High Body Count: Going to Great Lengths

The enduring fascination with serial killers inevitably touches on the sheer number of murders they commit. By definition, it’s a high body count. Always a high body count. We look, too, at the heinousness of their crimes. Some, clearly, are more gruesome than others. Images of body parts in freezers, or necrophilia, capture the grotesque side of the human condition. We want to look away but we can’t.

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Jeffrey Dahmer (courtesy IMdb)

Serial Killer Psyche

Going deeper into the psyche of a serial killer, we also wonder how. As in, how could they kill so many people and not get caught? It’s not like one can just stroll up to a high body count. It takes a certain… something. In this vein, one of the enduring archetypes is serial killer Ted Bundy. He was — is — characterized as handsome, charming, intelligent and cunning. Bundy’s victims needed to be convinced. Or tricked. Ted was up to the task. At least at first.

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Ted Bundy at his Florida Sentencing

One would not say that of Robert Hansen’s victims. They put themselves in harm’s way. And, to a great extent, serial killers end up being more like Robert Hansen than Ted Bundy. As Hansen himself said, he picked on women he thought were lower than him. Prostitutes. Dancers. Street walkers. And yet even these women have an inherent drive to survive. They, too, needed to be deceived.

And so it was that Robert Hansen had his own bag of tricks.

Robert Hansen line-up photo (courtesy AST)

Cunning & Clever

Frank Rothschild: “He only met them one-on-one, so no one else could see. They might have remembered him there. Why he would — even if he was to meet somebody at 4:00 o’clock — he’d get out there at 3:30 in his car and he’d look at the spot and see if anybody else was around. Check out the woman walking up to see if she had any friends with her, to make sure she didn’t. And if she did, why he would leave. That’s how cunning this man was.

“He had landing spots for his airplane where the plane couldn’t be seen. He’s already checked that out, too, because there were bushes around and things and the planes — the plane routes couldn’t see him normally. Only if somebody was flying in a funny place.

“He kept small numbers on his airplane… He had little, tiny numbers. And when he called the tower when he took off [with] these women in his plane, he gave [the tower] the wrong number and he knew his [tail] numbers were so small they couldn’t see. He took off real fast and got up and they wouldn’t know. They’d have to believe him. And he gave them some other number. That’s how clever this guy was.”


This was, as it turned out, his magic formula. It was as if he didn’t exist. And if he didn’t exist, no one could tie him to these murders. His high body count was all but guaranteed.


Copyright Leland E. Hale (2021). All rights reserved.

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