Why Do Some People Fall in Love with a Serial Killer Like Ted Bundy?

Ted Bundy
| State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory/Wikimedia Commons

Although serial killer Ted Bundy committed a string of heinous murders, he still had groupies. Some fans were more than mere followers but actually fell in love with the man who murdered countless women.

Why would anyone be attracted to someone who was convicted of such grisly crimes? Psychologists have explored this phenomenon because it does not seem to be exclusive to Bundy. Convicted killers like Richard “the Night Stalker” Ramirez. “Hillside Stranglers” Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, plus Bundy not only met women from prison but also married, CNN reports.

In fact, recent Netflix series, You about a serial killer produced a fan base that had actor Penn Badgley feeling downright disturbed. “I don’t see him as a portrayal of a real person, I see him as a representation of the part of us that identifies with him,” he said on Today, Glamour reports. “The part of us that is a troll; that part of us that is victim blaming; the part of us that is privileged and blind. We’re meant to identify with him.” So what is it about serial killers that inspire some to fall in love?

They can save the person

Some admirers believe that the serial killer is just a wounded person that can be saved, according to Psychology Today. They may also, believe that “their love can transform the convict. Turning them from cunning and cruel, to caring, concerned, and compassionate.”And that “there’s a wounded child nested somewhere inside the killer that can be healed through a devoted nurturance that only they can provide.”

Or if the murder “only” committed one murder, some fans will turn to external reasons for the kill. Like the murderer was on drugs or there was an incident in the person’s past that provided the circumstance to kill, according to CNN.

The relationship is ‘safe’

Some people who fall in love with a convicted murder see the relationship as actually being safe. “A lot of these women have come from abusive childhoods or were battered women,” author Sheila Isenberg told CNN. “Some were physically, psychologically or verbally abused, but they were all victims. I came up with a theory that if you are in a relationship with a man who is behind bars for life or on death row, he can’t hurt you. You are in the driver’s seat and in control for maybe the first time in your life,”

Or they have hybristophilia

What is hybristophilia? Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D. told Cosmopolitan it is when a person “gets sexually aroused over someone else committing an offensive or violent act.” This can include sending letters to the murderer in prison and is usually in females.

“People want to be close to the notoriety of it,” Dr. Ramsland says. “They also get a sense that they’re special to the person, so that if the person escaped he or she wouldn’t harm…so there’s a bit of narcissism in it as well. But primarily the idea is that they want to get close to a violent person so that they can either participate in a fantasy life that involves them or actually become partners with them.”

It could come down to this

In some cases, the person could be seeking a relationship with a serial killer for notoriety. “They might share the killer’s media spotlight, and so triumphantly emerge from their anonymity,” according to Psychology Today. “And maybe in the process even land a book or movie deal (an aspiration about as cynical as it is narcissistic and self-serving).”

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