The Null Device

City of Ghouls

A criminologist attempts to explain why Adelaide has so many bizarre murders. Allan Perry, a criminologist from Adelaide University, claims that the Snowtown killings and other crimes are symptomatic of a malignant subculture that exists in South Australia, and that Adelaide is a social hothouse that breeds psychopathic killers:
"We're seeing a sub-culture which has arisen out of family breakdown, economic deprivation, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment," Mr Perry said.

That could also explain the Adelaide tradition of breaking into the zoo and mutilating the animals. I wonder how long until the local film industry clues in to this and starts setting teen-slasher horror films there, wallowing in the morbidity and social decay of our very own City of Ghouls?

There are 12 comments on "City of Ghouls":

Posted by: Graham Tue Sep 9 15:49:03 2003

To be fair, I don't think this sort of thing would be confined to South Australia.

Posted by: acb Tue Sep 9 15:56:09 2003

Though why don't the backwoods of Tasmania or redneck Queensland produce their share of cannibalistic po'buckers? You'd think they would at least match Adelaide.

Though the Northern Territory did have that tourist killer, to be fair.

Posted by: mark Tue Sep 9 18:08:49 2003

Y'could consider Adelaide the ultimate in boring suburbia (I've seen a few people volunteer Canberra in that regard, but Canberra isn't big enough to have such worries). And with boring suburbia, y'could imagine people getting more and more frustrated and shut-in and bored until they've just gotta put on goth makeup and fairy wings spraypainted black... or, alternatively, kill people.


Posted by: dj Tue Sep 9 23:57:10 2003

If you read the potted life stories of the people involved, you realise that there was a whole lot of fucked up shit going on. The area these people lived in is one of the poorest in the city. Abuse was a feature of many of these people's lives, and had obviously become so normalised that extreme violence was a totally acceptable way of acting in the world.

The killers had obviously embraced ideas commonly spouted by the more ratbag shock jocks and some politicians - that all gays were pedophiles and that drug users were scum who did not deserve to live.

I think the criminologist guy is at least partly correct. Certainly more so than some of the media outlets who resort to the tired cliche of 'evil'. It saves having to look at the abuse enabled by family members, the extreme racist and bigoted political views of two of the killers which tap into existing political discourse and the lack of positive community structures that don't allow people to just go missing without anyone giving a toss.

Posted by: gjw Wed Sep 10 00:24:58 2003

Films? Well, Bad Boy Bubby was set in Port Adelaide. But I'm still trying to get my head around exactly "what sort" of people the murderers are. They aren't "typical" Elizabeth bogans. The Elizabeth bogans I know don't go around chopping up gays and stealing their dole cheques (as far as I know).

But how do so many people "go wrong" all at the same time? If one guy got it in his head that killing people was a cool idea, surely one of his mates would set him straight, right? Totally bizarre.

Posted by: dj Wed Sep 10 03:06:53 2003

I think its the sum of a lot of things. Abuse as a child does horrible things to some people and when they are possibly predisposed to mental illness, the effects are only exacerbated.

Obviously, you and I probably grew up in similar areas Grant and know people from this area, so we can appreciate it's not only about economics or poverty.

Posted by: gjw Wed Sep 10 03:26:54 2003

Yeah it's got to be about more than poverty. Look at other famous Adelaide serial-murders, like the "Family Murders" - where the people associated with the case were quite wealthy business owners (and of course, there's the theory about a coverup by magistrates as well).

Posted by: Mr eel Wed Sep 10 09:21:25 2003

I've heard these kind of things said before, but I'm sceptical. If I'm honest, that's partly because I don't really want to believe anything like this (since I live in Adelaide).

"We're seeing a sub-culture which has arisen out of family breakdown, economic deprivation, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment,"

To be fair, this short little blurb on the ABC doesn't give us much to judge Allan Perry's work by, but I do have a few questions.

Where is this sub-culture? Who is it comprised of? If it is an identifiable sub-culture, this research should have uncovered actual members of this sub-culture. I wonder if it has?

Also, how does the rate of violent crime in Adelaide and South Australia relate to other cities in Australia, and even cities in other first-world countries.

Family breakdown, economic deprivation, drug abuse &c exist in many communities. Is there any precedent for this sub-culture, or is it something unique to Adelaide.

Lastly, how exactly does this environment lead to extremely

Posted by: acb Wed Sep 10 13:33:39 2003

Goths, did you say? Oh dear; perhaps after all the grisly killings, it will become a goth mecca, a sort of antipodean New Orleans attracting black-clad teenage runaways from all over Australasia.

Posted by: johnboy Fri Sep 12 04:26:53 2003

'Controversial author Salman Rushdie visited Adelaide in the 1980’s, and later declared it "a perfect setting for a Stephen King novel or horror film," adding that "sleepy conservative towns are where those things happen."'

Posted by: acb Fri Sep 12 05:28:50 2003

Thanks for that, Johnboy. I vaguely recalled reading that quote in the Age's Saturday magazine a long time ago, but forgot the details.

Posted by: Graham Fri Sep 12 15:22:35 2003

The Gawler Motor Inn. *shudder*