Saturday, August 29, 2015

Monsters Too Scary for Words

Monsters Too Scary For Words: Collective Amnesia in the USA

by Robert St. Estephe, September 7, 2015; edited Feb. 26, 2017


~ “Randomly stabbing the body of a dying human brought me pleasure comparable to sexual pleasure.” – Elena Lobacheva: Serial Killer ( Moscow, Russia, 2015) [1]

~ “I killed them all: men, women and babies, and I hugged the babies to my breast. But I am not guilty of murder.” – Clementine Bernebet: Serial Killer (Lafayette, Louisiana, 1912) [2]



I have a concern I would like to share – about fear: the fear of monsters.

Some people are fascinated by monsters; they think about them all the time. Some people are professional monster chasers and monster researchers: like law enforcement people, criminologists and the forensic psychologists. These are the people I want to talk about: the experts.

My discussion focuses on a specialized topic, monsters – those of the “serial killer” variety – yet my real subject, as you will see, is the broad topic of human aggression and violence and how our understanding of it is undermined by deceptive manipulation of data and through gate-keeping – in other words, through systematic sabotage prompted by ideological agendas.

It is aggression initiated by women that is the topic targeted by so much organized misinformation. This article examines the hows and whys of the corruption of social science inquiry and calls for necessary large-scale and fundamental reform.

This is a long article, but is lengthy for good reason. The problem it addresses is enormously important and is large in scale, and the misunderstandings it has created are not well recognized. In this article, a great deal of unfamiliar information is offered that can go far in drawing attention to a scandalously unacceptable state of affairs in the field of criminology.


1. Silence of the Experts

In the Summer of 2008 a major international conference on serial murder took place in San Antonio, Texas, sponsored by the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. The conference was designed to be a comprehensive treatment of the topic of serial murder, as the official FBI report, published following the event, shows:

“A total of 135 subject matter experts attended the five-day event. These individuals included law enforcement officials who have successfully investigated and apprehended serial killers; mental health, academic, and other experts who have studied serial killers and shared their expertise through education and publication; officers of the court, who have judged, prosecuted, and defended serial killers; and members of the media, who inform and educate the public when serial killers strike. The attendees also reflected the international nature of the serial murder problem, as there were attendees from ten different countries on five continents.” [3]

135 experts from 10 countries – very thorough, very impressive.

The 14,000-word official report, Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigations," has quite a lot to say about the phenomenon of serial murder and about serial killers. The text sets out to dispel quite a few myths about serial killers and aims to improve professional response to this type of crime. The report's introduction tells us that “the symposium’s focus was on obtaining a consensus of participants’ views on the causes, motivations, and characteristics of serial murderers, so as to enable the criminal justice system to improve its response in identifying, investigating, and adjudicating these cases.” 

The FBI's big Serial Murder report was, however, almost completely silent about the female of the species. In the section titled “Motivations and Types of Serial Murder,” in which the question of financial gain is addressed, mentions, as an entry in a list of various types of cases involving financial gain, “black widows.” This is the whole of the discussion of the female serial killer.

Elsewhere in the report, in a myth-debunking section under the heading “Myth: Serial killers are all white males,” this is the rebuttal: Contrary to popular belief, serial killers span all racial groups. There are white, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian serial killers. The racial diversification of serial killers generally mirrors that of the overall U.S. population.” The myth that serial killers are always "white males" and even that they are almost always "white males" in the US is widespread and is still sometimes repeated.

The text offers five examples of non-white males to make its point. The racial aspect of the stereotype is dealt with directly yet the gender aspect is ignored completely.

This lapse is notable not merely because the report asserts that a myth about serial killers is to be debunked, yet fails to tackle half of the equation, but also because the FBI has a “history” with respect to this myth (the “male” half of it).

Thirteen years before this 2008 conference, Roy Hazelwood, a prominent retired FBI agent, had made the bold claim in another professional conference in Alberta, Canada (its topic, Homicide) – that: “There are no female serial killers.” [4]

This is a startling claim.

The US Department of Justice, parent agency of the FBI, has recently been a bit more generous in acknowledging that some women indeed have been known, from time to time at least, to engage in habitual homicide. The author of a 2011 academic study on female serial killers, Amanda L. Farrell, titled Lethal Ladies,” an effort to understand what they term an “elusive population to study” due to “the scant information published about these rare offenders.” In preparation for their examination of the phenomenon they consulted US Justice department data which, the “Lethal Ladies” authors tell us “indicated 36 female serial killers have been active over the course of the last century.” [5]

But the number 36 is not even remotely accurate. What do other prominent sources have to say?

Various estimates of the share of female perpetrators among serial killers have appeared over the past two decades ranging from 6% to 20%. Wikipedia offers an accurate picture of current thinking on the subject: 

“Female serial killers are rare compared to their male counterparts. Some sources suggest that female serial killers represented less than one in every six known serial murderers in the U.S. between 1800 and 2004 (64 females from a total of 416 known offenders), or that around 15% of U.S. serial killers have been women …” [6]

The figures Wikipedia cites are based on the research of Eric W. Hickey, author of Serial Murders and Their Victims, a standard professional reference book on the subject. [7]

With such small number of this specific type of criminal it should not seem so consequential that the experts gathered together by the FBI in 2008 conference would give female serial killers almost no attention at all. But what if the consensus on the female type’s “rarity” is incorrect?

