Why Are We So Fascinated By Serial Killers? A Psychologist Explains

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As more of the details emerge about the life of accused Gilgo Beach serial killer Rex Heuermann, people may pause and ask: is it “normal” to be so fascinated by a character this creepy and evil? Dr Gail Saltz, professor of psychology at New York Presbyterian Hospital, says yes, it is. Speaking on 710 WOR’s Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning program, Dr. Saltz says it is perfectly normal to want to take a glimpse into the life of someone or something so gruesome.

“You might not want to actually do something sadistic,” Dr. Saltz cautioned Berman and Riedel, “but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have interest and thoughts about it, and peeking in at somebody else doing it feels socially acceptable… We do have a fascination with pretty grim and grisly stories; doesn’t mean we want to do them, doesn’t mean something’s wrong with us.”

As for someone like Heuermann, Dr. Saltz opines that a decreased connection between emotion and processing could be the reason why they cross that line in the first place. “Many people who have been serial killers… maybe have less feeling or reaction to things that other people would. So, for example, doing something horrible and feeling like, ‘No, I knew that was wrong and now I feel bad, I feel guilt, I feel empathy’ is something that really may be diminished in somebody who ultimately goes on to become a serial killer.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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