A Profile On Serial Killers Essay, Research Paper
It cannot be denied that the serial killer kills. Killing combines a variety of meanings. A mere slip of the hand on the steering wheel can turn a normal person into a killer; and it is likely that a second such happening could turn an otherwise normal person into a serial killer. However, murder is the willful and unlawful killing of one human being, by another. This does not include deaths caused by negligence, suicide, attempted murder, and justifiable homicide. Murder can be divided into two categories. The second category is the for gain type of murder, which is done mainly by serial killers.
In the early 19th century, civilization stopped looking at the Devil for the cause of evil in the world. Instead, scientists began to search for the evil within. Darwin s theories on evolution bridged the gap between beast and man. According to the 19th century criminologist, Cesare Lombroso and Max Nordau, they believed that violent men had primitive faces with heavy jaws and low foreheads. Franz Josef Gall promoted phrenology. By feeling bumps on a person s head, he believed you could predict the intelligence of the person. Physiognomy, developed by Johann Kaspar Lavatar, claimed to read a person s character by their facial features.
Before going into the psychological profile of a serial killer, one has to know the difference between a mass murderer, and a serial killer. Mass Murderers usually attack schools, universities and restaurants, believing it to be the place of maximum killing effect, usually striking with a gun and wearing camouflage gear. They attempt to kill all they see and their rampage ends with them committing suicide or being killed, or captured. Victims are typically selected at random and attacked.
Serial killers are different. They can go up to years without being caught, and when they get caught, its usually by the amount of evidence against them. They prefer to stab or strangle their victims, and sometimes shoot them. They sometimes collect trophies or leave trademarks of their crimes. Some serial killers prefer to rape their victims before they kill them. There is none, or very little previous connection between the perpetrator and the victim. Although there may be a pattern or a victim trait, individual murders rarely display a defined or rational motive. There is usually a high degree of violence, where the victim is subjected to a disproportionate level of brutality.
One of the other common points concerning the serial killer is the presence of free will. It cannot be denied that there is a great deal of unconscious drives present in the actions of the serial killer, and that these drives are still shrouded in darkness. At the same time, there is a great deal of evidence that the serial killer acts from a conscious perspective . Simply put, the serial killer decides to kill.
The most distinguishing factor for serial killers is that there are generally three or more victims. The killer will continually kill with a cooling down period in between. The killer may even go years without killing another person. Except in rare cases, serial killers work alone. For serial killers, the motivation is not the money, or the outcome of the event, the killer is simply motivated to kill. Their needs to kill is fueled by fantasies that have been building for sometime.
A serial killer is usually male, between the ages of 25-35, and is usually white. He will normally kill victims of his own race. His intellect ranges from below average to above average. There are four types of serial killers. The first type is the Visionary Motive Type; this group is considered medically insane. They often hear voices in their head telling them to kill people. The second type is the Missionary-Oriented Motive Type, who displays no feelings to the outside world, but on the inside, the killer has the need to rid the world of everything he feels is immoral or unworthy. An example is Adolf Hitler, who during World War II, tried to rid the world of all Jewish people. The third type is the Thrill Oriented Motive Type, who is in it for the fun. They get a high from killing. Of the four types, this killer enjoys killing very sadistically. The last type, is the Lust Killer. They are the ones that kill for the pure turn on. The amount of pleasure that they get comes from the amount of torture they inflict on their victims.
Each of the four types of killers can be further broken down into two more categories. The organized and disorganized. A misconception of serial killers is that they are complete and total losers who cannot function in society. While this is true, some of the time its not always true. People often think that Ted Bundy was the exception because he seemed to lead a normal life. The fact is many serial killers capture their victims by conning them, impersonating an authoritative figure. These behaviors are those of an organized killer.
To get a sense of a disorganized killer, you have to picture the loner you thought all serial killers were. This is the type of person you see on the street who you would not want to approach. He normally has a past record of poor performances in school. He is usually sloppy and a night person.
Serial killers are viewed by many experts in both psychology and psychiatry to be the ultimate extension of violence. Serial killers have many traits in common with each other. The proper psychological classification for serial killers has been around for many years, but the most appropriate is that of psychopathic sexual sadist. In psychological circles, the phrase ASPD, or anti-social personality disorder has replaced the earlier term s psychopath and sociopath.
Anti-social personality disorder has a variety of characteristics, some of which describe serial killers better than others. The inability to love, which is often considered to be the bases of ASPD is especially evident in the serial killer. Highly impulsive and aggressive behavior is another part of the serial killers psyche, and studies show that they require more thrills than normal people. Just like young children, they must constantly be in search of new entertainment, and like the young child, they show little ability to restrain the occurrence or the nature of their behavior. An inherent sadistic nature is yet another part of the serial killer, along with a fascination for violence, injury and torture. While the young child may pull the legs off a grasshopper for entertainment, the serial killer enjoys doing or fantasizing about doing such things to fellow humans. The classic feature of the serial killer, is an absolute lack of guilt.
Participation in activities, which could result in social disapproval, will generate guilt and remorse in a normal, healthy individual, but the serial killer does not experience either of these feelings to any sufficient degree. Ted Bundy is a classic example of the serial killer. In addition to an inability to love, and a sadistic nature, anti-social personality traits he manifested included a deceitful personality, strong feelings of insecurity, general anger, and a tendency to run from problems. Those traits which help us to get along with each other–ability to love, to control behavior, and a conscience-fail to develop in the ASPD-afflicted individual.
