Social Question

zensky's avatar

Would you read a book about a mass-murderer?

Asked by zensky (13272 points ) December 5th, 2012

Dahmer.

The mere mention of his surname usually evokes a feeling of horror and disgust.

My Friend Dahmer, by Derf Backderf, a friend of sorts, is a “graphic memoir, which he worked on for more than a decade. Backderf creates a shockingly recognizable, almost tragic portrait of Dahmer, an alienated kid in a toxic family who wrestled with nightmarish demons and lost” the book critic writes.

I can’t even imagine attempting to read this – despite my love for non-fiction.

Vous?

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112 Answers

livelaughlove21's avatar

First of all, I don’t believe Dahmer was a mass murderer. A serial killer, certainly, but he killed one at a time. Semantics, I know, but I thought I’d point it out.

As for your question, I’d absolutely read it. The more graphic the better. Any non-fiction book that shocks me is entertaining enough to read. My mom is reading this book written by a man in prison about his crimes – he even goes into detail on raping and killing children. Reading it doesn’t mean you get off on such a thing, but it’s undeniably an interesting read.

Dahmer always fascinated me. Gayce too. I’d read any book about them, provided it’s well written. People read gory murder books all the time. Does the fact that it’s a true story make it more sick to read it? Nah.

Mirage's avatar

I might, yes. I did read “The stranger beside me” about Ted Bundy. But he was a serial killer and not a mass murderer. It was highly interesting, yet very frightening.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Sure. Why not? As bad as he was, he was still a figure in the news, and it never hurts to learn more about the disturbed mind.

To some degree, whether I stick with the book will depend on how objective it is. If it is a whitewash that essentially exonerates him (which is how your description appears to read) then I can’t imagine I would finish it.

However, if it’s an honest and objective account, I might very well read it through.

ragingloli's avatar

I am not interested in reading a book about W.

burntbonez's avatar

I might read an article, but not a whole book.

marinelife's avatar

I think that we suffer from a desire to understand monsters. Books like this are ultimately unsatisfying because there is no explanation for their behavior.

Leanne1986's avatar

Yes I’d read it. I find serial killers fascinating and I am intrigued about the mind set of someone who can commit such crimes.

glacial's avatar

I don’t have any sort of code that I use to decide what books to read. I would not go looking for a book about a serial killer, but if a specific book received rave reviews from a number of serious sources, I would be interested. I mean, I haven’t read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, but I would. I also would never have predicted that I’d laugh along with a serial killer in a TV series, but I do enjoy Dexter.

One line I have drawn, however… I’ve deleted Sufjan Stevens’ song John Wayne Gacy Jr. from my iPod (even though I love the album Illinoise), because I find it quite disturbing that a song about a serial killer can be so catchy and sing-along-able.

picante's avatar

The local newspaper’s book section had an extensive review of this book along with an interview with the author. I was quite fascinated, and while I have no particular concern about reading the book, I will not allocate time to this particular endeavor. I did read “In Cold Blood” and found it riveting.

zensky's avatar

Personally, I like the odd serial killer story/movie. Read and watched the Hannibal series…. something about spending money on, giving money to – people connected with a real-life psychopath who caused so much REAL pain and horror – I know this particular author isn’t the killer himself…. still…

AshLeigh's avatar

Dahmer was a serial killer.
Considering my fascination with serial killers, I probably would.
I asked my mom for a copy of the Serial Killer Encyclopedia for Christmas. Haha.
My favorite book is “I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER” by Dan Wells.
I’d read it.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Probably not but only cause I have a really hard time reading non-fiction books.

glacial's avatar

@uberbatman It’s in graphic form. I think you can handle it. :)

Coloma's avatar

Yes. I have always been fascinated with abnormal psychology and why people are and do what they are and do.
I read a book called ” Children who kill ” last year. Tragic and fascinating both.
I lived a few doors down from an infamous serial killer back in the late 70’s.
Richard Trenton Chase, ” The Vampire killer of Sacramento.”

