4 Famous Killers Everyone Gets Wrong
Our culture is fascinated by serial killers; we watch documentaries and movies about them, we read books about them, we listen to podcasts about them, and if we were so inclined, there's likely a subreddit or two dedicated to them.
So it's kinda weird, then, that when it comes to some of the most famous murderers in history, we don't know a single thing about them ...
"Ted Bundy Was a Charmer" is a Myth Invented By Ted Bundy
For all the attention that the true crime genre pays to Ted Bundy's looks and personality, you'd think that he was a raging himbo with muscles for days and lovemaking skills that could put Casanova to shame. The idea of Ted Bundy: Sex Adonis is how we got movies like Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Bundy is deliberately cast with ex-teen heartthrob Zac Efron and is portrayed as a smirking, cocky, charismatic, panty-dropping asshole. A little a scamp who dabbles in *squints*... murdering women.
It's an image that just won't die but really needs to, considering that it was created by Bundy himself, in a desperate attempt to wiggle out of his numerous, horrific crimes. By all accounts, the real Bundy was a creepy nobody: a petty thief and peeping tom, who hung around in porn shops, regularly drank himself into an alcoholic stupor, dropped out of college, and couldn't maintain a relationship. After benign captured, he would monologue for hours about himself and his crimes and why he turned to a life of crime -- often in the third-person because he was so insufferably tiresome.
It was only when he entered the courtroom that Ted Bundy: Respectful Boyfriend appeared. He became playful and put on the charm, nice suits, coiffed hair, and bantered with attorneys, jurors, and the judge. He was the exact same cocky asshole you see in, like, 90% of TV shows about a sexy genius doctor/lawyer/plumber -- but it was all a smokescreen intended to make himself seem less ghoulish than his crimes.
It was a line that the press indeed fell for, hook, line, and sinker. Much of their coverage described him as a skilled orator who deployed his law school credentials with the same deftness that a bar-accredited lawyer would. But according to court records, he was a fiery wreck who repeatedly became flustered and frustrated, and was even held in contempt. We'd say that those law school credentials weren't worth shit, but that might be down to the fact that he didn't have any because he dropped out. It's a fact that the journos might have discovered if they'd done some work into staring into his deep, mysterious eyes and hoping that they, too, could be murdered by him in a parking lot.
The fact of the matter is, Ted Bundy was many things, but a simple idiot wasn't one of them. He knew that if he behaved respectfully, leveraged his whiteness, and didn't read as "fiendish," people would be more lenient with him ... which enabled him not just to escape from his first trial and kill three more people, including a 12-year-old girl, but receive condolences from the judge who finally sentenced him to the electric chair.
"It's a tragedy to see such a total waste, I think, of humanity that I have experienced in this court. You're a bright young man [...] but you went another way, partner. Take care of yourself. I don't have any animosity to you, I want you to know that."
H.H. Holmes Didn't Have a "Murder Castle"
In 1893, the World's Fair came to Chicago and in much the same way that hotels and businesses spring up to take advantage of events like the Olympics. A local businessman named Herman Webster Mudgett decided to make some fat stacks by opening up a three-story hotel to accommodate locals and visitors alike.
But it wasn't just any hotel, however. Consumed by greed and bloodlust, Mudgett -- now going by the name, H.H. Holmes -- constructed a hotel with endless hidden rooms, which he converted into soundproofed torture (and gas) chambers where Holmes could satisfy his bloodlust before sending their bodies to a basement crematorium using a special chute. After Holmes was caught by police in 1894, he confessed to having murdered 27 people in what the media called his "murder castle" -- although contemporary reports suggested that the death toll could be anywhere as high as 200 victims.
Or at least, so the legend goes. In reality, much of what we know about Holmes' murder spree is fake news, invented by the media to drive their newspapers' sales among bloodhorny readers.
