Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Harvey Murray Glatman: First of the Signature Killers

Serial Killer

Of Harvey Glatman, serial killer expert and best-selling author Michael Newton writes, "(He) was a pioneer of sorts. Nine years before author John Brophy coined the term 'serial murder,' nearly two decades before FBI agent Robert Ressler dusted it off and made the tag a household word, Glatman was already plying his trade...Glatman never had a catchy nickname (but he has since then) become the stuff of urban myth, a quintessential bogeyman."

Rapist and killer, he was a complex nightmare of emotions on two feet, a helter-skelter of sexual frustration. The women he molested and destroyed he feared and hated because they represented what he could not understand about himself and the world in which he moved. Void of self-comprehension, and therefore self-expression, he saw everything as an abstract predominant with black shadow. There was no identity and he had no identity except that everything translated in his brain as a Freudian piece of work. Everything was sexual. Overcome with sex and frightened as hell of his libido he had no idea what he was doing in life or where he fit into its scheme. Females who tickled his male desires perplexed him because they threatened to remind him of his own confusion and his non-existence. They were his enemies.

Unable to see the humanity in female form, women became mere fantasy toys he wished to understand and wished to conquer. Other men could, but not he. They might laugh at his ignorance. Therefore, violence was the only way to approach them; that way, they would not laugh at him, and therefore they would have to give in to him. And he could walk away afterwards, at least having proven to himself that he could claim some trophies in life, if only through force.

First there was the rape, the initial release of manhood encouraged by his victim's inability to fight back. Thanks to the rope. There were powers in the rope. His ropes became merely an extension of his arms, holding the world in place while he grabbed his piece of it, as a man should.

Then there was the camera, which brought even greater pleasure because it recorded his conquests and reminded him of how far he could go with a woman, a length of rope and some wile tossed in for good measure.

Says Newton, "The photos that resulted from a 'shoot'...allowed (Glatman) to relive the incident, elaborate the fantasy, while masturbating...The camera (also) was a shield, something for (Glatman) to hide behind. (It) gave him distance, shrank the models to a manageable size, and let him steal, if not their souls, at least their sexuality."

Agreeing with Newton that Glatman's strange fabric equals those of other, more famous murderers to come, such as the Boston Strangler, the Hillside Stranglers and Ted Bundy, British author and crime historian Colin Wilson attests, "To understand Harvey Glatman is to understand the basic psychology of the serial killer."


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