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What do you call someone who is obsessed with crime?

There are a few different terms that can describe a person who is overly interested or obsessed with crime. The most common terms are:


A criminophile is someone who has an enthusiastic interest in criminals and crime. The word combines the Latin word “crimen” meaning crime with the Greek word “philos” meaning love or enthusiasm. Criminophiles are fascinated by the details of criminal activity and often study crimes, visit crime scenes, or collect crime memorabilia. Their interest goes beyond curiosity into an obsession.

Crime Buff

A crime buff is an informal term for someone who avidly follows crime stories in the news and media. Crime buffs often read true crime books, listen to crime podcasts, watch crime documentaries, and discuss famous crimes and serial killers. They have an intense interest in the facts of crimes, criminal investigations, and the forensic and psychological details.

Crime Enthusiast

Similar to a crime buff, a crime enthusiast is someone who is very interested in crime from an entertainment perspective. They enthusiastically follow crime cases much like a sports fan follows their favorite team. Crime enthusiasts may treat gruesome crimes like interesting puzzles and focus more on the spectacle than the tragedy.

Criminal Stalker

A criminal stalker takes their interest to the extreme by actively inserting themselves into ongoing criminal cases. They may show up at crime scenes, funerals, or trials inappropriately. Criminal stalkers try to contact criminals in prison and form inappropriate attachments or relationships with them. Their boundary-crossing obsession is usually unhealthy.

True Crime Fanatic

A true crime fanatic has an obsessive interest in the genre of true crime entertainment. They consume vast amounts of true crime books, movies, TV shows, and podcasts. Fanatics are drawn to the gory details and mystery of crimes. In extreme cases, their obsession overrides empathy for victims.

Reasons for obsession with crime

There are several psychological factors that can motivate a criminophile or true crime fanatic:

  • Morbid curiosity – Crime stories satisfy people’s curiosity about taboo topics like death and murder. They may have a dark urge to gaze into the abyss of human evil.
  • Adrenaline rush – For some, consuming true crime gives them an excited, adrenaline-fueled feeling, almost like they are vicariously experiencing the crime.
  • Boredom – Obsessing over crimes fills empty time and gives people an engrossing hobby.
  • Empathy – Feeling emotionally connected to victims can draw some people to crime stories.
  • Puzzlement – The complex twists and turns of criminal cases give people’s brains something to figure out.
  • Macabre interests – Some crime buffs simply find gruesome topics strangely fascinating.

Is obsession with crime unhealthy?

In moderation, an interest in true crime is usually harmless entertainment. But an obsessive level of fixation on criminals and gruesome details can be unhealthy. Possible downsides include:

  • Desensitization to violence
  • Lack of empathy for real people involved
  • Glorification of serial killers
  • Time wasted on obsession
  • Seeing people as characters, not human beings
  • Unhealthy or dangerous fascination with death

People should be mindful if their true crime hobby is causing them to view real tragedies as entertainment. Turning off the TV or podcast once in a while is a healthy choice.

Famous Real-Life Criminophiles

Some notorious real-life figures demonstrate criminophilia gone too far:

Ed Kemper

“Co-Ed Killer” Ed Kemper murdered 10 people in California in the 1970s. As a child, he was obsessed with crime magazines and homicide stories. He fantasized about being a serial killer years before acting on it.

John Wayne Gacy

Serial killer John Wayne Gacy was enthralled with crime news as a child. His obsession led him to commit the rape and murder of over 30 young men and boys in the 1970s.

Richard Ramirez

“Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez terrorized Los Angeles in 1985 with a string of home invasion murders. He was inspired by a cousin’s serial killer stories and crime scene photos as a teen.

Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy admitted he was obsessed with true crime magazines featuring violent images in his youth. Later, he raped and killed 30+ women across the U.S. in the 1970s.

Obsession With Serial Killers

Within true crime fandom, interest often focuses obsessively on serial killers like Bundy, Gacy, and Ramirez. What exactly causes this fixation?

Morbid Curiosity

Serial killers represent the extremes of evil, which attracts people’s morbid curiosity. Their crimes are the most shocking taboos.


Humans are drawn to the monstrous. Serial killers become larger-than-life monsters come to life from our nightmares.


Their utter lack of empathy makes serial killers seem alien and otherworldly compared to normal people.

Living Maniacs

The fact that serial killers were once living human beings, not fictional characters, makes them more intriguingly real than horror movies.


Some people are fascinated by the psychological power serial killers exert over their victims.


Immersing oneself in serial killer lore provides an escape from mundane daily life.


Exploring their crimes gives people a sense of control over terrifying things.


On an unconscious level, learning about killers helps deal with people’s own vulnerability to violence.


Some obsessives sympathetically identify with serial killers as misunderstood outcasts.

