Most recently, I have developed a voracious fascination for the psychology behind serial killers. Their life stories, crimes and motives heavily intrigue me. One of the most poignant serial killers in American history is Ted Bundy. Bundy was responsible for the murder and rape of 30 women and girls, although it is speculated by experts for that number to be much higher. The killer had interesting methods for luring in his victims, using disguises and ploys for him to get what he desired. Those disguises may have been crutches, or a cast. Although, sometimes, that disguise was even a mask. That mask played with the victim’s mind by throwing off a different vibe. He often portrayed himself as a rather passive and kind young man, giving off a very charismatic aura to ease his victims. This charisma, of course, was very dangerous.
Charisma, or a compelling attractiveness that can inspire devotion in others, is often a very strong trait to have. It can show that a person is kindhearted and trustworthy. Although, that charisma can be a mask hiding the truth, which can be very detrimental.
Charisma has the ability to cloud our judgement. Those who are charismatic have the ability to make great first impressions. According to Psychology Today, first impressions snap into place in seven seconds. We determine the qualities a person has by their body language, physical appearance and many other factors. One that preconceived opinion is formed, it’s difficult to change our perception about that person when we get to know them further. If someone wears that mask of charisma when meeting someone for the very first time, it can alter our judgement and affect our perception about that person.
When we meet someone with charisma, we can become easily allured by them. The charm about that person is almost intoxicating that we find it challenging to separate ourselves from them. Both of these cases are very evident with Bundy. When he met his victims, they were so thrown off by his charm and his charisma that led to their tragic deaths. Even his girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, was essentially blind to the incidents. He was taken to numerous jails across numerous states, although he acted as an innocent man and lied. He had her wrapped around his finger as she was stuck in that rut.
In 1974, he had worked with Carole Ann Boone. Ironically, the two worked towards finding the killers and kidnappers of these women. While he was in prison in Florida, the two started a relationship. During his trial, they got married. Boone gave birth to Bundy’s child, Rose Bundy, in 1981. All of these events led Boone to believe the same thing that Kloepfer believed: Bundy was an innocent and sweet man.
Charisma can not only show its dangers in average, everyday people, but also politicians and leaders. These leaders want to be seen as admirable and successful in an effort to improve their ratings and, hopefully, be elected in future years. But like the mask that Bundy wore, it can be especially dangerous in this instance.
Like I stated earlier, charisma can cloud our judgement and lure us in to things that may seem unethical. For example, Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, was a heavily charismatic politician. Reagan campaigned heavily for the good of America, creating the slogan that is still used today in the Republican party: “Let’s make America great again.” He was for the good of the country and wanted to see a genuine change, making him widely popular among American citizens. Although, in 1986, Reagan had sold weapons to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Some of those funds had also gone to the Contras, guerilla forces in Nicaragua that opposed the Sandinistas. This scandal had become known as the Iran-Contra affair and had damaged the Reagan presidency. His charisma was a mask that allowed him to do illegal and unethical things, which ultimately deteriorated his character.
When it comes to charisma, you have to remember that looks can be very deceiving. Someone could be a person that they’re really not. You truly never know who could be wearing that mask. As author Peter Ajisafe said, “Charisma without character is postponed calamity.”