Through my research and academic studies, I have found many interesting aspects about serial killers that may or may not be generally known. I’ve incorporated a few aspects about serial killers from my list below to help keep my crime fiction heroine Emily Stone on her toes.
Here’s a list of what I found to be particularly interesting and informative.
1. Most serial killers are white males between the ages of 20-35 years. However, in recent years we have seen an increase of serial killers from other races.
2. There have been more serial killers hunting and killing in the western part of the United States, such as in California and Washington. The United States is the leading country for serial killers (from reported cases).
3. “Vlad the Impaler” was the real life “Dracula” during the fifteenth century. Vlad Dracula wasn’t a “typical” serial killer that we have come to know today, but he was known to vanquish his enemies, both real and imagined, with the most unspeakable sadism and hideous creativity for death. The stories surrounding Vlad has been perceived as be both myth and legend, but it is estimated that Vlad killed some 20,000 men, women and children – the amount of people he killed varies from anywhere between 20,000 to 500,000.
4. Serial killers are often quite intelligent with an IQ of above average or “bright normal”.
5. During a ten-year period, the small coastal town of Santa Cruz, California (population 33,000 residents at the time) had four serial killers who roamed and murdered throughout the area. In 1970, John Linely Frazier killed 5 residents and was commuted to life in prison. In 1973, Herbert Mullin was convicted of 10 murders and sentenced to life in prison. He later told authorities he heard “die songs” and messages to kill human sacrifices in order to prevent earthquakes. In 1973, Edmund Kemper “Co-ed Killer” was convicted and given 8 concurrent life sentences with the possibility of parole. Finally in 1981, David Carpenter “Trailside Killer” was convicted of 2 Santa Cruz County murders and in a separate trial in Marin County was convicted of 5 more murders. He was sentenced to death in the gas chamber in 1984.
6. As children, serial killers usually suffer a significant amount of abuse, sometimes psychological, sometimes physical, and often sexual. Many times it’s a combination of all three abuses. This brutal mistreatment helps to instill in them the profound feelings of humiliation and helplessness, which is then inflicted upon their later victims.
7. Many serial killers have an insatiable interest in deviant sexuality, obsessions with fetishism, voyeurism, and violent photography.
8. Serial killers are not considered to be insane, but rather they are considered to exhibit psychopathic behavior. They are unable to feel remorse, guilt, empathy, and lack impulse control.
9. The Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) was established in 1972 at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. It has helped to established a firm understanding through training, research, consultation activities, techniques, tactics, and procedures that have become a staple of behavioral-based programs that support the law enforcement, intelligence, and military communities. The Behavioral Science Unit is here where the term “serial killer” was coined and where criminal investigative analysis and “profiling” were developed.
10. There have been women serial killers throughout history even before Aileen Wuornos who was executed in 2002. Wuornos was the Florida hooker who shot seven male motorists during a 12-month period between 1989-1990. During the 1800s, Jane Toppan “The Jolly Psychopath” used her skills as a nurse to murder. Also during the 1800s, Mary Ann Cotton murdered an estimated 23 people during a 12-month period. She became known as the most prolific serial killer in English history murdering three husbands, ten children, five stepchildren, a sister-in-law, and an unwanted suitor. Nannie Doss who was dubbed the “Giggling Granny” murdered for profit and money by mixing poison into whiskey, coffee, or stewed prunes. Between 1929 and 1953, Doss had murdered four husbands.
11. Joel Norris Ph.D. is the founding member of the International Committee of Neuroscientists to Study Episodic Aggression. Norris explains that the serial killer’s addiction to crime is also an addiction to specific patterns of violence that ultimately becomes their way of life. He suggests that there are seven key phases to the ritual of serial killing: aura phase, trolling phase, wooing phase, capture, murder, totem phase, and depression phase.
12. Criminologists have referred to the “serial killer’s comfort zone” as how most serial killers will commit their crimes relatively close to home and that they prefer to hunt for their victims at places they are familiar with, an area where they feel the most confident and in control, best spots to capture victims, and the quickest escape routes. All of these conditions generally will link a killer close to home or a familiar area they know well.
13. This statement makes you reassess the general term “serial killer”, what makes them tick, and why they commit these heinous crimes. According to the research conducted by Joel Norris Ph.D., he states, “The half-dream/half-waking state that mixes memories and terrors with reality is a true episodic state for the serial killer with a limbic dysfunction…”
Crime Watch Blog: www.emilystonecrimewatch.wordpress.com/
Book & Crime Talk: www.blogtalkradio.com/jennifer-chase/
Books: Compulsion = Dead Game = Silent Partner = Screenwriting
Really intriguing stuff, Jennifer. The things that can make a serial killer are some of the things I endured as a child. It could explain why I chose to write in the horror genre. 😉 Yet another sterling post, indeed!
Thanks Jason! It’s definitely not an exact science or serial killer recipe. It does however give us some understanding of why and a place to start.
Hey, I have four ideas of horror stories that I’m going to write in short stories. What does that say about me? 🙂
It’s fascinating to say the least. My son loves to watch Criminal Minds and he’s asked me how much of it is real. I can only say that it’s Hollywood but it must have basis in fact or it wouldn’t be on.
You putting your horror ideas down as short stories say a lot to me. It says that you’re a brilliant author. 🙂 I’m sure your followers would agree with me.
Aw thanks Jason, you’re too kind 🙂 I have a weakness for zombie stuff… weird huh? I’m going to try my pen at it someday.
Many people watch Criminal Minds and yes there is some basis but most is creative license or how they “think” it’s conducted. I tend to like shows more like Law & Order and Rizzoli & Isles… the whole investigation stuff.
You left out one of my favorite facts: the childhood bed wetting. For some reason that’s one of the three things that indicate a future serial killer. (With arson/pyromania and animal abuse.) Great post ! 🙂
Great Post, Jennifer. I always look forward to your blogs. Going to save this one since I have an idea for a serial killer novel for the book after next. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and insight.
Jennifer, hmmm… Is there a number fourteen trait about serial killers if they’re women who studied this stuff and then write really creeping serial killers? 🙂
Good post. Very informative.
LOL! I believe there should be! Thanks Dana! 🙂
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