Celebrity Cult Following

Serial killers like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Richard Ramirez have devoted cult followings of fans who obsess over their crimes. These criminals gained a twisted kind of celebrity status and pop culture legacy. Reasons include:

  • Their high body counts make them famous for being evil.
  • Their bizarre psychologies or modus operandis fascinate people.
  • Their good looks or charisma create attraction.
  • Media hype breeds more interest and followers.
  • Conspiracy theories keep their stories alive.
  • Their underdog life stories generate sympathy.

This celebrity treatment overlooks the real tragedy of destroyed lives. Obsession with serial killers risks glorifying their crimes.

Examples of Criminophiles

Here are some examples showing how criminophilia manifests in pop culture and real life:


This Netflix show dramatizes real FBI agents interviewing serial killers to understand their psychology.

My Favorite Murder

This hugely popular true crime comedy podcast has obsessed fans called “Murderinos.”

Serial Killer Conventions

Events like Serial Killer Con allow fans to buy murderabilia and meet true crime celebrities.

Prison Pen Pals

Some criminophiles start relationships or exchange love letters with convicted murderers.


Obsessive criminophiles or serial killer groupies have stalked the likes of Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez, and Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris from Columbine.

Social Media Fans

Infamous killers like the Columbine shooters have fan pages on social media with thousands of followers.

Fan Mail

Imprisoned serial killers receive fan mail on a regular basis, which feeds their egos.

Serial Killer # of Victims # of Fan Letters/Year
Ted Bundy 30+ 400
Jeffrey Dahmer 17 300
John Wayne Gacy 33 195

Crime Scene Visits

Criminophiles flock to famous crime scene locations to take photos and feel closer to their obsession.

True Crime Community

Thanks to the internet, fans with dark obsessions can easily find like-minded people online. The thriving community includes:

  • True crime blogs
  • True crime YouTube channels
  • True crime forums on Reddit
  • True crime Facebook groups
  • Serial killer and mass murderer Wiki sites
  • Subcultures like Tumblr “Columbiners” obsessed with the Columbine massacre

This community satiates fans’ fixation. But it risks cultivating unhealthy attitudes in echo chambers.

Examples of Unhealthy Criminal Obsession

Here are some disturbing real-life examples of people going to unhealthy extremes:


Some fans develop hybristophilia, sexual attraction to criminals. They may even marry murderers in prison.


Obsessives collect distasteful “murderabilia” like serial killer artwork, locks of hair, or items from crime scenes.


Ted Bundy and Richard Ramirez both got married while in jail to extreme fans who stalked them.


Some criminophiles recreate or pay tribute to crimes. The Columbine shooters have many copycat admirers.

Warning Signs of Unhealthy Criminophilia

These signs suggest a hobby has gone too far:

  • Prioritizing interest over work, relationships, health
  • Repeatedly spending significant time and money on obsession
  • Glorifying or identifying with criminals
  • Collected disturbing “murderabilia”
  • Minimizing real tragedy to consume more crime content
  • Following crime news compulsively
  • Harassing victims, criminals, or families involved
  • Dropped empathy for victims

If an interest in true crime causes any harm or distress, it may be time to take a break or set boundaries.

Is Criminophilia a Mental Illness?

Extreme criminophilia alone is not considered a mental disorder. But it may coincide with conditions like:


Crime obsessions that interfere with life may indicate addiction. Addictions produce chemical brain changes.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD causes obsessive thoughts and compulsive habits. Criminophilia could manifest as an OCD obsession.


Schizophrenics’ disordered thinking can include delusions about crimes. Schizophrenia distorts reality.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

A violent alter-ego personality in DID may relate to crime obsession. The disorder fragments identity.


Criminophilia could indicate latent psychopathic traits like lack of empathy, arrogance, and antisocial tendencies.

Mental illness can make it harder to control unhealthy fascinations. Treatment may be warranted in extreme cases.

How to Balance a True Crime Obsession

Those obsessed with crime can still indulge their hobby healthily by:

  • Setting a time limit for crime media.
  • Choosing respectful, serious true crime sources.
  • Avoiding sensationalism or glorification.
  • Taking breaks to “reset” empathy.
  • Discussing cases thoughtfully, not crassly.
  • Centering victim experiences, not killers.
  • Balancing with other interests and self-care.
  • Seeking help if obsession feels out of control.

Staying grounded in victim empathy and humanity keeps the hobby ethical.


Criminophilia and obsession with serial killers clearly stems from complex psychological motives. Morbid fascination with humanity’s darkest side is not uncommon. However, true crime lovers must be mindful their hobby does not devolve into glorifying killers or lacking empathy. If interest spirals into a harmful obsession, professional mental health support may be needed. In moderation, the community and entertainment of true crime provides an intriguing outlet. But the humanity in these tragedies must not get lost in sensationalism.