Have you ever found yourself scratching your head, wondering why some of the most infamous killers in history have amassed a following of fans, and even romantic partners? It’s an unsettling and puzzling phenomenon, to say the least.
Take, for instance, the likes of Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, who despite their heinous crimes, had legions of admirers flocking to their trials and showering them with love letters, gifts, and even money while they were incarcerated.
And let’s not forget about Richard Ramirez, also known as the “Night Stalker,” who went as far as marrying a prison groupie who had penned over 75 letters to him.
What is it about these criminals that draws people to them?
Perhaps you’ve come across the term hybristophilia before, or maybe it’s brand new to you. Either way, it’s a bit of a mouthful. It’s a fancy way of describing a sexual attraction to someone who has committed a crime.
Basically, some people get turned on by the idea of being with a partner who has done a crime.
Now, you might be wondering what could possibly cause someone to have this kind of kink. Well, according to Katherine Ramsland, a professor of forensic psychology, there are a few reasons why some women (and men) might be drawn to dating or even marrying serial killers.
For some, it’s a matter of low self-esteem or a lack of a father figure in their lives. They might see the killer as someone who can protect and take care of them, or they might feel like they can “fix” them and make them a better person.
Others might be drawn to the media attention that comes with being associated with a notorious killer. They might see it as an opportunity to write a book or make a movie about their experiences.
And then there are those who are just looking for the perfect boyfriend. Someone who is always there for them and always thinking about them, but who doesn’t require any of the day-to-day responsibilities of a typical relationship. No cooking, no cleaning, no nagging. Just pure fantasy.
It’s a strange and fascinating phenomenon, to be sure. But whether we understand it or not, hybristophilia is a real thing that affects real people.
Apart from the intriguing phenomenon of hybristophilia, there’s another factor that has people captivated by serial killers – charisma. You might be thinking, “How on earth can someone who has committed such atrocious crimes be charismatic?”
But the truth is, charisma can manifest in many ways and can be independent of a person’s actions.
Charisma is often described as a magnetic charm or appeal that draws people to a person, and serial killers are no exception. Some killers have a certain charisma about them that can be both alluring and terrifying. They might have a way with words, be highly intelligent, or possess a certain confidence that commands attention.
Of course, it’s important to remember that not all serial killers are charismatic, and not all people who are charismatic are killers. It’s simply one factor that can make someone stand out and become famous, despite their terrible actions.
Let’s kick off with the infamous Ted Bundy, who not only managed to escape prison twice but also got hitched while he was still in the middle of his court trial.
Despite being responsible for the deaths of at least 20 confirmed victims, confessing to over 30, and being suspected of over 36 murders, all committed between 1974 to 1978, many women still swooned over him and idolized him.
According to Criminologist and author Christopher Berry-Dee, Bundy was driven by a grudge against his first girlfriend who had broken his heart. That grudge manifested itself in the form of a killing spree that claimed the lives of countless innocent women.
What’s even more disturbing is that despite the horrific nature of his crimes, Bundy still managed to attract a fanbase of women who were infatuated with him. You might be surprised to learn that he actually had several fan groups, but the most well-known among them were The Bundyphilles. These guys were serious about their love for Bundy and even went as far as actively lobbying for his release.
While this could also be attributed to hybristophilia, it’s hard to ignore the charisma that Ted Bundy possessed. He was good-looking, articulate, and knew how to win people’s trust.
In order to approach his victims, Bundy frequently pretended to be injured or was posing as an authoritative official. He lured his victims to their deaths with his alluring appearance and slick talking style.
Bundy’s magnetism helped him avoid capture as well as influence his victims. He could alter his appearance and blend in with the crowd, making it challenging for law enforcement to locate him. And that’s what makes Bundy such a terrifying figure. He wasn’t a snarling beast or a creepy loner.
The tale of Bundy serves as a sharp reminder that not all predators are monstrous. In fact, they often look like regular people – the person next door, the friendly coworker, or even the charming stranger at the bar.
Now let’s talk about Richard Ramirez, the notorious Night Stalker who terrorized California in the 1980s. To say he was a narcissist is an understatement. He reveled in the attention he received from the media and even enjoyed the nickname they gave him, as if he believed it was some kind of royal title.
Even William Harder, who runs a crime memorabilia site called Murder Auction, paid Ramirez two visits in prison, and claims that the murderer even masturbated in front of him. Not exactly standard behavior.
Ramirez’s reprehensible actions landed him in solitary confinement for most of his prison sentence, and eventually earned him the death penalty for his 13 murders, 5 attempted murders, and 11 sexual assaults.
Despite his abhorrent crimes, Ramirez still managed to garner an unbelievable amount of attention during his incarceration, receiving close to 75 letters. Perhaps the most bizarre example of this was a ‘fan’ of serial killer Richard Ramirez who married him in prison.
