A brief history of the cat-eye glasses, horn-rimmed spectacles, and clear aviators of serial murderers.


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You are watching: Serial killers with glasses

A teenager via red hair swooping over one eye takes a selfie at an eyeglass save and write-ups it on Tumblr. “I witnessed these Jeffrey Dahmer choose glasses,” he writes in the inscription. “I feel prefer look cute on me. Is that bad?” He tags the photo #serialkiller.

The list of serial killers who wore glasses is lengthy and bloody, from Dahmer to BTK to Harold Shipmale and his professorial frames; also the Zodiac Killer, never caught, wears a thick-rimmed pair in a police sketch. The aesthetic of “serial killer glasses” is so pervasive that it pops up anywhere from Urban Dictionary (“Eyeglasses with hefty or major frames that live somewright here between fashionable and also creepy”) to TV Tropes (wright here “a male that is cold, emotionless… or also a soulmuch less monster” is provided glasses “to conveniently guideline off the audience to his personality”), and many Tumblr write-ups in between.


A pair of shiny lenses, perched on the bridge of a serial killer’s nose, becomes a subtle metaphor for his walled-off nature... Glasses become a mask that’s acceptable for the killer to wear in public.

Search for “serial killer glasses” on Amazon and also you’ll be directed to the “So In Luxe Aviator Retro Fashion Glasses” — perfect for the manic pixie dream serial killer. Naturally, Spirit Halloween sells a pair, also. It’s a look that signifies “creep” and “outsider” so well that it’s become the punchline to a joke: Amy Schumer and Conan O’Brien have actually both done skits around exactly how guys who favor a particular style of glasses tfinish to be serial killers, molesters, cult leaders, or every one of the above.

Of course, the reality that many kind of serial killers wear glasses is easy math: Over 60 percent of Americans usage some sort of vision correction, and also serial killers are just like the remainder of us, at least when it pertains to their eyesight. But because these killers are regularly exhaustively scrutinized and also even fetishized in the media, their glasses have actually end up being part of the serial killer iconography. A pair of shiny lenses, perched on the bridge of a serial killer’s nose, becomes a subtle metaphor for his walled-off nature, for her sociopath’s aloofness. Glasses come to be a mask that’s acceptable for the killer to wear in public. They end up being a threat, too: After all, the serial killer that wears glasses is apparently someone that have the right to view us much better than we deserve to check out them. Someone who’s always watching.

While serial killers can be found leering behind whatever from cat-eye glasses to horn-rimmed spectacles, the glasses of Jeffrey Dahmer have certainly pertained to specify the look. After the totality civilization experienced a pair of bug-eyed, wire-rimmed, double-connected, clear-lensed aviators adorning the challenge of Dahmer — cannibal, necrophiliac, killer of 17 guys and also boys — the style ended up being infamous. These days, Dahmer’s accessory has been embraced by the mainstream; it’s an ironic statement now, a “lewk” that you can discover not just on Tumblr yet also on Pinterest (“Jeffrey Dahmer made me love these glasses”), Reddit (“How would I look for out the “Dahmer” style glasses?”), and also even on the encounters of Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Beyoncé, though they admittedly might be going for even more of a “sexy nerd” look.


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Jeffrey Dahmer’s 1991 mug shot. Photo: Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department.
As an item, the glasses themselves have actually end up being unnerving, also without the genuine Dahmer behind them. When John “Derf” Backderf, among Dahmer’s high college classmates, quit by the set of My Frifinish Dahmer to view exactly how filming was going (Backderf composed the graphic novel that the film was based on), he found it difficult to talk to Ross Lynch, the actor playing Dahmer, bereason of his glasses. “He remained in his complete Dahmer get-up, and also it freaked me out,” Backderf remembered. “I sassist, ‘Dude, you HAVE to take off those glasses or I can’t talk to you.’”

Dahmer wasn’t the only killer lurking behind clear-lensed aviators, though. Dennis Rader, the BTK killer, wore an practically identical pair as Dahmer, and also a woman who fitted him for glasses at the Spectacle Shoppe in Wichita, Kansas, vividly remembers his cold eyes as he stared at her, “sizing her up.” Ed Kemper, the Co-Ed Killer, wore a pair, as did Dennis Nilsen, the Kindly Killer; Wayne Williams, the suspected Atlanta Child Murderer; and also also the lesser-recognized Canadian Robert Hansen, the Butcher Baker, whose glasses were for sale on eBay in 2008. All these murderers operated throughout the ’70s and ’80s, decades when serial killers were sprouting like weeds across the world, and also the same years that clear aviator glasses taken place to be extremely renowned. It’s no wonder, then, that so many type of of the decades’ worst offenders finished up in mug shots, glaring out at a horrified public with spookily similar frames.

Still, it’s not just ubiquity that doomed the clear aviator. 2020 Magazine, the “optical industry’s leading publication,” says that tright here is somepoint inherently creepy about the glasses’ physical style. It’s all in the curving, lachrymose angles: the bar across the top of the glasses transforms suddenly downward at the corners of the eyes, and also that, together with the tear-shaped curve of the inward structure edge, “pull the confront and the eyes dvery own with them, providing the illusion that the majority of aviator wearers are sad, frowny-challenged, or otherwise taking care of some type of inner personal trouble simply start to bubble to the surface.”

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BTK killer Dennis Rader. Photo: Sedgwick County Sheriff"s Office via Getty Images Though those eerie, teardrop-shaped lenses seem to symbolize someone who is forever before surveilling us — the BTK killer, say, who would certainly study his victims’ homes and routines prior to coming in for the slaughter — the reality is that occasionally these serial killers couldn’t bear their very own sight. In the courtroom, Dahmer practically never before wore glasses. He took them off bereason he couldn’t stand also to see the faces of the jury — or of his victim’s parents.