THAT was scary as hell!

zensky's avatar

By the way good people – the dictionary defines mass murder as: the savage and excessive killing of many people. So Dahmer was, indeed, a mass murderer by definition, as well as a serial killer.

bkcunningham's avatar

I love true crime books. Yes, I’d read the book and enjoy it even more it contains photos. I like the photos of the perp and the victims. Not death photos, but photos so I can visualize the story with real faces.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Here’s some food for thought as you discuss Dahmer, berkowitz, et al. http://www.amazon.com/Cereal-Killer-Alan-L-Watson/dp/0972048111

ETpro's avatar

I probably will. I’ve been trying to research what genetic or early psychological precursors shape the sociopathic character of individuals that go on to become destructive cult leaders such as Jim Jones or David Koresh. I’m finding it is a territory largely uncharted by modern psychological research. So I may have to turn to novelists who have reached into their own dark world to guess at what produces the monsters that murder masses.

glacial's avatar

@zensky I’m not sure I agree with that definition. The term “mass murder” does carry the implication that the victims were killed together, in some sense. Dahmer was a serial killer.

wundayatta's avatar

Your question caused me to look up my neighborhood serial killer’s story: Gary Heidnik. I read a bit and got sick. I can’t stomach that shit. I don’t want to know how bad people can be. It’s so inhuman. I know they are sick and maybe schizophrenic or sociopathic, and there’s something wrong with their brains. A lot of them were abused by their fathers, too.

And the police don’t help. No one believes anyone can be that bad. Or maybe the cops are incompetent. It’s not just the person’s problem, though. It’s all of society that breaks down and conspires, unwittingly, to allow this to happen.

mazingerz88's avatar

Are there zombies in it?

bkcunningham's avatar

I use to drive by the kill house in Rockview at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institute when I lived in Bellefonte. I always imagined the fascinating stories that ordinary little house held. That would be a good story. If those walls could talk, @wundayatta. Your boy was the last one to die there.

ucme's avatar

I mean, I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy the bloody thing, but if it were there in front of me, then yeah, i’d read it.
There’s just something about serial murderers that catches my interest & holds it, sure they’re a bunch of deranged maniacs, but to carry out such sordid acts on a mass scale & how they lived their day to day lives apparently without a care in the world, that’s just fascinating.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m in the middle of one….Ted Bundy…..(The Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule.)

KNOWITALL's avatar

Yeah, I read all of them I can. To me their minds are so similar yet different, it’s intriguing.

JLeslie's avatar

Nope.

I might read an overview of his case, but would not want to read specific detail.

Seek's avatar

I have a shelf dedicated to serial killers and mass murderers.

It’s not merely sematics – a mass murderer kills lots of people, a serial killer is particular about the victim and/or the method used.

I also listen to bands that write music based on serial killers – Macabre, Church of Misery, etc.

A couple of years ago I learned I lived just off the main road that Aileen Wuornos used to pick up some of the johns she killed. That was pretty neat.

gasman's avatar

I enjoyed reading The Devil in the White City, a bestseller by Erik Larson. It interweaves stories of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with the doings of a mass murderer, who killed “scores” (exact number unknown) of victims, mostly single young women, around the same time and place as the fair. Maybe it helps that I’m from Chicago.

flutherother's avatar

I read Brian Masters book on Dahmer which was well researched and very insightful. I don’t think I’ll read the book you mention though I am fascinated by serial killers in general. They are all interesting to me.

Jeruba's avatar

Do you consider Jim Jones a mass murderer? I’ve read several biographies, narrative accounts of the People’s Temple story, and memoirs of survivors of the Jonestown massacre.

What people can be induced to believe and led to do because of their beliefs fascinates me, and I have read fairly widely on this subject, from studies of destructive cults to analyses of everyday irrational beliefs to Richard Dawkins on religion. So my interest is from the social-psychological-religious side and not from the crime-and-violence side. The violence is an extreme act that gives evidence of the power of the belief.

However, I did also recently read this book written by a mobster’s son. Hearing an interview with the son on public radio, I was attracted by the account of his inner conflict between family loyalty and his revulsion for his father’s acts.

So maybe I would read the Dahmer book, if I thought, after reading reviews, that it would give some insight into the killer’s mental state and thought process.

But I would not read it at bedtime.

ucme's avatar

A serial killer is officially defined as someone who kills three or more victims, I wonder if any maniacs who originally intended to slay just two, murder a random third just to bag the title.

Bellatrix's avatar

Absolutely I would read it. I am interested in what makes people like Dahmer tick. What sort of childhood did they have, how do they relate to people they don’t choose to kill and how did those people not pick up on their friend/relative’s behaviour? So many questions. Ghoulish – yes probably but still fascinating to me.

ucme's avatar

It’s strange the way some people look if you buy a magazine on this subject, it’s like the seedy porn mag guy, some folks got no brains.

zensky's avatar

@glacial Here is the definition from yet another respected dictionary – Cambridge.

How can one not like a definition?

