Chapter 2: Who killed creativity, and with what weapons?

Profile of a murderer: the seven deadly creativity killers

‘Frighteningly normal’ but capable of ‘extraordinary cruelty’: these were the words used by police surgeon Thomas Bond back in the 1880s to describe the likely profile of history’s most infamous serial killer. ‘Jack the Ripper’ was believed to be responsible for the macabre murders of five London prostitutes, whose throats were cut and bodies mutilated before they were partially disembowelled. The killer’s true identity was never discovered — he may have died soon after his killing spree or have been incarcerated for some other crime.

Bond’s initial profile was probably remarkably accurate. When he examined the pattern of killings he concluded that the murderer would be ‘unassuming in appearance and manner, and daring and calm in the face of unimaginable violence … middle-aged, leading a solitary life and wearing a long coat to cover up any blood from his crimes (since he killed in public spaces)’. The police, however, whose investigative techniques were then still quite crude, did not have enough information to find the killer, and the case was closed after four years. As they were unconvinced by Bond’s description, the police failed to recognise that the person they were looking for might not have had a mental illness or appeared unstable, so they were probably searching for the wrong profile type. A recent documentary that re-examined the case using modern methods ...

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