2. The "Unofficial" Research

The number “64” (representing US female serial killers, 1800-2004) has come to take on a canonical quality and is being used as the foundation of statistical analysis used by others. Thus, in 2015, Professor Marissa Harrison based her own ambitious study of the nature of female serial killers on the established list of 64 cases. Harrison took this canonical corpus and rigorously analyzed them in order to make some general conclusions. [8]

There is a problem with scholars relying on the standard data on the historical incidence of this type of crime handed down to them – and it is a very big and consequential problem.

It would seem that, without exception, professional scholars who have studied the subject of female serial killers have for decades been assuming that the cases found in standard reference books are the product of thorough historical research. This assumption is unjustified.

Specialized interest in the distinct criminological category “serial killing” (or “serial murder”) is of fairly recent origin. The strong interest and attention dates from the 1970s. [9]

Before that time there was no criminologist, no researcher, who focused on this narrowly defined type of criminal behavior. Never has there been any organized professional effort to identify and collect these historical cases in a systematic manner. 

Another factor has muddied the waters, interfering with discovering facts and details on female perpetrated serial homicide. Since the 1970s, when interest in the topic of serial murder came to the fore many lively scholarly debates have occurred challenging the very definition of “serial killer,” one scholar invoking one set of criteria, and another scholar invoking a different one altogether. This state of affairs does not lend itself to the systematic collation (which is a painstaking processes) of a usable list of “known” cases.

Yet there is an “unofficial” collation of historical cases in progress – going on outside the professional scholarly institutions. The advent of the internet and the subsequent and rapid proliferation of enormous databases of searchable newspapers of the past has changed everything. It has become possible – albeit with a great deal of effort and the use of specialized language skills – to tease out forgotten cases of serial killers from the historical record.

My own research in searching old newspapers has focused, among a wide range of different topics, on the topic female serial killers. The results have been stunning. Hundreds and hundreds of “unknown” cases in the hundreds have turned up – from more than 40 countries, These rediscovered old cases reveal types of behavior that are generally thought to be absent from the female serial killer profile: cannibalism, ritual killing, sexual sadism, and extreme sadistic torture. [10]

The most surprising fact resulting from this delving into newspaper archives – a fact which, if you think about it deeply, should not be in the least surprising – is that prior to the era when serial killers became a household term (the 1970s to the present) it was common knowledge for at least a century-and-a-half the idea that female serial killers were a fairly common type of criminal, and that that these “wholesale murderesses,” these "Borgias," these “female Bluebeards” were very dangerous characters indeed.

Two classic examples that illustrate this point are articles dating, respectively, from the years 1873 and 1925.

A newspaper article headlined “Another Female Poisoner,” published Jun. 10, 1873, discusses the latest female serial murderess case, that of Sarah Earhardt, of Germantown, Ohio, and besides offering details of the new scandal, it mentions three other cases from the past few years (one from England), the earliest of which was Martha Grinder of Philadelphia, executed for her crimes in 1869.[11]

Had the reporter written about all the US female serial killers (not those who used poison) from 1869 up to the 1873 Earhardt arrest the article would have discussed thirteen cases.

Jump forward a half century. A widely syndicated article published in May 1925, titled “Three Women Who Admit Poisoning 29 Persons,” discusses three concurrent US cases of female serial killers: Anna Cunningham (Indiana), Martha Wise (Ohio) and Della Sorenson (Nebraska). [12]

Among the three, Della Sorenson’s is of particular note. Her confession, with its blunt disclosures of the workings of a sociopath’s mind, deserves to be treated as textbook material. Della explained to the police that –

“Every time I gave poison to one of Mrs. Cooper’s children, I said to myself, “Now I’m going to get even with you (Mrs. Cooper) for what you have said about me.” “I had feelings which would steal over me at times forcing me to destroy and kill. I felt funny and happy. I like to attend funerals.”

Ever since the beginning in the 1830s of the wide proliferation of cheap newspapers in the United States, news stories female serial killers – both domestic and foreign – have featured frequently in newspapers. The notion that “female serial killers are rare” (in relative terms) is a purely modern concoction. It is a notion that would not have been held by anybody in the past century and a half. [13]

The idea that women with a “mania for murder” (as they used to say) supremely scarce – in relation to the opposite sex – only came to “make sense” after the use of the term  “serial killer” gained currency: primarily as a result of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit’s efforts.

So you see: the reality is that the entire field of criminology is suffering from amnesia – at least when it comes to the subject of female serial killers, and, importantly, by extension, with respect to the entire general subject of aggression and violence by women.

Why has this occurred?

This is a crucial question for those who are trying to understand violent criminals – and we need an answer.

3. Feminism, Chivalry and Silence

A. Feminism 

The mass-forgetting (about the subject at hand: female serial killers) did not come about on its own. A large part of the problem (but not all of it) is the product of  feminist ideology: the “gender theory” type of intellectual feminism, a Marxism-influenced dogmatism that sees the world in class warfare terms, group against group, which has been aggressively foisted upon all public institutions over the past half century.

