While it’s likely that there are still the same number of serial killers in the world as there were before, they certainly don’t dominate the headlines like they used to. Throughout the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, you couldn’t pick up a newspaper or watch the evening news without hearing something about a new serial killer.
The extensive coverage of these killers turned them into celebrities of the worst caliber. It’s a bit mind-boggling at first, but with headlines like these, it’s not hard to see just how they became overnight sensations.
1. David Berkowitz.
David Berkowitz, also known as the Son of Sam, was famous for taunting police with letters during his New York City killing spree in the mid ’70s. When he was finally caught, he was such a media sensation that New York State passed a series of laws that prevented criminals from profiting off of their fame.
2. Jeffery Dahmer.
Dahmer might be the most notorious American serial killer because of his brutality. By the time he was caught, the media had nicknamed him the Milwaukee Cannibal. Until his death in prison, his family was constantly harassed by the media looking for a scoop.
3. Charles Manson.
While Dahmer was notorious for the brutality of his crimes, Charles Manson is probably the most recognizable face of serial killers in America. His trial was such a public spectacle that it was made into a cultural event.
4. Joel Rifkin.
In 1989, Rifkin became a cultural icon due to the constant media coverage of his killings that started in Long Island. It’s thought that Rifkin killed at least 17 women during his spree. Most famously, Seinfeld payed homage to Rifkin’s brutal legacy when Elaine dated a man with the same name as the serial killer.
5. Aileen Wuornos.
Wuornos is one of the rare female serial killers who achieved fame for her crimes. In total, she murdered seven men, all of which she claimed were done in self-defense. During her trial, she became a media sensation because of her rebellious courtroom behavior.
6. Gary Ridgway.
When Ridgway was finally arrested, police estimated that he was responsible for at least 48 murders. However, that number could be up to 90. Before Ridgway was caught, the media had dubbed him the Green River Killer. Their stories about his killings actually led to his capture and conviction.
7. Dennis Rader.
Rader was crowned by the media as the BTK Killer. BTK in this case stands for “Bind, Torture, Kill.” Rader was a very confident killer. He often sent letters to the police and media outlets to brag. However, this would prove to be his downfall. Investigators used the metadata inside the Word documents he sent to uncover personal information, eventually leading to his arrest.
It’s a pretty twisted saying in the media world, but it’s also true that “If it bleeds, it leads.” Meaning that the more violent a story is, the more people will read it and share it. With these headlines going out across the country, it’s no wonder these serial killers became celebrities in their own ways.