Jack the Ripper. Jeffrey Dahmer. John Wayne Gacy. Locusta of Gaul. If that last name doesn't seem to fit with the others, it's likely because many are under the impression that serial killers are a more recent phenomenon, brought on by the problems of modern society. Not so, argues Debbie Felton, Professor of Classics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She joined Ian Punnett (Twitter) to share evidence that serial killers stalked the ancient world just as they do today. One of the differences in accounts of killers from antiquity and mythology (some dating as far back as 3,000 years) is that they tend to be committed by famous or well-known people to start with rather than the serial killers of the modern era who only become famous after their crimes are known.
Emperor Nero was a notorious murderer, she detailed. Referring to him as the "Norman Bates of ancient Rome," before his reign as the fifth emperor, he would attack random people on the street, and if they resisted, he stabbed them and threw their bodies into the sewer. "Supposedly," she continued, "he enjoyed dressing up in the skin of a wild animal and torturing both men and women" after tying them to stakes in the ground. After becoming Emperor, he didn't bother to hide his crimes, and killed many who displeased him (or hired someone to do so), including his mother.
Locusta, also active in the 1st-century, "was probably the single most famous poisoner from ancient Rome," Felton cited. She might be thought of as more of an assassin than a serial killer, working for emperors like Nero. Locusta and other poisoners experimented with different types and amounts of poison, and sometimes it didn't work and just made people sick, Felton explained. Emperor Tiberius had hundreds of people killed "but it was out of fear for his position" rather than getting enjoyment from it, she noted, outlining the difference between a paranoid monarch and a serial killer who murders for pleasure. She also touched on murderous figures from classical Greek mythology like Medea, who killed her brother, her rival, and her own children.
Doris Duke Murder Incident Update
In the fall of 1966, Eduardo Tirella, confidant of billionaire Doris Duke, informed the possessive and vindictive heiress that he was leaving her employ as chief designer and art curator. Minutes later, she crushed him to death under the wheels of a two-ton station wagon as they were leaving Rough Point, her estate in Newport, RI, the storied resort. In the first hour, investigative journalist Peter Lance discussed this allegedly murderous incident along with Bob Walker, who was a 13-year-old paperboy when he witnessed elements of the crime.
Walker described overhearing a couple arguing, then a man screaming, the sound of a car crashing, and another screaming out. He approached Duke, who furiously told him to leave immediately (rather than asking him to get help), and she stood in front of the vehicle blocking his view of Tirella, who was under the car. Walker said Duke appeared unharmed, and Lance noted that Duke likely inflicted steering wheel injuries to her head after Walker left, as part of her cover-up. Further details here.
Bumper music from Sunday August 29, 2021
Midnight Express (The Chase)
I Saw Her Standing There
Medeski Martin & Wood
When I Saw Sandman Standing There
I Hear You Knockin'
Don’t You Know
Whatever Gets You Through The Night
La Femme D’Argent
Help Me Make It Through The Night
Sympathy For The Devil