Because of their psychopathic nature, serial killers do not know how to feel sympathy for others. Serial killers are actors with a talent for performance. Lucas described being a serial killer as being like a movie star you re just playing the part. The most desired role of psychopaths is a position of authority. Playing a police officer allows them to have access to victims. However, when they are caught, the serial killer will assume a mask of insanity, pretending to be a schizophrenic or be prone to black-outs. Anything to get out of accepting responsibility.
Pre-time stresses are the events that happen right before the serial killer begins to kill. Often, it is the loss of a job, a divorce or a financial issue. It is not one single event, it is a chain of bad events that the person does not know how to deal with.
As children, the typical serial killer would have displayed many traits which are not considered normal. Several behaviors, which are alarming, are self-mutilation, cruelty to children and animals, and convulsions. However, the three most popular are, daydreaming, compulsive masturbation and isolation. When a child is left alone for long periods, their minds begin to keep them company, which begin the fantasies. During the fantasies, masturbation begins. An example is Ed Kemper. As he sat in the basement alone and confused, because his mother thought that he would molest his sister, the fantasies began. The longer he was left there, the more violent the daydreams became. The continued isolation and the verbal abuse from his mother gave his daydreams the chance to become the dominant force in his life. One of his final victims was his mother.
It is well known that fantasy plays a large role in the life and motivation of the serial killer. And it is widely accepted that the serial killer uses fantasy as a crutch, as a coping mechanism for day-to-day life. The serial killer, much like the chronic gambler and problem drinker, is addicted to the use of fantasy. So strong is the compulsion that the serial killer murders to preserve the addiction, in essence preserving his only remaining coping mechanism.
The individual derives a feeling of wholeness, of independence, or surety from the addiction. For this reason, the individual tolerates the negative effects of the addiction, such as guilt, loss of self-esteem, and loss of identity. The individual uses the addiction to gain self-worth, and in the process, further damages self-esteem. The individual must continue to use the addiction, just to achieve a normal baseline of esteem. Addiction begins not when the individual begins to use the substance to alleviate negative feelings, but rather when the individual uses the addiction as the only method for dealing with negative feelings. Furthermore, addiction can be said to occur when the individual involuntarily and unintentionally acquires an inability to regulate the activity and has a persistent urge to engage in the activity.
Most serial killers were abused as children. The type of abuse ranges from sexual, to physical, to neglect to emotional. Some of the abuse may be obvious, but many are not easily identified. Its not understood why some children deal with abuse better than others, but the abuse will leave an impression which will alter their lives forever.
Adoption is a potential contribution to a killer s motivation, because it creates two questions. The first one is that the biological parents may have left their child with abnormal genes. Finding out that one is adopted may also threaten a sense of identity in their youth, and make the child fantasize about his true parents, whether good or bad. Their sense of rejection has profound consequences, and if the child meets the biological parent and is brushed off, the damage is worse.
Some serial killers are fascinated by sadistic violence at an early age. As a child, Kemper, was beheading his sister s dolls, and playing execution games. One of the first places society looks for an explanation is the killer s upbringing, So many us wanted to believe that something had traumatized little Jeffrey Dahmer, otherwise we must believe that some people simply give births to monsters. Many sadistic murderers portray their childhood as an endless chain of horrifying sexual abuse, torture and confusion. Children can learn the Jeckyll and Hyde routine from their parents, who are outgoing and social, but who argue their children at home. While many girls are victimized as well, less than 10% of them become serial killers. Some parents believe that by being harsh disciplinarians, it will toughen the child. Instead, it creates a lack of love between the parent and child.
In looking to the parents for explanations, we see both horrifying mothers and fathers. The blame usually falls on the mother, who is often described as to domineering or too distant, too sexually active or too repressed. Henry Lee Lucas launched his murderous career by killing his mom. Kemper finished it by killing his mom. Even in Shakespeare, Hamlet was obsessed by his mothers sexuality. Serial murderers are frequently found to have unusual or unnatural relationships with their mothers. Joseph Kallinger was adopted by sadistic parents and after an operation at six, his mother told him the operation was to keep his penis from growing. Kallinger s mother forced him to hold his open hand over a flame, beating him if he cried. Some mothers expose their children to inappropriate sexual behavior. Lucas suffered gender confusion as a child. His mom was a heavy drinker and for reasons not known, she dressed him as a girl. She beat him up after he cut his hair.
The USA, with around 6% of the world s population, creates more than three-quarters of all serial killers, and records confirm an increase. Between 1900 and 1959, each year would produce on average, 1.7 new cases. Through the 1960 s the figure grew to five a year, and by 1980 it had tripled. By 1990, it was 36 per year – which averages out to three a month, and represents a rise of 940% in just three decades. The FBI has estimated that, by the millennium, serial killers could be claiming an average of 11 lives a day. The USA has 76% of the worlds serial killers. Europe, in second has 17% of the world s serial killers. 84% of American killers are Caucasian. Men make up at least 90% of Serial Killers. Yet, 65% of victims are female.
A serial killer very often appears ‘normal’. He is very often the last person his neighbors or friends would think is a serial killer. Even those who are “different” than most people are capable of appearing normal enough to not be considered a serial killer at first. Formative years may play a role in the molding of a serial killer, but they cannot be the sole reason in every case. Many killers blame their families for their behavior, seeking sympathy. In true psychopathic fashion, serial killers are blaming someone else for their actions. We must look at other components to see what pushes a serial killer over the edge. It is important to understand the pre-crime stress of a suspected offender so that the investigator or profiler can understand the psychology of the offender. By understanding the psychology, a possible motive may be discovered.
1. Vorpagel, Russell. Profiles in Murder: An FBI legend dissects, killers and their crimes. New York: Plenum Publishing Corporation, 1998
2. Douglas, John and Mark Olshaker. Journey into Darkness. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1997