1The killer who identified a little too closely with the protagonist of a classic novel
Chapman had an unhappy childhood, marred by domestic abuse and drug use. He turned to God, quit drugs, and was on the straight and narrow. However, two events changed his world forever. His hero, John Lennon, announced that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ and a friend introduced him to Catcher In The Rye.
Like many Christians, Chapman grew angry with Lennon for the statement. He also began to identify with Catcher protagonist, Holden Caulfield. (In the book, Caulfield wanders the streets of New York overwhelmed by the phoniness he finds all around him.) According to ex-wife Gloria, "He was angry that Lennon would preach love and peace but yet have millions [of dollars]." Chapman later said, ”He told us to imagine no possessions, and there he was, with millions of dollars and yachts and farms and country estates, laughing at people like me who had believed the lies and bought the records and built a big part of their lives around his music.”
On December 8, 1980, Chapman left New York's Sheraton Hotel and spent most of the day outside the Dakota Apartments where Lennon was living. As Lennon and wife Yoko Ono left for a recording session, he stopped and signed his latest album, Double Fantasy, for Chapman before departing (see photo above).
Chapman waited. When Lennon returned later that night he was shot in the back by the gunman. He was pronounced dead at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center.
Chapman read the book until police arrived. In a later police statement he said, "I'm sure the big part of me is Holden Caulfield, who is the main person in the book. The small part of me must be the Devil."
2The self-professed Satanist who was influenced by heavy metal
"Night Prowler," the final track on Highway to Hell, includes the following lyrics: "Was that a noise outside your window?/ What's that shadow on the blind?/ As you lie there naked like a body in a tomb/ suspended animation as I slip into your room…” According to reports, those words were especially meaningful to Ramirez. It is said the "Night Stalker" nickname was influenced by the song.
The band, who suffered from the controversy during Ramirez' trial because of their connection to the murderer, insist he and the media got it wrong. The song “Night Prowler” was simply about a boy sneaking into his girlfriend's bedroom at night.
During his lifetime (he died of natural causes on death row in 2013) however, Ramirez did nothing to dispel the connection between himself and the band – a print out of the Highway to Hell album cover signed by the killer can be found for sale online.
3The man who attempted to assassinate a U.S. President to gain an actress's attention
Hinckley modeled himself after Taxi Driver's main character, Travis Bickle.
Bickle (played by Robert DeNiro) is an alienated, psychotic cab driver who attempts an assassination on a presidential candidate to win a woman's admiration with whom he was previously unsuccessful. He never gets close enough to do anything and instead, focuses his attention on saving a young prostitute, played by Jodie Foster. (In real life Hinckley trailed Foster around the country for months and tried to contact her in various ways with no success. His decision to kill the President was yet another attempt to get her attention.)
Hinckley identified with Bickle and picked up many of his quirks, doing everything the character did – from his preference for wearing army fatigue jackets to keeping a diary. He even created a fake girlfriend based on Bickle's object of desire in Taxi Driver.
During the trial, prosectors tried to show that Hinckley consciously attempted to emulate the Taxi Driver character, while the defense countered that he suffered from mental illness and had become the character. After deliberation the jury came back with a verdict – not guilty by reason of insanity.
Hinckley has resided in St. Elizabeths Psychiatric Hospital in Washington D.C. for over 30 years. In 2013, it was ruled by a judge that Hinckley “will not be a danger to himself or to others” if he is given more time away from the hospital to visit his elderly mother. He has since been granted 17 days a month away from the hospital.
4The film that was banned in Britain for 27 years after a rash of copycat crimes
The movie follows the violent exploits of teen troublemaker Alex DeLarge and his gang of Droogs. It was linked to several crimes upon release, among them:
• The killing of an elderly man by a 16-year-old boy modeled after a sequence in the film in which the Droogs attack a vagrant.
• The rape of a 17-year-old Dutch girl by a gang chanting "Singin' in the Rain" in an awful homage to the scene in which Alex and his Droogs break into a home and do essentially same thing.
• The beating of a younger child by a 16-year-old boy wearing the Droogs' "uniform"– white overalls, a black bowler hat and combat boots.
