Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Book Review: The Night Stalker, by Philip Carlo

Portrait of a pathetic loser who also happened to be a prolific serial-killer rapist.

The Night Stalker

Pinnacle, 1996, 421 pages

Decades after Richard Ramirez left 13 dead and paralyzed the city of Los Angeles, his name is still synonymous with fear, torture, and sadistic murder. Philip Carlo's classic The Night Stalker, based on years of meticulous research and extensive interviews with Ramirez, revealed the killer and his horrifying crimes to be even more chilling than anyone could have imagined. From watching his cousin commit murder at age 11 to his 19 death sentences to the juror who fell in love with him, the story of Ramirez is a bizarre and spellbinding descent into the very heart of human evil.

Incredibly, after The Night Stalker was first published, thousands of women from all over the world contacted Carlo, begging to be put in touch with the killer. Carlo interviewed them and here presents their disturbing stories and the dark sexual desires that would drive them towards a brutal murderer. And in an exclusive death row interview, the killer himself gives his thoughts on the "Ramirez Groupies" - and what he thinks they really want.

Other than being a rapist serial-killer, Richard Ramirez was really a pretty uninteresting, low-life loser.

In Philip Carlo's extensive account of Ramirez's biography, his crimes, his trial, and (in the 10th anniversary edition) his interviews with Ramirez on San Quentin's death row, he understandably became fascinated with his subject and characterizes Ramirez as "intellectual," "well-read," and "articulate."

But really, he's not. Or I should say, wasn't. Ramirez died in 2013, after 23 years on death row. Not because his appeals had finally run out and he was executed. Nope, he died in a banal yet horrible manner fitting for his banal yet horrible life, of lymphoma and hepatitis C.

Ramirez grew up in a Mexican-American family, the son of law-abiding, traditional parents. His father subscribed to traditional methods of discipline, i.e., beating the crap out of his kids. His brothers were fuckups who fell into drugs and petty crime, and Richard took after them. All the boys were apparently sexually molested as children, by teachers and/or neighbors. What probably fucked Richard up more was his cousin Mike, who was a Green Beret in Vietnam who brought back graphic Polaroid photos of the Vietcong women he raped and killed. He showed these images to little Richie. Ramirez admits later that these sexually excited him, and it's hard not to think that they were a contributing factor in what he became. Ramirez also witnessed cousin Mike murder his wife. Mike was found not guilty by reason of insanity, spent only four years in a mental hospital, and when released, he and Ramirez continued to hang out.

Obviously, this was not a promising path for Ramirez, who dropped out of ninth grade and by his early 20s was living in California, doing drugs, praying to Satan, and supporting himself with burglary.

Ramirez admitted to many of his deeds later, but he never would admit to all of them, so we still don't know how many people in total he actually raped and killed, but his known murder spree began in 1984, and he was eventually convicted of 13 murders, 11 rapes, and numerous other attempted rapes and murders and burglaries. His victims ranged from 9 to 79. His method was pretty simple: he'd scope out a house, sneak in, kill any man he found, and then tie up and beat the woman, ransack the place, then come back and rape her. Sometimes he let her live, sometimes he didn't.

The "Night Stalker" was not clever or subtle. Richard Ramirez was, frankly, a very stupid man, letting multiple victims live even after they could identify him, and doing relatively little to cover his tracks. He believed Satan was looking after him. And yet he got away with it for over a year, even going up to San Francisco when the heat was too much in Los Angeles.

Eventually he was caught because he decided to visit his brother in Arizona, unaware that his face was plastered on every newspaper in the Western U.S.

Carlo later comments about how much Ramirez read in prison, as if to indicate that he was really a smart guy with a wasted intellect. Nah, he was just a less bright, more violent Holden Caulfield. He discovered De Sade and really liked Justine. Of course he did, because Justine is a juvenile, grotesque rape fantasy by a pervert who, like Ramirez, considered society to be "hypocritical" when what he meant was "They won't let me do whatever I want to whoever I want." It's notable that none of Ramirez's answers, about his crimes, about serial killers, about what he thought about society, about the death penalty, were really thoughtful or interesting. Ramirez was just a high school dropout who got off on rape and murder, and his "intellectualism" reflected his level of education.

The one thing I did find interesting about Ramirez's psychology is that while I assumed he would slot easily as a sociopath, he showed much more concern for his family than one would expect from a sociopath. He cared about his sister and nieces, and initially he wanted to plead guilty to spare his father the stress and humiliation of a trial. At least as described by Carlo, who interviewed Ramirez extensively, he seemed to be a remorseless monster who genuinely enjoyed raping and killing people, and yet he did have some human feelings. Maybe he could have been a normal guy if he hadn't been fucked up by all those early childhood experiences.

This book's coverage of Ramirez's crimes is thorough and grisly. The coverage of his trial is likewise detailed; there was never really much chance of his being acquitted, despite one of the jurors falling in love with him! But his defense team gave it a shot; their efforts to cloud the question of whether Ramirez really did all those crimes were not helped by his open defiance and contempt in court, flashing Satanic symbols, laughing or sneering at his victims when they got on the stand, and generally being a massive dick.

And yet, that juror who fell in love with him? And voted not just to convict him, but for the death penalty? She later married him!

Ramirez and Doreen Lioy

People are fucking strange. It wasn't just Doreen Lioy. Ramirez had an entire mob of groupies, who would show up to the courtroom, and later visit him in jail, women who'd openly admit to fantasizing about Ramirez raping them. The author speaks of finding chatroom and Internet forums full of international Ramirez fans. All young women, some extremely attractive. Some didn't think he was guilty, some didn't care, but all of them get turned on at the thought of being fucked by the Night Stalker. Even Madonna, visiting Sean Penn in jail when he happened to be housed next to Ramirez, thought Ramirez was "cute" and wanted to meet him.

Other serial killers have had groupies and women who married them behind bars too. It is apparently a thing. A thing that horrifyingly validates some of the worst hot-takes on the nature of females by "Red Pill" incels. I mean, obviously most women do not find a rapist serial killer attractive, and as the author points out, even those women who were turned on by the Night Stalker were no doubt in love with a fantasy; they didn't actually want to be raped and killed by him. Well, except for the ones who literally said they did. People are fucking strange. And disturbing.

But anyway, a well-researched and thorough book about a man who was, ultimately, not very interesting at all, just a nasty little stain of a human being who would have been just another drug addicted drifter, except that either Satan or his cousin Mike's Polaroids made him something much worse.

My complete list of book reviews.
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