Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who was the first American serial killer?

Crime history 101: Who was the first American serial killer?

I’ve never understood the appeal of serial killers. Sure, there is the shock value of an individual taking remorseless pleasure in unspeakable acts. But shock value is not enough; a murder without a motive just isn't a story.

Though I am not a fan of serial killers, I am a fan of historical accuracy and apparently so is Dan Norder, Crime Historian for His post, Crime history 101: Who was the first American serial killer?, provides a sampling (admittedly incomplete) of American serial killers in reverse chronological order.

Though he lists Jack the Ripper as a possible American serial killer, like me Norder does not think any of the arguments asserting this are convincing. And his list easily debunks the myth that H. H. Holmes (1890s) was America’s first serial killer.

So, who was America’s first serial killer? Norder likes the Harpe brothers (1799).  Until something earlier turns up, so does Murder by Gaslight.


Patrick Downey says:
August 11, 2010 at 11:57 PM

Interesting. I suspect that there were serial killers going back to early colonial days but records don't exist or haven't been found yet.

Robert Wilhelm says:
August 12, 2010 at 12:27 AM

I think that's right. Especially in rural areas, communities took care of thier own problems. If tne stories came out at all they became legends and tall tales rather than history.

Post a Comment