Kubrick and his family were said to also have received death threats and protestors outside of their home.
The movie was banned for a total of 27 years, but was made available in the U.K. after Kubrick's death in 1999.
5The Beatles album that supposedly foretold of a race war
Manson, according to then Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, perpetrated the murders committed by the Manson Family over Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic war he believed would arise from tension over racial relations between blacks and whites.
He told followers that they would ride out the war in Death Valley while it raged in the cities and then emerge victorious to control blacks, who in his scenario, were incapable of running the world. He claimed The Beatles prophesied this on the White Album, specifically on the "Helter Skelter" track. (To the Beatles, the song was simply about an amusement park ride.)
The murders, Manson told his followers, were the way to jump start the war. Under the influenced of Manson (a professional con-artist who had spent more than half his life behind bars) and a ton of drugs, his followers were convinced – and from August 8-10, 1969 the Manson Family terrorized the city of Los Angeles.
The Family killed 7 people in one weekend. At one of the murder locations, the home of Mary and Leo LaBianca, the words "Helter Skelter" were written in a victim's blood on the wall.
6The anti-war movie that triggered a rash of suicides
The movie, starring Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, John Savage and Meryl Streep, follows three friends before, during and after their service in Vietnam. During one sequence in the film, they are held captive by the North Vietnamese who wager against each other by forcing the American soldiers to play Russian roulette – a game in which a player loads a gun with one bullet, holds it to his head, spins the chamber and pulls the trigger. In The Deer Hunter, the game is played until there is one man left standing.
While we don't have a tally on how many people committed suicide in this fashion (since suicide is generally a solitary event), news reports claim many of the victims shot themselves in front of friends or relatives after having just watched the movie, or relating a story about it. The game was also a means to harm others – a man was kidnapped and and made to play the game by robbers near New York's World Trade Center in 1980, while in another instance a prison guard in Rhode Island shot a prisoner while discussing the Russian roulette scene.
There were anywhere from 28-35 shootings involving people who played Russian roulette when The Deer Hunter first came out and occasionally, a player still finds “deadly inspiration” from the harrowing sequence.
7An American TV show about a serial killer inspires a spate of copycats
The show focuses on Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a police forensics expert who moonlights as a serial killer (mind you, he's sort of a “good guy” killer in the respect that he only murders those that are criminals themselves and have somehow slipped through the justice system).
Some Dexter-influenced cases are:
• A 21-year-old woman known as the "Dexter-mördaren" (The Dexter killer) or "Dexter-kvinnan" (The Dexter woman), stabbed her 49-year-old father in the heart. During the trial it was revealed she not only compared herself to the fictitious character, but the profile photo for her father on her phone was the character. She was sentenced to seven years in prison in July 2011.
• Accused Craigslist killer Miranda Barbour, 19, has called herself a real life Dexter, claiming she only kills those who "deserve it." One of her victims was 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara who was killed by Barbour and her 22-year-old husband for trying to solicit sex with her via the internet.
• In 2010, 17-year-old Andrew Anthony Conley, admitted to authorities he was inspired by the show after stabbing his 10-year-old brother, Connor.
While the show has indeed ended, the series is likely to find new fans via online viewership. Lets hope the body count remains largely in the world of fiction.
8The mass murderer who was obessesed with a superhero
When police searched his apartment, they found Batman paraphernalia (including a mask of the superhero), among the 30 improvised grenades attached to trip wires. Nearby were 10 gallons of gasoline.
In 2012, Holmes allegedly contacted MTV host "Diggity" Dave Aragon several weeks before the shootings. Aragon claims the killer became obsessed with a four-minute trailer for a low-budget movie called Suffocator of Sins (a Batman spoof) he posted to YouTube.
"He said he watched it a hundred times. He wanted to know, how many people does Batman kill? He wanted to know if it was selected killing. Does he make a list of people he wanted to kill or is there just a mass body count throughout the whole movie?”
It was also reported that he identified himself as the Joker to police when he was taken into custody (and dyed his hair red in an apparent attempt to imitate the villain), but that is in dispute by the media.
His trial is set for December 8, 2014.