A breakdown in the dissemination of factual knowledge, and of critical thinking within educational system has ensued. Conformism to a collectivist ideology, has been achieved through peer pressure-instigated demand for spineless conformity. The result: complacency, “going along with the program,” dependence on and uncritical adoption of rote-learned models, paradigms and patterns, obsessive concern about having “offensive” thoughts – taking over the educational process. Thus is makes sense that a mass-forgetting is undermining scholarly inquiry, including the one that is the subject of this article.

Actually, there’s a whole book that goes about explaining this phenomenon, specifically as it applies to the study of violence by women. The author, Patricia Pearson, in her 1997 book, When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, calls the phenomenon we have been discussing “collective amnesia.” [14] The term appears in her discussion of the weird phenomenon of culture’s long-term remembering of male serial killers (Jack the Ripper) while forgetting the females (and not because of their having been less vicious). Pearson observes –

“Our collective amnesia about female serial killers was so pronounced that when Aileen Wuornos was arrested in 1992 and charged with the shooting deaths of seven men along I-75, she was immediately proclaimed America’s first serial killer.” 

Pearson’s observation is an important one and the term, “collective amnesia,” she uses to describe it is perfect.

In 2002 Wuornos was executed for her crimes. Not only was she not “America’s first” (being more like the 275th known American Female serial killer), but she not not the first to be executed. She was, according to my research, the thirteenth (since the year 1816) to be put to death in this country. [15]

Just what is behind this bizarre collective amnesia? Looking farther afield, beyond the formal study of the crime of murder – into the world of academic study of Domestic Violence (sometimes labeled as “PV,” Partner Violence, or, “ IPV,” Intimate Partner Violence) – we get a glimpse of whence the problem has arisen.

In 2007, just a year before the FBI-sponsored international Serial Murder conference, sociologist

“The seven methods described above have created a climate of fear that has inhibited research and publication on gender symmetry in PV [Partner Violence] and largely explain why an ideology and treatment modality has persisted for 30 years, despite hundreds of studies which provide evidence on the multiplicity of risk factors for PV, of which patriarchy is only one.”

Here is the list of the very effective methods of sabotage Staus elaborated:

Method 1. Suppress Evidence
Method 2. Avoid Obtaining Data Inconsistent with the Patriarchal Dominance Theory
Method 3. Cite Only Studies That Show Male Perpetration
Method 4. Conclude That Results Support Feminist Beliefs When They Do Not
Method 5. Create “Evidence” by Citation
Method 6. Obstruct Publication of Articles and Obstruct Funding Research That Might Contradict the Idea that Male Dominance Is the Cause of PV
Method 7. Harass, Threaten, and Penalize Researchers Who Produce Evidence That Contradicts Feminist Beliefs

Dr. Straus, as he describes the failures of practicing social workers to successfully deal with partner violence, shows that the failure has been due to the clinical practitioners having been operating on false information.

Orthodox feminist dogma (founded on Marxist class warfare ideas) requires a belief in the false notion that all violence perpetuated by women in intimate relationships are are either acts of self-defense and retaliation for previous abuse. This is consistent with the doctrine of “patriarchal power” that underpins the ideology. Thinking outside the dogma box is heresy (the heresy of “hatred of women”). [17]

“Patriarchal control,” the central tenet of Marxist feminist ideology is the universal and  a priori explanation of all conflict between members of the opposite sex. Any scientific evidence that might contradict this dogma, thereby undermining the entire Marxist feminist position (and the jobs that depend on implementing that dogma), would be in jeopardy. Thus feminist academics, in concert, have – with perfect justification based on their faith in their dogma and their unflagging desire for “progress” – systematically sabotaged the scientific discourse, in order to get the conclusions that fit their politics.

Straus, recognizing this, set out to collect the data that would make the facts clear and set the record straight.

Four years following his 2007 expose on widespread academic subversion of truth, Straus published another article, “Thirty Years of Denying the Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence: Implications for Prevention and Treatment.” This publication presents an exhaustive review of the objective scientific literature on PV, a huge body of work  which directly contradicts the “consensus” view (the orthodox politically correct view) on the subject. [18]

It is worth noting that Dr. Straus, just like journalist Patricia Pearson (author of When She Was Bad), describes himself as a “feminist.” My understanding of their use of the label is that both see themselves as professionals whose area of interest is the understanding and welfare of women. They use “feminist” to describe an attitude that has nothing to do with promotion of ideology, dogma, the pursuit of political power or the re-engineering of society to comport with a predetermined utopian vision.

The reason I discuss Straus’s findings is because his publications so successfully articulate a monumentally important problem, albeit within his own specialized field. Yet the fact is that virtually all aspects of academic study are now infected with this ideologically motivated, well-coordinated censorship and sabotage of objective inquiry. The corruption is not in the least restricted to the specific area of domestic violence.

B. Chivalry

It would be a fatal mistake to place all the blame on post-1960 political or ideological feminist dogmas and tactics, however. Chivalry – the instinctual tendency (with not just a cultural origin but with a biological one as well) for males to adopt a protective role over women – is what makes the tactics work, despite the presence of men (representatives of the “oppressor gender” in the mind of Marxism-influenced feminists).

