Thursday, June 23, 2011

Guest Post from Nancy Farrell

Help me welcome Nancy to Criminal Minds at Work. She is offering some interesting facts about the connection between....

...Real-Life Killers and the Fictional Characters They Inspired

Novelists take inspiration from many different places. Some look to their own lives, some look to art, and some look to history. Inspiration can be one of the most difficult things to find when seeking to create something. While many may find it disturbing or odd that serial killers inspire art, it is actually quite logical. Inspiration comes from things that are unusual and unknown. Curiosity is the greatest muse. We are intrigued by murderers because their mindset is so unfamiliar to us. Part of great story telling is creating a character that makes the reader question their own beliefs and the beliefs of that character. These real life murderers inspired some of the most fascinating and well known fictional characters in history.

Jeffery Dahmer and Zombie
Hugely famous American author, Joyce Carol Oates is known for her gruesome portrayal of difficult subjects throughout her literature. Often approaching the issues of violence, murder, and rape, Oates' writing style and subject matter have been received positively by literary critics throughout her active career. Oates' 1995 novel Zombie is based on the life of prolific serial killer Jeffery Dahmer. The novel was received well by critics, but is often described as too graphic and haunting to sit through by readers. The novel follows the life of a man in his 30's who seeks to make a "zombie" of an unsuspecting male companion. The real-life Dahmer was an American serial kill and sex offender between the years 1978 and 1991. Dahmer brutally murdered 17 men and boys during this time period. Finally caught and sentenced to imprisonment in 1994, Dahmer was beaten to death by an inmate before he could serve his full sentence.

Ed Gein and Psycho
The 1959 novel Psycho has born one of the most recognized fictional villains of all time. Norman Bates, the middle-aged man completely controlled by his mean mother, is the main character of the novel and has in many ways outshined (if you can put it that way) than the real-life man that inspired him. Norman Bates' character was based off of real-life serial killer Ed Gein. Born in 1906, Gein was a prolific American murderer and graver robber. Gein only murdered two individuals, not qualifying him as a serial killer. However, his case gained widespread media attention because he stole bodies from local graveyards and fashioned trophies from the remains to be displayed around his home. While Gein's actual crimes are not as gruesome or note worthy as many others throughout history, his influence on popular culture and media is unquestionable. Other than Norman Bates, both Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Buffalo Bill for The Silence of the Lambs are based on Ed Gein and his crimes.

Ted Bundy and The Silence of the Lambs
First introducing the world to Dr. Hannibal Lecter in 1981 when he published Red Dragon, author Thomas Harris created one the most prolific fictional villains in history. Though the film series became wildly more popular, Silence of the Lambs originated as a novel. While Lector's character is far better known, the primary antagonist of the novel is Jame Gumb, also known as Buffalo Bill. Jame Gumb is believed to be based on four different real-life serial killers: Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, Gary M. Heidnik, and Edmund Kemper. Ted Bundy killed dozens of women in the 1970s by feigning injury to lure them into his vehicle. Gary M. Heidnik would hold women captive in a deep hole in his basement. Edmund Kemper's first victims, like Gumb, where his grandparents.


Nancy Farrell is a freelance writer and blogger. She regularly contributes to the Criminal Justice Degrees, which discusses issues about child abuse, human rights, divorce, and crime related articles. Questions or comments can be sent to:

Posted by Maryann Miller, who really needs to be more conscientious about contributing on a regular basis.

1 comment:

Maryannwrites said...

Thanks for sharing with us today, Nancy. I think perhaps all fictional villains are based loosely on a real-life person or were spawned by a true incident.