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Criminal Mythology Produces a Distorted View of Reality Essay

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Updated: May 25th, 2020

Criminal mythology is a belief of what crime is, and what causes crime. The concept evaluates the qualification of an act as a crime. In addition, it also analyses the causes of crime, and the common belief about the real reasons behind crime. While some people propose that crime is a natural phenomenon, others believe that it is an action initiated through free will.

On the other hand, some of the myths support a theory that the criminal mind is a result of social orientation, and can be corrected through appropriate measures (Lombroso et al, 2006). The society regards many criminals with contempt. Consequently, the society rejects and condemns a criminal for the crime he or she has committed.

The perspective of the society is that crime is not a rational act since the circumstance of the event of a crime is not evaluated. In fact, most of the common myths about the criminal mind are misguided by tradition and the values of culture in the particular society in question.

For a criminal, there is a substantial reason behind every action that he or she does. Either the crime is a result of rational evaluation of the circumstances that the criminal faces or the criminal has an abnormal approach of evaluating situations (Young, 1996).

Sometimes, people claim that a person who commits crime acts in the direction that avoids direct confrontation with the predicament of the circumstances. In this case, an act of crime that has been committed once is not likely to be repeated, since the probability of the circumstances of the crime recurring are minimal. In a different perspective, one may choose to see the crime for what it is.

In this essence, a person who has committed a crime is guilty of the offence and is subject to some corrective measures to prevent the crime from happening again in the particular society. Even when the circumstances of the crime are convincing from the perspective of the evaluator, the criminal remains guilty of the gravity of the entire action done.

It is considered that the criminal has the mind to commit the crime before the event itself. This myth assumes that there is always an alternative way to deal with a situation. In this regard, the criminal should take a course that does not aggravate the law. Crime is considered a result of the state of mind, and not the circumstances. Thus, the person behind an act of crime is liable for the event of crime.

Serial murders, among other crimes, are subject to superstition in most societies around the world. Serial murder, in the understanding of the contemporary society, is the killing of more than two people by one killer within a relatively short time. The reason behind murders committed by serial murderers is not physical. It is widely accepted that serial murderers kill for psychological reasons.

One reason is that the murderer seeks to satisfy an intense urge to take a life, and the second reason is that the murderer has some mental defect, which makes him or her result to a violent reaction to some kind of aggravation.

Although modern explanations of the reasons behind serial murders are relatively accurate, there is disagreement between experts of psychology over the cause of the mental disturbances behind murders. Serial murder is a crime that has been subject to association with paranormal activities more than any other offence (Warner, 1999).

When successive murders occurred in a society in ancient times, people sought to explain the murders through superstition. Accounts of demons being the culprits behind murders were common in ancient times.

Superstitions continued to evolve with time, and were applied in all societies until the beginning of twentieth century. Today, most of the ancient myths about murders have been discarded, but people have resulted to forging other unrealistic explanations of the force behind crime.

Some crimes have been explained by the society in a bizarre way. Several myths about crime have existed for a long time in history. Vampires are believed to be degenerated forms of human beings who commit murder, and feast on human flesh and blood. This myth proposes that murderous criminals are vampires. This means that some form of demonic spirits possess the criminals.

The demons are the reason behind crime according to this myth. The legend of the vampires originated in Europe. Vampires are believed to be possessed forms of the dead people who have led evil lives. In some cases, vampires are considered reincarnations of people who had a reputation of witchcraft. This belief dates back to the thirteenth century.

Historians believe that the myth is a distortion of accounts of pagan worship early into the millennium. The belief in vampires led to people accusing vampires of murders in mysterious crimes. During the nineteenth century, the myths about the vampires had spread such that the influence on people resulted to execution of those they thought were vampires, or exhibited such behaviour (Summers, 2003).

This myth ignores the reality and the circumstances in which the crime was committed. It is an easier way to explain a crime, rather than accept that another individual is behind the heinous act. When a crime was committed, people would assume that a vampire was behind the crime. The grievous act was usually murder. This is because people believed that the vampire needed to feed on the blood of the victims.

The residents of a neighbourhood would then go to a graveyard to perform some rituals to identify the vampire. Once a grave was identified, the corpse would be exhumed and examined for signs of vampire activity. When the guilty corpse was identified, people would then perform rituals on it to kill the vampire spirit in it. These kinds of interpretations of crimes avoided the reality and the real criminals continued to live free.

Serial murders were the most common crime associated with myths. This crime was associated with monsters with supernatural power more than any other crime. Perhaps this is because of the gravity and mysterious nature of serial murders. People wanted to find an answer to the mysteries.

Werewolves are other mythical creatures thought to be capable of committing crime. Werewolves are mythical humanlike creatures with the ability to switch their appearance between a human figure and a wolf figure. According to myths, a person became a werewolf through a bite from another werewolf, or through a spell that was cast on a human being. The myth of the werewolves appeared in Europe in the nineteenth century.

However, it is thought that the myth was forged out of another ancient Greek myth. The myth supposes that a person was changed into a wolf by a god after committing murder. Werewolves were believed to have long fingernails, and fed on human remains. These mythical creatures were accused of murders in Europe. Often, people would be accused of being werewolves, and committing a grievous crime.

These people would then be cut to examine if they had fur in their flesh. Punishment would be administered to people for being werewolves without seeking to establish the real criminal behind a crime.

Other treatments such as forced conversion to Christianity were the most potent ways of dealing with werewolves according to beliefs. Serial murders would be attributed to werewolves, which had the speed and the strength beyond any human capability (Donnell, 1996).