Not terribly long before the period of rapid growth of feminist power in institutions that took place in the 1960s-1970s, a groundbreaking book challenging stereotypes about female criminality was published. The Criminality of Women, by sociologist Otto Pollak was published in 1950. [19] In his book he took a comprehensive approach, both “summarized previous work on women and crime” and then challeng[ing] basic assumptions concerning the extent and quality of women’s involvement in criminal behavior.” “Pollak is the first writer to insist that women’s participation in crime approaches that of men and is commensurate with their representation in the population,” as the 2002 Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice notes.[20]

In his writing Pollack pointed out chivalry as a major factor in distorting perception (among the general public as well as in the minds of professionals) of the true extent of female criminality. He examined the differences between female modes of aggression and male modes.

There should have been nothing controversial about this observation considering the high level of public awareness of “chivalry justice” – the tendency of males to treat female criminals much more leniently than the male. 

Indeed, all through the first half of the twentieth century we have copious quantities of articlulate testimony of knowledgeable professional women to attest to the reality of chivalry in the criminal justice system throughout the United States. Here are three notable voices dating from 1916 through 1922 who can attest to the facts: a lawyer, a US congresswoman and a State Supreme Court judge:

  Agnes McHugh – Chicago attorney – 1916: “A man jury will not convict a woman murderer in this county, if the prosecutor is a man. I think this leniency may be traced to the chivalry latent in every man. [21]
  Alice Robertson – U.S. House of Representatives (Oklahoma) – 1921: “Women who murder get off too easy. They’re not judged according to the same standards as men who murder, but you don’t hear the suffragists demanding equal rights for the men, do you? No the suffragists want equal rights for women with special privileges.” [22]

  Judge Florence E. Allen – First Criminal Court Judge, in 1922 elected to Ohio Supreme Court – 1922: “Men have always sat on juries and men instinctively shrink from holding women strictly accountable for their misdeeds. Now that women sit on juries I expect the percentage of convictions in cases of women to be greater. Women are more clever than men in arousing sympathy. I had one woman, a hardened criminal, stage a terrific fainting spell in my courtroom after the jury found her guilty. It took four men to carry her to jail. She continued having these spells, so long that I had to defer pronouncing sentence. Finally I sent her word that the longer she acted so, the longer she would be in jail. Within a few moments she sent up word that, she would be good and received her sentence meekly, with no trace of feeling.” [23]

Justice Florence Allen was speaking in 1922. She was airing well-known facts of the sort that were commonly discussed by a multitude of other prominent professionals throughout the first half of the twentieth century.

Thirty years on, when The Criminality of Women  was published, was stating the obvious when he wrote that  favoritism towards women in the criminal justice system as being due to “chivalry and the general protective attitude of man toward woman … [Men] hate to accuse women and thus indirectly to send them to their punishment, police officers dislike to arrest them, district attorneys to prosecute them, judges and juries to find them guilty, and so on.” (151)

Dr. Pollack was writing this in 1950; what is the state of chivalry today? In 2012 the answer was this:

“Chivalry appears to be alive and well.”

This is the conclusion from a large study made by researchers Steven F. Shatz and Naomi R. Shatz, authors of “Chivalry Is Not Dead: Murder, Gender, and the Death Penalty,” a study of 1,299 California’s first-degree murder cases, published in 2012 in the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice. [24]

When we take powerful ingrained old-fashioned male tendency to defer to the welfare of women – that sways the perceptions of males among law professionals just as it does the larger population – and combine it with aggressive pressure tactics of professional shaming, boycott, sabotage, censorship, false allegations and the threat of false allegations – plus the overt promulgation of an ideologically motivated “gender” narrative that is designed to hide evidence of aggression and violence initiated by females, wee see the reason for the bizarre collective amnesia that has taken hold.

Taking together what we learn from Straus’s epose that outlines the long-standing campaign of open sabotage and censorship of social science knowledge on the part of “gender” ideologues, plus an acknowledgment of everyday fundamental chivalry, plus the tendency of communities of bureaucrats to devolve into conformity and groupthink, we have an explanation for the existence of the collective amnesia concerning female serial killers (and, by extension, concerning female aggression and violence in general).

Expressed as a formula:

Sabotage (of data by ideologues)
Chivalry (on the part of male scholars and justice professionals)
Conformity (lack of intellectual curiosity, and opportunistic careerist self-censorship)
Silence (regarding the true realities of female aggression, including female serial killers and other acts of violence initiated by women).

The silence of the experts; the silence of the lambs.

4. Monsters, Scary Stories and Stories too Scary to Talk About

A. “Scary Fun”

Why we love Serial Killers, a 2014 book by criminologist Scott Bonn is devoted to the examination of  popular interest in serial killers. Observes Dr. Bonn:

“In many ways, serial killers are for adults what monster movies are for children — that is, scary fun! However, the pleasure an adult receives from watching serial killers can be difficult to admit, and may even trigger feelings of guilt. In fact, the research conducted for this book reveals that many people who are fascinated with serial killers refer to it as a guilty pleasure.” [25]

Bonn, however, relies on the same false historical foundation – with respect to the history of female serial killers – that everybody else does. In discussing public (and professional) responses to the Aileen Wuornos case, Bonn asserts that:

“Until Wuornos, the mass media almost always depicted a serial perpetrator as a deranged man due to the erroneous and paternalistic societal notion that women could not commit such crimes. Unlike the obscure and rarely discussed Black Widow killers throughout history, Wuornos became a modern-day celebrity monster and popular culture icon because she defied stereotypes and did not kill demurely as a woman ‘should.’”

