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Killer among us : public reactions to serial murder

by Fisher, Joseph C.

Format: Print Book 1997
Availability: Available at 1 Library 1 of 1 copy
Available (1)
Location Collection Call #
Carnegie Library of McKeesport Nonfiction 364.1523 F534
Location  Carnegie Library of McKeesport
 
Collection  Nonfiction
 
Call Number  364.1523 F534
 
 
Summary

What effects does the presence of a serial killer have on the collective health of a community? What strategies do people adopt to manage the fear and anxiety that accompany news of a serial killer's predations? And why do citizens and the media respond as they do to serial killers, who usually account for only a small portion of the homicides in the communities in which they are active? ^IKiller Among Us^R examines serial murder from this fresh perspective: an exploration of the ways people react when a killer is at large in their community. Drawing on 19th-century tabloid accounts of the predations of Jack the Ripper and on 20th-century media coverage of such villains as The Son of Sam and Jeffrey Dahmer, the author constructs vivid and provocative retellings of many of the most infamous cases of serial murder.

In 1973, teenage girls began disappearing from Folly Beach, a small town on a barrier island in South Carolina. Initially thought by police to be a spate of runaways, the real story emerged when a police officer on patrol heard a cry for help and found three girls bound and gagged in an abandoned beach cottage. Further investigation turned up bodies buried in the dunes nearby. The police reacted quickly and closed off the only bridge to the mainland, thereby trapping the townspeople with the certain knowledge that one among them was a serial killer. Everyone became a suspect, as neighbor turned against neighbor in an atmosphere of rapidly growing hysteria.

What effects does the presence of a serial killer have on the collective health of a community? What strategies do people adopt to manage the fear and anxiety that accompany news of a serial killer's predations? And why do citizens and the media respond as they do to serial killers, who usually account for only a small portion of the homicides in the communities in which they are active? Killer Among Us addresses these questions by examining serial murder from this fresh perspective: an exploration of the ways people react when a killer is at large in their community. Drawing on 19th-century tabloid accounts of the predations of Jack the Ripper and on 20th-century media coverage of such villains as The Son of Sam and Jeffrey Dahmer, the author constructs vivid and provocative retellings of many of the most infamous cases of serial murder.

Published Reviews
Publisher's Weekly Review: ""Between 1968 and 1974, I had the dubious distinction of living in two communities that were threatened by serial killers." So begins this rigorous report by Fisher, a criminologist with a flair for archival research, on the ways in which communities respond to the trauma of serial killings. The killers profiled range from well-known figures like Jack the Ripper and Jeffrey Dahmer to more obscure ones like John Norman Collins, who murdered several young woman in Ypsilanti, Mich., in the late 1960s. The first killings Fisher covers were perpetrated by Richard Raymond Valenti, who slew three teenage girls in Folly Beach, S.C., between 1973 and 1974. This case becomes the book's prototype, illustrating the four stages that, according to Fisher, a community goes through when subjected to serial murder: anger at betrayal of the social contract; search for rational and scientific explanations; appeals to the supernatural; community-wide suspicion and self-hatred. Each case study further illuminates these stages, as Fisher effectively uses "contemporary newspaper reports as a window... to observe and recapture the thoughts, feelings, and actions of each community studied." Along the way, Fisher debunks some stereotypical notions about serial murder investigations, including the value of complicated personality profiles and of psychic investigators in apprehending the guilty. According to Fisher's research, serial killers are almost always caught by simple police work or by accident. Though Fisher's writing is dry at times, and his method overly schematic, he presents a wealth of information and, especially in his coverage of the Son of Sam investigation, offers a mildly satirical look at "the bond of mutual exploitation" created among the public, the authorities, the killer and the press¬Ďa bond, he suggests, that may excite the killer, desperate for media attention, to strike again. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Serial murders -- United States.
Victims of crimes -- United States -- Attitudes.
Violent crimes -- Psychological aspects.
Publisher Westport, Conn. :Praeger,1997
Language English
Description xvi, 236 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages [229]-230) and index.
ISBN 0275955583 (alk. paper)
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