The Most Dangerous Game

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While reading the novel Mind Hunter by John Douglas for my book report assignment, I came across a particularly interesting case. In the early 1980's Robert Hansen went on a murderous rampage that shocked the community of Anchorage, Alaska. Hansen, known throughout his community as a mild mannered baker with a strong affinity for hunting, was abducting local prostitutes and strippers, taking them back to his home while he raped and tortured them, then flew them out to his cabin in the woods where he promised if they cooperated they would be released. He would then let them go naked through the wooded area where he would hunt them down.


I was very interested in this case for two reasons. The first reason was that the killers MO closely followed one of my favorite short stories that I read in High School; The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. The story is about some shipwrecked sailors who find themselves being systematically hunted down one-by-one through an island jungle. They are hunted by a man named General Zarroff, who tired of hunting animals and wanted more of a challenge. In Douglas's novel, he cites many similarities between Hansen and Zarroff, not only in MO. According to Douglas, Hansen felt that by killing prostitutes and women he felt were degenerate, he was doing society a favor. Likewise Zarroff felt that shipmen were degenerates and tramps.


The second reason that I found this case so interesting was because the killer, Robert Hansen started his criminal career about 40 miles from where I grew up; in small town Pocahontas, IA. In the 1960, Hansen served as a police academy instructor in Pocahontas. Later that year he was arrested for burning down a school bus garage and was sentenced to jail for 4 years. It was after this time that he moved to Alaska. Because Hansen had moved away from the area nearly 20 years before he started his killing spree, I was unaware of his existence and my friends from that area were also unaware. Digging a little deeper into Hansen's past, I discovered he was born in Estherville, Iowa; the small town where both of my parents grew up, but again, because Hansen hadn't lived there since before my parents were born, they were unfamiliar with the case. However, I do plan on asking my grandparents if they are at all familiar with Hansen since he would be closer to their age.

One of the themes that Douglas talks about in his book is that Hansen is an excellent example of how a killers MO changes and develops with each kill. In his earlier killings of prostitutes, Hansen would simply tie them up and kill them execution style, then fly their bodies and level them in the wooded area near his cabin. As he became more confident in his killings, Hansen began to torture his victims and then finally began to hunt them like animals. It is because of this sort of changing pattern that it makes a series of murders hard to tie together. If four women are murdered in different ways, people assume that it is a different killer. Douglas argues that MO can change while significance of the murder does not change. In this case, we see Hansen's method of killing change but they are all related in how they spoke to Hansen personally. He liked the thrill of the hunt, and he went after high-risk individuals such as prostitutes.  


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First off, The Most Dangerous Game is a great book and I had to read it in high school to. There have also been numerous movies based on this concept as well, (check out “Surviving The Game” staring Ice T, 1994).
This is a seriously disturbing case to say the least, but incredibly interesting. Personally I'm very interested in the psychology behind killers who strongly believe they are doing the right thing. Is it simply self-delusion, that is, a kind of Freudian coping mechanism for the person to still function even though they are subconsciously compelled to what they know is wrong? I feel like it must be a lot deeper than this. And that there are intermediate steps in faulty reasoning, slow changes in the way the murdered conceptualizes "right and wrong," etc.
I think most people believe (although I don't) that if you can kill one person to save 1000 it is an ok trade off. The classic "If you could go back in time and kill Hitler would you do it?" argument. The problem is, when does this opportunity present itself? And when it does, how SURE are you that killing that one person really WILL save 100's more. Although this may be simplifying the above situation a little to much, it would be ineresting to study if there are subtle changes in the type of reasoning I've just outlined, that are documentable in murderes, etc. Broadly this deals with ethical decision making, motivation, and mental/emotional constructs such as fairness, justice, punishment, and revenge.

I read Mind Hunter as well. The Hansen case is truly intriguing to me because it is hard to comprehend a person actually hunting another person for sport.
I had originally heard of the Hansen case during a documentary a few years back. Back then (and still today), it was very hard to imagine the fear and thoughts that were going through his victim's minds when Hansen was hunting them. Like with most cases, I try to put myself into the shoes of the victim. The terror they must have felt is overwhelming. It's like some one's worse dream realized. Running through a dark forest, not knowing if you are any closer to escaping or not. Trying to hide, fearing for your life, and hearing the rifle fire in the distance. It gives me shivers just thinking about it.

I actually graduated from the same high school that Josh did and I thought that this post was really interesting. I also had to read the story The Most Dangerous Game in high school, probably for the same class actually. I just got done talking to Josh and he suggested that I get the book Mind Hunter by John Douglas because it is such a good read. Very interesting post though and I found the correlation between the Iowa towns, the story from high school, and the book Mind Hunter really amazing!

I also had to read The Most Dangerous Game in high school and was intrigued it then. When I saw this post, I assumed it was about the story but there is a real life case very similar. I guess I wasn't really as surprised as I should have been that someone has done such a despicable thing. It's in a story so it's been in someone's head. If one, others probably have thought of it at some point. I read the comments as well and wanted to add onto the first one. With the idea of someone killing because they think it's right you get the tv show Dexter and things like that. There is another movie that reminds me a bit of this. I haven't seen the movie, but the preview for the latest Predator movie shows the humans wandering lost and confused having been sent to the planet of the Predators to be hunted by them. I also thought about the "greater good" question here. Does Hansen's conviction to kill these "bad" women make sense? Our own government has set out to overthrow militant governments in other countries where they end up executed (ex: Saddam Hussein) but how do we determine if that's right or not? This easily goes along the line of the death penalty, do killers deserve to die? Does anyone? I guess this post and the case it talks about makes me think. A lot. It brings up a lot of tough questions.

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