May as well object to any word in the language. It’s a word, the dictionary defines it. Mass means a lot murder means to kill. Yes, genocide comes to mind – but as Jeruba asked; is the Jones massacre mass murder?

ucme's avatar

Mass murders can certainly occupy many months, years even, consider evil regimes, Stalin/Pol Pot/Darth Vader.

tranquilsea's avatar

I go through periods where I am interested in what makes people do terrible things. I’ve read a bunch of books on various serial killers and various tyrannical leaders (who are the true mass killers). I try to figure out what makes them tick.

Shippy's avatar

For some reason Dahmer’s story touched me. The fact that he never wanted people to leave him, so he ate them. I find that so sad. While dismembering his first body, he drank copious amounts of alcohol and cried all the way through. But I do realize you used Dahmer as an example.

I watch a lot of Documentaries on serial killers or murderers, since I find them so interesting. Particularly for example, women who murder their own children, or adult children who murder their parents. The topic fascinates me, on loads of levels. Probably because of lack of internal controls, loss of inhibition, no external regulators, lack of conscious etc., . I like to see how that happened.; The deconstruction or erosion of their own Super Ego. The lack of filtering in terms of right and wrong.

How did they integrate into society for so long?. Did they have relationships?, all these are of interest to me. Then the final outcome the legal evidence, forensic science and how it is used today, and how it failed us in the past. Plus the resultant Science of Profiling and how it works or not.

glacial's avatar

@zensky Yes… but in your definition, mass murder is described as one act. I don’t think Dahmer’s murders could be described as a single act.

I hate to resort to Wikipedia, but it does a good job of distinguishing one from the other.

I would classify the Jonestown killings as a mass murder. I would not call any of these examples genocide, which has a racial or nationalist implication.

zensky's avatar

Where does it say in a single act. You can’t take a respected definition of a term and deicde which parts to use. That is not language, communication nor linguistics and etymology. I gave you proper dictionary definitions and you give me an article in Wiki?

glacial's avatar

“The act” = a single act

ucme's avatar

Most serial killers strike at breakfast time, cereal kille…......well someone had to say it & that someone was me!

zensky's avatar

There goes the thread. It was fun, though.

ucme's avatar

You sound like my old needlework teacher, I made a tapestry of a beautiful swan & she thought it was a dinosaur…..a fucking dinosaur!?!

zensky's avatar

I happen to be a needlework teacher. We prefer the term instructor.

glacial's avatar

Never say die, @zensky!

Seek's avatar

I think of it as a rectangle/square situation. A serial killer can definitely be a mass murderer. A mass murderer is not necessarily a serial killer.

What bugs me is when people call mass murderers serial killers. The Columbine kids were mass murderers, not serial killers. There is a method to the acts of serial killers – they’re a special breed of crazy.

jaytkay's avatar

@Jeruba However, I did also recently read this book written by a mobster’s son. Hearing an interview with the son on public radio, I was attracted by the account of his inner conflict between family loyalty and his revulsion for his father’s acts

I sat in the courtroom for some of the son’s testimony and also when the victims’ families were allowed to speak (I worked in the Federal courthouse at the time). The convicted father was lucky the US Marshals kept order, I don’t think he would have made it out of the room alive otherwise.

And back on topic, I also enjoyed The Devil in the White City.

I don’t (can’t, really) go to horror movies or read horror fiction.

But the fact that the book is [mostly] historical makes it interesting to me. The scheme was so incredibly elaborate – if it were fiction it would be preposterous. And yet it happened a few miles from where I sit right now.

zensky's avatar

Now we’ve become Imgur.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

Yes, and no. I don’t read trashy, breathless mass-murderer-of-the-moment books from the “True Crime” section at the bookstores. But I have read a few of the “classics” in the genre, such as the seminal In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and like @gasman, I thoroughly enjoyed The Devil in the White City (which I recommend regardless of its topic; it’s a great synthesis of history and fiction). I’ve seen good reviews for David King’s Death in the City of Light, so I may pick that up eventually.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am not by nature a scary type person, but reading that sort of book gives me bad dreams and makes me keep looking behind me when I walk alone. In a nearby city there is a guy on the loose who attacks women, he is up to 8 that have been reported, not murder but sexual assaults. Old people attacked in their homes for a couple of bucks. I have always been in favor of gun control but these days I think more and more that I would feel safer if I had one. Although I have just finished reading Silence of the Lambs. It is amazing that people can be that unhuman, it has to be more than the fact they were spanked or had a bad childhood. If that were indeed the cause, then there would be a lot more than there are.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Check this out…as I said, I’m finishing up a book about Ted Bundy. I’m to the part where he’s been convicted and sentenced to die. In the Spring of 1986… “One week before the (execution) date listed on on his…. death warrant, the lights will dim in Raiford (Florida)—as the chair is tested. That is not a macabre prank; that really happened.” Pg 535, The Stranger Beside Me.
Talk about creeps…..

zensky's avatar

Wait – no spoilers.

