Something interesting I found whilst looking around the internet for murder things was an interesting paper on serial killers with a certain paragraph discussing souvenirs and a perceived relationship with the victim. With that in mind, looking at murder in the media, the idea of souvenirs and mementos is prevalent – think (fictional) Dexter and his slides, or Bundy and his heads. They can range in size, and be anything from parts of the victims like body parts, or belongings like underwear. But why? What’s the appeal?
Well, I looked around the internet and can’t really find anything solid, but I have a few ideas.
Why do we buy souvenirs? Why do we bring home the awful rock candy from Blackpool that gets left in a drawer for 10 years and forgotten because it actually tastes awful? Or fridge magnets? Have any of you brought an “egg” from the natural history museum – those marble like ones? They’re so pointless! But why do we buy them?
|Dexter's slides are pretty cool...|
Like any memento – it’s to remember the time we had. We know those are experiences are temporary, so we find something tangible to remember the event. Serial killers are no different – the act of murder (or any crime) are temporary, they’re an experience, and having something physical – something tangible, allows them to go back to that moment. For some, the act of murder is something they enjoy: those are the killers who are more likely to keep mementos.
In Keppel and Walter’s paper talking about profiling killers, it’s thought that sexual murderers keep souvenirs as fetish props for later masturbation, or trying to keep a “relationship” with the victim as the sexual act may have been an attempt at intimacy. Interestingly, there are links to sexual abuse during childhood and development, and an element of ridicule and failure which is then used as a driving force for the power gained in sexual violence as a type of self-reassurance and validation. That validation and power is a feeling that they want to hold on to and by grabbing a souvenir from the scene of the crime it allows them to relive the “fantasy.” The same goes for photographs and videos too.
Another cause for keeping souvenirs is basically just petty theft – there has been a link to past history of theft which co-occur with taking souvenirs, and can be placed against the type of souvenirs taken. Ones that are of monetary value may be taken for more shallow reasons like vanity or money, but ones that are more personal such as body parts and fluids hold a more meaningful existence to the perpetrator. The types of souvenirs a murderer takes can tell a lot about their criminal profile, their motive, it’s like leaving a fingerprint in the homicide world whenever someone takes a souvenir. If you take a body part, it’s more likely to be more meaningful and have a more emotional based motive rather than someone taking it for monetary value might be doing it out of thieving habit. It all depends.
When you think about it, murder is a murderer's holiday, right? Or something of that kind of caliber to them anyway. When you take a pottery workshop, you always want to take home something you made right? Think of it like that. Except there's a lot less clay, a lot more blood, and screaming. Lots of screaming. Whether it's a finger or a pair of panties, it's no different to a murderer than taking home a clay pot.