Legends, Monsters, or Serial Murderers?
The Real Story Behind an Ancient Crime
by Dirk C. Gibson
February 2012, 202pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-39758-5
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-0-313-39759-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

When asked to name a serial murderer, most people are likely to think of American criminals who gained notoriety in the 20th century, such as David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, or Richard Ramírez. However, serial murder is neither a recent crime nor one primarily committed in the United States.

Covering figures ranging from Catherine Monvoisin to Vlad the Impaler, and describing murders committed in ancient aristocracies to those attributed to vampires, witches, and werewolves, this book documents the historic reality of serial murder.

The majority of serial murder studies support the consensus that serial murder is essentially an American crime—a flawed assumption, as the United States has existed for less than 250 years. What is far more likely is that the perverse urge to repeatedly and intentionally kill has existed throughout human history, and that a substantial percentage of serial murders throughout ancient times, the middle ages, and the pre-modern era were attributed to imaginative surrogate explanations: dragons, demons, vampires, werewolves, and witches.

Legends, Monsters, or Serial Murderers? The Real Story Behind an Ancient Crime dispels the interrelated misconceptions that serial murder is an American crime and a relatively recent phenomenon, making the novel argument that serial murder is a historic reality—an unrecognized fact in ancient times. Noted serial murderers such as the Roman Locuta (The Poisoner); Gilles De Rais of France, a prolific serial killer of children; Andres Bichel of Bavaria; and Chinese aristocratic serial killer T’zu-Hsi are spotlighted. This book provides a unique perspective that integrates supernatural interpretations of serial killing with the history of true crime, reanimating mythic entities of horror stories and presenting them as real criminals.

Dirk C. Gibson is associate professor of communication and journalism at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM. His published works include Praeger's Serial Killing for Profit: Multiple Murder for Money; Serial Murder and Media Circuses; and Clues from Killers: Serial Murder and Crime Scene Messages.


"An entertaining book for general readers interested in legendary human-monsters. Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice, August 1, 2012
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