Spoiler alert for a forty year old movie, but at the end of the legendary Halloween, when our hero babysitter Laurie Strode has managed to throw knife-wielding mute Michael Myers out of a window, she exclaims, ‘It was The Boogeyman.’ Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis, in typically stiff upper lip British fashion exclaims, ‘as a matter of fact, it was.’
Well, Donald Pleasence, as much as tabloid news would like us to believe, life is not a horror film.
Take the greatest serial killer of all time, Jack The Ripper. There is a very good chance that this person never existed. Who killed those five prostitutes in Whitechapel in 1888? That’s not the question to be asking. The question to be asking is, why are they the only ones considered? These women are singled out, as if the brutal killing of women in London in 1888 was something so unspeakable that only a monster lurking in the shadows could have committed these acts. What is conveniently usually omitted is that brutal murders occurred after (and before) the media frenzy of Jack The Ripper. A total of eleven victims that are known about until 1891, including a torso found under a railway arch.
Is it not the case, that by simply being a woman, and add to that a woman involved in sex work, their lives were in extreme danger? It’s something we would rather place on an “other”, some silhouette in a cloak and top hat stalking the streets of Whitechapel. But then, who wandered those same streets and kept the sex industry alive, a booming industry to this day? These men are fathers, hubands and sons, ‘ordinary’ people who partake in a billion dollar industry that is linked to violence, international crime, and human trafficking. There is no monster other than the people that you pass on the street every day.
Granted, there are serial killers, but even the most prolific among them, Luis Garavito from Colombia only killed 300 people. More people die from drowning in the
UK each year. The most prolific serial killer in the United Kingdom is Harold Shipman, a respectable doctor who tried to swindle pensioners out of their pension, not some faceless maniac with a kitchen knife.
Put it this way, according to the Office for National Statistics, over three-quarters (77%) of female domestic homicide victims were killed by a partner/ex-partner, with the remaining 23% killed by a family member. No boogeyman, just your boyfriend.
Between 1979 and 1981, a series of murders were committed in Atlanta and attributed to a serial killer known as The Atlanta Monster, the basis for an excellent investigative podcast by Payne Lindsey. The victims were working-class black boys and young men. After the supposed killer was apprehended, the murders didn’t stop, not really. Black people account for 50% of homicide rates in the USA, while comprising 13.3% of the population. Add young, male, and poor into the mix, and the statistics go way up.
There is no boogeyman. It is a de-localisation of responsibility, an embodiment in monster form that carefully wipes out having to face up to misogyny, racism, the unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity, and the violence we allow in the people around us.