History and the Serial Killer: Deep in the Psyche

  • Helen Gavin (Keynote speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Serial killer. The term evokes many emotions. To most, there is an indefinable fear at the idea that a random stranger runs amok amongst us. To law enforcement officers there is a righteous anger and drive to investigate and apprehend. But to the psychologist there is curiosity and a need to know why serial killers are, well, what they are.
We may be forgiven therefore for thinking that the term serial killer is a modern one. The words might be, but the concept is not. Serial killers have always been with us, and they are a global monstrosity. Folklore contains more references to serial killing than we may be aware, as the stories disguise the monstrosities as alien and supernatural beings, hiding their human nature. Serial killers are not monsters, they are mere people who have done monstrous things. They are not the Wendigo, or the witch, or the vampire, or the Popobawa, or the bunyip. But the fact that each generation of Native American children, European toddlers and African kids are terrorised by them tells us that there is something hidden deep in human psyche that knows there are people who do terrible things.
But is it not more frightening to think that serial killers are simply the same as you or me, save for the pleasure they take in fear and death? Stories may simply be the early form of the modern warnings of stranger danger, spun to bind our families closer to us and safety. In this paper, I will present the evidence for the ancient presence of serial killers and their worldwide ubiquity and explore some of the reasons that set some people aside in the pleasure they take in killing. And killing again…
Period17 Nov 2022
Event titleFraming (Serial) Killing: Changing Narratives
Event typeConference
LocationOnlineShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational