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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.

Consider for a moment what sorts of actions are taken for 'normal' among those you know. People go to work, they have hobbies, they are shy or outgoing, they mow their lawns and repair their cars. They get sick, get married and sometimes divorced, get into arguments with spouses and maybe have a drink on weekends.

Josef Fritzl's wife (Rosemarie who, we are told, was told never to go into his basement workshop) crossed her husband, she knew she would get into trouble. Their marriage wasn't perfect, but whose is? Their daughter Elizabeth had run away from home at a young age, and had left three children on their doorstep over the years, with notes saying she couldn't care for them.

If Rosemarie Fritzl saw her husband go into his underground workshop daily, she was probably glad to be away from him for a few hours. She knew not to cross him or violate his rule to stay away from that domain. He supported her financially, didn't appear to be having affairs, and helped care for those three abandoned grandchildren. To all appearances, he had some good qualities as well as his eccentricities.

Even if she had questioned his basement workshop activities, there is no way, as a normal human being, she would have thought the unthinkable. How could she possibly have raised a question in her own mind such as, "I wonder if he has dug a prison down there, and he's keeping our daughter Elizabeth in it, and fathering children with her?"

That idea would be so far-fetched, so unthinkable to a normal mind, that it would not have occurred to her. Or to any neighbor, or anyone else, including law enforcement officials who may have seen him go into the cellar regularly.

Normal people do not invent the horrendous and abnormal actions these people commit.

The Deliberate Stranger: Movie About Ted Bundy

The Stranger Beside Me: Book on Bundy by Ann Rule

Serial Murderer Ted Bundy: To Good to Be True

Before he went on the run, Ted Bundy was the quintessential normal guy.

He was also the dream-date and 'ideal' boyfriend for anyone who hoped to marry a handsome, successful attorney. He was too good to be true.

Bundy managed not only to fool Ann Rule (who later wrote The Stranger Beside Me, relating her volunteer experience with Bundy and his later crimes), he fooled his girlfriend and well-known politicians.

When Ted Bundy's name is mentioned, the term "Serial Killer" comes to mind, in part due to the popularity of Rule's book.

But if we think of the words "Serial Killer" outside of the context of Bundy, we visualize someone monstrous in looks as well as actions. We do not picture a handsome young soon-to-be-lawyer, wearing a suit and charming the political leaders of the time.

Bundy was able to avoid suspicion because of his patent normalcy. Although eventually, his girlfriend recognized a pattern of his absences and local murders (and reports that a man named "Ted" had been seen with victims), prior to having those dots to connect, she had no reason to think Bundy's periodic evenings away were signs he was out murdering one woman after another.

What part of his handsomeness, his intelligence, his attentiveness and claims of affection indicated he was a murderer? None.

Hiding in Plain Sight: Where The Three Girls Disappeared and Location of Ariel Castro's Home

Cleveland Man Ariel Castro Kept Three Women as Prisoners for Years

A case in America hit the news a few yeas ago, and has defied comprehension.

Three women, all missing for several years, are held in chains and ropes in a dungeon of torture in Cleveland, Ohio.

By all accounts, the man arrested for the crimes was a 'nice guy' who drove a school bus, played in a local band and shared fun times at cookouts with his friends and neighbors.

As the case unfolded, newscasters asked those who knew Castro how they didn't spot him as a 'monster.' How could they be around this person on a regular basis, and not know what he was doing?

It is certainly infuriating to think the actions he is accused of went unnoticed for more than 10 years.

During those years, dating back as far as 2002, Castro is said to have kidnapped three people: Michelle Knight, who was a young woman at the time she disappeared, and two teenage girls, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus.

Then, according to charges, he imprisoned them in his homemade chamber of horrors, where he is accused of repeatedly raping them, beating them, fathering several children (only one of whom survived), starving the women and using them for his own pleasure.

Yet none of his relatives or anyone else who knew him had any idea these things were happening, almost in plain sight.

Neighbor after neighbor, as well as Castro's own children, siblings and mother, expressed genuine shock and disbelief of what was discovered on May 6th, 2013.

How could three women be held prisoner right under their eyes? How could they miss what was happening?

If anyone had good reason to hide the 'monster' side of himself, it is the person who committed the crimes Ariel Castro is accused of doing.

Ariel Castro kept to himself and didn't let people in his basement or upstairs, but was that sufficient reason to suspect he had three women locked up for his personal gratification? A few neighbors saw some 'unusual' behavior, but nothing that rose to a level that would merit a legal search of the property.

Could anyone have even remotely imagine the things happening in his house, year after year?

The answer is "No." Normal humans generally don't speculate that a 'normal-looking' neighbor is doing something unthinkable.

Not long after his conviction, Castro died in his cell. It's not officially stated whether it was suicide, or accidental strangulation in an attempt to stimulate himself. Either way - good riddance.

Home of Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden's house was a typical, middle-class home in a 'normal' neighborhood.  Why would anyone expect it to be the scene of a murder?

Lizzie Borden's house was a typical, middle-class home in a 'normal' neighborhood. Why would anyone expect it to be the scene of a murder?

Have You Known a Criminal?

Normal People Need to Believe in Normalcy

It is all to easy for criminals to hide in plain sight, because we take normal behavior, and even variations of normal behavior, at face value.

When Lizzie Borden's parents were bludgeoned in 1892, the peaceful community of Fall River, Massachusetts was stunned. And unable to comprehend what may have happened. Did Lizzie actually murder her own parents? If so, why? How could this be?

Nothing in Lizzie Borden's behavior prior to her parents' deaths gave any sign that she might later be accused of killing them.

Lizzie may have had her own idiosyncrasies or unique behaviors, but she clearly fell under the category of 'normal.' Therefore, she would not have been considered a monster, or capable of behaving like one.

As mentioned above, it we take 'normal' behavior at face value. But more importantly, it is both 'normal' and essential for us to do so.

We, as a society, have to believe in 'good,' or else everything will be converted to 'evil' by our darkest fears.

Certainly, we need to be diligent in spotting truly abnormal behaviors. We need to be quick to piece together clues, cues and signs of danger or serious crime.

But we also need to be psychologically healthy enough to continue to trust others, to go about our daily life with a sense of safety (where appropriate), and to grow as a culture.

The "Normal" Fascination With Criminals

Sadly, the most unimaginable actions of humans are also, after the fact, among the most compelling.

Accompanying the close scrutiny and forensic analysis of a post-crime situation is a universal disbelief that such a horrible act could happen 'right in front of people' with nobody noticing the clues.

Part of this fascination is from our desire to spot the crimes in a timely fashion, and to prevent them wherever possible.

But a bigger part, perhaps, is our need to feel these people are not like us. We need to believe 'normal' is safe and would not do these things. We need to believe there are indeed monsters in the world.


Enelle Lamb from Canada's 'California' on September 21, 2015:

Thoroughly enjoyed the hub. Have been away for a while, so am catching up...lol will take me almost as long to catch up as I have been away!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on July 02, 2015:

Thanks, Hazel - Bundy fascinates me, too. I don't think he married the woman he dated, but I agree with you - the feelings she had after finding out the truth would have been amazing, Glad you enjoyed the article!

Hazel Abee from Malaysia on June 29, 2015:

The title was simply interesting .. that I had to read it ... Ted Bundy has always been one interesting crime or probably most talked and written .... Being a good husband and yet murdering women , just can not imagine the feelings of his wife when she found out who she has been with ...

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 01, 2015:

Hi, Jackie - yes, Bundy not only 'hid' because of his good looks and smooth way of operating, he was clever enough to blend in with the popular idea of 'normal' and 'successful.' He was the most dangerous and toxic kind of criminal. I've often wondered how horrified the woman who'd dated him must have been when she realized who he was. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on April 30, 2015:

Bundy I took particular interest in. He seemed like the all American boy; didn't he? In an earlier time he probably would have never been caught. Informative and interesting read! Sorry I missed it for so long.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on April 14, 2015:

Thanks for those thoughts, Jeannie! As with you, I have mixed opinions on Lizzie Borden. There were some interesting pieces of evidence, though, in her laundry (as I recall). I believe they found bloody clothing that was either discarded or in the laundry somehow. I could be mis-remembering that, however. The father was pretty autocratic and not a nice guy - that makes you wonder what her life was like before that happened.

Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on April 13, 2015:

I suppose it is easier for people to turn away and not believe those around them could be monsters. I personally don't think there is any such thing as "normal" anymore, but of course, I don't think most people are ruthless killers either. Funny thing is, the more I read about the Lizzie Borden case, the less I think she actually did it. There were a lot of people that could have done it and I don't get the impression that her father was terribly well-liked in the community. I guess we will never know though!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on March 09, 2015:

HI, Claudia - good question! Based on the course I teach (and according to many researchers), we have a desire to believe that the most terrible criminals are not like us - something in us wants to believe they're monstrous. Certainly, they do monstrous things, but it shakes us up when we learn they can also walk and talk among us without us realizing their darker sides. Ted Bundy fooled many people, and many of the really awful criminals (while not as 'cute' as he was considered by some) have gone without detection for a long period of time.

It makes sense that they'd 'hide' those traits and would become experts at fooling people - otherwise, they'd be caught and would not be able to follow that hidden urge or continue their crimes. Thanks for reading and commenting - and it's great to have you on the site!

Claudia Mathews on March 08, 2015:

Wow! Marcy this is so well done, really makes you think. Besides contemplating how these people can live among us, participate in normal activities with us and we don't suspect a thing, I have always wondered why so many people like to read the stories or watch the movies that tell the story of someone's crimes. I am one of those people too and I really can't pinpoint why I find the true stories so fascinating. It bothers me sometimes, because it seems wrong to be entertained by something so horrific. Out of curiosity, do you have any theories on that?

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on March 07, 2015:

Yikes! Oh gosh, SG - I got chills thinking of what could have happened to you. Not sure you can share it here, but how did you learn the truth? And yes - many of the worst examples are oh-so-charming. That does not, of course, imply that all charming people are secretly criminals, nor does it imply that all criminals are charming.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on March 07, 2015:

I once spent 15 minutes with a man that seemed very nice and polite, little did I know he was a serial rapist. I wrote a hub on it. Sometimes the most charming ones are the ones you have to watch out for. I had never heard of the man from Austria. I am going to Google him and get the details. It is amazing what can go on without anyone else having a clue. Great hub!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on February 14, 2015:

Glad that clarified things for you, LTM - you would not believe the various things people have assumed about that course!

LongTimeMother from Australia on February 14, 2015:

Thanks for explaining that, Marcy. I could think of a number of different paths such a course could take.

Sharing. :)

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on February 13, 2015:

Hi, LongTimeMother - Thanks for reading and commenting! The course is an "Interdisciplinary Capstone" - it's meant to be a platform for students to demonstrate their analytical and critical thinking skills. It's actually about literature and movies related to serial killers (where the main character is a killer), so we study Frankenstein, an outstanding book called Perfume, the Dexter book & TV series and some others.

Some students think they're going to learn about the way a serial killer thinks, and get into the crime element - so we have to let them know that's not the focus of the course. Actually - that's probably the most common misconception of the course. But - they do enjoy the course once they get started, and I give a lot of credit to the course developer for creating a very popular and interesting course.

It's a fun course, and I've enjoyed teaching it - and it's nothing like you'd think it would be!

LongTimeMother from Australia on February 12, 2015:

Hi Marcy. In what context is your course on Serial Killers as Heroes in Popular Culture? I'm fascinated by the types of students you must have ... and their reasons for choosing it.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on January 16, 2015:

You've definitely seen some examples of people who are on the fringes, Techygram - my career has exposed me to certain populations, too, and it leaves an imprint. Thanks for adding these thoughts - and yes, Ted Bundy types still show up now and then. Scary and sad.

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on January 15, 2015:

Hi Marcy, I think it is useful to add that I used to work as a counselor/social worker with women and kids who had experienced abuse in their relationships, so did meet some of their "partners" as well, or heard a lot about them, and am old enough to have met some minor-case Ted Bundy-types in my personal life, as I am sure many of us have. And a former guerrilla soldier who channeled his violence onto his family once he was safe in Canada, alas.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on January 15, 2015:

Wow, Techygran - it sounds like you've met some people who definitely need to be treated warily, or avoided altogether. I have, as well. I've actually met at least one person I feel would be capable of the worst types of crimes (and who has a long history of sociopathic behaviors). It's chilling to think of what he could have done.

Thanks for reading, commenting, voting and sharing!

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on January 15, 2015:

Marcy, this is a well-written piece and calls up a lot of questions of oneself. Just how connected are we to each other in our society, in our home, in our intimate relationships? I have met many people who have been cruel and abusive, but none, that I can think of , that I know have actually killed anyone (outside of war). In the past I have had rather onerous "visitations" or omens or some sort of instincts about people that have initially gotten me into trouble, but which have occasionally worked out for the best in a couple of families with long-held deep-dark secrets. The older I get, the smaller my intimate group has become. I'm not sure it that is a good thing or not... I'll have to think about it along with some of the questions that your hub offers. Voted up and shared.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on January 08, 2015:

Maybe we could all use some tutoring on how criminals think - it's definitely a detour from the norm, for most of us. Thanks for the comment here, RTalloni.

RTalloni on January 08, 2015:

I heard a commercial for a company that helps protect people from identity theft. The "voice" said that to protect yourself you need to think like a criminal, and that is what this company does for customers. There's an application in that when dealing with other people, yet not tipping into paranoia is the balancing act…

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on January 08, 2015:

You were very smart to do that, Marlene - it's so sad that people need to be that cautious, but it's the wise thing to do. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Marlene Bertrand from USA on January 08, 2015:

When my daughters were young, I was extremely paranoid to let them out of my sight. People can appear so normal, yet be so cruel. Their game is in knowing how to act normal while keeping people at bay so they can play out their bad themes. It's true. A normal person would never spot this type of criminal because that's just not the way a normal person thinks... and the criminals know that.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on January 08, 2015:

Yes, it's absolutely not right to question people's lives in appropriately. I'd been thinking of the wide range of 'odd' behaviors we just take for granted (and, generally, we should continue to take for granted). Some people are quieter than others, some are withdrawn, some are quirky.

Many felt the wife of the man in Austria should have known what was happening to her daughter (locked in a dungeon). That defies normal thinking - the man was controlling, had hidden the access to the room, and ordered his wife not to go into his basement 'retreat.' Even if she had gone there, she would likely have been fearful of his anger & not stayed long. So she likely would not have found the door. Her daughter had 'run away,' and there were carefully orchestrated notes to keep that myth alive. Nothing about that situation would have caused a normal person to think, "Oh wow - I'll bet he dug a hole and has her down in a dungeon!" That simply isn't a normal way for someone to think.

That man was (still is) an animal - as was Ted Bundy.

RTalloni on January 07, 2015:

We have a responsibility to keep our eyes open but you are right, questioning others personal business generally is not what decent people do. Even if we have a question about what someone may be up to, no one wants to make a false accusation (most of us, anyway) How horrible and cruel to a person and their family/friends it would be to be wrong.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on January 07, 2015:

That's a great idea, RTalloni - i will have to add it to my list of possible topics! I teach a course in Serial Killers as Heroes in Popular Culture, and that course, as well as some of the examples I mentioned in this article, prompted me to write this one. People normally don't question the actions of others, even if they're a bit unusual (and these criminals manage to look pretty run-of-the-mill most of the time).

RTalloni on January 07, 2015:

Yes, they can be some of the nicest looking, charismatic, and helpful people around. We cannot know another's motives…but we can learn from others' experiences, we can learn to be careful, and we can learn something about defending oneself if need be. Have you considered another hub, a followup to this one, that outlines how to live defensively yet not in fear? Not a deep psychological examination, but maybe something practical based on what police across the country recommend for "normal" people in a world that contains criminals.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on January 07, 2015:

Oh, wow - I got chills just reading this, ladyguitarpicker. I don't know that I could avoid thinking of that piece of history if I had to see the actual location on a regular basis. What he was truly the quintessential predator. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on January 07, 2015:

Thanks, RTalloni - once we start thinking about serial killers, we naturally consider good and evil and the values humans embrace.

When I think of the really 'bad' people I have known, I have to say very few of them looked like monsters (I can't even think of one who would have triggered a response of fear based on his/her normal looks or personality). These people are very adept at fitting in and looking normal. That's the only way they survive.

stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on January 07, 2015:

It gives me chills to think Ted Bundy was in the town I use to live. I often go by the apartment that the women were killed at. A very interesting hub.

RTalloni on January 07, 2015:

So much food for thought in your hub and these comments! As wretched as it is to face the realities, discussions in hubs like this that initiate conversation about the issues are very important. Thank you for writing in a manner that faces some of the issues straight-on and allowing dialogue on this topic.

One thing I often think of re this topic is what an insane injury so-called "normal" people do to society by allowing and indulging in entertainment that provokes some among us to do their worst to people they can find a way to victimize. Why do they not connect the dots to make the associations? Do they really believe the few so-called experts who state that there is no connection? It defies believability.

Another thing is that when a society leans hard toward rebellion to civil authorities that are established to protect us from such people it is easier for criminals to hide. This concept has so many layers to it that a new hub would be required to cover it, but today we see that criminal minds stir up the weak-minded against authorities that they could be helping/encouraging/motivating to police themselves as well as our communities.

Some things can't be explained except to say that evil exists. One of our first line of defenses is to agree with God's warnings about the human heart. It seems that the more explanations we as a society give for criminal behavior the more people are inclined to excuse criminals, reminding me of Ecc. 8:11,

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Eccle... .

On a better note, Richard Ganz's book PsychoBabble,

http://www.amazon.com/PsychoBabble-Failure-Psychol... ,

has a lot to say to a society that refuses to agree with what God offers us individually and corporately. He encourages us with the sure promises that offer comfort and strength to us personally and as a society.

Oh! There's so much to consider and communicate re this topic! I'll be back to review this for possible updates and peruse comments in the future.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on January 04, 2015:

They're definitely imposters, PeachPurple. They try to act 'normal,' to avoid detection. Criminals are very good at what they do. Thanks for reading and leaving your feedback!

peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 04, 2015:

Criminals are great in disguise, they should be known as imposters too

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on January 16, 2014:

Oh my gosh - yea, it's very scary that you could predict who was headed down which path! I'm not sure I'd want the responsibility of knowing those things. Thanks for reading and for sharing that!

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on January 16, 2014:

Interesting and thought provoking hub. Every human being is capable of murder and either good or evil. Genetics, environment, upbringing, education and other variables contribute as to if a person becomes an evil murderer or is a good law abiding person. It all depends if the person allows the good or evil come to the surface. The middle school years are crucial as to which way a person goes. I can definitely understand how evil and murderers can live among us and we don't realize. When I taught middle and high school in inner city we teachers could predict who would follow a life of gangs, crime and evil and who would not. Our predictions were at 100 percent. That's scary.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on January 02, 2014:

Thanks, Jodah - there's a good chance that every serial killer or predator has appeared 'normal' to almost everyone but his victims. And even the victims saw him (or her) as normal at first. They're experts at hiding their dark reality.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on January 01, 2014:

This is an amazing and informative hub Marcy. It is true we don't like to admit so called normal people could even contemplate these things, or we are admitting we could too. Scary stuff. A neighbour or family member could easily become a serial killer. We just don't know. Captivating read, thanks. Voted up.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on December 08, 2013:

Hi, Teaches - thanks for reading & commenting. The very fact that we don't spot these people at least confirms our normalcy. If we viewed everyone with suspicion, and wove dark tales in our minds, we would crack under that stress. Trust is a healthy thing to cultivate, and it's sad there are so many people who have become experts at hiding their true selves.

Dianna Mendez on December 07, 2013:

The number of criminals commiting these horrible crimes is surprising. As you say, they are quiet people who we would never suspect as abnormal. I am so comforted by your words on how we need to know that these criminals are not normal. It just makes things a little easier to view when posted on TV or in the news.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on October 09, 2013:

Thanks for reading, Moonlake, and for the nice words on the award!

Sadly, the type of people who do this are absolute experts at hiding what they do and fooling people. They know how to appear normal - and in some cases, even to appear like pillars of society. Ted Bundy was considered a 'good catch' to date or marry; he was a law student, cute, politically connected and did volunteer work.

We look for red flags or signals that tell us something isn't 'right,' but when people are controlling what we see to eliminate or diminish those signals, we don't detect the warning signs. I've seen examples such as you mention. It's scary to know They Walk Among Us.

moonlake from America on October 09, 2013:

I always get awful feelings about some people but would I get that feeling about these people. We had a guy in town everyone thought he was a great guy I never really did but I didn't know him well. The whole time he was molesting a child.

There was a doctor in town I took our kids but only when my own doctor was not available. He was also molesting a child and he is still a doctor and people still take their kids to him.

I think people are just to forgiving of things they see in others and that's why they miss the monsters in this world.

Congratulation on Hubbie Award Best Community Activist

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on September 10, 2013:

Hi, Vista - I haven't read Jaycee Dugard's book, but she indeed is amazing. I have often wondered how people who have experienced horrific events that are high-profile news items are sometimes able to recover very remarkably. I am sure there will always be scars or bruises, but there are several recent examples of spiritual strength and a sense of peace and triumph. Many people go through difficult times that are not covered by the media and they have years of struggles. I am not expressing this well - but I've wondered if the absolute expert care they get, and the validation that their experiences were horrific might offer a contrast to some vicitims who need validation and need better care.

The victims of Ariel Castro are similar examples (I realize they're still euphoric at having been rescued). However, in a very short time, some have shown remarkable and positive starts on the road to recovery.

And yes, I read that he killed himself. Couldn't happen to a better guy . . .

Tiana Dreymor from Columbus, OH on September 09, 2013:

Glad to see you mention Jaycee Dugard. Her case fascinates me. I have read her book and recently watched an hour and some long video of her interviewed by Diane Sawyer. She literally raised herself and has become an intelligent and peaceful young lady. What she experienced is so horrific, you would think she would be warped forever. God bless her.

As for Castro... he killed himself the other day.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 12, 2013:

I agree, Suzette, that someone didn't connect a few dots in this horrible case. I do think it may have been a stretch for the police to suddenly decide maybe Castro had some missing girls in his house. For one thing, having reports of odd behavior in the yard (the reports of a naked woman), is nothing unusual for the police. They see things that defy comprehension for most of us, but don't fall outside of the law. So I can sort of see it both ways.

The one that really seems to have slipped through the cracks is poor Jaycee Dugard. There's no excuse for that one not being found. So,so sad.

Thanks for your great comment - as I said, Castro's case leaves many questions for us.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on June 12, 2013:

I agree, Midget - they know they have to 'look normal,' so they practice their scripts carefully, and perfect them. Thanks for your comments!

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on June 12, 2013:

Good hub. Very interesting and thought provoking. In the case of Castro of Cleveland, those girls should have been found earlier. There were neighbors who called police and the police didn't respond because this was a poverty area of Cleveland and not much attention is given to the people who call and complain. I blame the police and detectives for not following up on complaints.

I think part of the reason we miss horror in our neighbors is because of the disconnect in the world today. Life is moving faster and there is not the close cohesiveness of neighborhoods like their used to be. Everybody does not know everybody anymore. People in general, I think, have become more private and keep to themselves. But, the fact that Castro beat his wife so badly to me would let anyone know he was a monster long before he kidnapped those girls. When these things happen in a poverty stricken area like it did in Cleveland, most people are looking the other way just trying to survive life themselves.

Michelle Liew from Singapore on June 11, 2013:

The. Monsters are so good at presenting positive veneers. It's what makes them so inscrutable! Thanks for sharing....oh wow, I remember the Fritzl case. Recent, and scary.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 25, 2013:

That would indeed be chilling, Eric - and there are so many people who have learned that a trusted friend, neighbor, coworker or relative has a secret side to them. Sorry you had to experience that.

Eric Dockett from USA on May 24, 2013:

A few years back one of my neighbors was arrested for doing something pretty awful. I didn't know him, but I'd see him around. Never imagined he was doing what he was doing all that time. It's chilling when you think about it. You really never know what people are up to.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 24, 2013:

Thanks, Moonlake - as with you, many have learned they came close to danger, and some only learned it after it was too late. I sometimes think there's a certain smugness attached to pulling one over on people when criminals are able to fool us. And as for the child molesters - I do not know why they are allowed around children. Those who violate court orders and go around them anyway certainly know what they're up to. Child molesters are not considered curable - it's their orientation to be attracted to children.

moonlake from America on May 24, 2013:

Our kids went to school with a boy that later killed an old lady. Our daughter-in-law ran into a child molester while working on a benefit. She thought this women was a great person until I told her who she was and I was shocked she was working around where children would be, not only that she had an arrogant attitude I think killers can work their way into your life because they can be charming and you don't realize who your dealing with.

I had to go to exercise class at the hospital, we had to do our walking with a child molester. He had molested little boys in his care. I could not believe his wife stayed with him. In my book she was almost as bad as him. I didn’t realize who he was until later.

Interesting hub voted up.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 15, 2013:

That's definitely food for thought, SilentReed - I've seen that discussed in various classes about serial killers. It's hard to separate those types of incidents from the rank & file killers or criminals who are making news in more traditional ways. Thanks for commenting!

SilentReed from Philippines on May 15, 2013:

You don't have to "go over the edge" to commit these gruesome murders. With proper military training, political indoctrination and psychological reorientation, any "normal" person can be turn into a serial killer. If we add up all the corpses of serial killers from Jack the ripper to the latest Ted Bundy copycat, they are just a drop in the bucket (more like a drop in the ocean) compare to State and government sanction killings that send thousands to their death in the name of patriotic duty, inflamed by the empty rhetoric of demagogues. Let us also not forget religious conflicts where opposing sides assert they have God on their side and that they are waging a "moral, just or holy war" (an oxymoron) Who are the real monsters and criminals?

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 13, 2013:

Great points, aviannovice - there are some abnormalities in the frontal lobes of true sociopaths, so that's already a degree of a clue. But someone can have all those symptoms and not act on their impulses or on urges to do bad things. The frontal lobe information signifies they may not feel the emotions a normal person feels (empathy, a conscience, etc.), but that doesn't mean they're criminals. So much to learn . . .

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on May 13, 2013:

This was very well done. The odd thing about normal vs. abnormal, is that fact that there is such a fine line. Is it learned or innate behavior? Sometimes it is both. What makes people go over the edge? Their psyche, their genes, or their upbringing. We will have the clues at our grasp, but it is never wholly there. Eventually, I'm sure, we will be able to test DNA and uncover the abnormalities that she what makes up a serial killer, but until then, we just must be cautious.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 13, 2013:

Hi, livewithruchard - I completely agree that the news media probably feeds into whatever ego they have. I personally believe they get a rush from fooling people. Castro went to vigils and helped look for one of his victims (which sometimes happens in those cases). Whatever kick they get from pulling it off is enhanced by those actions. And I don't particularly think they have a conscience.

Richard Bivins from Charleston, SC on May 12, 2013:

I can't begin to understand how these atrocities happen right under our noses. I wonder if the fear of getting caught is part of the excitement for these creeps or if somehow deep down they truly believe they are doing no wrong; sort of a survival of the fittest, strongest, smartest. Actually, I don't want to know. I don't want to be inside their heads or care why they do/did their deeds. I wish the media wouldn't flock to these people either and give the next creep goals to live up to.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 12, 2013:

Hi, Janet - I have heard of that case, too - I thought about including it, but did not want to make the hub too long. Maybe I will add it - it's another very horrific example. Thanks for sharing that.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 12, 2013:

Many thanks, jklahlou! I appreciate your reading and leaving a comment.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 12, 2013:

Hi, Peg - your comment hit home with me, too. As a young girl, living on the outskirts of town, along a busy highway, I walked home from the bus (at least 1/4 mile), with traffic going by, and walked the same highway to go into the neighborhoods where my friends lived. Nobody would dream of letting a teenage girl do that now. Once, a strange man pulled up and opened his door. My mother had always told me not to ride with strangers, etc., but I had no idea of the horrible reasons for that. I kept walking and ignored him, and he had to move on in traffic. This was a man in a suit, in a nice car. Normal-looking, in every way. I get chills thinking of it.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 12, 2013:

That is a chilling story, Melovy - you are fortunate to be here. You were also a quick thinker, in every way. So many little factors could have tipped the situation in another direction. Wow. Again, wow.

Janet Giessl from Georgia country on May 12, 2013:

Marcy, your hub was so interesting to read and made me very thoughtful. In addition to the cases you described I would add another one , also in Austria. In 1998 a 10-year-old Austrian girl named Natascha Kampusch was kidnapped by an unemployed communication engineer called Wolfgang Priklopil and held captive in his created dungeon under his house where he abused her. After 8 years she was able to flee. Wolfgang Priklopil committed suicide then. He seemed to be a friendly but reserved person. Nobody had ever thought he would do such a horrible thing. He captured Natascha to make his 'ideal' woman out of her. That sounds really mad.

Your hub is very well-written and thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing it.

jklahlou on May 12, 2013:

Great overview and liked the inclusion of the normalcy bias

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on May 12, 2013:

Hi Marcy,

These are interesting observations and the discussions that follow illustrate your point exactly. None of us want to believe that our neighbors are nefarious, or that their sometimes odd behavior is concealing anything like what we later are told on the news. True, after the fact, the clues that arise often make it clear that we were self deluding in not hearing screams or noticing someone digging in the backyard late at night, etc..

Out here in the country I've heard gunshots a number of times and sometimes questioned it with authorities. A man fatally shot himself just a few houses from us and I never questioned nor heard anything. Another time, a care flight helicopter landed in our front yard to aid someone with a knife wound from an altercation, who later passed away. These things go on right under our noses without detection.

Looking back, I can see that as a young woman, I put myself in a lot of situations that could have gone really bad. For these poor girls held captive, all it took was one wrong move. Still, we want to believe in the good of human kind, that these are the acts of deranged people.

Your article was really thought provoking and well told.

Yvonne Spence from UK on May 12, 2013:

Marcy, to answer your question - as soon as he attacked me, I became hyper-alert, thinking out what needed to happen for me to escape and negotiating with him to make sure things went the best way they could for me. I knew I needed to get him to go out because there was no way I could beat him physically. I told him my friend would phone the police if I wasn't back in an hour and there was no phone in the building so he had to go out to use a payphone to call her. The moment he'd gone I worked at loosening the ropes around my wrists. (If it had been today he'd have had a mobile phone and so I probably wouldn't have escaped.)

The thing is, he did need help and I think anyone who commits crimes like those you've described here would never do so if they had grown up with love and caring - but that doesn't mean a lone 17 year-old-girl was the person to help him. And we still need to take care of ourselves - so criminals need to be detained. I don't know if this man ever got the help he needed, but I do know a few months in prison didn't do anything to improve how he behaved, and I heard he did something similar again.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 12, 2013:

Oh, wow - Melovy, you went through a terrifying experience! How did you get away from him? I think you hit on a very important point; when we meet people who are troubled or 'different,' we simply assume they need help. And the vast majority never really hurt others, so that assumption is valid. But sometimes . . . Wow.

Yvonne Spence from UK on May 12, 2013:

This is a very interesting article Marcy - and both it and the comments provide much food for thought.

When I was 17, an ex-boyfriend of a friend of mine reappeared in our town, and wanted back with her. She was not interested, but agreed to meet with him to talk, provided I came too. He told us how unhappy he was and how he was drinking too much. To cut a long story short, I felt sorry for him and and agreed to meet him to "help" him talk things through, and he threatened me with knives and tied me up. His plan was to hold me hostage and get her to come to him but I managed to escape.

But, a few days before this attack, he had actually told me he'd thought of doing it, and gave me a knife and bottle of whisky to get rid of. From this I concluded he was in need of help, and it never occurred to me he might actually do it. I was young, and very naïve, but I think this illustrates how it's possible for crimes to go unnoticed. It's not just that we don't want to see these things, but more that if we have no experience or awareness that it could be going on our minds just don't take it in.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 11, 2013:

Thanks, MsDora - you're right - there are usually no answers. And the balance between being alert without being abnormally fearful is indeed a fine distinction!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 11, 2013:

I know it defies comprehension, Nell. We don't yet know the details, but apparently they were at first kept in a basement. So it might have been difficult to hear them in that environment. I think there were some reports of people hearing noises or screams, but those who heard could not figure out where they were coming from. Even if there had been noticeable signs, I'm sure nobody would have imagined the complete situation. It's mind-boggling.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 11, 2013:

Good presentation, Marcy. These are questions most people ask and receive no answers. We not only have to be cautious; we have to intentionally aware without being frightened. Could be complicated!

Nell Rose from England on May 11, 2013:

Hi marcy, we have been watching this case on tv over here. Totally unbelievable! I just don't understand how that nobody heard those girls, they must have screamed or cried out at some stage. I do think we just don't see it because we never really take enough notice of other people. even the really nosy people only centre on certain people, other things go under the radar, such a sad and appalling case, in fact all of them were, fascinating reading, nell

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 11, 2013:

I agree, Virginia - I know bad things happened years ago, but either we hear more about the incidents now, or they're actually on the rise. I remember those great days, too - we could play outside for hours, and everyone in the entire neighborhood knew who your parents were and kept an eye on you.