Yet Bonn’s facts about the past are wrong. Dead wrong.

The reality is that until the 1960s-1970s period there was nothing “obscure” about Black Widow killers, nor is it even remotely true that they were “rarely discussed.” In the United States, from the 1869 Martha Grinder case onward Black Widow killers were not only widely discussed but they made the headlines just as sensationally (taking into account the more limited means of older media). In fact, in 1908, one of the earliest feature length films (around 20 minutes duration being “feature length” at this stage) a “true crime” film – comparable to today’s tabloid-style TV-reenactment series such as Investigation ID’s hit cable series Deadly Women – titled “Female Bluebeard” was made just weeks after the headline-grabbing Belle Gunness “murder farm” case involving dozens of murders of men lured by spouse-soliciting “personal ads” came to light. The film, which was seen across the continent, was a big hit. [26]

My own list of American Black Widows (who murdered at least two husbands or paramours) contains over a hundred. [27] My list of US female serial killers has well over 300 cases; in the period 1910-2010 during which, as noted above, the US Department of Justice claims there were 36 female serial killers, there are 247 – close to 7 times the number. [28] Talk about collective amnesia!

My hypothesis this this: despite the fact that a great number of people are fascinated with stories of serial killers, it is, for most people the result of a fascination with male monsters. The pleasure, the “scary fun” that Professor Bonn accurately identifies is not applicable, generally speaking, to the female of the species. (Wuornos is an exception, specifically because the media, under the influence of feminist Marxian theories, reinvented her as a heroine of “gender liberation,” fashioning a common thief and cold-blooded murderer into a feminist saint, a mythical super-heroine, a down-to-earth Wonder Woman, a Lesbian Robin Hood of the Resistance of Patriarchal Oppression.)

Further, it seems to me that the entertainment value of the scary thrill in a primitive manner, a response to a narrative scenario where the threat seems “normal” or, in a broad sense, predictable, exaggerated, perverted to be sure, yet nevertheless of a nature that seems to fit with a the logic of reasonable self-preservation instinct. Men are potentially dangerous, especially those who are strangers.

The prospect of the female serial killer as a type is less scary, if we want to fit it into the psychology of “why we love male serial killers.” Or, and this is my position, the female serial killer is really too scary. This archetype (female serial killer) presents a threat that people do not want to contemplate.

Serial Killer Culture is a documentary film directed by John Borowski and released in 2014 that, unlike the director’s three previous films, is “not about the murderers themselves, but the people fascinated by them: musicians, artists, collectors, dealers, the whole underground industry.” [29] No female serial killers have, apparently, attracted the interest of serial-killer-buff Borowski, however.

Borowski finds that the people who know serial killers (before they are identified as such) are oblivious and intentionally so. He notes that “after [a serial killer is] “apprehended, people come forward and say, yeah, they were a little odd, but they never think anything of it, because they don’t want to. And that’s the duality of a serial killer. You have no idea that they’re doing these awful things, and we don’t want to know.”

Yet, after they’re caught and paraded across the media, “we” do, indeed “want to know,” but only if they are confirmatory of the monster narrative we want to see recited – only if they are male.

We need never learn to “love” these female serial killers, but we need to take them seriously (all 880 of them, in my current count) and learn from them the lessons we have avoided learning, so that we can arrive to an honest and informed assessment of female aggression.

B. Scary Gate-Keepers 

When it comes to professionals who have an interest in serial murder, such as the “135 subject matter experts” who participated in the FBI’s mammoth-scale 2008 Serial Murder conference there is, it would seem, an overwhelming and multifaceted spirit of fear hovering in the air. This is a fear that shuts down discussion of half the population (according to my own estimation of the ratio of female to male serial killers, which is about 1:1, rather than 6:1) of the criminals claimed to be the topic on examination. 

Female serial killer stories lack the special quality that, for men, excites their deep-seated protective chivalry (both as instinct and custom). 

Real-life female serial killers, unlike the males, rarely leave corpses of their victims strewn about the landscape, alerting the public and investigators to a clear-cut crime of murder. Seldom is a female serial killer the subject of a hunt or chase and a clue-following hot pursuit. Under these conditions – the “classic” female serial killer profile – its hard for a detective to become a hero killer-catcher – a knight in shining armor, a savior who has saved lives by preventing likely future murders. Serial killer catchers want to bag a Hannibal Lechter, not an “Arsenic and Old Lace” character, even if she is just as vicious, just as perverse and just as prolific a murderer as Hannibal the Cannibal. 

Present-day crime scholars and law enforcement practitioners – the great share of them at least – seem to have accepted the unfounded claims made by ideology-driven activists who operate in the guise of social scientists (who have created a false narrative, skewed studies, and cooked statistics that were designed confirm their belief-system) and are satisfied to put aside critical thinking and dutifully adopt the wildly inaccurate standard literature.