Seek's avatar

@Dutchess_III He was filming an interview at the time. You can watch the lights flicker as he’s talking. It’s pretty freaky.

Paradox25's avatar

I’ve read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi (the actual prosecutor in that case) and The Family by Ed Sanders, pertaining to the Charles Manson cult. The latter book was an updated version since it was was written in the late 1980’s. I suppose you could call the Manson family mass murderers, but most other books I’ve read were about serial killers.

tanja90's avatar

i’ve read a book about belle gunnes who was a serial killer it’s a good book but then again it’s a true story.. but maybe you would like it?
and also there will come a book about the massmurderer anders bering breivik who killed 70 people here in norway, and most of the victims where young adults from 13 to 17…

ETpro's avatar

I’m reading Helter Skelter right now. So far, it’s a gripping story.

Dutchess_III's avatar

…..................sad…...........

JenniferP's avatar

I read a book years ago about Dahmer (he’s a serial killer-not a mass murderer). I used to like books like that but now I am religious and wouldn’t. They are interesting but I don’t want to think about things like that.

Seek's avatar

Why would being religious prevent you from enjoying a book?

ucme's avatar

Unless the book was holy, who tore these into the pages then eh…who, who?

JenniferP's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Being religious prevents me from participating in entertainment that isn’t upbuilding.

JenniferP's avatar

I read books all the time. If I choose to put limits on my entertainment that is my prerogative. Why should anyone care what I choose to read.

Seek's avatar

You offered the information, and I found it odd. I just wanted to know why. Personally, I’m just happy when people read, whatever it is.

JenniferP's avatar

@kolinahr-I don’t care if you find it odd or not. I wanted people to know that I don’t read books like that now. I don’t think that people should scrutinize others for their choices or for everything that they say. There are enough real issues on this site to debate about, that I think insignificant things should just be ignored.

He asked a question: “Would you read a book like that?” I answered it. I said that no, I wouldn’t because I don’t choose to focus on morbid things. However, I acknowledged in the past, when I had fallen away from my religion, I had read a book about Dahmer.

What works for me, may not work for you, and you can pick your own belief system and reading material. When a question is actually put out about religion, we can debate about it. I only mentioned my religion as a side note.

Seek's avatar

I wanted people to know that I don’t read books like that now.

And I wondered what brought you to that decision. I made no assumptions and I did not judge, nor did I make any derogatory comment toward you or your decision or posit an argument against your decision. I just wondered why. No need to be all defensive. If you were offput by the word “odd”, I simply meant that I had never heard of someone changing their preferred reading style because of a religion. I’ve heard of people going from Harlequin to Christian romance novels (as an example), but they’re still enjoying the same styles.

zensky's avatar

(Not a Mod says) Flame off girls.

;-)

JenniferP's avatar

I am probably defensive because of that other debate and then your finding fault here. Everybody knows that people change their entertainment when they become religious if it needs to be changed. That is obvious.

Seek's avatar

What fault? What the hell did I say that set you off? I really can’t figure it out!

JenniferP's avatar

Because I had made an innocent comment on reading a book about Dahmer when I was younger but that I wouldn’t now because I am religious and it is too dark for my tastes now. It was a harmless comment and it needed no clarification. Even though I gave my reasons why I wouldn’t read it now, you said “Why should being religious prevent you from reading a book?” Did I say being religious would stop me from reading a book? No. I said “that” particular book. I probably wouldn’t have got so defensive but you and I had just come from a recent religious debate and I felt you were using that to continue it. That is all I have to say on the subject.

Seek's avatar

You didn’t mention it was too dark for your tastes. You said you could no longer enjoy it because you are religious. I was unsure whether it was a personal choice of taste or if you had somehow been instructed to give up reading such material.

I do not, as a rule, drag debates from one thread to another. How could anyone keep track of their discussions if they did so? It was an innocent question, and I apologise if it was somehow offensive to you.

JenniferP's avatar

That’s okay. You have pretty red hair, btw.

Seek's avatar

Thanks!

zensky's avatar

Damn. I was getting ready for some mud wrestling.