However, she ended the relationship in 2009 when DNA evidence proved that he had also murdered a 9-year-old girl in addition to the 13 adults he had already killed. I mean, why did it take her so long to figure out what kind of person she was married to?
Viewers may learn more about Ramirez’s case, including how he was able to win the love of certain women, in the new Netflix docuseries “Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer.” Some others who were present for his trial even caught his flirtatious glances from across the room. Despite the mountain of evidence against him, some women praised Ramirez’s looks and even thought he might be a nice person.
Doreen Lioy, who married Ramirez in prison, famously shared that he was “kind, he’s funny, he’s charming,” and that she believed in him completely. She even went so far as to compare his case to O.J. Simpson’s, insisting that there was more evidence against Simpson than Ramirez.
According to criminologist Dr. Scott Bonn, Ramirez’s “fangirl appeal” had to do with the way he presented himself as dark, mysterious, and brooding, with his sunglasses, dark clothes, and long hair. He was also very verbal and defiant, playing to his audience at every opportunity.
While it’s certainly concerning that anyone would be attracted to someone as heinous as Ramirez, it is also worth considering the role that charisma and public performance can play in such cases.
Last year, Netflix released a bone-chilling series about one of America’s most notorious serial killers – Jeffrey Dahmer. Evan Peters played the infamous murderer, but it wasn’t his portrayal of Dahmer that had people talking. No, it was the disturbing obsession that some viewers developed with this twisted tale.
As I scrolled through my own TikTok feed, I was shocked to see how many women were swooning over Peters and romanticizing the film. Sure, he’s a talented actor, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that he was playing one of history’s most notorious killers.
But as disturbing as Dahmer’s story may be, it’s hard to deny the sheer charisma that allowed him to evade capture for so long. Despite his horrific actions, Dahmer had an incredible ability to talk to people, even in the most stressful of situations, all while remaining calm and persuasive.
Think about it – when a grandma stumbled upon his basement where he had just drugged a man, he didn’t panic, he remained calm and composed. And when multiple people complained about a horrible odor coming from his room, he somehow convinced them to ignore it. He even managed to persuade two police officers that a naked 14-year-old bleeding from various holes was his drunk adult lover.
From a young age, Dahmer was fascinated with animal bones, and it’s no surprise that he constructed a private area to be close to the bones of his victims and to reflect on his crimes. He loved being around dead bodies, and even collected his tools of murder over several months, including 55-gallon drums, strong acid, and power tools to dismember corpses. Needless to say, his scientific approach to murder was chilling, but his charisma was equally terrifying.
Dahmer knew how to lure people around him, how to manipulate them, and ultimately, how to carry out his heinous crimes without getting caught for many months. Even more chilling is the fact that after the Netflix documentary about Dahmer was released, he gained a fanbase. People were drawn to his story, to the sheer horror of it all.
Charles Sobhraj, aka The Serpent, is the ultimate con artist, seducer, robber, and murderer all wrapped into one charming package.
Between 1972 and 1982, Sobhraj was linked to over 20 killings where victims were drugged, strangled, beaten, or burned. Some of his victims were even found wearing bikinis, earning him the gruesome nickname “the Bikini Killer.” He also had a knack for avoiding authorities, earning him the monikers “the Splitting Killer” and “the Serpent.”
There’s no arguing that Sobhraj had some serious charm, despite the fact that many people might recoil at the prospect of such a nasty criminal. He was dubbed “handsome, charming, and completely without scruples,” and he used his charm and slyness to become famous while pursuing his criminal career.
It is hardly surprising that Nihita Biswas, his lawyer’s daughter, also fell under his spell and wed him at age 21 and 64, respectively. She calls his personality “enchanting,” as she puts it.
Sobhraj was convicted and jailed in India from 1976 to 1997. After his release, he retired, promoting his infamy in Paris. But even in retirement, he continued to enjoy his notoriety. He’s been the subject of four biographies, three documentaries, an Indian film titled Main Aur Charles, and the 2021 eight-part BBC/Netflix drama series The Serpent.
But Sobhraj’s past eventually caught up with him. In 2003, he returned to Nepal where he was arrested, tried, and received a life sentence for his crimes. However, on 21 December 2022, the Supreme Court of Nepal ordered his release from prison due to his old age, after he had served 19 of the 20-year sentence. Two days later, on 23 December, he was released and deported to France.
Now, it’s hard not to feel a chill run down your spine when you realize that this slick and smart serial killer is now out on the loose. It’s a terrifying thought, but it’s not entirely impossible. The fact that he’s living in France, a country known for its romantic charm and picturesque streets, only adds to the unease.
Will he return to his old ways, luring in unsuspecting victims with his charming personality and smooth talks?
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