The public has no idea what is going on in the hallowed halls of elite institutions such as Ivy League universities FBI’s famous Behavioral Analysis Unit. The public doesn’t know what big tough judges, prosecutors, forensic psychologists, Special Agents and professors know: that going against the grain of feminist orthodoxy is a career killer.

Sabotage + Chivalry + Conformity = Silence 

The formula rules. 

When it comes to the discussion of the realities of female serial killers – and all other aspects of the topic of violence by women and female aggression – is not only enforced silence and automatic self-censorship among academics and professionals, but society-wide collective amnesia – exactly as Patricia Person said. 

This amnesia (surrounding the spectre of the female monster) is the result of a fear that runs deeper (and quieter) than the fear of the sort monsters that gives people the pleasure of a scary thrill, the survival-instinct-based fear and that gives professionals a the prideful feeling of enforcing a moral valiantly protective imperative to hunt down those scary monsters that fit the accepted idea of what a monster ought to be.

This is why heading this article is an expression of “concern”: a concern about fear, a fear of confronting a truth that is forbidden, a fear of violating a strong taboo.

Feminist ideology: it rides roughshod over reason, over evidence and over scientific method; in its demand for conformity with dogma and its condemnation of reason and objective scientific method it has many of the characteristics of a superstition; in its institutional manifestations it has many of the characteristics of a cult.

This is a matter of serious concern.

C. Beyond the Fear, Beyond the Gate-Keepers

This article offers the opportunity to open up this discussion of this scary subject matter (violence by women) and to encourage the Department of Justice, the FBI, and all other crime professionals, to rise above their fear of the gate-keepers and begin to conscientiously reassess their personal beliefs and then to reassess the entire professional literature on crime and crime psychology in light of what we can now learn about female aggression – if only we would seriously commit do the necessary work.

“Are Women Always Less Aggressive Than Men?” is the title of a 1977 journal article by Ann Frodi and co-writers. Foedi declared, with honest accuracy, that “we really understand much about female violence we have only recently begun to pay careful attention to it. Of 314 scientific studies on human aggression published by 1974 only 8 percent addressed violence in women or girls.” [30]

Things have not improved since 1974; they have gotten worse.

The seven sabotage methods exposed in 2007 by Dr. Strauss have done severe damage (as intended) and have prevented a great deal of crucial research from being pursued in fields beyond Straus’s specialty, Partner Violence, and the efforts have effectively dumbed-down a good portion of professional criminology, while calcifying inaccurate false stereotypes into fixed dogmas and bogus scientific “givens” in order to fit into and to promulgate an ideological agenda.

The entire field of criminology, not to mention the study of female psychology with regard to physical aggression – relational aggression, and indirect aggression in all its forms including aggression by proxy and aggression through false accusation – needs a thorough audit, and a major overhaul.

Finally, on a more positive note we can report that an important step forward has been taken in a comprehensive overview of homicidal females published in 2010, by Frank S. Perri and Terrance G. Lichtenwald, “The Last Frontier: Myths & the Female Psychopathic Killer.” This report is a brave and welcome challenge to the political orthodoxy; it is a good start, yet there is a whole lot more that needs to be done to “clear the stables.” [31]

5. Eyes Wide Open

Let me share with you the latest female serial killer case to come to our attention:

On August 11, 2015, Brittany Pilkington, 23-year-old mother of four children (three deceased) confessed to murdering – over a period of several years – her three sons by placing blankets over their heads to suffocate them. Her explanation of motive was unusual. She claimed her husband Joseph Pilkington (43), a worker in the Marysville Honda factory, paid more attention to the boys than he did to their daughter. According to Logan County prosecutor William Goslee, “in her mind, she was protecting her daughter from being not as loved as the boys were by their father,” as the Columbus Dispatch reported. [32]

A few months earlier, in Russia, Elena Lobacheva made the chilling statement in the quote that heads this article: “Randomly stabbing the body of a dying human brought me pleasure comparable to sexual pleasure.” She, along with her boyfriend, had murdered twelve men on the streets of Moscow, viciously mutilating their bodies and photographing them “with their stomachs cut open.”

In 1912 Clementine Bernebet, boasted in the courtroom – “I killed them all: men, women and babies, and I hugged the babies to my breast. But I am not guilty of murder”

Miss Bernebet was a 17-year old self-described Priestess of a cult variously called the “God Sacrifice Church” and the “Flame of God Church” in Lafayette, Louisiana. She led a team of serial killers who roamed about the region engaging in ritualistic human sacrifices targeting innocent families (always entire families!), dismembering the victims in accord with a Voodoo-like superstition. Clementine Bernebet’s case is among the many hundreds of female serial killer cases that have been (conveniently) “forgotten” by scholars of criminal behavior in the haze of the collective amnesia that for the past half-century has infected their profession and the whole of society as well.

Here is a photo of a surviving victim of a once well-known serial killer case, the “Munhall Insurance Ring” in Pennsylvania, which became public in 1932. This ought to be regarded as a particularly memorable photograph, an image you might find in a criminology textbook. [33]

Yet it is forgotten.

