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How Do Criminals Hide in Plain Sight?

Marcy has researched and written about relationships, domestic issues, dating, and con-artists for more than a decade.

Famous Serial Killer Ted Bundy

Theodore "Ted"  Bundy kept his murders secret for years. His cute and handsome looks hid the monster inside.

Theodore "Ted" Bundy kept his murders secret for years. His cute and handsome looks hid the monster inside.

Even the Worst Criminals Can Go Undetected

Three young women are discovered in a Cleveland home after being held prisoner for 10 years, and the nation wonders why nobody noticed anything amiss.

An Austria man creates an underground dungeon, where he holds his own daughter captive (and fathers seven children by her), and his wife claims she had no knowledge of the horrific situation.

Two people, one of them a handsome young man planning a legal career, spend hours side by side volunteering at a crisis hotline, and years later his companion (author Ann Rule) discovers her coworker was Ted Bundy, the poster boy for serial killers in America.

The parents of quiet and lovely young woman in a middle-class neighborhood are suddenly and viciously murdered, and the community realizes their daughter, Lizzie Borden, may be the culprit.

How do these things happen, seemingly in plain sight, without being detected?

Although the actions themselves are impossible to explain, once you understand how normal minds work, it's easy to why nobody spots clues that later seem 'obvious.'

It's Not Easy to Spot a Crime While in Progress

Some criminals are easy to spot, and some are not so easy.

Some criminals are easy to spot, and some are not so easy.

Textbook on Serial Killers - by David Schmid

Why People Don't Detect Monster Criminals

As David Schmid points out in his book, Natural Born Celebrities, killers are considered 'monsters' by 'normal' people.

It is extremely difficult for a normal and psychologically healthy person to comprehend the actions of people like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy (convicted of killing numerous young men and burying them in shallow graves in his basement), or that a middle-class young woman (Lizzie Borden) could violently butcher her own parents.

We Need to Believe "Normal" People Don't Do Monstrous Things

Ted Bundy was the all-American guy; he was handsome, highly intelligent, admired by everyone, and seemingly headed for a successful career in law or politics. He was the kind of guy parents hope their daughter will bring home one day. And he was the kind of guy who would eventually claim he had raped and murdered at least 30 women.

Ariel Castro appeared to be a nice guy, a good father and an okay guy to share backyard barbecue and drinks with on a hot summer day. Who knew he would be accused of sequestering and abusing three young women (two of whom had been kidnapped as teenagers) in his home for a decade? Where were the signs that he might be a monster?

Josef Fritzl seemed a bit quiet and quirky to his neighbors, and he was perhaps controlling with his wife, but who knew he had dug a subterranean home of horrors for his young daughter, where he kept her imprisoned for 24 years? Why didn't anyone spot the signs of what was going on right under their feet?

The disconnect people feel when a Ted Bundy, Josef Fritzl or (it appers) Ariel Castro surfaces in a community shows the need people have to feel these are not 'normal' humans.

As Schmid and others point out, if we recognize that someone normal can commit these crimes, we have to admit there may be inner demons in all of us.

The corollary to this is that, therefore, we expect everyone to be normal. To some degree, we accept people as they are. Nobody is perfect, so if Ted Bundy acts aloof one day (maybe even evasive), maybe he is just being private at that moment. If Josef Fritzl spends hours in his 'cellar,' well, he always was sort of quiet and a bit of an odd duck.

We allow each other those margins of eccentricity we allow ourselves. If we didn't, we would become unhealthily suspicious of everyone we meet.

Book About Josef Fritzl

Dungeon of Horror in Austria

Shocking Case of Monster Josef Fritzl in Austria

Should Josef Fritzl's wife have known what he was doing? Maybe. And Maybe not.

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