The Monster In Your Head

The Monster In Your Head
The final chapter of Pathfinder's Monster Month. This episode we look inside the monsters that aren't born of fiction, but of reality. We immerse ourselves in our fear and fascination of serial killers.

Thank you so much for listening to this Pathfinder mini series. If you haven't already please go back and listen to the previous parts.

This episode we look at the duality of serial killers and why these days we're as obsessed with them as the monsters of the past. We look to Jekyll and Hyde through to the Golden State Killer for why we're so wired on how serial killers function and the curiosity that drives our fascination.

We're joined by Stephen Asma, Professor at Columbia College Chicago. You can find his youtube channel where he offers short workshop videos about how to create meaningful art that is infused with philosophy, history and psychology. He takes you into his own creative process, and offers helpful advice about idea development and image creation. Click here to subscribe You can find out more about Stephen and his books at

Quote Credits:
Wondery Introducing Dr. Death
Introducing Man in the Window LA times
Conversations with a Killer The Ted Bundy Tapes  Netflix
The Staircase Netflix
Golden State Killer pleads guilty - LA times


Episode 9 - The Monster In Your Head

Ollie: [00:00:00] This is the fourth and final part of our series on monsters. If you haven't already, I'd go back and listen to the first three

[00:00:08] Clip: [00:00:08] parts

[00:00:12] Ollie: [00:00:12] with every day and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual. I the story steadily narrative, that truth by whose partial discovery, I have been deemed to such a dreadful shipwreck.

[00:00:24] That man is not truly one, but recruiting too. Robert Louis Stevenson, the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For the past month we've been looking at what makes a monster a monster over the years, monsters have taken different forms. Reflecting on what we as humans are experiencing at the time. The thing is as time has passed, we've looked back on the monsters of previous generations and added something that wasn't there before.

[00:00:51] Humanity monsters were always the fear of the unknown. And our urge to discover has led us to effectively solving what our ancestors didn't know about. So what does a monster look like today? What do we find frightening or keeps us up at night?

[00:01:50] Ollie: [00:01:50] Welcome to Pathfinder. A show about storytelling.

[00:02:04] Ever since FBI special agent Robert Ressler coined the term serial killer, the public have had a strange obsession with true crime. As with the monsters we've explored in this series, a serial killer created a new kind of fit. This fear stems from chaos, a serial killer, as far as anyone knows. Is a normal member of society can be highly intelligent yet something went wrong that caused them to disassociate with much of civilization that they turned to ending people's lives.

[00:02:34] what makes these monsters so scary is that we understand so much yet they have the ability to completely upend our assumed way of thinking and twist it into terror. You don't know who they are, where they're coming from or when they are coming, which makes them so much scarier than the monsters of the past.

[00:02:50] That had rules that we invented fear and obsession. We now know where the fear comes from, but where does our obsession come from? Well, Dr. Meg arrow thought that it might be as humans. We want to understand the darker side of our nature. True crime stories. Allow us to explore that in a safe way. From a safety distance, three history.

[00:03:11] We've always. She's been so afraid of the things going on around us, that we forgot to look back at ourselves to explore the darkness within ourselves. It's that darkness that fuels people to do despicable things, but that darkness is also an unknown we're taught through our lives to bottle things up or doing bad things is wrong, which leaves people obsessed with the, what if question in their head, women in particular constantly seek out narratives about serial killers.

[00:03:37] And no women of the Pathfinder audience. You're not slowly turning yourself into a shadow of the night. It's for a far different reason, serial killers and actors of violent crime are usually men. So due to systemic reflex women look to true crime as a defense mechanism, while on the surface, your Netflix binge or podcast can, you might look a bit dark it's actually, because you're trying to solve your fear of the unknown by educating yourself about what's come before.

[00:04:03] So aside from self-defense what's left, when you get to the bottom of our obsession with Sarah. Well, it's a story, a story about a monster story, where we have to tackle an object of the unknown and overcome it this time, the monster isn't a beast it's us because we have a natural tendency to be obsessed with the dark things that we experience on a day-to-day basis.

[00:04:24] It allows us to experience our worst fears from a distance much like the monsters of the past crime stories are from our moral views of what's. Right. And what's wrong.

[00:04:41] Clip: [00:04:41] One of the more

[00:04:42] Ollie: [00:04:42] common story notes when it comes to serial killers seems to be split personalities. Whether this is an act or not can be left up to your imagination, but it's an interesting way of looking at why we get hooked on the tale of what goes on inside a serial killer's head, having a light and dark side.

[00:04:58] Isn't a new concept. In fact, the most well-known fictional story about this comes from Robert Louis Stevenson in the strange case of Dr. Jacqueline, Mr. Height. Dr. Jekyll being the rational repress doctor creates a tonic that turns him into the instinctive Mr. Height, if the repressed nature of Jekyll that creates Mr.

[00:05:16] Hyde much like in how our day-to-day lives, we shy away from our dark sides. The tale of this Juul personality shows wear off is like, what if we let our dark out? The interesting thing about the story is that unlike other monster stories, good did not prevail. Jekyll realizes that he might succumb to the darkness.

[00:05:35] Ultimately the dark side of our personality might be the one thing that we can't control. But is it just the control of fare or is it a fascination with people that look just like us, but perform acts of the very worst kind for humanity. This is Steven asthma author of on monsters and professor of philosophy at Columbia college, Chicago.

[00:05:54] I

[00:05:54] Stephen Asma: [00:05:54] do think the serial killer has taken a lot of the attention in the overall domain of monster biology. Yeah. In contemporary times, I think the serial killer is extremely attractive. It could be because this serial killer is able to do the things that you and I want to do with impunity. Um, because they're not afraid of the police or their parents or society generally.