Stella Chalfa, the surviving victim who is pictured, and the three women who – before their homicide careers were put to a stop – managed to murder four children and one adult, with another one (besides Stella) in the planning stage, is erased from memory.

In the professional circles, such as the US Department of Justice and the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, the three female Munhall serial killers are not even so much as a footnote. Collective amnesia has wiped away Stella’s memory from the official record by – just like the facts surrounding thousands of other victims of female serial killers.

Stella deserves better treatment from the arbiters of public opinion and the guardians of our safety – and so do I, and so do you.

C’mon, people – c’mon Special Agents; c’mon professors … don’t be scared.

#  #  #

The photo in the title graphic shows Russian serial killer Tamara Samsonova, arrested July 27, 2015, peeking out from the police holding cell in St. Petersburg, Russia on the day of her arrest. She is thought to have murdered eleven or more persons, dismembering their corpses and perhaps cannibalizing portions. Quote: “I came home and put the whole pack of Phenazepamum - 50 pills - into her Olivier salad. She liked it very much. I woke up after 2 am and she was lying on the floor. So I started cutting her to pieces.”



[1] Lobacheva was arrested Feb. 15, 2015; “Elena Lobacheva, Sexual Sadist Serial Killer – Russia 2015,” Unknown History of Misandry. Robert St. Estephe.
[2] Source of quote: “Seventeen Murders Were Confessed To – By Clemintine Barnabet, Of The “Sacrifice Sect,” The Fort Wayne News (In.), Oct. 25, 1912, p. 17; “Clemintine”: incorrect spelling of Clementine in original]; “Clementine Barnabet, Louisiana Serial Killer & Voodoo Priestess – 1911,” Unknown History of Miusandry. Robert St. Estephe.
“Bernebet” spelling note: Various spellings are found in newspaper reports: “Barnabet,” “Bernabet,” Barnerbet, “Barnebat,” Benrabet, While “Barnabet” has been chosen for UHoM listings, recently discovered newspapers from Lafayette, Louisiana indicate that “Bernebet” may be the preferred (correct) spelling.
[3] Conference: Aug. 29 – Sep. 2, 2005 in San Antonio, Texas; report: Robert J. Morton, editor,  Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators, National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, U. S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2008, (corporate author), National Ctr for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) United States of America
[4] Hazelwood quote Patricia Pearson, When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, 1997, Viking, p. 157.
[5] Amanda L. Farrell, Robert D. Keppel, and Victoria B. Titterington, “Lethal Ladies: Revisiting What We Know About Female Serial Murderers,” Homicide Studies August 2011 15: 228-252,
[6] Wikipedia, “Serial Killer,” accessed Aug. 28, 2015.
[7] Eric W. Hickey, Serial Murders and Their Victims, 3rd edition, Belmont, Ca., Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2002.
[8] Marissa Harrison, “How evolutionary psychology may explain the difference between male and female serial killers,” The Conversation, Jun. 29, 2015
[9] Origin of “serial killer” term, in popular usage (earlier instances of the term or terms like it, however, exist), Special Agent Robert Ressler, 1978, FBI Behavioral Sciences Services Unit, Quantico, Virginia.
[10] “Unknown” cases in the hundreds …” see: Index: Female Serial Killers,” Unknown History of Misandry. Robert St. Estephe.
[11] “Another Female Poisoner,” published in The Bloomfield Times (New Bloomfield, Pa.), Jun. 10, 1873, p. 4; The article is focused on Sarah Earhardt, yet mentions serial killers Martha Grinder, Lydia Sherman, Mary Ann Cotton [erroneously given the name “Jane Cotton”).
[12] (The Central Press), “Three Women Who Admit Poisoning 29 Persons,” widely published in daily newspapers across the country beginning circa May 1, 1925; 2 instances: Lock Haven Express (Pa.), May 1, 1925, p. 2; The Reading Eagle (Pa.), May 2, 1925, p. 11 (in google news). “Della Sorenson, Nebraska Serial Killer: “I had a feeling of elation and happiness” – 1925” Unknown History of Misandry, Robert St. Estephe.
[13) “Female Serial Killers of 19th Century America,” Unknown History of Misandry
[14) “Our collective amnesia …”: Patricia Pearson, When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, 1997, Viking, p. 156.; also see: Carol Ann Jones, Women Who Kill: Profiles of Female Serial Killers, Alison & Busby (UK), 2001, pp. 240-41; sections headed “The Forgotten Killers” and “Men Only” discuss the amnesia phenomenon and chivalric blindness to female culpability.
[15) “The Dirty Dozen: 12 Female Serial Killers Executed in the USA – 1816-2002,” The Unknown History of Misandry, by Robert St. Estephe.
Processes Explaining the Concealment and Distortion of Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence,” European Journal on Criminal Policy, published online 14 July 2007.
[17) “… a feminist approach is also limited for explaining abuse perpetrated by women. Feminist theory typically explains women’s use of violence in the context of self-defence and retaliation for previous abuse. Yet, by doing so, a strictly feminist orientation denies that women can also feel angry and enraged without provocation in their relationships with men (Nolet-Bos, 1999). Additionally, while much of a woman’s use of violence does exist within the framework of retaliation and self-defence, feminist theory does not explain why women perpetrate violence outside their intimate relationships (e.g., at work, with children, or with peers).” [Richard Amaral, PhD, “Explaining Domestic Violence using Feminist Theory.” Dr. Richard Amaral Psychology For Growth, March 21, 2011]
[18) Murray Straus,  PhD, “Thirty Years of Denying the Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence: Implications for Prevention and Treatment,” Partner Abuse Journal, June 2010.
[19) Otto Pollak, The Criminality of Women, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.
[20) Steffensmeier, Darrell; Allan, Emilie, The Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice (2002), Macmillan Reference: New York.
[24] Steven F. Shatz and Naomi R. Shatz, “Chivalry Is Not Dead: Murder, Gender, and the Death Penalty,” Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, Vol. 27, No. 1, 2012
[25] Scott Bonn, Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World’s Most Savage Murderers. Skyhorse Publishing: New York, 2014
[26] The Gunness case hit the news on April 28, 1908 and the film was shown as early as May 24, 1908 in New York City; “Mrs. Gunness, the Female Bluebeard,” at World Eden; ad. in The Sun (New York, N. Y.), May 24, 1908, section 3, p. 4
[27] “Black Widow Serial Killers,” Unknown History of Misandry. Robert St. Estephe.
[28] John Borowski, director of documentary film, Serial Killer Culture, 2013; quote from: Richard Whittaker, “DVDanger: Real Monsters; Documentarian John Borowski studies Serial Killer Culture,” Austin Statesman, Jan. 10, 2015.
[29] “Female Serial Killers of the USA,” Unknown History of Misandry. Robert St. Estephe.
[30] Ann Frodi, J. Macaulay, and P. R. Thome, “Are Women Always Less Aggressive Than Men?” Psychological Bulletin 84 (1977), pp. 634-66); quoted in: Peter Vronsky, Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters, Berkley Books, New York, p. 7]
[31] Frank S. Perri, JD, MBA, CPA; and Terrance G. Lichtenwald, PhD, "The Last Frontier:Myths & the Female Psychopathic Killer," Summer 2010, The Forensic Examiner (journal)
[32] “Brittany Pilkington, Ohio Serial Killer Mom with a ‘Gender’ Concern – 2015” Unknown History of Misandry, Robert St. Estephe.
[33] “Munhall Insurance Ring” case:  Joseph W. Laythe, Engendered Death: Pennsylvania Women Who Kill, Rowan & Littlefield, 2011; ““High Spots in Insurance Murder Trial – a Case Involving ‘Devils, Drugs and Doctors’ – That Convicted 2 Women,” The Pittsburgh Press (Pa.), Feb. 3, 1933, p. 2; Ruth Reynolds, “How Fortune Teller Saw Death in Cards – Steady Income for Wives As Tragedy Strikes Homes,” The Ottawa Evening Journal (Canada), Feb. 16, 1952, p. 19?]

