I watched two serialised documentaries recently about killers John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy. You have probably heard these names. All my adult life these two have melted like two snowflakes into a cold landscape of cruel, largely, useless murderers. The pages of this site are full of unsolved cases where there are victims like the ones these two destroyed. Gacy and Bundy are not special, they were just prominent and well documented.
The ones who took the lives of those we write about largely scuttle around in the shadows like cockroaches. Many of them must jump at the idea that the light may one day shine on them. Some, I guess, will be bold and involved in the community like Dennis Rader (BTK), others will be drifting and shuffling in squalid isolation.
Netflix ran their documentaries based on the tapes of interviews with Gacy and Bundy. At the end of the Bundy presentation he makes the comment about us not being able to tell who people like him are until it is too late. Maybe he is right. What he and others do provide us with, probably the only useful thing they can, is an insight into how they kill. How they identify their victims and exactly how they access them.
Gacy cruised around a bus station, he offered work to young men who were down on their luck. He would take them home, get them off their guard, get them drinking and then incapacitate them. Sometimes he used chloroform, other times he would make a game out of handcuffs. Get them isolated, get them relaxed and then strike.
Bundy was more of a chameleon. He used different guises to relax his target. He pretended to have a busted arm and asked for help loading and ( presumably) unloading a sail boat, he pretended to be a cop and he snuck into students halls of residence in the dead of night.
So what could the victims have changed that would have prevented them from being a victim? That for me is more a question of relevance than whatever Bundy had to say. We probably will never be in a position to identify inadequate little boys who grow up to be hateful inadequate adults. We can look at our environment as we roll through life with critical eyes to identify risk. Maybe by looking under the surface of the myth of Gacy and Bundy we can guard ourselves and those we love.
One lesson we could take from Gacy’s deluded belief in how clever he was is something that I learned long ago. Young men are vulnerable to sexual assault even if the culture they live in says they are not. Until they develop physically in their late teens and early twenties they are not normally a match for a mature male when it comes to strength. They will be more likely to enthusiastically accept alcohol they don’t have to pay for and they may also over estimate their worldly knowledge. The latter factor is the worst of all of them in many ways. Combine that with some bravado and young men will let themselves become isolated with an attacker away from the world.
Most will not die and many will live with mental torment throughout their lives without telling anyone.
These few words are not a call to go to counselling, though that is probably a good idea. These few words are suggesting we have honest discussions using the testament of morons like Gacy and Bundy. Our safety from the faceless clones like these two can only be enhanced by us. They will never try and keep you safe and our world is so full of people authorities cannot really ensure any security. No disrespect to them ( I was part of it). The simple reality is the law is much better at clearing up the mess after the fact than preventing it happening in the first place.
We should be truthful about the risks and the things we may do to deny killers any ease in what they do. In that at least, those documentaries have merit and are worth a watch.