Why are we so obsessed with serial killers?
According to Scott A. Bonn Ph.D., author of Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World’s Most Savage Murderers, these characters appeal to our most basic instincts and nature. These 'savage murderers' often appear in films, literature, and other media, so we often see them as fictional characters with a tragic past. Dr. Bonn believes that we see them the same way we see monsters when we're children, they're scary but equally enticing. We may cower under the covers but we always catch a quick glimpse to see what's out there. We simply can't help ourselves, we always want to take a look because these real monsters make us question our own boundaries and nature.
It’s also a matter of curiosity and a need to understand the reasons that pushed them to commit such horrible crimes. Finally, it’s a matter of morbid fascination we all have, it is an irresistible pull to understand and know more about them. So if we are quick to lump serial killers next to supernatural and the monstrous beings, could it be that they portray our deepest, darkest desires and nature?
So what happens when an individual becomes a serial killer out of a wish to become a supernatural creature, to be more precise, a vampire? This is the story of Enriqueta Martí, the "Vampire of Barcelona."
The case of this woman was so controversial at the time that the media spent countless hours pouring over the story. As it happens with most serial killers, especially those from the past, no one knows what is fact or fiction. Is this an urban legend or the story of a serial killer?
From an early age Enriqueta lived through many hardships, which many believe, triggered her inhuman and bloodthirsty actions. Born in 1868, in the outskirts of Barcelona, Enriqueta Martí moved to the city to make a living as a nanny and housekeeper. Unfortunately things didn't work out for this provincial girl, so she had to seek other ways to make a living, like prostitution. For a time she masquareded as a witch doctor who would sell tonics and cures for tuberculosis, a common disease that was spreading like wildfire through the population of Barcelona. Soon, many wealthy families became her main customers and this allowed her to amass a considerable fortune.
She met Juan Pujaló, an artist trying to make a living with his paintings. They fell in love and he often would find inspiration in her. Things were getting better for this woman who had abandoned her hometown in pursuit of a brighter future. However, this future was about to get darker. Enriqueta and Pujaló separated because the artist was appalled by her strange behavior and the fact that she never stopped visiting brothels and engaging in sexual relationships with other men. Her dark and mysterious activities frightened the painter and they would frequently break up and get back together.
So what really happened? One day the city of Barcelona was paralyzed when it heard of the disappearance of an aristocratic girl named Teresita Guitart. She was the daughter of an influential family and the news spread quickly. One day a neighbor, who was already suspicious of Martí's strange behavior, saw a little girl peering out the window of Enriqueta’s house. She had never seen this girl before, so she confronted the woman. Unconvinced about Enriqueta's excuses, the neighbor went to the police and told them of their suspicions.
The story says that when the police arrived to her house, they rescued Teresita and another girl, Angelita. When asked about what had happened, both told a series of terrifying stories involving the murder of children, abuse, torture, and other despicable activities. It was also reported that the police found human body parts belonging to children and these had traces of torture scars. Martí confessed that she would kidnap children from crowded streets and public places and take them home to torture and kill as part of her dark rites. Her ceremonies involved the collection and consumption of blood, and this is how her fame as a "vampire" began. It was also speculated that many of her potions were made from the bodies of her victims.
Now, as it happens with many of these cases, many have doubted the veracity of the story. According to Salvador García, the media had no qualms blowing the story out of proportion, if the story had been as horrifying as it was described, the parents of the survivors would not have relished the attention of the public so much. The children became instant celebrities and would attend numerous public events.
The only verifiable information surrounding Enriqueta's life was the she had indeed been a prostitute, had run a brothel, used fake documents, and abducted Teresita. However, no one has been able to confirm the murders of, what many claim, were more than 200 children, nor the fact that she used their bodies to create alternative medicines.
The city and the whole country were in awe about the stories the media wove around this woman. After some time, many journalists started to investigate on their own and plot holes began to appear. First, she couldn’t have been able to sell these remedies for large amounts of money, since at the time she was living in abject poverty. Secondly, there was no credible proof of the murders. Instead, it is more likely she would abduct these children, sell them or even prostitute them. The carcasses found in her home, which sparked the furore, were animal bones according to forensic examinations. Finally, the macabre "evidence" proving she was a demonic woman was soon discredited, but many still believed the story of the diabolical woman who murdered children for dark ritualistic purposes. She was found dead in her cell after she was lynched by her inmates. Thus ended the life of the enigmatic Vampire of Barcelona.
The stories of serial killers are gripping but rather than focusing on the facts, our attention is swayed by the macabre. Such is the case of Gilles de Rais, the french serial killer who inspired the creepiest fairy tales known to man.