Addenda: items discovered after completion of article:

a) “We know from experience that serial killers are men (not 100%, but probably a ratio of something like 50:1 or 60: 1).” [p. 103; Mike Allen & Kathleen Valde,“Researching a Gendered World,” pp. 97-110, in Daniel J. Canary, Kathryn Dindia eds., Sex Differences and Similarities in Communication, 2006, Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.; 2nd edn. 2009 Taylor & Routledge.]
b) “Research into serial killing has tended to focus largely upon male perpetrators, who are indeed responsible for around 85 per cent of these crimes.” [p. 149, David Wilson, Elizabeth Yardley, Adam Lynes, Serial Killers and the Phenomenon of Serial Murder: A Student Textbook, 2015, Waterside Press, UK.]
c) “While detailed serial killing data are difficult to find or generate, recent studies have conducted both national and cross-cultural inquiries regarding female serial killers. For example, Gurian (2011) analyzed cross-cultural data compiled from academic and media sources on 134 offenders (99 partnered teams including 55 males and 44 females and 35 solo female killers) primarily from the U. S., but also including serial killers from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Greece, India, Mexico, Russia, Spain and the U. K.” [p. 170, Denise Paquette Boots and Jennifer Wareham, “A gendered view of violence,” pp. 163 ff., in Claire M. Renzetti, Susan L. Miller, Angela R. Gover, eds.,  Routledge International Handbook of Crime and Gender Studies, Routledge, 2013]. These findings (Gurian’s) represent only a fraction of international cases turned up in my own research (Robert St. Estephe).
d) “Jon Amiel’s [film] Copycat (1995) opens with renowned criminal psychologist Dr. Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver) giving her stock lecture on serial killers in which she explains that serial killers murder for recognition and power, usually over women, who constitute the majority of victims. With each killing leaving them unfulfilled, they kill again driven by the hope that next time might be perfect. To highlight the group that poses most risk, Helen asks all male members of the audience to stand, and then invites those under 20 or over 35 and those of Asian and African American descent to sit down, an exercise designed to highlight that 90% of serial killers are young adult, white males.” [Nicola Rehling, “Everyman and no man: white, heterosexual masculinity in contemporary serial killer movies.” Jump Cut: A Review Of Contemporary Media, No. 49, spring 2007]


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