Why Are We So Fascinated With Serial Killers?

With the release of The Ted Bundy Tapes and Mindhunter on Netflix, it is no question that serial killers attract a pretty large audience. Bucknell even offers a psychology course called “Psychopaths and Serial Killers” because of the strong student interest. It seems that despite the horrific nature of their crimes, people can’t seem to look away. We want to try to understand these people, and figure out what could possibly drive them to commit multiple murders. With Halloween about a month away, there will most likely be a spike in viewings of serial killer films. We tend to associate these killers with the paranormal, and equate them to demons or monsters. So, why is it that humans have this morbid fascination for serial killers?

As a student in Psychopaths and Serial Killers, I am beginning to learn a bit more about this phenomenon.

When a catastrophic car wreck occurs, people slow down and look. They peak into the car to see the damage. They may even snap a photo. According to a former FBI profiler, this is because of the thrill that the scene evokes (Bonn, 2014). Serial killers provide this same source of morbid excitement. Adrenaline is the neurotransmitter that is associated with these types of thrills. Adrenaline has an addictive quality, and it is the same hormone released on roller coaster rides. This helps explain the exciting buzz you may feel while binge watching episodes of Dexter. Nevertheless, it is important to note that fear is only good fun when you are not in any real danger. We enjoy being scared, but only in controlled settings.

As Dr. Scott Bonn suggests, another reason people are so fascinated with serial killers is because of the way they blend in. So many well-known serial killers like Ted Bundy came across as mild-mannered and charming. It wasn’t until their crimes came into the spotlight that we uncovered their dark side. While we may call them “monsters,” they certainly don’t have any horns or claws growing. In fact, to most people they know, serial killers seemed like relatively normal guys. It is frightening to think that any one you know could have this side (although it is certainly extremely rare).

So, as you curl up on the couch and start a new episode of Mindhunter perhaps you’ll feel a bit more at ease knowing you are not the only one who is interested in learning about serial killers and the atrocities they commit.        






Bonn, S. (2014). Why we love serial killers : The curious appeal of the world's most savage

            murderers. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.