Ungrammatic title inspired by Zack Parsons. I was reading Thomas de Quincey’s On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts when it occurred to me to give my thoughts on how to go about committing one effectively rather than aesthetically. The disclaimer should be unnecessary, but this is for entertainment value only and I am sorely lacking in experience, so don’t blame me if you actually try this out and my notes turn out to be worthless. I actually haven’t even seen any of those “perfect murder” movies or done much study of the Leopold & Loeb (or similar) cases. Their popularity does indicate that there is an audience of the topic though.

There are of course all sorts of different murders and motives for murderers. Your case will vary a lot depending on your preferences. If you don’t care at all about being caught, things are much easier. A lot of game-theory countermeasures naturally go out the window. Suicide bombing has come into vogue and any wimpy middle-class person can do it if they’re willing to kill themselves, and the much greater number of suicides than homicides indicates there are a considerable number of them. It does require an explosive vest which a network often supplies and so may be beyond your reach. If you do manage to come in to possession of one, concealment is of course a necessity. If people see it on you they are apt to run far away, in which case the only person you are killing is yourself and there are much easier ways of going about it, though perhaps not as spectacularly.

I live in the United States and imagine many of my readers do as well. Other countries tend to be shocked at the ease with which handguns are available here, and given their large contribution to homicides it would be shameful of me to avoid discussing them. Firearms are known as the “great equalizer”, as they are quite effective without regard to the strengths of their wielder. Point and click, as they say. I presume you are committing an unexpected, unprovoked murder, in which case it should not be too difficult to send a bullet through the brain from behind at point-blank range. Be sure you are familiar with loading and firing your gun beforehand or you are likely to wind up quite embarassed. There are numerous small and easily concealed guns which you can have readied with the safety off to ensure a minimum time between revealing your hand and the doing of the deed. The smallest of all are the single-shot “Derringers”, holding caliber constant, but for added confidence that your victim is indeed deceased you might want to pump a few extra into their prone bodies. Handguns can sometimes be traced (the more official the posession, as with police officers, the more likely), so if you would really like to pin the blame on someone else who owns one, consider stealing it. The later they report it stolen the less credible their excuse, so don’t dilly-dally after committing your theft.

The downside to them is that they are noisy and messy, which you may not care about, and also that there may be some hassle involved in obtaining them depending on your location and associates. Fortunately there is a very dangerous item responsible for far more killings which they let any yahoo use. By that I am of course referring to the automobile. There are numerous advantages to using it. Ilkka Kokkarinen gave some here, in a post short enough to inspire this one without taking too much away. The part about it seeming like an accident will be less plausible if you reverse to run them over again, so there is a tradeoff in raising your confidence of their death. The automobile gives a nice feeling of seperation and even has windshield wipers in case there is a large mess that would obscure your view. Note that the larger your vehicle, the greater your chance of surviving and the lower that of your victim. This is part of the reason for the popularity of SUVs, which put motorists in something of a prisoner’s dilemna. A motorcycle reader should be easy pickings for a smaller vehicle, and pedestrians are of course the most vulnerable of all.

Another widely available implement (which is dramatic enough to outcompete guns in horror movies) is the knife. This is trickier than the gun or the automobile, which any putz can penetrate bone with. Read up on some anatomy to know where the important veins, arteries and vital organs are. Purchase an animal to practice on. Be sure your tools are sharp, as it will be quite a letdown to slowly saw away at someones kneck with a dull edge. Unfortunately you will likely get a good deal of blood on you, which matters less if you don’t mind getting caught.

In Touch of Evil Orson Welles’ corrupt sheriff touts the merits of strangulation, which leaves little evidence. Using both gloves and a garroting device will leave less of your residue. Forensics has advanced since then, so be careful. One advantage is that it will make less noise than a gunshot or a screaming victim (if they can yell, you’re doing it wrong). Be sure they’re completely strangled and dead. I’ve heard it recommended that you don’t let up until you smell the stench of evacuated bowels, but that could be macabre humor.

If you are trying to avoid getting caught, your choice of victim and the circumstances in which they are killed is vitally important. If it is someone you don’t know at all and have no connection to, it will be much harder for the authorities to consider you or link the murder to you. Consider committing it out of state, though you should have a good reason for being there in case you are suspected. Law professor Brian Kalt wrote in his paper The Perfect Crime (which inspired a mystery novel) that you could get away with murder if you do it in a 50-square mile patch of Idaho, though kidnapping and dragging a victim there will likely bring the FBI down on you. The lower the social status of your victim, the less effort there will be behind solving the crime. Homeless people are a good pool to choose from. The more plausible suspects there are, the less likely attention will be directed toward you. A drug dealer is not a good target precisely because there are so often attempts on their lives, for which they have made preparations that serve as a disincentive. It is part of their job description to survive rivals or stickup-men, presumably you have less experience killing them. Prostitutes are very often the victims of serial killers, presumably in part due to the ease of successfully killing them without repercussion (less likely if they have a pimp) but I imagine also due to the peculiar psychology of the serial killers. If instead you have a particular person in mind who does not meet this criteria, check to say what kind of security systems they have and stage a home invasion. On the downside you may have to kill everyone in the house, but on the upside you can steal their stuff. Don’t make an overly elaborate attempt to frame someone or make it look like something other than what it is, as you are likely to screw up and a botched attempt at a red herring just arouses more suspicion and effort on the part of investigators. You may want to put plastic bags over your shoes and destroy your clothing, in which case you should bring some replacements so you don’t look like a weirdo after you leave.

If you manage to seclude your victim away from prying eyes, body disposal and removal of evidence are important. In Snatch it is recommended that bodies be fed to hungry pigs who will go through bone like butter, but I don’t think we can rely on Guy Ritchie. You also may not have access to pigs, although dogs are both easily available and rather undiscriminating in their taste for meat. Don’t leave corpses lying around, as they will start to smell and attract the neighbors’ attention. You should have a bath or shower with a drain, which is good for getting rid of blood when you chop the body up into more manageable pieces. Dissolving bodies in lye has long been a popular choice and should be pretty effective. The mafia is famous for dumping bodies in rivers, and I trust that they know what they’re doing, but remember that engaging in that in broad daylight constitutes at least littering. You can probably get away with throwing some trash bags in a large-size dumpster (best if a good distance from your residence), which is all the easier if you’ve already chopped them up. Common methods of identifying victims include fingerprints and dental records, so try to destroy both. Also remember that the more decomposed the victim is the more evidence they have to go on. That’s part of the reason the “Iceman” got taken down.

If you want to kill large numbers of people over a long period of time and are really willing to dedicate yourself to the task, try becoming a doctor or nurse. There have been numerous cases where such “angels of death” have gone undetected for years while hastening the departure of numerous patients. That might be difficult, but it should be rather easy to get a job in food preparation. de Quicey disdains of poison as a low-down Italian method, but such small-minded prejudice is not for the modern, enlightened murderer. Deaths are less common in the food business than hospitals, so you have greater chance of getting caught, but you can also get a large number of people at one go.

At this point I have exhausted my knowledge and leave extra suggestions for others.