Internet Axe Murderers: Are They Real?
April 8, 2005 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Prompted by a Metatalk comment yesterday (can't link; page down; sorry) about meeting people from the internet: where did the stereotypical worry about strangers from cyberspace being serial killers come from? Did it ever happen? More than once?

And, why are internet murderers always associated with axe murderers? What is the fear of axe murderers? Why would an axe be a good murder weapon anyway? It's pretty obvious and bulky - you can't really walk around downtown with one without at least raising some eyebrows, plus, if you see a guy with an axe coming at you, couldn't you run? The only axe murderer I ever heard of was Lizzie Borden - are there more? Is it a common phenomenon?
posted by mygothlaundry to Human Relations (16 answers total)
Here's one
posted by Leon at 11:31 AM on April 8, 2005

Was there a famous horror movie that used an axe, maybe? In "Halloween" it was a knife, which I agree, a lot lighter and easier to swing around.
posted by GaelFC at 11:46 AM on April 8, 2005

Internet killer, I mean - not an axe murderer. And, of course, the internet is just an efficient tool here - in an earlier age, this guy would be trawling personal ads or somesuch.
posted by Leon at 11:54 AM on April 8, 2005

Beats me, but it's something the normal people brought with them when they invaded the internet. Back when it was all geeks, it didn't occur to us to fret about such things.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:58 AM on April 8, 2005

Axe murderers are clearly less subtle and more horrifying than... well, anybody: poison murderers, smotherers, small-slim-knife murderers, etc. In this way, they are perfect to use as a cautionary example.

People have always been warned about axe murderers... and long before the internet. Axe murderers (as well as cultists, rapists, communists) have always been the threat that lurks just outside. The point is that if you venture past the boundaries of your sanctioned life, you run the risk of attack by such as these, and then who will be there to protect you? Who?!
posted by taz at 12:04 PM on April 8, 2005

Careful with that axe, Eugene....
posted by InfidelZombie at 12:10 PM on April 8, 2005

So I Married an Axe Murderer
posted by ludwig_van at 12:21 PM on April 8, 2005

A guy I dated in high school was murdered by someone he met online, although he was shot in the head, not axed. There's a news account available here. The fellow who did it killed himself in jail, so without further evidence I suppose it's inaccurate to call him a serial killer.
posted by amber_dale at 12:30 PM on April 8, 2005

My brother's ex-boyfriend was contacted by the FBI about someone he'd met online, who was suspected of meeting guys through gay chatrooms and killing them. Freaked the ex-bf out big time, but he was no longer in touch with the person and we never found out much in terms of details, or even if charges were pressed.

Despite knowing this, I still gave my home address to a stranger I'd met online when he asked me out on a date. Three years later, we live together and are engaged, so hopefully he doesn't turn out to be an internet serial killer too.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:12 PM on April 8, 2005

From the media, mostly.

There was a time when every day would bring another hysterical story on the news about it.

I think it's mostly a "protecting their turf" thing based on the fear of people getting their information from the internet rather than tv/radio/newspaper.
posted by First Post at 1:14 PM on April 8, 2005

This is probably not internet-related, but apparently axe murders do happen.
posted by felix at 2:44 PM on April 8, 2005

What taz said. it's just a fear of strangers, and certainly that fear is sometimes justified.

Growing up female, you don't just hear this about the internet. Even before the internet, you heard it about meeting guys in:

1. Bars
2. Hitchhiking
3. At parties (guys you don't know, that is)
4. Strange neighborhoods
5. Through the mail.
6. On the phone

The idea that you might meet and potentially go somewhere with someone who was not known to you through a normal social channel was always freighted with the threat of 'axe murderer', 'serial killer', or 'rapist'. Yes, it's paranoid and needlessly overplayed. But no, it's not completely crazy.

After all, even though the overwhelming majority of strange men are not axe murderers, it is still true that when sickos want to do violence to someone, they often begin by luring a stranger through one of the channels above -- or the internet.

The really interesting question, to me, is: why is it always 'axe murderer?' It has been at least since my grandmother's day. I wonder when and where the originating axe murder was committed. There had to be one or two precipitating events that started that theme, and I'm betting it was Lizzie Borden or earlier.
posted by Miko at 8:36 PM on April 8, 2005

In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov kills a woman with an axe. This predates Lizzie, but he isn't portayed as the lunatic madman type that axe-murderer usually is meant to imply.
posted by RobotHero at 9:00 PM on April 8, 2005

Axes are more brutal than guns or arsenic or easier killing methods.

You get a couple of axe killers (from a search on the site, could probably find more) to get people thinking about axes and their horrifyin' killin' potential and ya get people who are terrified of being run after with an axe and hacked to death. Guns and what not can give a quick kill. Axes are harder to control and can take longer, especially if you don't know what you're doing--you end up just taking off bits and pieces of them while they're still trying to get away. And even if you get them with that Hollywood center-of-the-back shot they still aren't going to die instantly. People get reduced to moving slabs of meat. The best the victim can hope for is to be decapitated like a chicken, and that's only going to happen if they're restrained from the block and ya don't miss.

Bad way to die, axeing is.
posted by schroedinger at 11:36 PM on April 8, 2005

I think the 'ax murderer' is just a cliche. As an example, it was used in Little Shop of Horrors.

As for meeting people over the internet: I met him 8 years ago. We're still together, both of us alive, and very happy.

That said, I always left someone with all known details of any stranger I was going to meet. At least if something happened, there was as good a chance as I could arrange of tracking the perp down.

There are those people who will meet strangers and those who will not. My life experience teaches that those who will not are most likely very boring anyway, lacking in any sense of adventure.
posted by Goofyy at 12:20 AM on April 9, 2005

I think the term axe murderers used in relationship to internet killers was/is sensationalism. Meaning to make the possibility of meeting an internet buddy and having him/her be a murderer all the more scary.

The thing is that someone's internet axe murderer is someone else's coworker. Or that girl three stools down in the bar. Or that cute guy on the other couch at the library. I'm not sure I'm making sense, but I mean that an axe murderer could be your next door neighbour. It doesn't have to be a stranger you met on the 'net.

I've met several people that I initially met on the internet. Not one of them has turned out to be a murderer, including my husband. But you know, there's always tomorrow.
posted by deborah at 6:14 PM on April 9, 2005

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