While the book tears into nine notorious murderers and all their grotesque stories, podcasters Marcus Parks, Ben Kissel, and Henry Zebrowski all seem to agree that Dennis Rader — known as the BTK (bind, torture, kill) killer — was the absolute worst in their eyes.
“BTK is one of the most despicable serial killers but also one of the most fascinating for me,” Parks, who produces the podcast and wrote the majority of the book, told Oxygen.com.
Parks said that the chapter on Rader was his favorite one to write. It begins with the words, “Nobody likes Dennis Rader” — which speaks to the trio’s abject hatred of the killer. On the first page of the chapter, Parks notes that “the killers outside of Rader covered herein all have something that can elicit even a hint of sympathy, whether it be the extreme mental illness suffered by Richard Chase and Ed Gein or the childhood abuse heaped upon John Wayne Gacy and Richard Ramirez. Dennis Rader had none of that.”
Parks wrote that there is no evidence to explain exactly why Rader became a killer.
“He really is the monster who created himself,” he told Oxygen.com. “As far as we can tell, there was nothing in his childhood that happened to him that could have put him on the wrong path.”
He instead attributed Rader’s crime spree to him being “the most selfish person on earth.”
Rader killed 10 people before completely stopping his killing spree, which is atypical of most serial killers. He didn’t just kill; he tortured his Kansas community by sending cryptic letters to the police and media. All the while, he was camouflaged as a family man. Married with two kids, he was also a Boy Scout troop leader and the president of the local Christ Lutheran Church.
He was seemingly well-adjusted, so where did his tendency to kill come from? The men of “Last Podcast on the Left” believe it just came from within.
“With serial killers, people ask if it’s nature or nurture,” Parks explained to Oxygen.com. “And what we’ve found is that a lot of the time it's both. It’s very rare that someone is born just fine with no problems whatsoever and they end up going on a killing spree. BTK is just one of those guys.”
In “Last Book on the Left,” Parks points out that as a child, Rader's parents were loving and supportive; at worst, they were strict. However, by a young age Rader claimed he would seemingly get turned on by the sight of slaughtered chickens and by his mother weeping in frustration. Even as a child, he began binding stray cats to poles in barns, and wrapping wire around their neck until they were almost dead; then, he’d repeat the process until he killed each cat, which would leave him sexually satisfied.
The young Rader would watch “Mickey Mouse Club” obsessively and fantasize about kidnapping Mouseketeer Annette Funicello so he could bring her back to his family’s Kansas home. "He dreamed that she would become his slave girl, kept in a cage attached to his family's chicken coop," the book notes.
“He was born that way,” Parks told Oxygen.com.”Nothing happened to him, nothing bad happened to him whatsoever. He really was just born that way and that is exceedingly rare.”
The book rips into Rader instead of focusing on his kills, as the podcasting trio tends to do. They pointed out how he decided to name his crotch area “Sparky.” They also make fun of a piece of creative writing he made in which he created a killer character who signs a supposedly scary letter with “DTPG: Death to Pretty Girls.” Zebrowski jokes, “Is he in some sort of SCREAMO band?” A drawing (the book is illustrated by artist Tom Neely) of a Screamo band called “Death to Pretty Girls” accompanies that remark.
The trio goes on to make fun of Rader's letters to police and, of course, they poke fun at his ultimate fail: the way that he got caught.
“It’s my favorite story of a serial killer getting caught ever,” Parks told Oxygen.com. “He started communicating with police after a professor said he was writing a book on the BTK murders in the '70s because people had forgotten about BTK and he was indignant that anyone would forget the great BTK.”
Rader began communicating with police, but there had been advances in technology since his last correspondence with the authorities.
“He would have to go to different stores to buy all of the paper goods and the dolls and all the weird things he used to communicate with and he’d have to make sure everything was wiped clean of fingerprints and hair and he was getting very tired of doing all that so he asked police if it was OK if he sent on a floppy disk,” Parks said with a laugh. “They said, ‘Sure, please go ahead.’”
Investigators famously told Rader that floppy disks were not traceable — knowing full well that they are.
It was the floppy disk which led law enforcement straight to Rader after its metadata showed that the disk was used at the church where he worked, The Atlantic reported in 2014. The disk’s encryption stated the last person who edited the disk, Parks explained. Rader was immediately identified as a suspect and arrested in 2005 as a result of that folly.
Rader is currently serving life behind bars at El Dorado Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Kansas.
"Last Book on the Left" came out in April and is available for purchase now.
Get all your true crime news from Oxygen. Coverage of the latest true crime stories and famous cases explained, as well as the best TV shows, movies and podcasts in the genre. And don't miss our own podcast, Martinis & Murder!