The two myths discussed above represent common ancient myths about crime. Although the two myths are not common in today’s society, they are similar concerning contemporary beliefs about crime. The myths are used to escape reality. Human beings seek solution for every event that they observe.

Failure to get a logical explanation regarding a crime may lead to people blaming supernatural creatures with powers beyond our capabilities (Samenow, 2012). This effectively puts a case of a crime to rest since there are no efforts put towards trying to solve the crime. When a society has deep beliefs in such myths, it is difficult to objectively investigate a crime, and result to an appropriate reaction.

In 1888, a string of murders occurred in a poor region in London city. These murders were of similar characteristics and were thought to have been perpetrated by one person. However, the assumption that a single killer committed the murders was a result of the attention that the media directed towards the incidents. The popular belief led to the christening of the killer as “Jack the ripper”.

In addition, the murders were brutal, and whoever committed the murder exhibited signs of mental defects. This is because the murders were committed by slitting of the throats of the victims. In some cases, the corpses were found without some parts and organs. At one point during the height of publicity of the incident in the media, a letter purported to be from the killer, claiming responsibility, was sent to the authorities.

Authorities could not establish whether the letter came from the murderer. Police suspected that the letter came from a person who wanted to escalate publicity of the incidents. The victims of the murders in London were prostitute women in a slum settlement.

Moreover, the inhabitants of the slum were of various ethnic backgrounds. Persistent economic strain and the racial tension that prevailed within the community in the area could be the cause of the murders according to authorities.

Not all murders of the London city could be associated to one killer by the authorities. However, five of the murders had a similar pattern. All the same, the police could not effectively deny that one person had committed over twelve murders due to lack of proof. In one incident, a victim claimed to have been attacked by a gang of three and not one person.

However, the media associated the murder with the serial killer. The media played a big role in making the murders appear heroic. The media portrayed the serial killer as a defiant force that could not be apprehended (Eddleston, 2001).

Due to glorification of the ability of the murderer to evade police, the killer was associated with mythical supernatural power. However, the police associated the murders with racial tension or and occultism.

The murders in London portray events of extreme and brutal violence. Mysterious supernatural powers could not be the killer behind the murders. One of the reasons that point objectively towards crime is the fact that the corpses of the victims were missing body parts in most of the incidences.

It is only in one case in which the victim was not severely mutilated. However, signs of an interrupted mutilation session were evident. While the media portrayed the killer as a hero, the reality is that the murders were brutal crimes committed by a person or people with a motive. The loss of organs in most of the bodies supports this fact. According to the nature of the murders, they seemed to be premeditated actions.

In all multiracial communities, racial tension is common. In extreme occurrences, members of a certain community commit gruesome murders. An example of such murders is the London incidents. Most of conflicts between communities result in grievous violence and even murder.

For example, the black race has been associated with crime especially in areas where it is the minority. In countries were racial segregation has been a norm in recent history, conflict between races is more intense.

It is true that some races have a high tendency of crime than others. However, the significantly higher rate of crime among members of these races is not directly associated with the unique physical characteristics of the particular race. Extreme deprivation of material resources and racial oppression is the major reason why some races have a higher crime rate.

For example, the black race in America has exhibited high crime rate among its members for quite a long time. People of other racial descents associate this phenomenon with the nature of the black race. The race is portrayed as naturally evil, and ready to commit crime at any time given the right environment (Adams, 2010). This is a typical myth around the world, where the black people are stereotyped as criminals.

The proponents of the myth ignore the plight of black people over centuries. Black people established as minority race in countries where they were sold as slaves throughout the first and the second millennia AD.

It is not until late twentieth century, the black people were recognised as an equal race among other supposedly superior races. The deprivation of resources, and the segregation that prevailed prior to the middle of the twentieth century, pressured members of the black race to engage in criminal activities. Poverty and psychological torture elicited violent reaction from members of the black race over time (Friedman, 2004).

Due to the continued social oppression of members of the black race, racial tension has arisen between the races such that given an opportunity, a black person is likely to do harm to a member of any other major race. This phenomenon is common among members of all minority communities.

In the United States, all minority communities who have experienced political, social, or economic deprivation have a higher tendency to commit crime (Winerman, 2004).

Association of minority races with crime is a contemporary myth concerning the likelihood of a person to commit a crime. While the statistical figures supporting association of racial differences and variation in crime are true, the reason behind the differences is often a myth.


Adams, A. (2010, February 9). The Effect of Race and Crime Type on Perceived Guilt. The Effect of Race and Crime Type on Perceived Guilt. Web.

Donnell, E. (1996). Werewolves. Royston: Oracle.

Eddleston, J. J. (2001). Jack the Ripper: an encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Abc.

Friedman, L. (2004, May 6). Professor Tackles Myths About Crime In America, Stanford News ServiceLAW . Retrieved from

Lombroso, C., Gibson, M., & Rafter, N. H. (2006). Criminal man. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Samenow, S. (2012, February 3). The Basic Myths About Criminals : Inside the Criminal Mind. eNotAlone: relationship advice and articles. Retrieved from

Summers, M. (2003). The vampire in Europe (New ed.). London: Kegan Paul International.

Winerman, L. (2004, July 5). Psychological sleuths–. American Psychological Association (APA). Web.

Warner, M. (1999). No go the bogeyman: scaring, lulling, and making mock. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Young, A. (1996). Imagining crime: textual outlaws and criminal conversations. London: Sage.

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