[00:06:18] So there's always been something attractive about someone that's so liberated in terms of acting on their desires and cravings. Meanwhile, the rest of us are trying to repress and sublimate our desires and cravings to get through life. We don't really want to be having constant conflicts with people.

[00:06:34] Well, we don't want to go to jail. So we're bound up with sort of repressions. To live in modern society. This is why Freud writes a book called civilization and its discontents to be civilized and to live with others in a city, you have to constantly restrain your own desires and cravings. The serial killer doesn't really play the game like that.

[00:06:56] They go out and if they feel like they want to kill somebody, you rape and maim, they do that. So there is something I think, attractive about the serial killer in that fashion. However, I do think there's the other side of the coin, which is that there's something about psychopathy that is, uh, like a traditional monster in the sense that it's hard for a normal, uh, a neuro-typical person to identify with this level of unempathic detachment.

[00:07:27] So a serial killer can murder somebody. And feel either nothing or even feel pleasure during this process and the average person, the neuro-typical person who's, you know, developed. Normally it finds that, uh, not just repugnant, but hard to even. Relate to cognitively. I can't get into that head space. And I think there's something attractive about that too, because the psychopath is so radically different from me that I'm drawn to it to try to understand what it's like to be this kind of mind.

[00:08:00] Um, and that's common in many monster narratives. One of the things you find in traditional monsters is that they frequently cannot speak and they don't have speech, which means they probably don't have reason, which means you cannot relate to them or negotiate with them. The same thing is true of a certain kind of psychopathy.

[00:08:19] Which is the person lacks empathy altogether. Now, of course they have speech and rationality, but in a way they lack the sort of moral and emotional ingredients of a normal person. And that I think is extremely intriguing to those of us who are interested in monsters. We want to understand what is that what's going on there.

[00:08:39] And in a way you can't understand it. It's like impossible to understand that. So I think that's part of the allure as well.

[00:08:48] Ollie: [00:08:48] It's this impossibility that makes serial killers. So fascinating. Monster stories are all about control. How do we control the monster to ultimately overcome it? But with serial killers, they have the control.

[00:08:59] They are their own Jekyll and Hyde. When you think about werewolves, they have two sides of themselves, man, and beast, but they have no control over their transplant.

[00:09:13] with a serial killer, the man creates a safe environment for the beast. Sarah would killers like count Dracula are highly intelligent. They create a safe space before striking absolving them of any responsibility. As investigators look into these cases, we find that these people on the outside have been upstanding members of the community, working normal jobs being just like us.

[00:09:35] The Jekyll side of their personality creates room for the height to play. That's where things start to break down. Hyde was always more strong-willed than Jackal. And with serial killers, things are much the same. As we record this JJ Angelo, the man known as the golden state killer is currently pleading guilty in court murder in the first degree.

[00:09:54] That charge, sir.

[00:09:55] Stephen Asma: [00:09:55] How do you plead,

[00:09:59] Ollie: [00:09:59] if you dig into his case a bit more, you find this snippets of a report of the Angelo talking to himself much late Jack Wood with height. I did all of that. I didn't have the strength to push him out. He made me, he went with me. It was like in my head. I mean, he's part of me. I didn't want to do those things.

[00:10:20] I pushed Jerry out and had a happy life. I did all those things. I destroyed all their lives. So now I've got to pay the price. Angela has been tried for 30 murders, but also admits to more than 30 rapes. And over 100 burglaries, he terrorized the state of California from 1974 to 1986, earning him the title, the golden state killer to Angelo.

[00:10:44] If you met him, would be a normal person, highly intelligent, and low you into a full sense of security. Which brings all of this back to why we find serial killer stories. So riveting, yes. There is a form of horror and fear beneath the surface. There's that moment where you stop to think about whether one of these people lives in your town or building, whether someone you've known all of your life has a dark side that would shock you to your core as those feelings grow.

[00:11:08] And we experience more of these stories. We start to challenge ourselves like any good story. You empathize with the characters. You start to ask yourself the question, could I be this person? This is a bit of a scary thought, but we've all done it. And there's a good reason why no new horror can be more terrible than the daily torture of the commonplace.

[00:11:38] For the last four episodes, we went headfirst into the world of monsters. Monsters are amazing storytelling tools that let us explore and discover the unknown. There are constant that existed way before we were born and long after we pass. Monsters help us make sense of the world overcome adversity. And with modern day monsters like Sierra killers, help form a certain kind of therapy

[00:12:06] but the root of all of this is the power of curiosity, knowing we shouldn't look, but you can't stop yourself. Emotions and plots are important in storytelling, but desire is what keeps us going as human beings. We currently live in a world with rules that we're told to stick to. So naturally there's a fascination with what happens when you live a life of no restraint.

[00:12:25] We want to control what we can, this creates fear, but that fear comes from a point of curiosity that needs to look at the darkest part of ourselves. Instead of just addressing the darkness, we manifest something. An object that embodies often a monster monsters, hold the mirror against ourselves. We long to explore, discover, seek fear and unknowns because we want more than we have because our curiosity drives us to, there's no denying that at the end of every monster story.

[00:12:56] The greatest monster is ourselves.

[00:13:21] This has been Pathfinder a show about storytelling. We hope you enjoyed monster month. A big, thank you to Steven Asma for helping us tackle the world monster allergy. You can find his YouTube Ford slash monster ecology and his book on monsters. Wherever you find books, we'll be back next week with a much lighter story, but get ready for another dive into darkness.

[00:13:41] This Halloween.  This episode and series was written and produced by Rodger Morley and me Ollie Judge. Be careful out there.

[00:14:00] The world is full of monsters. .