Seek's avatar

That would be terribly illogical. Physical altercation has never solved a philosophical difference.

zensky's avatar

Jello?

Seek's avatar

I could do Jello.

JenniferP's avatar

Sorry, I have never mud wrestled or had any physical altercation of any sort. You won’t see me ripping any of her red hair out. Lol. But red heads are supposed to have tempers so I am glad I am not face to face.

wundayatta's avatar

Lime jello? I would watch if it was lime jello. Hell. I’d participate if it was LIME jello!

JenniferP's avatar

Instead of jello fights, why don’t we all get together and sing Kumbaya?

wundayatta's avatar

Kumbaya and jello, and I’m in! Doesn’t even have to be lime.

zensky's avatar

I don’t think I’ve ever had lime jello. In fact, I don’t recall tha last time I saw jello. Maybe we should get a jello start up going here…

If we’re on snack and junk food – I am partial to pop tarts – which are also not sold here…

JenniferP's avatar

She wears glasses and it is considered dirty fighting to hit a person with glasses so I am sorry. it is not going to happen. Go eat your pop tarts.

zensky's avatar

You know you want one.

Bellatrix's avatar

I can donate some lime aeroplane jelly if that will help?

zensky's avatar

I’m flagging your last comment.

Bellatrix's avatar

:D Flag away.

Seek's avatar

I’ll totally take my glasses off. Also, it’s only smart to wrestle topless.

flutherother's avatar

Putting glasses on.

zensky's avatar

Yay boobies!

JenniferP's avatar

Time to change the subject. I am from Wisconsin (Dahmer was from Milwaukee). I knew the aunt of one of his victims. The kid ran away and ended up in Milwaukee and you can guess the rest.

Also Ed Gein was from Plainfield, Wisconsin. You probably know that he is the one that the movie Psycho is based on. He dug up graves and made lampshades from body parts. My husband and I drove through Plainfield and stopped at a rummage sale. The people there told us things about people they knew that were relatives of the victim.

You better watch out for us Wisconsinites. There is something about this area that spawns serial killers.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OMG! Fluther! You guys did it again! Went from mass murderers to lime jello, Kumbiya and Boobies! I don’t understand why no one brought up Bob and samwiches! .... Remember the days when the mods would come in and say, “Don’t get off the subject, you bad jellies!”

JenniferP's avatar

Do the mods not get as involved anymore?

zensky's avatar

Guys: it’s in social so it could’ve gone off track instantly. It’s two weeks and 100 posts into the thread. This could become the Disney thread. But if you’d like to discuss Dahmer some more – feel free.

Bellatrix's avatar

Unless you start fighting with other the moderation team will pretty much let you go in Social. You are allowed to go off track here. In General, you must stay on topic @JenniferP.

zensky's avatar

I think @JenniferP ‘s problem is that she always stays on track. JK.

Bellatrix's avatar

^ Edit: With each other. Missed the window again.

zensky's avatar

Did you walk into the plate glass door again?

Bellatrix's avatar

Yup. Have you seen that ad with the crows. Funny as. I will have to see if I can find it. Has nothing to do with old age though!

zensky's avatar

Youtube link? Our TV is very different from yours.

zensky's avatar

The amazing thing is that they are probably capable of that stunt being such brilliant fowl.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JenniferP Once upon a time they didn’t have a “social” section. All questions were considered general, and all questions were to be treated with the utmost seriousness…NO LAUGHING ALLOWED!!! We got away with as much giggling as we could, acting like little kids trying to get over on their parents! Then they invented the Social section where we could go play. :)

Seek's avatar

@JenniferP – I’ll see your Wisconsin and raise you Florida.

I used to live on the road Aileen Wournos hooked her johns on.

Here is a fun slideshow that shows all the multiple murderers (I’m slow to actually use the term “serial killer” for obvious reasons) who killed in Florida since 1980.

JenniferP's avatar

@kolinahr-I have you topped because I have lived both in Florida and in Wisconsin. And the apartment complex I lived in (Runaway Bay) was the scene of a horrific murder. A man (who ironically lived in Green Bay at one time, where I am from) killed a mother and her daughter there.

Seek's avatar

Well, I’m originally from New York. Albert Fish, bitches.

ragingloli's avatar

@JenniferP
And I beat both of you, because I live in Germany, where 17 million people were murdered during the holocaust.

Seek's avatar

And @zensky wins, because he’s in Isreal, and in the Bible….

ragingloli's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr
Only real events count.

Seek's avatar

Ha ha. Fair enough. ^_^

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was born in Texas.

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