Moral panics and the “killer of the innkeepers” from Bucharest (1899)
Author: Gabriel CONSTANTINESCU
Keywords: moral panic, the killer of the innkeepers, the press, robberies, burglaries.
This article discusses the possible application of the moral panic theory to a series of robberies that took place in Bucharest during the first part of 1899. These robberies which targeted especially, but not only innkeepers, were depicted in the newspapers of the time in such a manner that they produced panic among the inhabitants of the city. The police were finally able to capture the outlaw, the so-called “killer of the innkeepers” in June 1899 only after he had horrified his contemporaries. The concept of moral panic, originally used by Stanley Cohen in the 1970s can be partially used to explain how the press reflected this form of criminal behaviour. However, moral panic cannot really account for the reactions of the authorities when faced with these robberies. Instead of “policing the crisis” through harsh, determined actions, the Romanian authorities adopted a somewhat mild, cautious approach. In this respect, the moral panic concept cannot be applied for our case. On the other hand, some newspapers like “Timpul” and “Universul” insisted with the frequent presentation of detailed articles about “the killer of the innkeepers” and his deeds.