Granted, not all serial killers wear glasses that scream, “I am interested in hanging your skeleton in my shower.” Now and then, these murderers bconnect out at the civilization from behind lenses that are so entirely unthreatening, so endearing, even, that society finds it hard to think they’re criminals at all.

Take Dorothea Puente. In the 1980s, Puente cooked tremendous tamales, fussed over her increased garden, and eliminated seven of her elderly Sacramento boarders — many type of of whom were mentally ill, alcoholics, or drug addicts — prior to burying them in her own backyard. Her round cheeks, cloud of white hair, and huge, clear-framed glasses made it exceptionally hard for civilization to accept the breadth of her crimes. Clues — choose the stench of death climbing from her lawn — were created off for months as “harmless eccentricities,” and also also after she was caught, journalists wrote incredulously around the bespectacled figure “through the demeanor of a grandmommy and the rap sheet of a felon,” emphasizing that Puente’s appearance “ not fit the stereoform of a serial killer.” Twenty years after her victims’ bodies were dug up, reporter Martin Kuz checked out her in jail and also defined just how the “round-framed glasses also large for her face magnify a pair of pale blue eyes. She resembles a wizened owl.” Hers was not a look that terrified; rather, it was a look that offered people cognitive dissonance. “Her passivity subdues suspicion,” Kuz listed. “She seems entirely harmless.”


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Dorothea Puente shows up for arraignment in Sacramento, California, Municipal Court. Photo: Owen Brewer/Sacramento Bee/MCT through Getty Images
An also much less threatening pair of glasses bedecked the kindly confront of Harold Shipguy, or “Doctor Death,” among the many prolific serial killers of all time (the federal government report into his crimes estimated that he might have eliminated over 250 human being in between 1975 and also 1998 by providing them lethal doses of clinical heroin). One of the most unnerving points around Shipmale was his “friendly doctor” demeanor, which caused one writer for The Guardian to marvel around how the defendant was “the gentlest, sweetest-looking male in the building: a middle-aged, middle-course medical professional, a father-of-four via a donnish beard, pebble-thick glasses and, judging from his quiet calm, an underproclaimed bedside manner.” Shipman’s glasses distinguiburned him as an educated skilled, someone you might really trust, someone that was only offering you an excessive dose of diamorphine to aid you sleep a little much better. How can you fear a man with glasses prefer that?

What happens when the serial killer doesn’t require glasses at all — but wears them anyway? The Zodiac was (or is?) a serial killer who struck are afraid in the hearts of Northern Californians throughout the ’60s and also ’70s by killing at least 5 human being, largely young couples, and also sfinishing a series of deranged letters and also cryptograms to the push. He’s more than likely the a lot of famous unestablished serial killer of all time, after Jack the Ripper, and also a huge component of his mystery requires a quite prosaic question: Did or did he not wear glasses?


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San Francisco police circulated this compowebsite of the Bay Area"s Zodiac Killer. Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty
On October 11th, 1969, Zodiac swarm a 29-year-old cab driver named Paul Stine at point-empty array. Three teenagers saw him looking via Stine’s pockets and gave a description to the police. The occurring police sketch, released from the San Francisco Police Department several days later, shows a male through thick-framed glasses — and also because then, a glasses-wearing Zodiac has end up being the many recognizable Zodiac around.

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But some people think that — plot twist! — the glasses may have actually actually belonged to Paul Stine, the victim, and that Zodiac hurriedly put them on bereason he knew the teens were watching and would describe him to the police. In that instance, the glasses end up being a genius last-minute disguise that has thrown us all off the scent for decades. People who think they witnessed Zodiac on other days don’t remember a male through glasses; a victim who survived him remembers a male in a hooded costume via sunglasses clipped over the eyeholes. “I look favor the summary passed out only as soon as I carry out my point,” Zodiac composed in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle about a month after Stine’s murder. “The rest of the time I look entirle various. I shall not tell you what my descise is composed of when I kill.”

Robert Rule’s daughter was eliminated by Gary Ridgway, the Environment-friendly River Killer, a meticulous murderer that told investigators that he was lacking the component of humanity that makes people treatment around various other world. The Seattle Times described Ridgmeans as “so quiet that no one who knew him… glimpsed a hint of the killer who lurked behind the nerdy glasses and also mousy smile.” He strangled at least 49 women, including 16-year-old Linda Rule, and while he could direct the police to their bodies, he couldn’t remember their encounters. The lead investigator dubbed his eyes “two dark holes that go right into a deep, dark pit.”

In the courtroom, Ridgway was infuriatingly impassive. The judge lambasted him for his “Teflon-coated eactivities and complete lack of compassion.” But sooner or later during his long trial, Robert Rule stood up in court to deal with him. Rule worked as a Santa at a mall; he was plump, through a big white beard, and for his day in court he had actually put on a pair of rainbow suspenders. While the family members of other victims had sobbed or screamed or wimelted cancer and also death and also hell on Ridgmeans, Rule was preternormally composed as he confronted his daughter’s killer.


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Gary Ridgmethod, in court. Photo: Josh Trujillo-Pool/Getty Images
“Mr. Ridgmeans, um, there are human being below who hate you,” he said. He took a deep breath. “I’m not one of them. I forprovide you for what you’ve done. You’ve made it difficult to live as much as what I think, and also that is what God claims to carry out, and that’s to foroffer. And He doesn’t say to foroffer simply specific world, He claims to forprovide all. So you are foroffered, sir.”

As the father spoke, Ridgway’s chin started to quiver. He battached promptly. He started to weep. And then he took off his glasses.