Although I didn't drop a pin on the Cleveland map to show it, there's a police station very close to where all three girs were picked up. One (I believe it's Gina) knew him, but the others may have been grabbed or accepted a ride, or were lured. The investigators have not revealed all the details of how they were taken, but I'm sure that information will come out at some point.

Virginia Kearney from United States on May 11, 2013:

What bothers me is that the fear of this sort of kidnapping has made me not even let my kids walk around our block by themselves, even though we actually live in a neighborhood with a very, very low crime rate and the police department is about 1/4 mile from our house. When I was a kid, we roamed all over the hills and vacant land near our homes without any sort of cell phone. We'd be gone for half the day and our parents didn't even know where we were. It was glorious fun. My mom grew up the same way in the L.A. area. I am sad that I don't feel I can let my kids roam around our area at all without an adult with them. I actually don't know if things are really any worse than they were in the 1960s-70s, but we certainly feel they are.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 11, 2013:

Many thanks, Bravewarrior! The recent events in the news have brought the topic to the forefront again. I appreciate your reading and commenting!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 11, 2013:

Marcy, this is a fascinating piece and well-written. I love that you are looking at the viewpoint of society rather than disecting the mind of the criminal. Very interesting.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 11, 2013:

Hi, Rebekah - thanks for your thoughtful comment here. It's very true that we sometimes talk ourselves out of believing what we see. Sometimes that's good, such as when we jump to the wrong conclusion, but at other times, perhaps we are overlooking the bigger picture.

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on May 11, 2013:

You've written an interesting commentary. I think it's human nature to want to believe that there is more good than evil in our fellow man. While reading your hub, I thought of energy and awareness, and how it is often not given attention. Everything and everyone gives off it's own energy. Animals can sense it better than humans. Why is this, I wonder? We allow our thoughts to say it can't be true. Perhaps if we were more in tune with ourselves, we could become more aware of the dark energy that hides in plain sight. Very interesting to read, and well put together, Marcy. If you haven't read him yet, kenja is another excellent author writing on HubPages. Enjoy the weekend!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 11, 2013:

Thanks, ChitrangadaSharan - I agree, the more brilliant a criminal is, the more dangerous they can be. I appreciate your comments here.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 11, 2013:

Hi, pstraubie - you've listed some good examples of other killers who hide in plain sight. I teach a course about Serial Killers, and it is a very interesting topic. The natural reaction is to try to unravel what makes these people tick. Thanks for commenting!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on May 11, 2013:

It is frightening to realize that seemingly normal people walk among us and then we find they have committed heinous crimes. Ted Bundy, Danny Rolling (who murdered the coeds at UF which is only minutes from where I live) both have landed a place in history for their crimes. Jeffrey Dahmner too went on to earn his place as well.

It boggles my mind even though I have read your carefully written words how this can happen....

I have recently written about the death penalty here on the Hub so that is why this caught my eye.

I celebrated when Ted was executed...as I was so in favor of that punishment then.

Angels are on the way to you.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 11, 2013:

Quite a thought provoking hub and so well done!

It is rightly said that an intelligent person, if he becomes a criminal or has a criminal bent of mind is a disaster for the civilised society. And now to assist them, there is this technology.

Very nice and interesting observations in your hub, thanks for sharing.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 10, 2013:

Many thanks, Lavertis, for your comments. I have looked up the registry of local offenders, too, and it was sobering to see how the map was dotted with addresses all over the city. We can't be too vigilant, but we do need to go about it in a spirit of normalcy, or we would go crazy.

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on May 10, 2013:

The word 'unremarkable' fits them perfectly, Billy. These people indeed know how to look and act normal, and they've become adept at hiding their true natures. Thanks for reading and commenting - and you have a great weekend, too!

Levertis Steele from Southern Clime on May 10, 2013:

I am nearly speechless just thinking about what could be around us at any time. A few years ago I decided to access my state's DOC website. I clicked on "sex offenders near you," and was shocked to know that seven lived in my community. What is more disturbing is that sex offenders are not the only dangerous criminals. Even more, all criminals have not been discovered. So, how many criminals are really nearby or right next door?

Your hub creates awareness that everyone should listen to. When we team with our neighbors to look out for one another (neighborhood watch), looking for signs of criminal behavior is what we do, regardless of the crime. But you are right: "We, as a society, have to believe in 'good,' or else everything will be converted to 'evil' by our darkest fears."So, we have to maintain at least a sense of balance to save our sanity.

What an interesting hub!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 10, 2013:

Most of them truly are cloaked in normalcy. They are so good at being unremarkable that nobody can imagine that they would be guilty of anything. You make some excellent points here, Marcy. Well done.

Have a great weekend!


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