himself to be and his justification for the crimes he believes he didn't commit.
Amidst a barrage of incredibly outrageous claims and obscenities, the 2:23 mark pretty much sums up the obscene yet cartoonish worldview that defines Manson. He says, "if I wanted to kill somebody, I'd take this book and beat you to death with it. And I wouldn't feel a thing. It'd be just like walking to the drug store."
His self-proclaimed lack of emotion and human sympathy is both astonishing and frightening. But it's perhaps his frankness and bleak unapologetic view of human nature that's somehow managed to captivated and manipulate a cult following.
Manson's closing line does seem somehow genuine, and may have been intended to gain sympathy from his audience. He declares, "I've been with prostitutes and bums and winos all my life. The street is my world. I don't pretend to go uptown and be anything fancy. I can, but I find more real in the world that I'm in than I do the tinsel, and the real world is the one I have to deal with everyday." A peculiarly heartfelt declaration from a man with no heart.
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Chocolate factory employee and seemingly mild-mannered Jeffrey Dahmer was accused of killing, raping, torturing, dismembering and even in some cases eating a total of 17 victims between 1978 and 1991.
Dahmer's calm, controlled and polite attitude throughout this 1994 interview with Stone Phillips shows no indication of a man capable of committing the crimes he's describing. Though evidently aware of his mistakes and regretful of his actions, he gives us and Phillipsan idea as to the sort of satisfaction he fulfilled, sexual gratification he felt while dominating and subduing his victims.
A chilling recount of his first murder in 1978 in a hotel room involving a man he met at a bar is vaguely described at the three-minute mark of the clip. "When I woke up in the morning, my forearms were bruised," Dahmer said. "And his chest was bruised, blood was coming out of his mouth, he was hanging over the side of the bed, and I have no memory of beating him to death, but I must have."
Dahmer admits to striving for total control over his victims, a large part of the reason why he committed the crimes, and when Phillips questions him about the pleasure he acquires from the actual act of killing his victims at the 6:06 mark, Dahmer replies, "the killing was just a means to an end, that was the least satisfactory part, I didn't enjoy doing that. That's why I tried to create living zombies with muriatic acid and the drill. But it never worked."
There's no telling what kind of zombie apocalypse would have occurred if Dahmer's intricate zombie scheme did work out, but let's just be glad that he wasn't as proficient in his zombie manufacturing skills as he was in manslaughter.
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David Berkowitz looks like your average middle-aged, schlubby goofball. You probably wouldn't guess, context aside, that he's serving six consecutive life sentences in prison for the murder of six people (not to mention the wounding of several others) between the years of 1976 and 1977. And yet, here we are.
Berkowitz was captured in 1977, as he was allegedly en route to committing another murder. Interviews with various psychologists revealed that he likely was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and that he believed himself to be part of a Satanic cult under direct orders from the Devil. (He had subbed himself the "Son of Sam," referring to a dog - Harvey - owned by his neighbor, Sam Carr. Berkowitz thought the dog was possessed by a demon who had instructed him to kill.) Though, obviously, Berkowitz was experiencing delusions, some law enforcement experts have theorized that there may have been other Satanists who had committed some of the "Son of Sam" crimes. Berkowitz confessed, but some of the "Son of Sam" shootings remain open cases.
In this interview, Berkowitz recounts his past contract with the devil and satanic rituals, claiming that they are all entirely behind him. He insists that he is a changed person, saying, "my job was to be a soldier for the devil, and to bring destruction. Ultimately that good would become of it, and that would help bring about the apocalypse, the end of the world, so God would establish his kingdom of peace."
Today, Berkowitz is still alive and resides in Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York. He claims to be a born again Christian, and even maintains his own website through a third party source, as he notes that he is not allowed access to a computer. In 2006, Berkowitz released a memoir titled, "Son of Hope: The Prison Journals of David Berkowitz." He claims he receives no money from its publication.
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Ted Bundy, a notoriously handsome serial killer, had seemingly no problem luring in female victims. The standard depiction of the serial killer - a deranged loner, unable to assimilate into traditional society - doesn't fit Bundy's case at all. He was well-liked, personable and had been raised in a close-knit Christian household.
In the aftermath of his capture, in fact, his crimes were largely blamed on his intense obsession with pornography. In the final interview Bundy gave, just one day before his execution in 1989, he spoke about his pornography addiction with psychologist Dr. James Dobson, a close friend of former President George W. Bush perhaps best known today as the founder of the influential Focus on the Family political activism organization.
During the discussion, Bundy suggests that "pornography can reach out and snatch a kid out of any house today. It snatched me out of my home, 20, 30 years ago."
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Edmund Kemper, known as the "Co-Ed Killer," murdered five hitchhiking college girls between May of 1972 and February of the following year. After the killings, he would often put the corpses to perverse use, engaging in oral sex with the women's severed heads or posing them for "pornographic" film shoots.
Kemper's first two victims had been his grandparents, whom he had shot to death at age 15 (purportedly just to find out what it would feel like.) His killing spree ended on Good Friday of 1973, when he beat his mother to death with a hammer, mutilated her corpse and then killed his mother's best friend for good measure. He had planned to escape in his car, but then turned himself in to police after hearing a report about his crimes on the radio.
Kemper's calm, matter-of-fact demeanor and well-spokenness likely relates to his high IQ, and his sociopathy. Fast forward to the 3:30 mark for Kemper's chilling details regarding his state of mind after dismembering bodies, and his thought process when speaking to a detached head.
Kemper ends the interview with these final words: "I am an American and I killed Americans. I am a human being and I killed human beings. And I did it in my society."
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Better known as the "Night Stalker," Richard Ramirez assaulted both men and women over the course of one year from 1984-1985. His victim count is at least 14 people, if not more. This interview of him in prison, conducted by Mike Watkiss, focuses largely on Ramirez's obsession with the concept and practice of evil. (The interview itself begins at the 3:05 mark.)
The conversation ranges from a philosophical discussion of evil, to Ramirez's take on the women who became obsessed with him after his imprisonment (including one of the jurors that put him away) and even into Ramirez's own personal politics. (He felt "serial killers do what governments do on a large one. They are a product of the times, and this is a bloodthirsty one.") Ramirez also denies feeling any "normal" human emotions.
Throughout the interview, Ramirez is persistent in getting his script and answers out to the reporter, regardless if they answer the question or not, and clearly had an agenda going in to the discussion (though it's rather obscure).
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