Serial Romance

Romanticizing serial killers has become a dangerous problem online and in modern society.

Abby Werenka, Staff Reporter

Murderer. Assaulter. Rapist. All ways to describe notorious serial killers such as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Ed Gein. Anyone in their right mind would want to avoid criminals like these at all costs. But for some, these are all qualities that they can look past in a romantic partner. In recent times, aided with the help of the internet, some of the most malicious criminals are getting star treatment, with some people going so far as to create fandoms and fan art dedicated to them. This rare paraphilia, or abnormal sexual desire is known as hybristophilia, which is characterized by one’s attraction to those who commit crimes. Despite the sometimes horrific nature of crimes, this does not deter people from writing to serial killers in jail, who fantasize about having a romantic relationship with them.
This is not a new phenomenon. Throughout his trial and time in prison during the late 80’s and 90’s, Richard Ramirez, who would come to be known as the “Night Stalker,” received hundreds of letters from women interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with him, despite the fact that he committed at least 13 murders, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries. One woman, Doreen Lioy, wrote to him more than 75 times and frequently visited him, eventually marrying the notorious killer while he was serving his sentence in California’s San Quentin State Prison. Like the other “groupies,” as they’ve come to be known, Lioy did not believe Ramirez to be guilty, despite the massive amount of evidence that proved otherwise.
Similarly, today, Chris Watts, the man who confessed to coldly murdering his entire family in 2018, still receives love letters in prison, often adorned with hearts and messages such as “#TeamChris” and “#ChrisIsInnocent.” In one letter, written by a woman named Tatiana, she offers her support to the family annihilator, writing “If there is anything I can do for you, big or small, please don’t hesitate to ask. Please know there are strangers out there (like me) who care about you.” In another letter, a woman named Candace states that she would be “the happiest girl alive” if he were to respond.
Due to the heartbreaking nature of the Watts case, interest in the case skyrocketed among true crime fans online. Most people can’t understand how a man with an ideal life and “perfect American family” could end all of their lives, one right after the other in the same night, and dispose of their bodies in the same field he worked at almost every day. Chris Watts is rightfully seen as a monster, and yet women still write to him in prison in the hopes of a relationship while he serves his five consecutive life sentences. The irony of wanting this man as a partner is that he cheated on his wife. It is believed that his affair with mistress Nichol Kessinger is what drove him to kill his pregnant wife and two little girls. A lot of the women who write to Watts place the blame on his wife, Shannan, as if she holds responsibility for her death at the hands of the man who was supposed to love her and their children. To these women, he was justified in his actions. The brutality of his crimes don’t deter them from pursuing a monster for romance.
Little is known about this paraphilia, but it occurs more frequently in women than in men. Junior Avery Gaydash commented, “It’s a weird concept. I feel like they find it attractive because [the killers] have power.”
In fact, some psychologists agree, suggesting that some women equate the forcefulness and aggression displayed by serial killers to an ideal form of masculinity, and combined with their looks, find it to be very attractive. Oftentimes, these are everyday people who have these attractions. Most of them have never even met the people they write to or admire. Online, especially with the rise of true crime content on streaming services, there has been a significant increase in people romanticizing these criminals. In the dark corners of the internet, there’s a so-called ‘Columbine Fandom’ dedicated to the perpetrators of the 1999 school shooting that claimed the lives of 13 people. This has been a cause for concern, because if people are idolizing these individuals and dismissing their crimes, there may be potential for copycat threats or attacks.
Senior Mahathi Upparapalle notes that this behavior may even encourage criminal acts, increasing the potential for people to become victims. “Most serial killers go after [vulnerable] girls, especially those who are motivated by pleasure in killing someone,” she said. Future killers seeking notoriety could easily target a person like that, someone putting themselves in the position of vulnerability.
Romanticizing serial killers is not something that society should take lightly, whether it be in entertainment or on random forums online. Killers are in prison for a reason, and their actions should not be celebrated or dismissed. No matter how handsome or charming a criminal is, they are exactly that, a criminal. Their actions have destroyed lives and traumatized survivors and relatives of victims. It’s disrespectful, and downright dangerous.