True crime: a fascination with psychology
February 3, 2020
Serial killers, chilling acts, scams, and unsolved mysteries—these are just a few of the topics featured in the true crime genre, captivating viewers from around the world. What makes true crime so fascinating? A common thread seems to be the sheer novelty.
“It seems so incredibly removed from my life and what I experience. It can be kind of gross sometimes, and obviously, it’s usually awful, but it’s just really interesting,” junior Gracie Tilney-Kaemmer said.
Senior Lauren Dieperink shared similar thoughts.
“It’s so different from anything that’s normal,” she said.
Another aspect stems from a desire to delve into and attempt to understand the minds of people who deviate from the norm by committing heinous acts. It’s a contradictory attraction to repelling subjects.
“I’ve always been super fascinated with the brain and how people think, and when people think incorrectly in terms of our society, that’s super interesting to me,” senior Sydney Therien said.
Dieperink explained some of the factors that may influence criminals to do the things they do.
“A lot of times, a common theme is head trauma or, obviously, abusive families growing up. There’s different things that attribute to how murderers work,” she said.
The media through which people consume true crime stories also contribute to its growing audience, often interspersed with humor to balance serious topics. Podcasts like “My Favorite Murder” by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark have helped popularize the true crime genre by sharing thrilling stories in each episode, topped with a sprinkle of comedy to lighten the mood, resulting in memorable quotes such as: “Stay sexy and don’t get murdered.” Dieperink and Tilney-Kaemmer are both big fans of the show.
Other forms of true crime media include YouTube series and Netflix shows. Therien enjoys “Buzzfeed Unsolved” in which hosts Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej discuss famous unsolved mysteries. On Mondays, Dieperink watches YouTuber Bailey Sarian do her makeup while telling a true crime story. She also enjoyed the Netflix documentary “The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann,” exploring the circumstances around a child who has been missing for nearly thirteen years.
When asked about their favorite cases, Dieperink, Tilney-Kaemmer, and Therien produced a variety of answers, from creatures to confessions.
“I think cannibals are super interesting and [so are] people who think they’re vampires and drink blood, because it’s so far out of the realm of what’s normal,” Dieperink said.
As for Tilney-Kaemmer, her preferences dipped slightly toward the supernatural with Mothman.
“Basically, four different people in this one town, Point Pleasant, West Virginia, reported seeing this six-foot-tall man-like being with giant wings and red eyes. They named him Mothman and I just think that’s really funny. Also, it would be terrifying to see it in real life,” she said.
Therien was captivated by the Confession Killer, a man who confessed to over three hundred crimes that he most likely didn’t commit—a fact that the Texas Rangers, the main investigative team, tried to cover up.
“This guy gets brought in because he killed his mom and maybe his girlfriend. The Texas Rangers are like, ‘We got you. Did you kill this third person?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah.’ They ask, ‘Did you kill this fourth person?’ He says, ‘Yeah.’ Fifth, sixth, seventh—he gets super carried away,” Therien said. “Eventually it spirals into him traveling across the states on this murdering rampage, just killing all these women, and it’s really crazy. Everybody just goes with it.”
Not everyone can stomach true crime stories like the ones above, but Therien sums up why she thinks so many do.
“It’s just so fun, in a weird, grotesque way, to hear about how people are messed up,” Therien said.