Take that death toll, for instance. When captured, Holmes confessed to 27 murders to the police. But at his trial, this figure was found to be pure fantasy; several of the people he confessed to murdering were still alive, which must've been quite the shock for them. Police and authorities could only confirm (at most) nine murders. Throughout his imprisonment, Holmes was also a textbook fantasist, who spun lies and bullshit for attention -- first claiming that he was innocent, then claiming that he was possessed by the devil, to confessing to more murders than he ever accomplished.
If you're hoping that these murders took place in a "murder castle," by the way, have we got bad news for you. While it's true that Holmes owned a three-story building ...
... it wasn't a hotel. The ground floor comprised storefronts, while the first floor was apartments (meaning that we can add "shitty landlord" to his list of crimes). The second floor was an unfinished hotel -- which Adam Selzer (author of H.H. Holmes: The True History of the White City Devil) suggests was most likely "just a vehicle to swindle suppliers and investors and insurers." (Holmes was a better fraudster and conman than he was a murderer, and was named in over fifty lawsuits in Chicago alone.)
The idea of a "murder castle" emerged from lurid stories published by the press. There's no evidence of torture rooms or gas chambers or crocodile pits or whatever, not least because the entire hotel was searched by police after his arrest. The only thing that rang true was the 'chute' thing ... and that's only because many homes and businesses in those days had, dun dun dunnn, laundry chutes running down into their basements. The titular home in Home Alone had one, which by this metric, means that Kevin McAllister was a mad torture fie-- okay, bad example, but you get our point.
John Wayne Gacy Wasn't a "Killer Clown"
In a 2016 survey by Vox, 42 percent of Americans admitted that they suffered from some form of coulrophobia, a fear of clowns. This is understandable considering not just the number of evil clowns in popular culture, but the terrifying story behind the real-life evil clown, John Wayne Gacy, aka: 'The Killer Clown,' who when he wasn't masquerading as children's party clown, murdered dozens of people.
While Gacy's story brings to mind a psychotic lunatic pulling off a Great Value-Pennywise murderthon disguised in greasepaint and a giant honking red nose, there's no evidence that Gacy ever murdered anyone while dressed in his clown get-up. Clown was a side-gig, murder was his passion. As Rachel Penman, of the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, said, "When he was creepy and going to kill you was when he was dressed normally."
Honestly, we're not sure that's as comforting-a sentiment as she thinks.
Pulse Wasn't Chosen As A Target Because It Was A Gay Club
On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire on its patrons with a semi-automatic rifle -- an attack which killed 49 people and wounded 53. In the aftermath of the attack, it was determined that Mateen was a firm follower of ISIS, a point he made clear in two phone calls. The first was to 911 before the massacre in which he declared loyalty to the group, and the second was to a hostage negotiator who said he wanted the U.S. to "stop bombing his country." (Mateen was born in NYC.)
There was also another reason that spread as to why to he chose Pulse: because he wanted to commit "a homophobic hate crime," which tracks considering ISIS' long, storied history of persecuting gay people. There was even talk that Mateen was a closeted gay man who, according to one journalist, committed mass murder because he was likely "trying to reconcile his inner feelings with his strongly homophobic culture." It was something that Dave Chappelle joked about on Saturday Night Live later that year:
There are just one or two problems with this narrative, however.
Firstly, there's no evidence that Mateen was gay (closeted or otherwise). When investigators scoured his electronic devices, they found nothing "to support claims [that] Mateen had gay lovers or communicated on gay dating apps." What investigators did find (alongside his daily searches for stories about ISIS) was many searches for porn involving older women, alongside two women with whom Mateen was having extra-marital affairs.
Secondly, although there's strong evidence that Mareen was a homophobe, he didn't specifically target Pulse because he hated gay people. According to investigators, his original targets were Disney Springs, a shopping and entertainment complex at WDW, and the nightclub EVE Orlando. After finding that both places had heavy, visible security, Mateen chose Pulse at random after searching on the internet for nearby downtown nightclubs. He was apparently oblivious enough about Pulse being a gay club to the point where moments before opening fire, Mateen earnestly asked a security guard where all the women were at.
This doesn't make it any less tragic; if anything the stupid chaotic randomness just makes it sadder.
Top Image: Netflix