It’s funny how things happen. I recently noticed an article about a bloke who was claiming to have interviewed some of the world’s most renowned serial killers, but whose claims have now been called into question.
While reading the article I recognised the name of one of my favourite crime publishers, Urbane, who published the latest of the author’s 30 odd books, Mind Games, at the end of last year. Their statement about the book being pulled from sale, and their offering the profits from the sales to charity, is an exercise is great, class PR.
Then I realised that I recognised the name Paul Harrison as well. I went onto Facebook and realised that my friends had actually had tickets to Harrison’s recent lecture seminar, Interviews With A Serial Killer.
With these coincidences, I was fascinated by the story of Paul Harrison and his questionable claims that he has interviewed some of the world’s most famous killers, including the Kray twins, Peter Sutcliffe and Ted Bundy. He claimed to have worked with the famed FBI Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Virginia and to have interviewed more than 70 serial killers.
However, recently his claims were called into question by a number of different sources, including Sutcliffe and former members of the Quantico team. Harrison himself seems to have confirmed this in a now deleted Facebook post in which he tried to claim that the sensationalizing was done at the behest of his promoters.
Personally, I know that Urbane would never incite someone to tell what amount to all out lies, and I find it hard to believe any promoter or agent would either. After all, there’s a key difference between exaggerating a small amount to sell more tickets and completely fabricating interviews, which are the charges levied against Harrison.
Whatever the truth may be, the fact of the matter is that Harrison commanded large sums of money for his books, talks and insight into the minds of serial killers. This begs the question: why are we so interested?
I’ve often wondered why people are so intrigued by serial killers and, for that matter, serial liars. I have some experience with the latter, and it’s a horrible thing to have to go through, and whilst I have no experience with serial killers, any death is a horrific experience. One so vile and degrading must be a genuine challenge for those left behind.
So why does everyone want to know about serial killers? Some of them are almost like macabre celebrities, with some like Charles Manson and Ted Bundy gaining legions of female fans, many of whom were weirdly sexually attracted to them.
There are also masses of memorabilia and collectors out there are willing to pay a fortune for obscure items such as household belongings that once serial killers once owned. Hundreds, if not thousands of books have been written on the subject of some of the world’s most renowned murders, and films, documentaries and TV shows have been dedicated to some of the most frightening examples of human malice.
What often fascinates people is the unknown; things they do not have regular access to and do not understand. It’s a bit like zoos and aquariums: we can’t all go wandering off into the Sahara or to the North Pole, so we must content ourselves with seeing these animals in captivity, and have caused them pain in order to put them within easy reach of ourselves so that we can see them and find out more about their lives.
This, I think, is the fascination with serial killers. Their behavior is so unlike that of an ordinary person, yet they outwardly seem so normal, that they become almost freakish in our minds. We get this urge to find out more about what drove them to commit horrific acts, and then to lie about them or hide them from the world. Their behavior is something we simply cannot comprehend, so we instead rely on interviews, books and other forms of insight to try and understand them.
In the end, such understand will probably never come, but still our insatiable thirst for knowledge continues. Through all that, there are those who will seek to exploit this, just as there are in every market, and whilst it’s a shame to hear that Harrison’s claims aren’t true, his fabrications are every bit as strange and fascinating as those he was lying about.