Tommy Walker

If You Were a Serial Killer, You’d Probably be BTK

Bind Torture Kill

Dennis Rader named his ‘Sparky’, while ‘Petey’ is what I named mine. And neither of us cared much for being interrupted by the damn telephone. Undoubtedly he was the healthiest psychologically of any prolific serial killer I’ve ever come across (if a well-adjusted personhood is considered some kind of ideal), again putting him within handshaking distance across the aisle from myself. He distinctly did not like body count on a project by project basis, preferring to concentrate on only one victim though he sometimes didn’t get what he wanted, and moreover the signs were there that his dark and light aspects were integrating while he was still on the loose. He was remembered as a nice guy during his most murderous period, and as a complete asshole only once his murders had all but stopped. Sports fans know that the earlier they start, the higher their peak will tend, and Rader was late onset, never in practice enough to ever get past being lovably bungling at killing (although he had his trumps) and virtually hung it up altogether on his own, much like Ted Kacyzinski.

Yes, he continued in his halfhearted way to elude the authorities to the end, but only after progressively stacking the game in the cops’ favor as he approached the point of feeling that he would get more out of the notoriety of being found out than he would out of killing more people anonymously, especially since the public wasn’t with-it enough to add his most recent kills to the legacy of BTK. Without his direct input no one would ever know that he had made it to double digits, not that anyone was counting.

Yes, Dennis Rader, you had to draw them a picture. And yes, you had to be persistent in calling people up and saying “Hi, I’m BTK”, as any telemarketer must after being hung up on, again.

(By the way, do you know what the ‘T’ for ‘torture’ meant to Mr. Bind them, Torture them, Kill them? There was nothing medieval about it. All it meant was allowing a breather while strangling, because strangling/killing’s hard work.)

Lieutenant Ken Landwehr didn’t play Cops and Robbers fair, either as a kid or adult. As a child he’d walk away whenever it was someone else’s turn to play the Good Guy for once; all of his playmates had to stay consigned to their Bad Guy boxes if they wanted to have any fun. Likewise, telling BTK that correspondence via floppy disk couldn’t be traced, when BTK had kindly asked Landwehr to be honest, was a case of unsportsmanlike conduct.

When I was an adolescent I had an imaginary friend name of Ronnie who killed three people while I sat in the getaway car, and who later negotiated a conditional surrender to a General Sanford, his nation’s top cop. Sanford was a gentleman:

The titans came together in the same room, no guards poised to take Ronnie by force. Sanford, always the sportsman, agreed it must be this way.

Ronnie surrendered on his own terms, the General got a benny in the process that he hadn’t dreamed of beforehand, the two of them went out for beers, and ultimately everyone lived happily ever after. I’m convinced nowadays that all of us essentially use the same playbook, and I’m not so sure it was cosmically wise to deviate from the script.


March 31, 2012 Posted by | Reviews of Others | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Birth Order Thoughts about Wichita’s BTK

Or maybe this is more about me.

What Your Birth Order Says About You

I’ve been meaning to do a proper review of Bind Torture Kill, or an assessment of Dennis Rader through the book which I just finished reading, but maybe it is meant to come dribbling out sporadically over a period of many days.

Often I have wondered what birth order has meant in distinguishing my experience growing up from that of my younger brother’s. We are similar psychologically, but why aren’t we even closer to being identical twins? And why, in the world at large, is a Ma Barker gang not the rule in dysfunctional families?

Dennis Rader was the eldest of five children, and in a book that offered next to no insight on the matter of Rader’s development (because it wasn’t and probably couldn’t be that kind of book), there was one tantalizing offering about his family environment. Namely, that while the mother was loving, the father was “strict but fair”.

Happens that words of this very sort have been used to describe my father’s father, who also had five kids. “Strict but fair” has been the testimony of all or most of his children, who at the same time acknowledge that he beat them often. An example of my grandfather’s ‘fairness’ was his now and then whipping his kids without cause on the grounds that they had probably done something wrong that he hadn’t caught them for since the last time they had been whipped. It is only recently that the mother of this clan has come forward with accusations that he beat her as well, but she is almost universally dismissed as being batshit crazy. I personally don’t find the charges too farfetched, knowing for a fact he could get a good laugh out of walking on my adolescent back while I was sleeping on his floor over a holiday.

Two things birth order related that could have tipped the scales, persuading the eldest Rader kid to veer down a criminal path. One is that Dennis more than anyone, as a first and briefly an only, was in position to partake in the drama of competing Alpha Males, ready to displace his father as Man of the House should his father be judged as unworthy. If Dad only won under protest– and a ‘good’ kid like Dennis might have had cause to protest that he didn’t do anything wrong in the periods between presumed beatings– then an entire childhood might have been frittered away, waiting for the decision to be reversed.

The other factor is really more about the age of the parents when a child is very young. The firstborn gets the youngest, healthiest, most energetic parents, and when we’re talking dysfunctionality, that means they get the parents who have the most piss and vinegar in them. How Rader experienced “strict but fair”, if that was indeed his take, might have been very different from how his siblings experienced it after their father had mellowed.


A post script on descending IQs by order of birth. I have heard tales of one family with five children that illustrate this tendency dramatically. Fetal alcohol syndrome was at the root. The firstborn was MENSA material, the second toward the top of her field, but then the third kid wasn’t much more than functional, the fourth one retarded, and the fifth child unable to function outside an institution.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Comments Around the Web | , , , , , , | Leave a comment