Generally, monsters are unreal and are made up to exploit the fears of the people, but in the rare cases that they are real is when the terror sets in. Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate did not have eight arms, stand at a height of forty feet, have some sort of superpower or invulnerability like some monsters that we know today. Yet, they were still capable of brutally massacring eleven people including a two-year-old child. At nineteen years old Starkweather would be executed by way of the electric chair, and Fugate would be the youngest person to be tried for first-degree murder at the age of fourteen. Monsters are supposed to be things of myth and legend, things supposed to scare people, but at the end of the day are not real. Unfortunately, real monsters do exist and are often much scarier than those shown on the big screen. The pair’s actions have led to multiple films being based on them like Natural Born Killers (1994), Badlands (1973) and books and even a song. The violence portrayed in these movies, especially Natural Born Killers (1994), has spurred multiple copycat crimes and received heavy criticism at the time of its release. The actions of the duo Starkweather and Fugate would cause repercussions many years later after the fact and in this day and age can still be referred to as monsters.
Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate would carry out their killing spree in Lincoln, Nebraska, starting in 1957 all the way to their capture in 1958. Charles came from a poor working-class family both of his parents were hard workers that managed to provide for their family with the basic necessities (Murder Mystery). Often it is equated to a child’s upbringing that causes the inability to conform and function in society, but in this case, Charles had a seemingly normal home life being the third born of seven. In complete contrast of that, Charles was bullied terribly at school, mocked for being bowlegged and considered mentally slow by his peers (Murder Mystery). So, to compensate for that Starkweather would begin to fight just about anyone and develop the mentality that he needed to prove something. Tying into monster theory four, the monster dwells at the gate of difference because he was different from the rest of the kids he was alienated and picked on severely by the kids, effectively creating a monster in the waiting (Cohen 7). On the other hand, Fugate was a typical all-American girl that was introduced to Starkweather by a friend eventually becoming inseparable from the older bad boy Starkweather (Murder Mystery). After meeting it would not be long until Starkweather would then commit his first murder.
Starkweather was a time bomb waiting to explode and when he would break is when the chaos would begin. The precipitating cause or tipping point for Starkweather was when he went to buy a gift for Fugate at a local gas station and lacking the funds held up the store at gunpoint and kidnapped the twenty-one-year-old shopkeeper and then executed him a few miles down the road making out clean with almost a hundred dollars. A month later Starkweather would then kill the family of Caril Ann Fugate which include her stepfather, mother, and two-year-old half-sister. Brutally murdering them all by shooting the father multiple times as well as stabbing, then beating down the mother with the back of a rifle and as well as gunshots and the most gruesome of them all, stabbing and beating the two-year-old to death (Murder Mystery). According to Starkweather’s version of the story, Fugate knew and helped dispose of the bodies of her family, whereas in Fugate’s version Starkweather said that her family was being held hostage and needed to comply with him for their release. After spending a week at the house of Fugate, the pair living like newlyweds, they had to move as suspicions began to grow suspicious from the lack of contact from the now deceased family. Starkweather would then escape to an elderly family friends’ home but would shoot the seventy-two-year-old man dead (Kingsbury). After fleeing from the house in search of a car, the two would come across “another teenage couple, Carol King and Robert Jensen” who would offer them a ride being good people of the 50’s only to be brutally murdered for it (Kingsbury). Another inconsistency arises here as according to Starkweather he only killed Jensen and Fugate murders King, on the contrary, Fugate denies taking part in the killing of either of them (Mayo 339). At this point, the authorities are out in full force and multiple militias are gathering to look for the murderous pair. On the run they almost randomly break into a house and kill three more, a married couple and their maid, shooting the and stabbing all three of them in brutal ways. The last person they would kill would be a traveling salesman after trying to change cars to avoid their pursuers, but this is also what would allow them to be caught. Fugate would run to authorities when held up at the salesmen’s car, and Starkweather would lead authorities on a chase with both of their inevitable arrests.
How the press and the authorities would handle the case is what would cause repercussions that can still be seen to this day. Fugate would be interviewed on TV and radio in attempts to sway the public (Pangea). Starkweather would be allowed to dress up and become the James Dean wannabe that he aimed to be. Adding to their infamy was the mass of reporters and townspeople that would come out to see the young pair that had terrorized their city (Murder Mystery). Influencing movies such as Natural Born Killers (1994) in which the pair of killers would be made into celebrities, romanticizing the killers into something grand. This, in turn, would create many other copycat crimes one of the major ones being the shooting at the Columbine High School. The shootings and copycat crimes would then inspire the idea that that violent videogames and movies desensitize the people and create killers. The shooters of Columbine were very big fans of NBK (1994) even citing them in their manual and referencing the videogame DOOM (Block). Which also applies to monster theory that states the monster is a type of desire because all the copycats wanted to be like the killers in the movie Natural Born Killers (1994) which is based on the two young killers Starkweather and Fugate (Cohen). The idolization of killers and the infamy that comes with it can arguably be sourced to the small town of Lincoln, Nebraska, involving the story of a nineteen-year-old boy and his fourteen-year-old girlfriend.
The effect of the two killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate would cause repercussions because of not only what they did but because of their infamy that they received from it. Inciting other killers in real life to act because it inspired the thinking that if one was to murder, they would receive infamy and become something bigger than life. While not always the case as there is a multitude of reasons as to why someone may commit murder, the young couple were some of the first to inspire such thinking. In a time where people did not lock their doors, the pair surely gave the community validation to start doing so.
Block, Jerald D. “Lessons from Columbine: Virtual and Real Rage.” American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, 2007.
Boyle, Karen. “What’s Natural About Killing? Gender, Copycat Violence and Natural Born Killers.” Journal of Gender Studies, vol. 10, no. 3, Nov. 2001, pp. 311–321. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/09589230120086511.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).”. Gothic Horror: A Guide for Students and readers (2007):198-217.
Kingsbury, Alex. “Misfits, Lovers, and Murderers.” U.S. News & World Report, vol. 143, no. 5, Aug. 2007, pp. 59–60. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=26095314&site=ehost-live.
Mayo, Mike. “Starkweather, Charles.” American Murder, Feb. 2008, pp. 338–341. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=khh&AN=39774766&site=ehost-live.
Murder Mystery. “Born to Kill Charles Starkweather.” YouTube, YouTube, 13 Oct. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=54wCckkgpbQ.
PANGEA. “Charles Starkweather | Great Crimes & Trials.” YouTube, YouTube, 27 June 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=oclrxiaPasI.
Wischmann , Lesley. “The Killing Spree That Transfixed a Nation: Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate, 1958.” WyoHistory.org, 8 Nov. 2014, www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/killing-spree-transfixed-nation-charles-starkweather-and-caril-fugate-1958.