Pick Me Up! magazine asked for my professional opinion on Christoper Wilder, also known as ‘The Beauty Queen Killer.’ Wilder was a serial killer who abducted and raped at least ten women and killed at least eight of them during a spree across the United States in early 1984. Here are my answers to their questions, published on 16th August 2012.
He survived a near-drowning incident when he was a child. Do events like this in someone’s childhood have lasting effects?
People who have had a near death experience can be affected in a number of ways. A common outcome is that these people lose any basic cautions, taking what they want from life and feeling the need to live life according to their own wants and needs. In this case, Wilder clearly ignored any social rules and instead acted according to his needs and desires with no fear of the consequences. A sense of immortality can also ensue, especially if light-hearted comments along these lines come from those around the individual who had the near death experience. Since Wilder also nearly died at birth such comments from family are a possibility.
After being involved with a gang rape as a teenager, Christopher was given electroshock therapy. What effects would this have had on this young man?
Electric shock therapy is a psychiatric procedure that involves the brain being briefly subjected to 75 to 470 volts. The aim is to induce a grand mal seizure, which some believe can repair a ‘damaged’ mind. The trauma to the body caused by this procedure is so severe that patients have to be given muscle relaxants to avoid breaking their bones during the procedure. While some people with depression have been helped by electroshock therapy, there are also a huge number of horror stories regarding the long-term impact of this type of therapy, including permanent brain damage. Whether this was the case with Wilder we may never know. However, the terrifying nature of such treatment would be enough to anger anyone, even more so those intrinsically capable of the monstrosities Wilder would go on to commit. Indeed, in one case he uses a blow dryer and cooper wires to send electric currents through one of his victims. This is a harrowing re-enactment of his own experience with electric shock therapy.
Later, as a young man, he was in trouble with the law again for forcing a teen to perform a sex act. He told a judge he didn’t believe he’d done anything wrong. Why would he have believed that what he did was not wrong?
Wilder had endured trauma that was supposedly ‘good’ for him in the form of electroshock therapy. Perpetrators often convince themselves that what they are doing is good for the victim; a gift in disguise. If Wilder felt this way, his own traumatic experiences would likely have supported this belief. Evidence does suggest, however, that Wilder did have a conscience when committing these crimes, suggesting that he was unlikely to have genuinely believed that what he was doing was not wrong.
He got very good at maintaining a façade of a successful and upstanding businessman while leading a double life as a sex criminal. What makes some people so good at this kind of deception? And how can they compartmentalise their lives like this? He also managed to appear charming and affable when luring his victims.
Some people are born with narcissistic traits that assist them in manipulating others through charm and charisma. We see this trait in many successful people, particularly managers or high up executives. This trait in someone whose need for power and control is never quenched or satisfied, possibly due to life experiences and needs not being met as a child, can create what we see in Wilder – a monster.
He seems to have had an interest in masturbation – he’d masturbate over and beside his victims before raping them. What does this say about him?
This would suggest that Wilder was turned out by the fear expressed by his powerless victims. It also indicates that he wanted to prolong his pleasure and their fear.
He’d pose as a photographer to lure young women into his trap. Is there some significance to his choice of assumed profession?
Wilder lured his victims in with flattery – a cunning strategy. Also, by posing as a photographer, he was able to provide women with a lot of attention without raising suspicion. This was a clever tactic, indicating a degree of intelligence and calculated thinking and planning.
In one of his attacks, he glued his victim’s eyes together – why did he have this focus on the visual?
It is likely that Wilder didn’t want to be able to look into his victims eyes. This suggests that he did have a conscience, which makes his crimes all the more horrific. It is also possible that he was self-conscious and did not want to be viewed by his victims. Either way, eye contact was a level of intimacy Wilder was not comfortable with.
During another rape, he was said to be mesmerised by a telly that was on in the corner of the room, even raping his victim while watching it. Why should this be?
By focusing on something else, Wilder was able to distance himself from the horrific act he was carrying out. This is yet another clue to the fact that, unlike some serial killers, Wilder had a conscience and needed to employ strategies to prevent his conscientious from ‘ruining’ the pleasure he gained from attacking vulnerable women.
Is it likely that someone like Wilder killed more women than is known?
It is likely that Wilder was involved in more murders than he was convicted of. Indeed, he had a cunning plan to lure victims, the charisma to avoid suspicion, and an unquenching desire to manipulate, scare, and ultimately kill the women he set his sights on.